Friday, 30 March 2012

{review} The Lucky One - Nicholas Sparks

Oh, Nicholas Sparks.  You confuse me so much.  When I read The Notebook, I fell in love.  And when I read A Walk to Remember, I promptly kicked you to the curb.  I'm very fickle like that, you see.  My dad used to say I had a 'Catch & Release' attitude towards men (15 years later, still trying to figure out if he meant to make me sound slutty or not), and it was no different with you.  You had my heart, and then you got entirely too sappy.  Even back then, I was too cynical for sappy.

You tried to redeem yourself with Nights in Rodanthe, but I made it pretty clear that I never wanted to see you again.  I've avoided you like the plague ever since.  One good moment does not a relationship make (trust me, I married my one good moment man).  I made snarky comments about you.  I called you boring and predictable.  I also called you a few other names, but you're probably getting the gist of it - I was a bitch to you, and enjoyed it.

Then my new book club forced me to see you again.  Forced me to stand in the bookstore and actually ask the staff to go get you from the box in the back.  I put off reading The Lucky One as long as possible, and finally had to give in and spend time with you again.

Here's the thing, Mr. Sparks - I can't figure out why I enjoyed The Lucky One so much.  The premise itself was a little too out there for me (yes, this is coming from a lover of all things zombie & apocalypse - what does that tell you?) and the characters a little too transparent.  A man walks across the country (literally) to maybe locate a woman in a photo that had been his good luck charm while overseas?  I don't see that as romantic, I see it as a little stalker-ish.

Of course, as soon as he finds her, she's a guarded woman with a difficult life.  Does she let her walls down for him?  Do they fall in love?

You're Nicholas Sparks.  Of course they do.  I saw the ending coming before I even started the book, but what I didn't see coming was my attachment to the transparent and emotional characters, or my enjoyment of this damn book overall.

Please, Nicholas, please forgive me.  I was bitchy and moody and down right mean, and I'm sorry.  I promise I'll make it up to you, just don't leave me again, okay?  I'll be different this time.  We'll be different this time.  I'll try so hard.  We can make this work, I know we can.

But if I read another snooze fest or see another movie of yours featuring annoying "actress/singers" like Mandy & Miley, I'm out.  Once a fickle bitch, always a fickle bitch.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Turtles & Bitches

I haven't had a lot of energy lately.  I have been reading (yay!), but I haven't been posting as much.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I suffer from major depression & anxiety, and I'm not scared to be vocal about when I have bad days because of it.  Or bad weeks.  Or even bad months.  Maybe even a bad year, although that probably has more to do with leaving a man that liked to fuck anything with legs, and less about my chemical imbalance.

When I feel like this for more than a day or two, I tend to turtle.  I stick my hand down, and I just barely manage to do the bare minimum of what's needed in my life, and completely ignore everything else.  Friends, family, activities .. everything gets pushed aside while I'm "turtling", so I can concentrate on just putting one foot in front of the other.

I've mentioned it before, and I'll mention it again - I really love strong, realistic, even a little bitchy women. They inspire me.  They remind me that even though I may not go to church, and even though I may err on the side of recluse, and even though I may be sliiiiiightly cynical, there are others like me.  Others that turn to sarcasm or bitchiness when finding their inner strength.

What better example of a kick-ass strong woman that Kelly Cutrone?  She may be a bitch, and she may be "Kell on Wheels", but good God, look where she's propelled herself to.  That's the kind of strength that inspires me.  I've written one of her quotes from the book If You Have To Cry Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You on the whiteboard in my kitchen.  I look at it multiple times a day to remind myself that although I'm out of my comfort zone, heartbroken, overwhelmed, stressed and worrying if I did or am doing the right thing, I had to take a chance on living the life that I wanted, not the life that others wanted for me.

" have to give up your life as you know it to get a new one: that sometimes you need to let go of everything you're clinging to and start over, whether because you've outgrown it or because it's not working anymore, or because it was wrong for you in the first place.” 

