Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Review: Blood Sins by Kay Hooper

Blood Sins

by Kay Hooper

Tessa Gray is a Haven operative-- the civilian operation of psychics that works where the Special Crimes Unit of the FBI, because of protocol and legalities, can't. Her latest task? To infiltrate a small-town cult with one or more powerful psychics in its midst.

As though a cult weren't bad enough, killings are starting to occur-- strange ones. The bones inside are crushed, but there's no outer mark on the body.

So the question is, can Tessa and the other Haven and SCU operatives break the hold of the cult's leader before it's too late?

What I liked: The familiar faces. I've read a lot of Kay Hooper books and her Special Crimes novels. This is actually the second book in a trilogy (I read the first one a while ago). And as always, the psychic thing made it a little different from your run-of-the-mill mystery.

What I didn't like: I feel bad saying this, but after reading her for 8 years, I think maybe I've outgrown Hooper. I finished the book, but I found myself very bored with it. I can't put my finger on it-- maybe I just couldn't get past the psychic thing this time around. And as much as I liked the familiar faces, I think maybe it's time to wrap this SCU business up.

So, do I rec it? Not particularly. Although I guess if you're in the mood for an ordinary mystery with a psychic bonus, you may want to give it a look.

On my personal scale of Ugh to Couldn't Put it Down, I give this book an Eh. I didn't hate it, but that's pretty much all I can say about it.

For reference, my rating scale:
Ugh
Eh
Like it
Love it
Couldn't Put it Down

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What's Under My Bed

I don't remember being afraid of monsters under my bed as a kid.

Sure, I had a couple of nightmares about flying monkeys, the Wicked Witch of the West, and the evil queen in Snow White. But mostly I remember making my dad check the closet for nefarious criminals and living in fear that a fire would trap me in my room. I'd huddle under my sheets and little six year-old me would imagine that I'd fling my desk chair through my sliding glass door if I needed to escape.

...Right, like that would have been possible.

My fears that I can actually remember (though my parents may know differently) were rooted in reality-- things that could actually happen.

And now, at almost 22, I'm moving in 2 weeks. I've been in this house, in this room for 2 years. I'm cleaning up in an effort to make packing easier.

And for the first time in my life that I can remember...


...I'm actually afraid of what's under my bed.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My opinion is...


So here's my opinion on rooftop bars...

(the view from Latitudes downtown... my camera failed to capture its awesomeness)

...More places should do it.

This has been a moment of Jen. See you tomorrow.

Edit: I apologize for the cop-out post. Moving on...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Two O'Clock Rock

I slept 'til two o'clock today.


It's not the first time I've done that, but it's not really a habit that I want to fall back into either. Besides the obvious problem of sleeping half my day away, I usually wake up with a massive headache to boot.

On the plus side, I suppose that means I'll have plenty of energy when I go out for the first time in ages tonight.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I have a secret

Are you ready?

...


I don't like the books I'm supposed to.


Shhhhh!


I've been a Creative Writing Major for four years now. Which means that I've sat through classes with people who think the Twilight saga is pure, unadulterated crap, that Dan Brown is for losers, and who laugh-- laugh!-- at the idea that someone in the major may want to write Chick Lit or romance novels.


That was my pride you just heard cracking.


Because here's the thing. I like all of those things. Sure, I can appreciate that "from a literary standpoint," Stephenie Meyer may have some shortcomings, and Dan Brown's books are more "plot-driven" than "character-driven." I know intellectually that a lot of Chick Lit and romance novels fall prey to formulaic plotlines and cliched characters. I know that it's supposed to bother me "as a writer."


But I don't care.


Because guess what? They're the people making money. They're the ones who are providing me with a little novel escapism. You don't exactly see me dashing to the store to pick up a book that has me drowning in symbolism and (dear god, please no) stream of consciousness writing.


I read what I think I'll enjoy and I try to write things that I, "as a reader," would enjoy. So, as a forewarning, that's how I'm going to review books too. I'm not an expert and I'm not going to pretend to be. I'll tell you what I liked and what I didn't, but I'm not going to go pretentious on you and try to pretend I'm something I'm not.

I look forward to devouring everything I'm not "supposed" to.

