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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Book Review: "Summer of Hope"

For today's "We- read Wednesday", I get to review the best book I've read since The Hunger Games series!  Of course, TOTALLY different, but still, the first book that I've read since then that I literally could. not. put. down.

Today's book is YA drama, SUMMER OF HOPE by Jodie Andrefski.

After witnessing her 16-year-old twin brother die in a freak accident, Callie swears she will never let anyone in again.  Jamie was her twin, her best friend and confident through everything, and the thought of losing another person she loved was unbearable.  It was so much easier to be bitter, closed off and even rebel against her parents. 

14 months later everything changes when her parents drag her to their summer home and she meets the new neighbor, 17-year-old Ethan.  His good nature, smile and thoughtful soul draw her in and begin to transform and renew her heart.  But when a painful secret of Ethan's is revealed, the events that unfold will change both of their families lives forever. 

Summer of Hope reads like a Nicholas Spark's novel; fast, tearful (OK, I sobbed) and explores the true elements of what nags at a teenage girls soul.  Should I hang out with the "perfects", the girls who seem to have everything in place to feel popular?  Should I open my heart up and be willing to get hurt, or should I keep my heart tucked away where it's safe?  Do I heed the advice of my parents and friends, or hit the self destruct mode and throw my morals out the window?  Andrefski displays these real concerns and rights of passage in such a way that you as the reader get worried, torn and truly feel for Callie as she treads through these emotions.  You want to yell at her, cry with her, hug her and console her all at the same time. 

Andrefski does a great job of keeping the storyline going at a rapid pace.  It keeps you increasingly engaged without the extra fluff of a totally linear storyline that often wrecks Indie novels.  She isn't afraid to leave you hanging on certain details, but thoughtfully works in the important details from previous events in the next chapter in a way that keeps you informed without dragging the plot line. 

The book does have some typos that can be easily corrected, but the story left me so breathless that I can easily overlook it. :)  I can't wait to hear more from this author!

Amazon prime members can read this book for FREE, and Kindle price is just $2.99. buy it here!! What the book trailer here. I highly recommend it for a quick read that will linger with you well after the last page of the book.

Happy reading!
Anna
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Homemade "sunset" Ginger Ale

Two weeks ago I posted my recipe for Homemade Chai and it was very popular, so I decided to also give you a similar recipe you can enjoy warm or cold- Homemade Ginger Ale!

I love ginger ale, but I don't drink regular "pop" (as I call it), so when I had some gorgeous locally grown ginger on hand, coupled with major morning sickness (oh yeah, I haven't mentioned that i'm expecting!) I thought it would be fabulous to make some homemade ginger ale.  The result was nothing short of delicious and refreshing!
make a "sunset" by adding your splash of bitters last.  I have candied ginger in the bottom of my glass if you're wondering. :)
What you need: Serves 4
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup peeled fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick- optional
1-2 tsp. bitters- optional (found in the wine/beer section of most stores)
medium saucepan
club soda/sparkling water

Bring honey, water, ginger and Cinnamon stick to a boil and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  If you're not going to make it immediately, you can refrigerate the mixture for up to a week.  When you're ready to make your ginger ale, pour  your ginger mixture into a pitcher and add 4 cups of club soda and a splash or two of bitters.  Pour over ice and enjoy a refreshingly spectacular homemade soda pop!  To make a "sunset" ginger ale, add your splash of bitters to each glass separately after you've poured the club soda over the ginger mixture.  Don't mix.

Want your ginger warm and cozy?  Today is very blustery out, and the idea of drinking cold ginger ale isn't that appealing.  Another option for fall/winter is to add hot water instead of club soda to the hot ginger mixture and serve in a cozy mug.  A great remedy for a tummy bug or digestif after a large thanksgiving supper!

*In a pinch with no fresh ginger available?  Just use honey and water without the ginger or Cinnamon stick and add a little extra bitters to taste.  voila!

I hope you find my drink recipes as yummy as I do!!!  Let me know if you try it!

Love,
Anna

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

YA Fantasy Book Review: "Root Bound"

I had the distinct pleasure to read Tanya Karen Gough's Root Bound- Emma and the Elementals for this week's "we-read Wednesday" book review!  I enjoyed this unique and whimsical fantasy story so much that I gave it 4.5 stars!
"How far will you go to find your way home? Emma and her father are always on the move, travelling from place to place as her father’s work demands. Their new home, however, is different. There’s a frightening woman who lives down the hall: she bears an uncanny resemblance to a witch. A mysterious light comes from her apartment, and a small boy seems to be trapped inside. School in this town is no happy place either, with an odd principal and a gang of girls who make tormenting Emma their special project. And strangest of all is the fact that there seem to be brownies - basement brownies, in the air vent in her bedroom. Haunted by visions of her mother, Emma travels through the brownie burrow to the valley of Hades to visit with the goddess Ceres, following a series of clues that lead her across the sea of memory to the centre of the world. There, on an inhospitable rock floating in a sea of steaming lava, Emma must find a way to release her mother from the sea of memory and restore magic to both the brownie burrow and the human world above."
 