I want to know who inspires you, or what quote you look to when you need a kick in the ass.  Tell me who your favourite kick ass woman is!

Anyway.  A whole lotta reviews are coming up soon, including my review of the first 'Self Help' book you chose for me (here's a hint - I'm still drinking), and a review on the second book in my FAVOURITE zombie trilogy.  And also?  I'm hungry and am itching to start cooking, so get your asses in gear and vote for which cookbook I review!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

{review} Outpost by Adam Baker

Adam Baker
Published 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton

Because I'm such a cynical bitch that would prefer the solitude of a cabin in the woods to having to deal with most people in the general population of the world, an aspect of this book really appealed to me.  Namely, the setting.  A remote oil rig in the middle of the Arctic?  My therapist will have a field day with this, but that sounds like freakin' heaven to me.  Throw in an apocalypse factor, and there's no place I'd rather spend my final days.

Or my life in general.

I had one problem with this book .. well, two, actually.  One - it was less "zombie apocalypse" and more "ET is causing shit, and for reasons we'll never know" apocalypse.  Call me weird (I've been called much, much worse), but I find zombies much more believable, and enjoyable, than ET.

The second issue - I couldn't put in to words what I was feeling about this book, other than wishing I lived on aforementioned remote oil rig and not next to the neighbours that hate me.

So I did what every spoiled brat would do -  I had my dad do the review for me.  Enjoy!

I finally finished Outpost, and what a sad little book it is.

Not sad because it's the end of civilization, that's sad too, of
course, but sad because as an apocolyptic sci-fi adventure, it had
SUCH potential.

It's sort of like Michael Crichton meets Stephen King, unfortunately,
they were both having an off day.

The tale involves a group of people marooned on an enormous isolated
arctic drilling rig when reports come in that the world is being
overrun by a bizarre plague, one where metal elements of unknown
origin take over their bodies and stick out of their skin like
porcupine quills.

These don't do anything for the thought processes either, of course,
so they turn into defacto flesh eating metal infused zombies. (How
come the monsters are never vegetarians? Just wondering.)

There was so much potential to turn this story into an end of
civilaztion morality play, or an alien revenge adventure,
unfortunately the author missed every opportunity.

And after wading through 400 pages to find out what happened here, I
never did.  It's like the author said "Oh, I have to go cut the grass
now, I guess the book's done."

The basic rules of journalism, or any form of storytelling, are "who -
what - when - where - why"

Well we have the who, when, and where.  Now we need the author to come
back and give us the what and why.

I won't hold my breath waiting.

What a waste of a good story.  If Michael Crichton or Stephen King had
written this it'd be a major motion picture this summer.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

{Cook Yourself Sober} Time to Vote!

It's that time of the month!  
(BTW, cracked myself up with that one)

I'll be reviewing one cookbook in April, and it's time for you to choose which one.  Not only will I be cooking different recipes from the book you choose, but the Semi-BFF (who has less patience than I do, if you can imagine) will review one recipe as well.  At the end of the month, she and I will get together and cook an entire meal from the book - starter, main, dessert.  We'll take photos, maybe a little video, and a lot of whiskey while we rate the book you choose for us.

The Choices

Accomplished food writers and editors Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs had a mission: to discover and celebrate the best home cooks in the country. Each week for fifty-two weeks, they ran recipe contests on their website,, and the 140 winning recipes make up this book. They include:
  • Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies
  • Secret Ingredient Beef Stew
  • Simple Summer Peach Cake
  • Wishbone Roast Chicken with Herb Butter
These recipes prove the truth that great home cooking doesn’t have to be complicated or precious to be memorable. This book captures the community spirit that has made Food52 a success. It features Amanda’s and Merrill’s thoughts and tips on every recipe, plus behind-the-scenes photos, reader comments, and portraits of the contributors—putting you right in the kitchen with America’s most talented cooks.