And someday, to writing it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Peevish Posts: And I think it's gonna be a long, LONG time

Things of a certain length bother me (and let's refrain from the obvious joke here).

Hair, for instance.



The age of Rapunzel is long (if you'll pardon the pun) gone. Sure, I've got long hair. But it stops well before my behind. And let's be real. If I let the length get out of control, I maintain that my friends are fully within their rights to tackle me to the ground with a pair of scissors in order to "fix me."


So, it really boggles my mind when I see women (rare as they may be) sling their hair over their arms like it's an accessory.

Ladies, here's a tip. If you have to pick your hair up rather than trip on it? It's too long.

Next, let's think about nails.



They look like talons! It's absurd! Granted, I haven't seen these particular nails in real life, but I've seen many just like them. The ones that stand out belong to a particular woman in the shoe department of a store that my mom goes to. We cringe every time.


Again ladies, here's your intervention: when your nails are this long, no one's staring at them out of admiration. They're staring because they're half-wondering if you're a harpy, or a fury, or... some kind of creature that needs talons. Trim those bad boys.


And the final long thing that annoys me?


When my car is in the shop for an unexpectedly long time.

Sigh.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book Review: "My Name is Memory" by Ann Brashares


My Name is Memory

by Ann Brashares

Reincarnation is not such an unusual thing, it turns out. At least not to Daniel Grey, who has been living lives for roughly 1200 years. And is fortunate or unfortunate enough to remember all of them.

A recurring theme in his life? Lucy Broward. Or Lady Constance. Or Sophia. Or any one of her other incarnations. A rose by any other name, after all. He has loved her in all his lives. In this one, as Lucy, she develops a crush on him in high school. But does she remember him?

Poor Daniel.

But as time and distance separate them, Lucy is haunted by the memory of the night Daniel kissed her. And by other memories too. Memories that couldn't possibly be her own...

What I liked: I'm a sucker for a smidge of supernatural. Sucker for romance too. I love the idea of reincarnation. I was dying for Lucy and Daniel to get together, and I liked the characters. Since I used to be rather into historical fiction as well, I also loved the interweaving of their past lives.

What I didn't like: The ending. I'm sure that there was some really good literary reason for the open ending, but as a reader, I felt a little like throwing the book across the room. I wanted to know what happens. It didn't quite feel finished to me and I thought there were a bunch of loose ends that could have used tying up. If there's a sequel, it takes away a lot of my issues.

There were a couple characters that intrigued the hell out of me and I would have loved seeing more of them too... but again, if there's sequel, my curiosity may be satisfied.

...I guess what I'm asking is... does anyone know if there'll be a sequel?

So, do I rec it? Yes. But if you're not a romantic who is intrigued by history and a little supernatural, don't bother, it's probably not for you.

On my personal scale, of Ugh to Couldn't Put it Down (I refuse to rate with stars, it makes no sense to me), I give this book a Like it.

For reference, my rating scale:
Ugh
Eh
Like it
Love it
Couldn't Put it Down

Writer Roots

My mom saves literally almost every project I've ever done.

So, while looking for something in particular last night, I came across this and laughed out loud for a good 2 minutes straight:


Apparently, I wanted to be a writer from a very young age.

And apparently the fact that the damsel had fruit was enough of a story for me.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy belated Father's Day!

I meant to do this post yesterday, or the day before... but, well, life gets in the way of quality time with the internet sometimes.

So, happy belated Father's Day to my dad!

The man who...

...has confessed to having whispered football plays to my mother's stomach while she was pregnant with me.

..."held me like a football" as a baby.

...let me "dance" when I was little by standing on his feet.

...gave me Eskimo and Butterfly kisses whenever I asked.

...has always, to this day, called me his "Fruitcup," even though I've never understood why.

...has busted his butt for as long as I can remember to take care of my family.

...and who never fails to remember potty humor.

I love you Dad! Happy belated Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Beware the CVS

During sorority and fraternity "Formal Season," I spend a lot of time planning my outfits. For those of you who aren't familiar with the concept (because I know that I wasn't before joining my organization), a Formal is a great deal like prom. Fancy dresses, suits and tuxes, a dinner, dancing, the whole nine yards.


