Thursday, July 31, 2014

An Act of Devotion

I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.

An Act of Devotion is written by T. A. Ashcroft and revolves around the life of Franklin (a 3-year-old chocolate lab) and the humans whose lives he becomes a part of.  

Admittedly, I don't care how many times I was told that Franklin was a Labrador, I kept picturing him as a Golden Retriever for some strange reason.  This book is told from many points of view, occasionally even from Franklin, although I would have liked to have been inside Franklin's mind a bit more.  Ashcroft does a superb job of setting the scene of the story and making the reader feel intimately connected to Franklin; likewise, it was easy to connect to the main characters in the story. 

In the beginning there is some getting used to the varying point of views, as it is a bit unique from most books.  Ashcroft does an excellent job of showing both the good and bad of humanity, especially in terms to the treatment of dogs.  I will warn the faint of heart that there is some detailed dog fighting in the story that was really hard to read, even she was good at steering away from it before too long.  It gave an intimate look at the training that left me feeling sick at heart. 

I took longer to read this novel as there were times that I needed to take a break away from the horrors of those who do not feel the same love and respect for dogs that I do, and felt dread at certain parts.  Luckily Ashcroft does a stupendous job of ending the story that left tears in my eyes and a wish that the same ending could be possible in reality. 

The negative aspects of the story for me were that this story is very obviously written in the UK style (given that the author is from England), and it was slightly distracting with the different colloquialisms that are not familiar in US English.  I actually was under the impression that this story was taking place in England until Colorado Springs and Denver were talked about as the location.  There also were typos throughout the story, but not enough to make me exasperated, yet still enough to cause as a slight distraction. 

Overall I give this book a 4/5 stars.  I must applaud Ashcroft for taking on the task of tacking such a painful subject and still providing a feel good ending for the reader.  If you are an animal lover, dog lover, humanitarian, lover of what feels like a small town story, fiction lover or just like a good book on the short end of length, than this book is for you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Succulent Braised Corned Beef

Corned beef always makes me happy!  Once I discovered a braised recipe last St. Patrick's Day, I don't think that I can ever boil it again.  This recipe leaves the corned beef perfectly cooked and very succulent.  Enjoy!

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 lb Corned Beef Brisket
2 Tbsp Browning Sauce
4 Cloves Garlic Sliced
1 Tbsp Basil
pinch of Rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  heat oil in large skillet.  Brush brisket with browning sauce on both sides.  Brown brisket on both sides in the hot oil (about 5-7 minutes per side.)
Add water to a shallow roasting pan.  Place rack on top of pan and place brisket on the rack.  Scatter garlic, basil, a pinch of crushed rosemary and accompanying flavor packet on top of the brisket (fat side up).  Cover pan with aluminum foil.
Roast in the preheated oven until meat is tender (about 30-45 minutes per pound). 
Slice, Serve & Enjoy!

Brush browning sauce on the corned beef and braise in a skillet
Add water to a deep roasting pan (I also added potatoes and carrots to make an easy side dish)
Place the corned beef on the roasting rack and generously add seasonings, cover with foil before putting into the oven
Remove from the oven, allow to cool and serve in slices

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Copyright Infringement and E-Books

Just some of my thoughts......  Please feel free to share your own.
Already the publishing industry has seen changed due to e-readers such as the Nook, Kindle and iPad.  A lot of people incorrectly assume that this has been bad for the publishing companies, but I have to disagree.  As an aspiring author that has extensively researched book publishing; as well as someone who regularly reviews books for publishing companies, I can attest to the fact that they have changed with the times in many ways.  Just because a book is published in an electronic capacity does not mean that it was not attached to a publishing company.  Publishing companies also have a hand in many e-books, and aide in processes such as editing.  Most major authors are publishing in multiple formats, hardback, paperback, audio and e-books.  The biggest take-away from publishing companies is the ease in self-publishing that has been brought about.  However, having read and reviewed books from many independent authors, I have found a lot lacking in many books that are not professionally produced.  The editing is atrocious and takes away from the story.  This results in a book being released that is in more of a draft format than a polished copy feel that readers want to see.  Self-publishing also does not provide for assistance in advertisement and the author must to their own marketing, which utilizes many social networking sites.  Self-publishing can be successful and profitable if done correctly.  There are also many ways to “print on demand” that allows an independent author to have physical copies of books made up without a publishing company.  In order for a publishing company to truly be affected it takes a knowledgeable driven author that has reliable editing and promotion help, otherwise the published books are a better read. 
Copyright issues will always be a problem as long as it is easy to copy the information and share it.  Many e-books are available at free at one time or another.  I personally only “purchase” amazon kindle books during “free” sales.  I am legally obtaining the books, and never having to pay.  Books, as with music sell based on reviews and word of mouth.  I have received many books for free in the past few months because the author or publishing company is giving them away for a free review.  Ripping off a story is illegal and should be punished, but sharing a story for the review and word of mouth it will generate is still in the best interest of the author, and can help obtain future fans and sales. 
When it comes to the reading of physical or e-books, I still will choose a physical book every time.  There is just something about being able to hold a book in my hands that makes me feel even more connected to the story.  I also love being able to put the book on my bookshelf.  One of my dreams in life has been to have a multiple story library in my house.  I think it was inspired by the Beauty and the Beast library, which was based off of a real castle in Germany.  E-readers are better for travel and for quick reading as they stay on the page that you last left off when you turn it back on.  It the best to have both for certain books that are only published in digital format.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Little Things

