Back On Track with a Plan

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Happy New Year Dear Followers!

I knew it had been a while but I didn’t realize it had been over a year since I had last posted. 2016 was kind of an “I am just going to hide over here in the corner” type of year for me. A lot happened but not a lot got done in my life.

This year I have goals! (don’t most of us this time of year?) One is to be more consistent with my book reviews and blog over all. I also want to start writing again so there may be some of that sprinkled in. I have already read a couple of books I want to post reviews for. I just have to sit down and write the reviews. I don’t know if I will stick to my prior intended schedule but I do want to post at least two reviews a month.

I am going to participate in my local library’s Winter Reading Challenge that starts on January 15th. I think I will start with Interview With The Vampire and then onto some Stephen King books. Maybe I will take a trip to Hogwarts for a year or seven since it has been a while.

I have also recently started following Vaginal Fantasy Book Club.  I am a huge fan of the beautiful Felicia Day and she has yet to clue me into anything that isn’t awesome.

It’s a new year, hopefully a better year than the last. I hope to find many new worlds to be lost in and revisit some old familiar homes. I hope you can join me along the way.

Book Review: Miramont’s Ghost by Elizabeth Hall

Miramonts Ghost

Miramont’s Ghost by Elizabeth Hall

Miramont Castle, built in 1897 and mysteriously abandoned three years later, is home to many secrets. Only one person knows the truth: Adrienne Beauvier, granddaughter of the Comte de Challembelles and cousin to the man who built the castle.

Clairvoyant from the time she could talk, Adrienne’s visions show her the secrets of those around her. When her visions begin to reveal dark mysteries of her own aristocratic French family, Adrienne is confronted by her formidable Aunt Marie, who is determined to keep the young woman silent at any cost.

Reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, this hauntingly atmospheric tale is inspired by historical research into the real-life Miramont Castle in Manitou Springs, Colorado.

The story of Adrienne is a tragic one. Few people try to understand her ability to see the future. Her Grandfather and her Governess, Lucie are the only ones that don’t treat her as an outcast. Her Grandmother also had visions, including seeing her own death after giving birth to Genevieve, Adrienne’s mother. This connection to his lost wife makes her Grandfather very protective of his young Granddaughter.

Adrienne’s mother is to worried about her marriage and the stress that her older sister, Marie, brings to the castle in France than her child, leaving Governess Lucie to be the true mother figure to Adrienne. When Marie first arrives back from America, Adrienne’s visions cause a slight uproar. Lucie fears what Marie is capable of and begins to record details of the visions and the reactions in her journals.

Over the years, Marie returns to the castle a few times over the years and eventually convinces Genevieve to allow her to take Adrienne to Manitou where Marie’s son has completed his dream home, Miramont Castle. Marie is an evil and manipulative woman whose plans are not to show her niece the New World but to make her a servant in this strange place as a way to keep Marie and her son’s secrets safe.

Once in America, Marie’s plan is revealed and the real tragedy befalls young Adrienne.

I originally picked up this book for sentimental reasons more than anything. My dad and Aunt grew up in Manitou and Colorado Springs. I have always loved walking around Manitou with my Aunt hearing the stories about my dad wreaking havoc in the small mountain side town. From coxing my uncles to jump from the bridges into the ice cold streams to sneaking out to get ‘lost’ on Pikes Peak as a youngster, much to the dismay of my Grandmother and the local sheriff. I am in love with the town on Manitou Springs. I have never been to Miramont Castle though. I have heard tales of how my Dad, Aunt and their friends would explore it as kids when it was just an abandoned building. That is about all I knew about it.

I wasn’t sure if the story would keep my attention during the Prologue but I always give a book until the third chapter before I decide if I will keep reading. I was not disappointed as Elizabeth Hall was able to hook me in during the first couple of pages in chapter one. I love historical fiction. There is a romance to the Victorian era that just speaks to me. The main story takes place at the end of the 1800’s and Hall’s descriptions pulled me into the story as though I was living in the book. This was good and bad. I got so engrossed in Adrienne’s struggle I wanted to save her. My heart broke for her as she was being abused by her horrid Aunt. But Adrienne was a strong spirit, doing the best with what she had. I admired that. She draws strength from the memories of her Grandfather when she has been pushed almost to her breaking point.

“If he were here, if this had happened to him, he would find a way to deal with it. He would not give up. He would not let Marie destroy him.”

This reminded me of my thoughts of my dad when I am in the middle of major issues in my own life and feel like giving up might be an option.

Now I want to learn more about Miramount Castle and some day I will visit the house that inspired this story. Maybe I will be able to let Adrienne know she is still thought of today.

