Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Review: The Edge of Lies

The Edge of Lies, a Short Story (Prequel to the Paradise Valley Mysteries)The Edge of Lies, a Short Story by Debra Burroughs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


After reading the first three books in the Paradise Valley Mysteries, it was refreshing and interesting for me to see how it all began with this short story prequel.

Let me first say that I really enjoyed the development of the friendship among the four women--the circle of close friends consisting of Emily, Camille, Isabel, and Maggie. I was impressed with how easily they all bonded with one another in and out of their culinary class. I don't see this as being particularly realistic, but it sure would be nice if real-life friendships could grow that smoothly!

Now the immediate attraction and love relationship between Evan and Emily seemed a little contrived, but the events in this prequel certainly do explain how and why things lead up to what eventually happens in the rest of the series. I am just not sure what to think about Evan rushing to marry sweet young Emily and then starting a new life with her far away from her family and everyone they both knew. It seems he had a rather impulsive nature and perhaps that was part of the thrill that excited Emily about him in the first place. But the fact that he was 12 years older, had worldly experience with his line of work, and recently lost his last love unexpectedly, one would think that he might at least be a little more cautious and give their relationship more time to grow. I don't know.

Still, even though I may have felt the characters could have acted and done things much differently, I do see how it could be possible for things to have happened the way they did (love can certainly be an overpowering emotion), and this prequel definitely fills in the gaps in the stories to come. I liked it. I liked the first three books in the series. And I plan to read the next books as well.

Overall a good read for those who have read the first three books in the Paradise Valley Mysteries and want to read more about how it all began for the beloved characters in this adventure-filled, murder mystery series!



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Thursday, May 09, 2013

Booking Through Thursday: 50

BTT for 05/09/2013:

My brother-in-law turns 50 this weekend. So, in his honor, please pick up your nearest book or whatever book you’re currently reading, and turn to page 50 and then share the first 50 words with the rest of us. (Do feel free to round this off, to stop and start with complete sentences, though.)

My response:

I am currently in the middle of reading the book Showing Up for Life: Thoughts on the Gifts of a Lifetime by Bill Gates Sr. (father of Bill "Trey" Gates, the famous co-founder of Microsoft and also co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). So far, I am really enjoying reading the stories that he shares, which are truly words of wisdom coming from a man who raised one of the most admirable billionaires in the world. Turning back to page 50, I see a letter he shares written by his now late wife to her future daughter-in-law.
Here is what he writes: 
I remember helping Mary prepare a toast to Trey and Melinda that took the form of a letter to Melinda, based on the wedding vows. We cherish a picture of her delivering the toast, looking vibrant and beautiful.

Here is Mary's letter:

Dear Melinda:

In just a few hours you will be married and you and I will share the same name!

Although Bill and I have been married forty-two years, we continue to learn what it means to be married.

OK, I know that was far more than the first 50 words, but I wanted to at least finish the introduction to the heartfelt letter, which continues on with a list of lessons that Mary imparts to Melinda, and which I think anyone who is about to be married should be told. Basically she explains what it means to be a true partner to your spouse, and how being committed is one of the most important things ever. The idea of being serious about your life's commitments is something that Mr. Gates emphasizes throughout his book. If you would like to read more, I recommend you pick up a copy of this book pronto! :) I'm looking forward to finishing it myself, and it seems to be one of those books that could be enjoyed time and again.

How about you? What are the first 50 words on page 50 in the book you're currently reading? Feel free to share!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Speechless!


Yes, I seem to be at a loss for words right now. Which rarely happens, really. Everyone says I'm the girl who always talks so much and never runs out of things to say, but how is it that getting a simple tweet from my favorite writer can stir so much excitement in me, such as to render me speechless?

R. L. Stine replied to my picture post on Twitter today--and he said he's "impressed" with my book collection! Oh wow! This has totally made my day! Yup, a real dream come true for this Goosebumps fanatic! Thank you, R. L. Stine. Just thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Red Rain: A NovelRed Rain: A Novel by R.L. Stine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Finished reading the book last night! The last hundred or so pages were the most exciting. Other than some gratuitous sex scenes and an excessive amount of swearing, I'd say this book reads more like another one of his young adult Fear Street novels (which I was addicted to back in the 1990s), and the twist at the end was definitely classic Goosebumps style.

The horror scenes were not as descriptively horrific or shocking as I thought they might be based on the book trailer (I'd say Darren Shan's young adult series are far more gruesome), but certainly they were thrilling enough to satisfy any R. L. Stine fan looking for a good freaky creepy nightmarish read. So much of the book focused on the evil twin brothers who were only 12 years old and their mischievous deeds that could only be described as demonic. One can't help but want to know how it would all end and if the evilly possessed children would ever be saved. I had a strong feeling that the death ritual at the beginning of the book would be of utmost importance somehow. I just didn't guess exactly how!

