Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Food, Delicious Food

So, recently my husband discovered Blue Apron. He's been following the Alice Isn't Dead serial fiction podcast (by the same team behind Welcome to Night Vale) and one of the episodes was sponsored by Blue Apron. Now, I'd been poking at them for a while, wanting to try them and not sure if my husband would agree, but then one day he brought it up because there was a link offering pretty much half off. And thus we signed up. I like that they send you exactly what you need for every recipe, down to the exact measurement. And, from what I've heard, there should be no meal repeats over the course of a year. I thought I would share my thoughts on Blue Apron and the first six meals I've made so far.

Now, I've read complaints from people that it creates too many dishes. While that is true, I had already gotten into the habit of having everything pre-measured, sliced, diced, etc. so that when I'm cooking, I can just add it in when need be. Honestly, it's less stressful that way, especially if you're juggling three pans at once, trying to get dinner made before you husband leaves for a nightshift. As such, I do not care that I have to wash a few extra dishes. Another complaint I read was that there was not enough food, which led me to wonder just how much food were those other reviewers eating? There was more than enough for my husband and me. We even shared a bit with some friends who stopped by. And to those who complained about too much garlic, you must be vampires because there can never be too much garlic!

I must say that when the first box arrived, I felt like I was a kid tearing open a gift! Delivered straight to our doorstep, the box was pretty big. Inside, all the food was in an insulated bag with two ice packs. So, as long as you didn't let it sit outside an entire day, it would be more than fine for a few hours or more until you could bring it inside. 
The ice packs are down under, with the meat between them.
Everything thing you need for three meals with detailed instructions.
Pretty neat, isn't it? My husband was laughing at me as I unpacked it all, giddier than a kid discovering Santa gifts. It was pretty awesome to see everything that would eventually become three of our meals that week. Blue Apron is also getting me to try things I'd never had before. Not just recipes, but ingredients as well. Until now, I'd never had chickpeas, radishes, swiss chard, or even garlic aioli.

The first meal I made was the Spanish-Style Potato and Chickpea Stew with Swiss Chard and Garlic Aioli. Wow. Talk about tasty. It didn't look like much when I pulled everything out to begin prepping, but it was incredibly filling. And, had my husband and I not shared a bit with our friends, we would have actually had a bit left over. Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of the finished meal, as people were over and the thought never occurred to me. I really want to remake this recipe, if I can ever figure out the spice measurements and get my hands on some more Swiss chard. It smelled so wonderful while it cooked.
Doesn't this just look filling?
Our second meal was Spaghetti Bolognese with Butter Lettuce Salad and Creamy Italian Dressing. This was a half hit-half miss with us. We both liked the bolognese. It was simple, but flavorful. As for the salad, we both found it to be rather bland. I also discovered I do not like radishes. 
The third meal I made was the Za'atar-Spiced Chicken with Pink Lemon Pan Sauce and Pearl Coucous. This was my absolute favorite of the first three meals. I must figure out the spice blend measurements so I can remake this again. We both polished our plates clean of this one. And my husband, who has never truly liked brussels sprouts, actually ate all of his!
Now we approach our second Blue Apron box. It's not quite as impressive as the first, but don't deceived by looks. There is still plenty of food here.
For our fourth meal, I made the Taiwanese-Style Chicken with Jasmine Rice, Crispy Shallots, and Cilantro. This was a truly colorful, lovely dish with an interesting combinations of flavor. I loved it. It was different and good. My husband, who pretty much hates cilantro to begin with, thought it tasted weird and only ate half of his portion (to which I happily finished the rest).
Doesn't look like much, does it? Don't be fooled...
Beautiful, colorful, and very good.
For the firth meal, I made the Spiced Beef Pitas and Garlic Labneh with Arugula and Date Salad. Sadly, the arugula did not survive well in our fridge with half of it wilting in only two days. We've always had problems keeping certain lettuces fresh in our fridge and unfortunately, arugula appears to be another for the list. Regardless, I picked out the good bits and made the salad anyway. I enjoyed the salad and my husband said it was okay. We both loved the spiced beef pitas. They were so good. this was also the quickest of all six meals I've made.
And now for the sixth and final meal (we skips weeks when there isn't enough on the menu we both want to try). Tonight's dinner was Spicy Tomato and Olive Pasta with Lemon Ricotta and Roasted Broccoli. Overall, this dinner was good, but not exceptional. My husband and I both agreed that we definitely like our broccoli steamed as opposed to roasted, where it tends to dry out. The pasta was pretty good. Being that I hate olives, I was worried their taste would stand out, but I hardly even noticed them.
My overall thoughts on Blue Apron after these six meals? I like them and would like to keep getting meals here and there, but not on an every week basis due to my husbands work schedule. At first I thought the price was a bit high, but factoring how much fresh produce I usually end up throwing away because it just doesn't last in the fridge, I genuinely think it saves us a bit of money.  I look forward to making more Blue Apron recipes in the future.