First, of course, once getting a date to the function (whether it's your own or one that you want to go on), one must obtain a dress, around which the rest of the outfit is planned. On functions like this I have the habit of planning every minute detail of my outfit. I brainstorm by sketching (very badly-- I'm no artist) out my outfit and before the day of the event even arrives, it's more than likely that I've already tried on the entire ensemble no less (but very likely more) than five times.


And then of course I wait until no one else is home so that I can prance around my house in it and feel like a princess.


Hey, I never claimed to be normal.


At any rate, when it came to planning my outfit, I was somewhat stuck. I had the shoes, I had the jewelry, I had the purse, but everyone knows that's the easy part. I had settled on curling my hair, but that wasn't the toughest decision to make either. The tough part was trying to figure out what make-up I would wear. My dress was a pale yellow, and with my fair skin, any creams or yellows, or colors in that general family were absolutely out. I gave up the idea of doing anything new, exciting or drastic with my make-up and figured I'd stick with the old tried and true routine I did every day.


The night before the formal, I joined 3 of my sisters (who were attending the same formal) in their search for Bump-Its. We wound up at CVS, where we did not find the Bump-Its, but we did find the make-up aisle and therefore, the employee who roams that area. She informed us that she was in beauty school and she could do our make-up for formal professionally and fo' free.


2 of my sisters were thrilled. Free make-up? Sweet!

My other sister and I were... uh... less thrilled.

This chick wasn't wearing any make-up. If she could apply make-up as fantastically as she claimed, then why wouldn't she practice on herself? She was one of the more awkward people I've had the displeasure of meeting in my lifetime. Plus, she wanted to come to my house and bring her fiance with her. It all reeked of weird and I'm just a smidge too paranoid for it.

Upon getting in the car, we argued about the whole situation. My comments largely consisted of "Bad idea. BAD IDEA!" We finally settled on meeting her in a public place to let her do our make-up. She showed up, late, fiance in tow, still without any make-up on herself.

And took around 45 minutes each to do our make-up.

You know what she considered "full-face" make-up?

Foundation.



(That's me... compensating for my lack of make-up with a weird face, apparently. This was our "finished" product.)

So we were late for the formal meeting, STILL had to do our own make-up (and now, with very little time, a half-ass job of it), get in our dresses, and grab a quick meal.

We made it, of course, but my ensemble was less than the thrilling outfit that I'd anticipated.

(And now I'm on the right... my make-up's no work of art, but I happen to think it's better than the chick with the "training")

I avoid that CVS as much as possible now.

I wish I could say I haven't let my friends live it down, but we swore we'd never bring it up again.

Oops.

Let's Get Physical

I have blogged before about my dislike for exercise. But, oddly enough, I have found myself at the gym almost every day for over a week now.

Sometimes, more than once a day.
I can't say that I particularly enjoy myself while I'm there (dripping sweat, panting, and trying desperately to grab a gulp of water between exercises isn't exactly my idea of fun), but so far, I'm finding that the endorphins make it worthwhile.
I suffer through the half-hours on the elliptical, the hours in the spinning studio, and the minutes in the Washboard Abs class. In the absence of time to actually make it to the gym, I've tried to make sure I do at least something physical-- like horsing around and swimming in the ocean with friends. If I can't make it to an abs class on alternating days, I was directed to this video for a 7-minute ab work-out, hosted by Tony Horton of P90X fame.



I'm feeling proud of myself. Instead of hanging around my house when I'm bored, I lace up my sneakers and head back. I don't know how long it's going to last, but right now, it's worth it. Because... well, did you know that according to the fine folks over at Mayo Clinic, exercise is proven to:
  1. Improve your mood

  2. Combat chronic diseases

  3. Help you manage your weight

  4. Boost your energy level

  5. Promote better sleep

  6. "Put the spark back into your sex life"

  7. "Be-- gasp-- fun!"

At the moment, I'm finding that the rewards outweigh the effort I have to put into it. My sense of accomplishment at the end of the day is worth it. And to be honest, after about a week and a half, I can see a difference. I'm never going to be on of those stick-thin girls-- let's be serious. I have hips and I have an ass, but I would like it if my ba-donk-a-donk is at least a little toned.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Twitterpated

I remember a time when I thought that Twitter was roughly the stupidest, most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard of. I described it to friends who'd never heard of it as "just Facebook status updates. That's it."