If, like me, you love food and have hungry mouths to feed when you get home after a long day, then allow me to let you in on a totally revolutionary new way of cooking. In this book I’m going to show you how to make a complete meal in the time you’d normally spend on one dish. What you’ll be able to achieve in 30 minutes or less will absolutely blow your mind. It’s certainly blown mine!
This is not about compromising on quality. It’s about being organized, working fast, and using shortcuts and clever tricks to put insanely delicious plates of food on the table in no time. Each of the 50 meals inside has been carefully written so there’s no messing about—just good, fast cooking. I’ve created complete menus of foods that go beautifully together and planned recipes in a really unique, easy-to-follow way. This kind of cooking is all about using every minute wisely, having fun, and reclaiming your kitchen for the job it was meant for.

If you think gourmet meals in crappy little kitchens is an oxymoron, think again! In her debut cookbook, Jennifer Schaertl tackles the myths about gourmet cooking (you don't need expensive cutlery and a gazillion ingredients!) and shows you how to make delectable meals despite the lack of counter space. Everything from appetizers and salads to soups and one-pot wonders to side dishes and entrees, and of course, dessert is included along with Jennifer's tried-and-true advice for working with limited space, appliances, cookware, and ingredients all on a limited budget. More than 130 Crappy Little Kitchen (CLK) recipes await you inside, plus: Why a CLK can actually be an asset, not a liability.

Voting starts TODAY and runs until March 29th.  Remember, only the votes on the poll on the right-hand side of this blog, or comments to this post count as votes.  That means if you feel REALLY strongly about one choice, you can vote twice ;)

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

What's Next? The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

I'm not actually a Nicholas Sparks fan.  Yeah, I said it.  Usually I find his books entirely too sappy (typed as I listen to a 90's Love Songs playlist, of course), and seriously unbelievable.  And don't get me started on the movie based on his A Walk To Remember, either (that may in fact be the movie that sealed the deal on my disdain for Mandy Moore).  Seriously, did you see that movie?

Message In A Bottle?  Meh.  Nights In Rodanthe?  Vomit inducing.

I'm aware that I read many Chick Lit books that are probably much sappier than Mr. Sparks, but there's just something about his stories that bring out my bitchy side.

Other than the Notebook, of course.  I think that just goes without saying.

So it's easy to imagine that when it comes to Nicholas Sparks, I tend to only notice his books if I've taken a wrong turn from the Horror section and lost my way amongst his books filled with unicorns and fucking roses.

I'm having a hard time making new friends in my new city - it's easy to be a bitter and sarcastic bitch on paper, but in real life, it doesn't win you any friends (except for other bitter and sarcastic bitches, HOLLA!).  So I joined a brand new, haven;t even had the first meeting yet, book club.

And the first book they voted on reading?  None other than The Lucky One
 by Nicholas Sparks.

This may not end well, lovelies.  This may not end well at all.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

{Fixing Yourself update} Just One Thing

I had a bad day last week.  I have a lot of bad days, to be honest - starting life over again after divorce is exhausting - but one day in particular was exceptionally hard.

Of course, that's the day I headed to the bookstore.  The bookstore and library are usually my sanctuary, the place I go to breathe deeply, relax, and take a step away from anything that's going on in the world outside.  I find that when I'm teetering on the edge of major anxiety attacks, this is the one place that will keep me grounded (other than a small town pub with a live band and a lot of alcohol, of course).

"This is fucking perfect, " I panted, leaning on the shelf in the 'Well Being' section in the throes of a major panic attack, attempting to calm myself down before I drew too much attention.

Don't mind me, just another woman having a break down in front of You Can Fix Your Life by Dr. Phil.  The irony is not lost on me.

I eventually managed to pull myself together, locate this months Fixing Yourself (Without Whiskey) title, and scurry back to my car.