I didn't know what to expect with this YA Fantasy book, but I was pleasantly surprised with Ms. Gough's smart and well developed story!  Her choice to combine classic children's literature and Greek and Roman mythology with new fantasy ideas was unique and likely to inspire youth to re-examine or experience the classic literature for the first time. 
 
I appreciated the themes commonly found in YA books like popular vs. unpopular, the challenges of moving from place to place as a teen, and good vs. evil, that somehow Gough effortlessly made  new yet relatable.  Adding elements of music along with all of the plot's twists and turns, make this an adventure that keeps adults just as intellectually engaged as the teen. 
 
My only criticism with this delightful, whimsical book is that I wish Gough explained the brownie's in more detail.  I wasn't extremely familiar with the brownie folklore before reading the story, and went back and forth visualizing a baked chocolate treat with legs and a tiny mouse-like human until I looked up what they really were online and discovered they were like a small goblin in folklore. But isn't this also a win for what I imagine Gough was hoping for?  It encouraged and inspired me to learn something new about all of the classic folklore and mythology she relates to in the story. 
 
At first I felt like the first half of the story was too developed and I wish it had moved faster to the world of "under" in the second half of the book.  However, as you learn more and more throughout the story, it makes sense why Gough went to the trouble of developing so much in the first half, where everything comes together quite masterfully in the end.  There were also a few typos throughout the story, but nothing that totally interrupted the flow or enjoyment of the book.
 
I hope you pick up your copy of Root Bound, available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Root-Bound-Emma-Elementals-Volume/dp/0987850601/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top#_.  Your middle schooler will definitely appreciate this exciting and relatable read this holiday season!
 
Happy Reading,
Anna
 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Press Release for Barnes and Noble Book Reading/Signing

Check out this press release written by Julie Breedlove.  It will give you all the details of the authors participating in the BQB reading/signing this Saturday at Barnes and Noble at the Avenue Forsyth!  Also, learn how students at your school can earn your library $100 in FREE BQB books!
**Give you and your child a really special gift: a chance to meet a successful local author!
The school with the most students present will win $100 of free books.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Julie Breedlove 770.364.5361
Cumming, GA – October 15, 2012 – October 20 is the big day to meet several local children’s authors at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers at the Avenue Forsyth from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. These creative people will gather to sign their books, which will make personal gifts to the readers on your holiday list. These authors are ready and willing to talk about the stories behind their published work and their journey to sharing their stories with the world. Inspire yourself or someone close to you with this intimate experience with these notable authors.
The authors scheduled to attend the meet and greet are all from the Atlanta area. Bring the kids, come and pick the authors’ brains, and get inspired by their creativity and flair. The school with the most students present will win $100 of free books from BQB Publishing. Be sure to check in at BQB’s table to boost your school’s chances of winning.
The following youth authors will be present:
Tween to Adult authors present:

The event sponsored by BQB Publishing and Barnes and Noble also includes story time with authors Anna Everhart and Laurie Stephens plus a visit from “Red” of the local Red Robin Restaurant who promotes reading for children.
# # #
About the Authors:
Anna Lee Everhart has enjoyed the gift of stories her whole life and was inspired to write about Bearful Bear, a character her father created in bedtime stories during her childhood. Her love of storytelling developed into a love of writing poetry, songs, and essays. As a result, she enhanced the story and has written Bearful Bear and His New Moves. Anna hopes that Bearful helps families create endearing and special moments that children will remember for the rest of their lives.
Cody Jackson is nine years old, and a pint-sized patriot. As the One Boy USO, Cody has thanked 10,000+ of our country’s heroes, all by the age of nine. After noticing the lack of patriotism in his peers, Cody wanted to let other kids know “It’s okay to be patriotic! If I can do it, you can too!” Cody has written two patriotic children’s books, wanting to share his love of America and her military, and hoping to help other children love their country and troops as much as he does! A portion of all sales of Cody’s books will go back to his charity: OneBoyUSO.com. Come and meet this remarkable little guy.
Jackie Gaskins’ first children’s book, The Four Princesses, is a product of her passion and gift for children. Meet this extraordinary woman with the gift of storytelling.
Anissa Freeman’s mother instilled the joy of reading when Anissa was in preschool, as her mother would read to her each night before going to bed. Her love for bugs developed at an early age as well. She could always be found catching various insects in old pickle jars in her grandparents’ backyard, and that fascination with bugs was the inspiration for her first book, The Ugly Bug Ball, with fellow teacher and co-author Michelle Burns.
Michelle Burns never thought staying after school with one of her colleagues, Anissa Freeman, one Wednesday afternoon would result in achieving her life-long dream of becoming a published author. Because of their love of writing and telling stories, Michelle and Anissa quickly became immersed in their characters and the story they wanted to convey to their young audience. It was important to both of them that their story be utilized in the classroom across all content areas and not just in the area of reading. Learn more about the book and follow Michelle and Anissa’s blog on TheUglyBugBallBook.com.
Laurie Stephens is the mother of two incredible daughters, Lily and Avery, who were both adopted from China. Laurie has made a career in nonprofit fundraising and marketing, and also writes about adoption, spiritual issues, and life as a single mom in her forties. Laurie’s work has been published in Adoption Today magazine and she writes a blog, didimentionreinvention.blogspot.com.
J.R. (Randy) Hardin A late-blooming author, Hardin saved his best for now. Beginning his writing career after a decades’ long delay, this North Georgia writer captures children’s imaginations in the pages of his adventure books. An engineer by trade, Hardin ignored his high school guidance counselor recommendation of writing. In 2001, he turned to his pen to flavor his stories with southern spices.
R.E. Munzing spent his childhood in Michigan, roaming the woods and building tree houses so it is no wonder that he chose an outdoorsy setting for his flights of fantasy. Bob is now swamped by the requirements of getting the rest of the story, that has turned into four books, written, but is happy to live in the fantasy world he’s creating. He takes breaks with occasional trips into the woods during thunderstorms and forays into flea markets looking for knives, small old wooden boxes, and small “steam punk” gadgetry. The next books in The Last Elfairian series are scheduled to make their debuts soon.
Olivia Lodise, ready to graduate from an Atlanta high school this year, began Violet Path as a simple writing assignment for English class in seventh grade, but it did not end there. For class, she wrote the first chapter to study narration and to practice description and character development. However, the story continued, and she wrote every night. For Olivia, writing is mapping out a world, laying it out in front of her, seeing every scene like a timeline, and tracing the characters’ lives. It is drawing out dreams.
About BQB Publishing
Founded in August of 2010, BQB was created to be “the writer’s publisher,” focusing on quality writing from new authors. An independent hybrid publisher, BQB combines the quality processes of traditional publishing with hands-on author involvement to bring today’s new writers and tomorrow’s best sellers into the hands of booksellers and the reading public. To learn more about BQB, visit
www.bqbpublishing.com.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Quest for the Lost Treasure" Book Review!

I have a book review for all of the preschool to early elementary children out there!  Quest for the Lost Treasure by Gerry Gaston is available on Kindle today!


Quest for the Lost Treasure- A "Choose your own Path" Pirate Adventure!


I was excited when Gerry Gaston asked me to review his Juvenile adventure book because I myself have fond memories of the "choose your own adventure" genre.  I also knew my 5-year-old son, Noah would love the concept coupled with a cool treasure hunting theme!

Luckily, the story does not disappoint.  It is carefully laid out, easy to follow, and has enough twists and turns to keep things interesting!  My son loved the excitement of not knowing what would lie ahead and was truly thrilled when he made it to the end of the book and had actually chosen the right path that lead to the treasure.  The choices are simple so he was able to understand that the path he chose effected the outcome.  This is also what makes this book different from the traditional Choose your own adventure genre geared towards the older reader. We had fun going back through the story to see where the other choices took the story, too. 

You might be concerned that once you find the right path that leads to the treasure, your child won't be interested in reading it again, but the storyline and fun, cartoon-like illustrations make the book fun to enjoy again and again.  Actually, my son just jumped to the computer when he saw me upload the picture of the cover! 

If you are looking for a high quality, engaging and interactive story for your 4-8 year old to enjoy on your Kindle, I highly recommend this book, and give it 5 stars.  Here is the link on Amazon.com to order your copy today!
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00959YHV0/ref=yml_dp

Love,
Anna

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday's Real Food Recipe- Homemade Chai

It's at this time of year that all I can think about is enjoying a warm cup of chai on my porch with a good book or my journal.  To me, fall is  the peace after the crazy start of the school year in August.  It's the changing colors that release the fragrant leaves carried on the breeze, and all I want to do is embrace it.  It's like the last gift of summer, wrapped up in beautiful colors and smells.

That's when it hits me.  Cinnamon.  The best smell in the entire world!!!  I want to smell it in my house and in my drink, so chai is a staple for me.  The best chai is the one made at home, where you get the fragrance of the spices going and it makes your entire house smell warm and cozy.  Here is my go-to recipe for homemade chai.  You can make several variations too, by using what you have on hand.