Hello, My name is Jess and I am a slacker.

Ok, Ok. I know I have totally dropped the ball on this blog. Life has been hectic and uber stressful so my weekly library trips have been on hold as well as much of my reading for enjoyment. I won’t boar you with all the details. They really are not all that exciting. Let’s just say, I NEVER WANT TO MOVE AGAIN, EVER!!! I am here to say I have every good intention of getting back on track. I have a couple books I will be reviewing at some point this week, including one of Little H’s new favorites.

Monkey H’s Books of the Week

Monkey H is my youngest daughter. She is 18 months old and I have already started her on the road to Booktopia. We spend our Saturday’s going to the park and then the library or vice-verse depending on the time of day we finally make it out of the house or what other errands we have to take care of.

This week we have two books that we have held onto because she keeps picking those out of the stack first and then three new ones.

Book 1: Goodnight Goodnight Sleepyhead by Ruth Krauss

Goodnight

“Eyes, nose, fingers, toes, lips, hair…EVERYWHERE”

This book seems to be her favorite at the moment. We have actually had this one for 3 weeks now.

A little one tells all her stuffed animals and dolls good night, then the room itself before being tucked in by her mommy. When reading it to H, I point out her eyes, nose, fingers etc. Then she tries to point out mine. It has been a great bedtime story for her, even at nap time.

Book 2: Tickle by Leslie Patricelli

Tickle

This is her next favorite, held over from last weeks trip. A little boy starts the book by stating “I am NOT ticklish!” Then the Tickle Monster, aka dad, appears. The pages go on showing where the little boy is ticklish. These spots just so happen to be the same places H is also ticklish so we basically get to act out the story. That makes it one of my faves too because there is no better sound than that of my babies laughing.

Book 3: How Do You Sleep? by Louise Bonnett-Rampersaud,illustrated by Kristin Kest

how do you sleep

This is a new book to us this week. I will admit, the library we have been going to most often doesn’t have a large selection of books for itty ones. We tried a couple of ‘bigger’ books last week but H just doesn’t have the attention span for Curious George just yet. I was trying to stick to board books this time. This book was a great choice though. The story uses rhyming as many board books do but I absolutely love the illustrations. They are bright and detailed. H likes pointing out the different animals and I tell her what they are called. She has ‘dog’ down pat, but there are none in this book so we work on expanding that vocabulary.

Book 4: Grumpy Cat by Britta Teckentrup

Grumpy Cat

This is becoming a favorite, I mean who doesn’t love a grumpy cat. Cat is a stray that is all alone until one stormy night when Kitten decides to be his friend whether he likes it or not. We are a family of animal lovers and this is a story of learning to see good in others. And it’s got cats 🙂

Book 5: Pride & Prejudice a counting primer by Jennifer Adams; art by Alison Oliver

pride prej board book

OK, I know you are probably thinking “Really?!? She wont sit still for Curious George so you get her Pride & Prejudice??” Let me explain. I have read the original and the Zombie versions of this classic and loved them both. When I saw this on the shelf, I laughed out loud and then promptly stopped because we were in the library. My first thought was “I have to get this if for no other reason than to blog about it. So see, I was really just thinking of all of you. It is actually a cute little counting book. This is my favorite page “4 Marriage Proposals”

Pride and Prejudice board book2

I like the illustrations and we are starting on the road to learning numbers with this book. And someday, when she is forced to read the original in high school AP Lit I can tell her she just needs to read it as a refresher since she loved it as a kid.

Book Review: How to Discipline Your Vampire by Mina Vaughn

How to Discipline Your Vampire by Mina Vaughn

This was a fun little read. I am not a romance novel fan. I just cannot get into a cheesy ‘Damsel in Distress waiting to meet her Prince Charming and be saved from lifes harshness’ type book. BUT I love Erotica, especially when it is entwined with fairy tale type elements.

Cerise Norrell, Type A substitute teacher by day, is ready to quit being a domme. Despite her best intentions, none of her partners can keep up with her scene fetish and attention to detail—let alone her demand that they have a costume and set waiting every afternoon by the time she’s home from school.

Over a dozen potential subs have left her in the past year, but just when Cerise thinks it’s impossible—that she’ll have to go back to vanilla relationships, or be alone forever—she meets William, who wants to make all her fantasies come true. He turns her home into a geisha’s dream apartment, a concert hall with a grand piano (which he uses to play an original composition while wearing a tuxedo), and even rents an abandoned loft for a zombie apocalypse scene—complete with canned goods.