Non-fans probably may not appreciate this so-called "adult horror" novel as much, I think, especially if they're wanting something more seriously sinister or intensely terrifying. Still I'm glad to have read this book by my favorite children's horror writer. No matter how young or old, I could never have enough of R. L. Stine!





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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Love is a Country (Unplugged)

I don't know why I really, really dig the unplugged versions of the Wallflowers' songs. Don't get me wrong, I do absolutely love the band's recorded albums, but there is just something about their live, unplugged performances that make me feel like I'm floating on cloud nine whenever I hear them. One of my favorite things about their last studio album, "Rebel, Sweetheart," is the bonus video segment which includes acoustic versions of some of their most popular songs as well as some previously unrecorded tracks, such as "Halo," which I shared here on my blog back in April 2008. So simple, so sweet, so lovely!

If you haven't gotten your copy of their latest album yet, you can listen to the entire album online right here (courtesy of thewallflowers.com).



As for me, I love it so much and I can't seem to get enough of it! Let me know what you think about their new album in the comments below!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Glad All Over

My brand-new Wallflowers CD!
My all-time favorite group, The Wallflowers, have recently released Glad All Over, which is their first studio album in seven years. For fans like me, it's been a long wait for this album, but as always, their music has been well worth the wait!

I had preordered the CD from Amazon.com as soon as I got word that it was coming out, and after I got my disc in the mail, I've been listening to it pretty much several times every single day! I went ahead and copied the disc onto my iPod too so that I could listen to it anywhere I go, and so yes, I play it in my car whenever I go out. I never seem to tire of their music!

Of course, I also have all their previous albums on my iPod, so I'm able to shuffle between their various albums. I'll admit that at first, I was not too fond of the new sound--as some of it seemed a little too punk/rock '80s (especially the songs featuring vocals by Mick Jones from the '80s punk/rock band The Clash), but after a few listens, I'm finding the whole album rather catchy, and I absolutely love it now. "Reboot the Mission" and "Love is a Country" are the two singles that they've released thus far, and I hope "Misfits and Lovers" is their next one! That particular song kind of reminds me of some of Rick Springfield's music, while "Constellation Blues" makes me think of some of Bruce Springsteen's.

Jakob Dylan is definitely my favorite singer-songwriter, and his solo albums are also on my regular playlists. Unlike most other singers whose solo albums cannot be differentiated from those of their band's, I think Jakob's solo songs are very different from his Wallflowers' stuff. I find them to be more mellow and with less instrumental accompaniment. He also has some female backup vocals, which is rare or pretty much non-existent in the band's music. I actually dig his solo music, and I like that he went out on his own to express a different side of his artistry, and I hope he will continue to record more albums as a solo artist as well. I just love both Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers, and I am thankful that I can listen to their music any time I want.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Haunting Tale for Halloween

With Halloween celebrations already underway and "All Horror's Eve" coming up in a few days, I decided to share with you my excitement for the newly released book by one of my favorite horror writers, R. L. Stine--famous author of the "Goosebumps" series for kids and "Fear Street" series for young adults. This time, he's offering something for adults--I'm thinking mostly to satisfy those '90s kids who grew up on his Goosebumps books and are now all grown up and continue to hunger for more thrilling and spine-tingling adventures from their favorite storyteller of spooky tales! But even if you may not have been one of those kids/teens/young adults who devoured book after book after book (like I did back then), who says you can't join his legions of fans and immerse yourself in the bloody brilliant author's newest book, Red Rain?



Above is the trailer for the new book! Click on the play button to view it, then try and tell me that doesn't make you want to rush to your nearest bookstore and grab a copy for yourself so you can read it immediately! Or if you absolutely can't wait to start reading it already, you can download a digital version onto your Kindle or iPad or whatever mobile device you use for your e-reading! I wish you all a happy and safe Halloween! Let the nightmares begin! Ha ha ha ha ha!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

New Music from the Wallflowers

It's been seven long years since we've last heard something new from my favorite band, the Wallflowers! Next week, their new album called Glad All Over will hit the stores, and as I'm sure you might guess, I am very excited about it! Back in July, Rolling Stone magazine gave us a preview of the band's new music, with the release of their kick-ass debut single, Reboot the Mission.

Looking back, it hasn't actually been that long since we've heard anything from the band members as Jakob Dylan (lead singer/songwriter) released two solo albums in the past few years--Seeing Things and Women and Country, both of which I absolutely adore! The other members also worked on individual projects and collaborated with other bands on stage and in the studio, so they have all been keeping busy separately, exploring different sounds and improving their craft. Now that they're back together, and are joined by two new members who replace the ones who left to pursue their own musical interests, their combined efforts produce a brand-new sound for the band, which I must say is rather refreshing!