And, in case you are interested at all in trying them yourself, here is a link to their meal plan prices: https://www.blueapron.com/pages/pricing

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Return to Lan Darr Review

Return to Lan Darr

by Anderson Atlas

"Surviving Lan Darr not only changed Allan’s life, it rocked him to his core. On Earth, he’s simply a boy in a wheelchair who got lost in the woods, but across the Hubbu connected planetary system, Allan is a hero. He must find a way back there, alone if need be.

Returning to Lan Darr might just kill him. Though he’s learned the hard way that Allan Westerfield does not die easily.

Back on Earth, Allan’s uncle and his best friend race after Allan without an inkling of how deadly Hubbu travel can be. Chaos ensues, spawning disorder, confusion and panic as the travelers end up on different worlds at different times and face extreme ecosystems, mysterious enemies and push the clock of death to the absolute breaking point.

The second book of the Heroes of Distant Planet Series cranks up the excitement, the mystery and even the humor. A perfect and inspiring Young Adult Fantasy Action Adventure for 12 and up."

***This review was written by my husband***

I like the inclusion of a disabled character. 2nd in the series, gladly kept reading the tale.
It still gets a star for character development, and one for the plot and world building.
Another star for unique critters. Not an elf, dwarf, or "Human except blue" to be seen.
I like the inclusion of the disabled character, and an early on scene where he thinks about it.

Only lost a star because there are a few times the writing gets rough. I didn't have to stop and try to figure out what was meant, the meaning was generally clear, but the clunky wording in a few spots made me fall out of my suspension of disbelief.

Another note to the author, like in your first books review:
A gun with a slide, you pull the slide back to chamber a round, this will also eject a round if one is already chambered. Most of them you can still cock the hammer, only a few I've seen are hammerless. Cocking back the slide was one of those scenes that broke immersion in the story.
I'm no gun nut but I'd gladly talk guns for a bit and share what I know.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hope in Nautical Dusk Review

Opal Charm: Hope in Nautical Dusk (Vol. 2)

by Miri Castor

The Gift of Twilight flourishes within Opal Charm as winter descends on Dewdrop. Life was already rough before, but Opal’s got new obstacles to face – getting into high school, bringing her brother back home, and training to protect Athre and Earth from Samael, the mysterious overlord who seeks to rule all, and put an end to her and the Charm lineage. The balance between harsh truths and sweet lies is more fragile than ever.

Yet, as winter rolls on, the balance begins to break as a new threat emerges. Memories Opal once trusted are disintegrating her friendships, and lies are clouding her Path of Dawn and Dusk. Opal must seek the truth while protecting those close to her, no matter how painful it may be.

I was very excited when Miri Castor announced the release of Hope in Nautical Dusk and pre-ordered mine. I was not disappointed in the least. It holds a much quicker pacing than  The Path to Dawn did and Opal continues to grow into a stronger character who does, at times, suffer from feeling of self doubt. But, in all truth, that should be understandable when you go from being a normal teenager to suddenly having the weight of lives on your shoulders. I do look forward to seeing her continue to grow in the next book.

So much happens that is sad, but I don't want to reveal any spoilers here. Let me just say you might find yourself trying not to cry. I can say, that I still love Evron and his complete nervousness. He's still one of my favorites and I look forward to seeing how he progresses as well. Especially in his interactions with Opal.

In this book, Opal begins to discover more about herself and I think that's very important. And, while I might be rooting one way for her heart, I won't be horribly upset if it goes somewhere else. I think Miri Castor is doing a very good job in writing the turmoil going through Opal right now. I will sit by and eagerly await the next book, but no pressure on the author.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Strange Lands Review

Strange Lands (Heroes of Distant Planets #1)
by Anderson Atlas

 "Ripped from his wheelchair by a massive flash flood, Allan drags himself through dense forest only to find himself surrounded by strange and ruthless creatures who are not from Earth. Allan can’t run away and has no means to defend himself. Instinct overcomes his terror and his cleverness blossoms, which is all he needs to survive the dark jungles, poisonous plants, Shadic hunters and the vile slave trader Killian Crow.