But there’s something strange about William. Well, a lot of strange things. He must be absurdly rich, since he can afford to provide extravagant costumes and props on a daily basis without having to leave work early. He must be insane, since he puts up with Cerise’s over-the-top demands. And most importantly, he doesn’t redden when he’s spanked, and his skin is as cool as satin sheets.

I picked this book up to have something to completely get outside of my head. I wasn’t sure if I would actually like it but Mina’s characters have a lot of life in them. I feel for Cerise in all her damaged self as well as William in his loneliness. As their relationship bloomed from a strictly Dom/Sub business relationship to a more intimate personal one, I found myself rooting for them. I really enjoyed this book (and was really wishing Hubby liked to read more) I would not mind coming home to some of the special touches that William put into his scenes for Cerise. The only thing I didn’t like about the story was that toward the end I felt like the story was being stretched out longer than needed for a few pages but then it came back around to finish out the tale nicely. This book is a fun read and I will be checking out Mina’s other books.

Best Sellers of the Week

Hello fellow Booktopians. As promised in my earlier post, today is the start of my weekly post of the Top 5 Top Best Selling Fiction, Non-Fiction and Childrens Books per the New York Times list. I will include any thoughts I may have on books listed that I may have read, am reading or would like to read and why. I will also link in the full NY Times list as well as the list by USA Today, Amazon and Barns&Noble.  As noted on the link for The NY Times, this list will be the one published in the 10/19/2014 addition. So without further ado I give you

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  1. GONE GIRL, by Gillian Flynn – (Crown.) A woman disappears on the day of her fifth anniversary; is her husband a killer?
    • I want to see this movie but I must read the book first. It has been on my library ebook waiting list for well over a year. I may just have to breakdown and buy it
  2. BURN, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge – (Little, Brown.) Detective Michael Bennett, back in New York City, investigates a peculiar crime in Harlem
  3. THE LOST KEY, by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison -Nicholas Drummond of Scotland Yard, now an F.B.I. agent, investigates a Wall Street stabbing that involves secrets reaching back to World War I.
    • The summery here has me very intrieged. Sounds very much like a book I will enjoy.
  4. THE BEST OF ME, by Nicholas Sparks – (Grand Central.) Twenty-five years after their high school romance ended, two classmates return to their North Carolina town for a funeral.
    • I really have no desire to read this. I love the movie of “The Notebook” but it is one of the few movies based on a book that I have not read the book for. Personally, every time I see a movie advert for any thing based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, it is the same story set in a different time period with different names and MAYBE a different ‘challenge to overcome’
  5. EDGE OF ETERNITY, by Ken Follett – (Dutton.) Five interrelated families grapple with the events of the 1960s through the 1980s; Book 3 of the Century Trilogy.
    • I love a good book series and this one sounds like an interesting read

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  1. KILLING PATTON, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. (Holt.) The host of “The O’Reilly Factor” recounts the strange death of Gen. George S. Patton in December 1945
    • No thanks, not a fan of O’Reilly. I am sure there are other ways to learn about Patton’s demise
  2. NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL, by Lena Dunham. (Random House.) A collection of revealing and often humorous personal essays from the creator and star of “Girls.”
    • Could be a fun read. May check it out
  3. THE BOYS IN THE BOAT, by Daniel James Brown. (Viking.) The University of Washington’s eight-oar crew and their quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
    • I probably have the least amount of intrest in sports of ANYONE on Earth so there is no way I could stay awake reading this.
  4. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House.) An Olympic runner’s story of survival as a prisoner of the Japanese in World War II
    • I am a history buff though so MAYBE a little more likely to read this one
  5. HOW WE GOT TO NOW, by Steven Johnson. (Riverhead.) A history of innovation focused on the development of six key technologies of modern life; the companion volume to a PBS series
    • As a self-proclaimed Geek and tech addict, this may be worth my time.

Children's

  1. THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT, by Drew Daywalt. Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. (Philomel.) Colorful problems arise when Duncan’s crayons revolt. (Ages 3 to 7)
    • This is on my list to find. I can only immagine the shinanigans that crayons on revolt can get into
  2. THE BOOK WITH NO PICTURES, by B. J. Novak. (Dial.) Silly songs and sound effects in a book without images. (Ages 4 to 8)
    • I am intreiged. Not sure how it can keep the attention of a younger kiddo, but I like the concept.
  3. GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE, by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld. (Chronicle.) Trucks at sunset. (Ages 4 to 8)
    • My Daddy owned a contracting business and every kiddo I have ever known loves big trucks.
  4. PRESS HERE, by Hervé Tullet. (Handprint/Chronicle.) A whimsical dance of color and motion, at the touch of a finger. (Ages 4 to 8)
    • this is another book that sounds like a great interactive play book.
  5. MIX IT UP!, by Hervé Tullet. (Handprint/Chronicle.) Primary colors splatter, mix together and transform at the touch of a finger. (Ages 4 to 8)
    • Guessing this and #4 are good as a set.
For the Full list of current Best Sellers, check out these Links