Homemade Chai:
Place all of the ingredients in a 4-6 qt. saucepan
Peel and slice about 1/4 cup of fresh ginger
5 star anise
6 cardamom pods
6 cloves- don't have star anise or whole cloves?  Try allspice berries!
1/2 cup honey - add more or less to your liking
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cups of water
honey, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, green cardamom, allspice, star anise, black tea

Bring the water mixture to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium low.  Let simmer for 20-30 minutes.  I love the smell so much, sometimes I let it go longer, and add a little more water if too much has evaporated!! 

Add 2 black or green tea bags to your mixture and let it steep for 3-5 minutes (only 3 for green tea or it will taste bitter). 

Remove from stove, squeeze tea bags to remove excess water.  Add cream or drink it "black".  You can also drink this cold and over ice if you prefer an iced chai.  You may want to add more honey, too.  If you aren't going to drink all the chai, you can let it cool, and place in a mason jar in the fridge for up to one week.

Like your chai with vanilla?  You can add a splash of vanilla at the end when you remove the pot from the stove, or even add a vanilla pod to the mixture at the beginning while boiling/simmering.  YUM! 

Here's mine this morning...I wanted to froth the milk for you but my moolatte is out of bateries!  it's still delish. 


I hope you enjoy this delicious fall beverage!!! 

Love,
Anna

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Book Review- "Light and Dark: The Awakening of the Mageknight

Recently I started offering to review children's, Juvenile and YA genres.  Not only does it hold me accountable to read more, but it also helps authors get their stories out to a wider audience!  As a new author on the street, I know how valuable that service can be!  Here is my first "official" book review that I completed for a new Indie author, Daniel Fife.  You can find him at @DanielMFife, and on Goodreads, FB, etc.  Enjoy the review!

Book Review: Light and Dark: the Awakening of the Mageknight
by Daniel Fife- 3 stars

Light and Dark: The Awakening of the Mageknight begins with an average 13 year old, Danny Firoth, beginning his 8th grade year and reuniting with his buddies.  He is taken with a new girl, Sabrina, who quickly becomes friends with his group because of their shared interest in the card game of “Knights.” 

After an encounter with a dragon fighting the dark, and discovering that he possesses the curious and exciting ability of foresight, Danny realizes there is a world of good and evil that is far more realistic and closeby than he ever imagined.  With his friends and Sabrina with him, they have an opportunity to spend their summer attending a secret school learning how to be a knight of the light.  The truth slowly unfolds as Danny learns more about his past and his true destiny that will change his life forever. 

Daniel Fife has come up with a wonderful storyline that is unique enough, but would also remind you of popular stories like Harry Potter.  It is relatable to a YA audience, and contains a relatable love story, along with the themes of good and evil, fighting for what is right, loyalty and learning by doing.  Fife’s writing continues to improve throughout the book, especially with the thrilling fight scenes, and his beautifully thorough scene descriptions.

Unfortunately the grammar, typos and repeated use of cliché phrases such as “did as bid” and “for but a moment,” truly distract from the story.  The pacing also needs reworking with too much character details in the first chapter, as well as too much time and development of the scene at Danny's middle school where the majority of the story takes place at the Academy of the light. 

If these changes were made, this book would be fantastic and receive 5 stars, however, I can only offer 3 stars in its current state.  If you enjoy YA fantasy, this book is worth reading.  I am definitely interested to find out what happens next in the series.    

Note!  After submitting my review to the author, Daniel Fife, he told me he made many of the changes I suggested.  Yay!
 
I received a free ecopy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Today, I remember my wedding day!

Seven years ago today, I said "I do" to the kindest man in the world, and I am so glad that I did!  It was the autumnal wedding I had always dreamed of, soaking up all the richness of the season to match the beauty of my family, our history, and the bright future I was walking towards.  Today I remember!
Today is the day, and the flowers arrived beautifully from Flagstads
                                    
Grandma Tuttle and my mommer helping me put on Grandma's beautiful satin gown she had worn 60+ years prior!  Along with my veil that was made from the lace of my great grandmothers wedding dress!
 
Dresses from 1939 certainly have a lot of buttons!
My gorgeous bridesmaids and flower girl. 
                                                 
                                                                      "I do!!"

Gorgeous, lifelong friends
Our Families
The Happy Couple
                                     
                                    Signing our marriage license while watching the sunset


Jeremy surprised me with a letter he read titled, "Why I love Anna".

I surprised Jeremy by singing, "At last" while my brother Mark rocked the guitar accompaniment


Grandma Tuttle, whose dress I had the honor to wear

Our delciously scrumptious, lick-the-plate-clean cake from "Craig's Cakes".  I loved the chocolate leaves!

 


A beautiful day to start a beautiful life! 
 
I have learned so much from Jeremy, and he certainly has taken such great care of me, and loved me through every piece of madness we've been through.  I am blessed beyond measure!!!
 
There were so many other glorious moments; the music, the decorations, etc....but I hope you enjoyed a glimpse down my memory lane!
 
Love,
Anna