In support of their new album, the band is currently on tour, so if you would like to hear them perform live (and I tell you, they put on a great show!--yes, I've seen them before and would love to see them again!), go check out their tour schedule to find out when they're coming to your city! Personally, I've always dreamed of being able to hire the band to perform a private concert for me and my friends at some intimate venue... but I've not been able to afford that just yet! Ha ha ha! Maybe someday, I'll be able to do that, but for now, I'll just keep on dreaming! :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Booking Through Thursday: Organization

It's been a mighty long time since I've last participated in the weekly Booking Through Thursday meme! I sure have missed a lot while I was gone. I've looked through some of the recent posts, and it looks like I missed some really good questions! I might have to go back some time and do some of the ones I missed, even though my responses will be totally late!

But, first things first. Here is today's BTT: How do you organize/store your books? Do you go through them often? Or do you pretty much just shelve them and then leave them alone until you need them?

Ophelia's home libraryAnd here, folks, is my answer: I store most of my books in my home library (pictured here at the right). There are a variety of books: both fiction and nonfiction, cookbooks (a lot of cookbooks!), books in English, Spanish, Tagalog, and French! I try to keep similar books on the same shelf, but on each shelf, the books are not necessarily in any particular order. I used to alphabetize my books by author and title, and I even typed up spine labels as though it were a public library, but as I accumulated more and more books, that began to take up too much time and no longer seemed worthwhile. If I am looking for a particular book, I usually know where to find it, unless somebody moves it and then I'd have to go look through every shelf. Fortunately, I don't have that many books so it's not too hard to find what I need at any given time.

Other books I have in single bookshelves in various rooms around the house, such as in my study and in my bedroom. The books in my bedroom are from my personal "favorites" collections--books by R. L. Stine, Nicholas Sparks, and books on spirituality. In my study, I keep my reference materials and textbooks that I am using for the current semester or ones I still refer to on occasion from previous semesters. I'm a lifelong learner and don't plan to stop being a student any time soon! Whether I'm in school full-time or part-time, I intend to continue taking classes as long as I can. I simply enjoy learning new things all the time, and I love being able to do things with what I learn!

As for whether I go through my books often, or if they just sit on the shelf, well, actually, I do go through them often, and I regularly donate books I no longer want or need to the thrift store or library. I also trade in books when I can get something good for them. Nowadays, I have been reading more e-books, but I still prefer the feel of real books with real pages that you can physically turn. My bookshelves won't be going anywhere any time soon!

How about you? How do you organize your collection of books? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Learning How to Use Adobe Photoshop

Hawaii, Island Paradise
My finished product for Lesson 4! Fun!
I signed up for a couple of classes this summer 2012 semester, and one of the classes I'm taking is an introduction to Adobe Photoshop. It's the first of three sequential courses that my college offers in learning how to use this popular photo-editing software. This class covers just the basics: getting to know the work area, basic photo corrections, working with selections, and working with layers. I'll be taking the intermediate course this coming fall and look forward to learning a lot more such as how to do corrections and enhancements on digital photographs, working with masks and channels, and other techniques in photo manipulations. If all goes well, I would love to take the advanced course next spring, which would involve advanced layering, advanced compositing, and working with 3D images! Some of those terms sound so foreign to me at the moment, but I expect that as I delve further into the program, these words will become more familiar and less intimidating.

For this beginning class, we are using Adobe Photoshop CS5: Classroom in a Book, the official training workbook for Windows and Mac OS. I am guessing that we will continue to use this book through the next two courses, as we are only covering the first few chapters in this class, or we might switch to the newer book for CS6. For now, anyway, I'm just trying to do my best to learn what I can and be creative in my project designs. The photo you see above is my version of the final project at the end of Lesson 4 in the textbook. If you have a copy of this book, you will see that my photo looks very different from the end product of that lesson. That is because my professor added a twist to each of the assignments (which I love!), and that is, to make a minimum of seven changes to the image, using a variety of techniques not given as steps in the book! This really challenges us to be creative and explore more of the software on our own--which can be a lot of fun although quite time-consuming. We also are required to document our changes and submit those steps along with the photo in JPEG format.


For this particular project, I really went to town with changing the settings in the various panels (such as with the Opacity) and trying out some new effects (like Color Overlay). I did a bit of playing around with the Scale (decreasing and increasing the size of the objects) and duplicating, as well as using the Free Transform tool to change the orientation of some of the objects. I am pretty happy with what I came up with, and I hope you, too, like my final composition of the Hawaii postcard.