New Weekly and Monthly Features

I have really enjoyed the Blogging 101 adventure. In fact, I have signed up for the Blogging 202 lessons starting soon. I have fallen in love with my blog over the last month and want to really make it a place my readers can count on to have regular interactions. To do this, I have decided I will make a commitment to not only myself but those who have stummbeled across my path to Booktopia and want to join arms and skip along this road with me. So here is my initial plan. I am not saying there won’t be some adjustments as I get in the grove but I need to start somewhere.

Best Selling Books of the Week – every Monday: This is where I will list the top 5 books that are currently appearing on the New York Times Best Sellers list in Fiction, Non-Fiction and Childrens Picture books for the week. I am including only these because they are the ones that I will be most likely to read and review. I will include a link to full lists for each as well as the links to USA Today, Amazon and Barns&Noble lists. This one starts today so keep your eyes peeled for that post.

New Review – 15th of the month: I would love to review a book a week and someday, I may have the time to do that but for now, I am commiting to at least one actual review a month and will post it on the 15th.

Monkey H’s Weekly Picks – Every Saturday: I have started a weekly tradition with my youngest Daughter. On Saturday we go to the park and spend about an hour, then over to the library. I pick out different books to read to her throughout the week. I will share here what books we have picked out for the week and possibly a review or two depending on her attention to the book. She is only 18 months old so it will be hit and miss for a while I am sure.

Pick-a-Book Day! – last Friday of the month: On the last Friday of the month I will make a list of the books I have encountered throughout the month and let YOU, yes YOU vote for one book I will review within the following three months.

I have some other scheduling ideas but don’t want to over extend myself just yet. I figure these four will at least give me a good place to start and keep things flowing. I hope you will enjoy my input as much as I enjoy hearing yours.

Feeling Blessed

Thank you so much Staying Mom, for nominating me. I am still so new to this Blogging thing and never thought my blog would make it out of my little corner of the room. I am having a blast learning all the ways to use my blog and all the great people I am meeting while I do so.

How it works:

  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Thank the blogger who presented this award and link back to their blog.
  • Write 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers who you feel deserve this award and who have less than 200 followers.
  • Answer 11 questions posted by the presenter and ask your nominees 11 questions.

11 random facts about me:

  1. I was a drama geek in High School
  2. I use scrapbook paper to cover up the grey walls of my day job cubicle
  3. I wanted to be a Veterinarian, until I got to high school. Could not bring myself to dissect a cat.
  4. I cannot stand talking on the phone, probably because I have worked in call centers most of my adult life.
  5. I love to cook for groups of family and friends
  6. I finally started playing tabletop RPG games just this year
  7. I want to learn how to fly a plane before this incarnation ends
  8. I am an inspirational quote addict
  9. I love to garden but am not very good at it
  10. I sell Avon
  11. I collect Fortune Cookie fortunes

To answer Staying Mom’s questions:

  1. My Favorite Quote: “You’ve never known the likes of piracy a girl can do!”  S.J. Tucker The Wendy Trilogy I- Wendy On Board
  2. My Favorite Food: Close race between Chinese food and my homemade pizza, dubbed the ‘Fatman’ by hubby. Why? 2-3 lbs of cheese, 1.5 lbs bacon, 1 lb Italian sausage, half pound of pepperoni and/or Canadian bacon all on a homemade crust. – now I am hungry.
  3. My Favorite vacation: Taking my kids and hubby to Colorado to meet my dad’s side of my family and walk in the places my dad grew up.
  4. My Favorite book:  It is not possible for me to answer this one, I have too many.
  5. My Favorite color: Blues and greens
  6. My Favorite movie:  The Notebook, Goodfellas, Frozen, Steel Magnolias, any kind of horror movie
  7. My Favorite outfit:  Jeans and my “I Solemnly Swear I Am Up to No Good” t-shirt
  8. My Favorite place:  Anywhere with my daughters
  9. My Favorite drink:  Sweet tea
  10. My Favorite flower:  Wild flowers and roses
  11. My Favorite blog:  This is just as bad as the Favorite Books question. I really cannot narrow it down.