Moral of the story?  The timing for me to read a "Self Help" book is dead on.

My first impression of Just One Thing: Developing A Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time by Rick Hanson is pretty simple - it's a small, easy to read book.  It's broken down into 52 mind exercises, which I'm reading two or three of a day.  Well, that's the plan, anyway - so far I've accomplished reading only one a day.

The first part is about being good to yourself.  I kind of thought drinking myself to oblivion was being good to myself, but whatevs.  I've read the first four practices thus far, and so far I've learned the following:

1.  I'm not my own friend, most of the time.  After reading the section on this, it's made me aware of how much of a shitty friend I am to myself.  So now I'm aware of it, but that's it.  I think that makes me an even shittier friend to myself.

2.  Take a few seconds to enjoy the feeling of the small good things - this is a fantastic premise, and one I agree with.  Then the author spurted off some lame and corny analogies, like ".. a warm glow spreading through the chest like the warmth of a cup of hot cocoa on a cold wintery day.  "

Right.  Eyes rolled.

3.  Compassion to yourself - acknowledge difficulties, challenges and suffering.  Again, fantastic.  I'm kick ass for leaving a man that didn't value me enough to respect me.  Right?  But yet again, off we go with the laaaaaaaaame sentences like ".. visualize a light radiating from you, maybe from your heart.  "

Eyes rolled, whiskey poured.

4.  Relax.  Breathe.  breathing exercises.  deep breaths.  The usual.

So far, I'm not feeling very fixed.  I'm feeling like I need a drink.

Or five.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Review - See You At The Show by Michelle Betham

See You At The Show
Michelle Betham
Published August 2011
Oh, how I needed this book.  I needed a kick ass character like Stevie Stone.  I needed a love triangle (love square may be more appropriate in this situation, really) full of drama, set in a background of rockstars, bars, and also in the polar opposite political arena. 

It's easy to relate to this book, in many ways - most of us have that one person we're addicted to, even though we know they're bad for us in some (or in all) ways.  That one person who is perfect in all the wrong ways. 

At first glance, and for the first bit, this book seems like it will be all about Stevie and her addiction to the bad boy lead singer of a popular (aka sexy) rock band.  But no no - no, this book is not just about Stevie, our bad boy lead singer Mark, and the brooding best friend Johnny. 

This book is also about Daniel Madison.  Happily married to the perfect politicians wife, headed straight for the role of Britain's Prime Minister, and a little naive, Daniel Madison.  The instant he and Stevie Stone lock eyes, both their worlds change.  I'm not sure why his character tugged so hard on what little heartstrings I have left, but I fell in love with him the same way Stevie does - hard and fast.

The story that unfolds is dramatically addicting, and although the book ended differently than what I wanted, this light read had my attention from beginning to end. 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Fixing Yourself Without Whiskey #1 - Just One Thing

Well, you voted.  I'm actually a little surprised how the votes turned out - you guys chose such a NORMAL book for me!  And might I say, an easy one?  Do I have to tame my inner bitch for the good of the world?  No (I think I just heard my neighbours sigh).  Do I need to Add More Ing, while not knowing what the fuck "Ing" is?  No.  All I gots to do is think some zen, Buddha-like thoughts.

Piece O' Cake, my lovelies.

"This book offers simple brain-training practices you can do every day to protect against stress, lift your mood, and find greater emotional resilience.  "

It's like you guys are telling me I need to cheer the fuck up.

This book is meant to be read in a few different ways - it's broken into 52 "simple" practices that the reader can either do by sections, or once a week, etc.

I like to go against the grain and am a big fan of instant gratification, so I'll be doing things a bit differently.  I'll read one practice a day (sometimes two), and each week will do a quickish summary.  At the end of the month, I'll roll all of my experiences into one general review.  Namely, did the book have an effect on this cynical redhead, or did I pass out mid-enlightenment in a whiskey haze?

Only time will tell.