Follow Allan's path of self-discovery, and watch him take back what he's lost. Surviving the Improbable Quest is a spine tingling adventure, with exciting twists & turns. A perfect and inspiring read for 10 and up."

***This review was written by my husband***
Specifically a YA book, there is nothing in here that will make you raise an eyebrow knowing your kid read it.

That being said, here's where the star rating comes from.

Characters: are all believable, some are greed driven, some are in it for personal reasons, and others just want to get back to before things hit the strange part.

Story: Good ideas, at no point was it ever "It's magic, deal with it." There's an underlying scientific reason, even if it's not laid out in exacting detail, for how the world works. Potentially minus one bit, but I've seen plenty of techno-fantasy talk about souls, so it gets a pass.

Writing: At no point did I have to go over and re-read a typo or a poorly worded sentence, I understood what was going on at all times. If there were errors they were small and infrequent enough that I saw none.

What cost a star:
Pacing at the beginning was rushed a bit, the reader is told there is a period of time that goes by, but there's not really any substance to it. There is no adjustment period, no working on anything, just *problem 1* and suddenly a period of time has gone by and we're getting hit with problem 2. A short scene about going to where the main ends up, and another about what is done between then and the day with a conversation with a nurse, in addition to what is there, would have made me feel like a more solid time went by. Maybe two or three pages tops.

All in, I could see reading more of the series, and giving it to my kid to read as well.

 Also, note to the author and a bit of a spoiler. The Hindenburg went down in flames because it was full of hydrogen, if it was full of helium there would have been a small fire where it originally started, and if it lost enough lift it would have landed rough.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

ARC Readers Wanted!

I'm still looking for Advanced Release Copy (ARC) readers who are willing to receive, read, and review my upcoming releases! Joining is simple, just fill out this form:

ARC Reader Signup

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Book Blurbs

Ah, book blurbs. The sweet little tidbits on the backs of books meant to draw you in with their alluring teaser to the story contained within. Oh, how much I hate writing them. They can be both the delight and bane of authors.

My problem with writing blurbs is that I want to talk about everything I think is exciting and awesome in the book. Unfortunately, that would give far too much of the story away. And so there I sit in frustration trying to hint at the story and get the perfect wording. Writing and rewriting the blurb several times, oftentimes with multiple versions, I then run them past my poor unsuspecting family and friends. More than once my husband has looked over at me while writing them to find me like this:
It's funny how writing the book itself can frustrate me to no end sometimes, but yet seems like a walk in the park compared to writing two or three little paragraphs of a blurb. After writing and rewriting a blurb, I'll come to the one I think would be the best and sit on it for a bit, reading it over several times to see if I like the wording. I'll admit, I get really excited when I believe that I've finally got my blurb perfectly decided.
Most of the time, feedback from family and friends on the blurb is good. Sometimes suggestions are made, like alternate wording choices or to leave out one of the sentences because it might just spoil too much. Other times there are massive change suggestions that leave me having to decide if I want to follow through with the suggestion or leave it as is--which I might personally think works better.
Currently, I have two new releases drawing near that need blurbs. The one for my new series is pretty much set and ready to go, although I just might make a tweak here or there before officially sending it over. As for the blurb for the forth Chronicles of Midgard book, Breach of Neutrality, I find that I am frustrated beyond belief. I have one sentence written for it....one. There is so much going on in the story and with only one book remaining in the series after it, I find it far more difficult to write than the previous installments.

 But I know I'll get through it. I always do. I may get frustrated while writing, sometimes wanting to crawl in a corner and cry or give up completely, which I have considered more than once. Nevertheless the truth is I never will stop writing. Writing has been part of me since I was a child and will be for the rest of my life. I might have a love-hate relationship with writing, but I will never give it up, even if at times I do honestly consider doing just that. Besides, if I did suddenly stop writing, I know at least five people who would be very angry and hunt me down, hehe.
So, to all the writers out there, whether you're published or not, don't ever give up. Keep on writing. Sure, we may never become the next J.K. Rowling and have massive book sales and movie deals, but we do have those readers who loyally follow us. Our readers who look for our books and who would be greatly saddened if we stopped writing.

Write on.