My nominees:

Questions for My nominees to answer:

  1. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
  2. What would you name the autobiography of your life?
  3. What do you miss most about being a kid?
  4. What’s a song that always makes you happy when you hear it?
  5. Do you have a collection of anything?
  6. What’s your biggest “what if”?
  7. What was the last book you read?
  8. To you, what is the meaning of life?
  9. What would you sing at Karaoke night?
  10. What’s your favorite family tradition?
  11. What was your first job?

Am I Hiding My Madness From Me or Hiding Me From It?

Still playing catch up with Blogging 101 BUT getting closer to the now 🙂 On Monday, the assignment was to Make a Writing Prompt Personal. I personally think my subconscious wanted me to be ‘behind’ on this one cuz the prompt that I am working with was from Friday actually. The ones before then just didn’t click with me.

Today’s Prompt is

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” — Allen Ginsberg

The reason this one is ‘THE Prompt’ is that I have been feeling a little nutso lately. I have a lot of stuff going on in my reality and other than my short bit of time daily spent with Monkey H (18 months old), pretty much everything else has sucked. Stress and I are old friends but when my normal stress invites its family over for an extended reunion – yea, not so fun. Between working 50+ hours a week, waiting to close on a house, moving just about everything we own other than absolute needs into storage along with other emotional and personal crap I am dealing with, it is a wonder that I can function more than to grunt and hide under my pillow and blanket 24/7.

I know I am slipping into a stress induced depression when the nightmares start. If I could make myself actually write down what I can remember of these dreams, I could probably have a pretty good career as a horror/thriller fiction writer. I don’t try to hide my crazy, never really have but some of my nightmares make me really wonder about my mental state. I have some really vivid dreams and yes, I do dream in full color. My fear is that I will never get the intensity across to a reader if I were to finally get them out on paper and out of my head. I guess a new goal for my life is to keep a note book and light near my bed so I can keep track of the crazy that is locked away in my subconscious.

Playing Catch-Up and Sugar Skulls

I am running behind on my Blogging 101 assignments. Last week was all about the many hours of overtime I had to do at work while we train new people to replace others that have moved on up. I don’t really mind the overtime, especially when I see my check but it does take time away from the things in my not work life that are important – like my kiddos, hubby and getting this blog on track. I am not working OT this week but I got bumped to the later shift because my employer looks at overall seniority, not just seniority within the department. One good thing is we are dead for the last hour or so most days so I have time to play catch up here. I am a glass half full kinda gal whenever possible.

So, to catch up I have updated my blog look. I thought I liked the theme I had updated to but decided it was just a little too much and found one that fits a little better for now. I also updated my About Me page – check it out, tell me what ya think. I commented on 4 blogs I had not visited as of yet and found some good new reading material in them.

This assignment is to blog about something inspired by one of those blogs. I knew right away who that was going to be when I read her blog. Storm’s Stitches is a cross-stitcher blog I found while looking through tags that interested me. Her post Sugar Skull caught my attention right away because the work of art is beautiful. Hubby and I both like the macabre and he collects skulls. When we do get our house, the neighbors better be ok with year round Halloween decor in the yard. I read the short post and this sentence got me to thinking. 

Sugar skulls are a reminder to spend less time mourning our loved ones and instead remember and celebrate the wonderful lives they lived”

I have lost many loved ones in my life. The first significant one was my dad. I was raised by him until he was in a motorcycle accident when I was 13. He was and will always be my hero. I sometimes wonder where I would be now if he hadn’t died. My life does seem like two different lives when I look back on it. The one I had before and the one I had after February 3, 1991. I still mourn him, especially when things are happening in my life that a girl wants her daddy with her for but I do try to remember all he taught me and pass what I can on to my kids. He would have been an amazing Papa that is for sure.

The loss that almost ended my life was that of my first born and only son. He was born 20 weeks premature. I was blessed to have him for about 20 minutes and the hospital was understanding and let me have all the night with him. It is hard to think of him having a life to celebrate when it was so short but in the time I carried him to now, he was loved beyond explanation. I heard once, “Spouses who lose a mate are called widows or widowers. Children with no parents are called orphans. What do you call a parent that has lost child? Maybe there is no word for it because it is too terrible a thing to name.”  I agree. It is a pain that no one should ever have to feel.

These lives, along with the those of my Grandmother, Gram, Great Aunt Zella and a few others are the ones I do celebrate at Samhain and whenever something particularly reminds me of time I spent with them. My Grandmas both are thought of often when I am doing any kind of craft since they both are reasons I love to sew and create. My baby boy, always, since I have many friends with boys close to what the age he would be now. I try to remember the times of happiness I had with all of them, not the way they passed.