I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest response.

Little Things is the first book in the Second Chances series and written by Madison Street.  It is told from the point of view of two high school seniors Duke & Raya.  Raya has an abusive step father and Duke is the all-American lacrosse player. 

I have waited a few days upon completion of this book to write a review, mostly because, I really had a hard time with this book.  I don't want to start out with negativity so I will start with pointing out the positive aspects of the story.  Madison did a good job of showing a timeless love from the point of view of Duke.  She also did a good job of describing scenery.  In times of abuse there was a great amount of detail, that perhaps speaks of personal knowledge. 

Apart from the abuse, the book starts out quite explicitly, but not in the sense of a romance novel.  The sexual scenes (apart from abuse) seem to be written in a way that does not make the reader feel knowledgeable about the passion.  Also HUGE issue for me was that we know Raya is 17, but we don't know the ages of Duke or Melanie, who are in a weirdly abrupt sexual experience that may or may not be considered child pornography in many states.  Not knowing for sure if they were of legal age was very awkward and uncomfortable for me to read.  I almost put the book down at this point, it made me feel gross.  I tried to revisit it and give it another try with the vow that if anything started to get explicit that I was immediately deleting it from my kindle and giving up on it.

Luckily there were no more sexual encounters for the duration of a possible underage issue.  The beginning of the book was quite awkward unless it was speaking of well-detailed abuse.  The flirting and relationships came off as quite immature.  I couldn't tell if this was deliberate or just the take that I got from the book.   The story gets dark around the 30-40% mark and then goes on to get worse.  There were a lot of detailed and horrendous scenarios and I almost feel bad for saying that the dark parts are when Madison wrote the story at its best. 

When in dark times, I could really see Madison's talent shine through to the point that I the thought of whether or not personal experience was intertwined was relevant or not, given the excellence at getting the feeling across.  Unfortunately (well fortunately of course, but not for the story telling), there is some light, but the events in the the third part of the book didn't really add up with a realistic timeline of how someone going through such awful things would recover and move on with life upon  actually opening up about them. 

I tried to write this in a way to not spoil anything for anyone else.  Suffice it to say that Madison does have a gift for story telling,  but it seems to be limited to darker content.  Perhaps she should focus more on this in future writings, because she does so fabulously.  Unfortunately the rest of the story just wasn't doing it for me.  I felt like the rest of the book was written almost at a middle-grade level.  It made the rest of the novel feel abrupt and awkward in many places.  I would request more villains from Madison as she paints them beautifully.  Overall though I have to go with a 2/5 stars given the weirdly possible child porn the awkward abrupt shifts in the story and the typos scattered throughout. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 2014: Grandma & SeaWorld

This has been a wonderful month for both Liam and myself.  Grandma (my mom) came to visit for a week and Liam was in pure heaven.  It would be nice to live closer to her.  Not only was my mom here, but my sister also just turned 23, AND we got to go to SeaWorld!  Liam swam on his own for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the Sesame Street water park at SeaWorld San Antonio.  All in all it was a fun, very busy week.  I wanted to share some of the awesome photos for tonight's blog.  Enjoy!

Grandma is Here!

Shayna's 23rd Birthday!

San Antonio Riverwalk & Hotel


Bonus SeaWorld Videos