I was slowly drawn in to the world of Tweet Freaks with the idea of connecting it to my blog.


Still, I tweeted rarely. I didn't have internet on my phone, so I was limited to texted Tweets and web Tweets. And none of my friends really had Twitter accounts.


And then around finals week, they all got them.


I succumbed. There was no reason not to. I got text messages when they tweeted, I text-tweeted back, my phone got internet and I downloaded UberTwitter. I rationalized it to myself as being more socially acceptable to regularly update my Twitter than my Facebook Status.


And then, Twitter was over capacity for five hours last night. I'm no stranger to this whale of a problem.


But it's usually a case of waiting about five minutes, refreshing the page, and resuming normal tweeting activity.


Not so last night. I refreshed to no avail. I wanted to scream, cry, throw things-- I even seriously considering shaking my computer screen in an attempt to talk some sense into Twitter.


I tried tweeting from my phone and must have made it through a couple gaps when it wasn't over capacity.


My 3 most recent tweets:
  1. "TWITTER. Stop being over capacity at once!"
  2. "I feel pathetic that Twitter was Over Capacity and I didn't know what to do with myself."
  3. "1) I am annoyed that Twitter is STILL #overcapacity. 2) Had a terrible nightmare that a virus crashed my iMac last night"

Clearly, I'm more dependent than I realized.


So, as pathetic as I feel with this realization, I give up.


Congrats, Twitter. You've hooked me. I'm in this for the long haul.


Sincerely,
"Twitterpated"


Sidenote: Just when I though the situation had been resolved, I tried to tweet my most recent blog update.


Over capacity again.


Why, Twitter, WHY?!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Watch This Space.

I'm at a strange time in my life.

I'm trying to figure out my future. I'm taking a stab at writing a children's book, poking around the greeting card industry, and exploring the professional blogging world. In between trying to get back in shape, finishing my last weeks of undergraduate study, and determinedly going after the best summer of my life, I'm also trying to find a job in Orlando that I won't totally hate and will allow me some degree of freedom to do what I really want to do.

So, stay tuned. I'm bound to be in for an interesting ride.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Creature Feature

I have been absolutely plagued with creepy crawlies lately.


When we first moved into the house that we rent, we faced roaches and other bugs: silverfish, giant earwigs, pregnant spiders, acromantulas (joke, but still, it was one huge spider)... you get the point. There have been a lot of them, but we keep the house pretty clean so they've been spread out over a period of time so I'm not consistently sprinting to the cabinet where we keep the bug sprays while screaming "WHERE'S THE RAID?!" And to be honest, I rarely saw them upstairs, so I was able to sleep easy.


But I feel like the creatures are out to get me the past two weeks.


When I went home to South Florida, I saw this in the backyard:





I first spotted it when I had been home two weeks prior to that. I described it to my mother as looking "like a dinosaur." It ran on its hind legs, and good lord, was it fast.


After some research, we determined that it was a Basilisk. Of course, my mind immediately went to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but no-- no giant snakes here. However, the Basilisk is also known as the Jesus Christ Lizard.


Because it can walk on water.


This picture was taken when it came up to our sliding glass door and we all gathered safely on the other side of the glass to peer back at it. It didn't move. It feared nothing. When it finally ran away on two legs, it was speedily followed by another, larger comrade.


It's safe to say I'm not hanging out by my parents' pool any time soon.


When I returned to my own home in Orlando, I saw a roach in the garage (a rare sighting these days). There have been a few silverfish squirming around on the bathroom floor. I came home to a slug out front (never seen those bad boys at my house before).


And I almost screamed this morning when I saw a roach on my hang-drying towels.


I did what I had to do, but the thought of it still gives me the willies. I will be washing those towels today.


And I hope that the pests don't find me at my new house in a month.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Oh Applebee's, I hardly knew ye...

I have been to my local Applebee's many times throughout my four years at UCF. I've gone for lunches, dinners, and many times I've gone later in the evening. In fact, I'd go with friends so often after everyone finished their respective chapter meetings on Sundays that we affectionately nicknamed it "Chapplebee's." We'd all be hungry and really after 10 o'clock, you can't beat the price of half-off apps. On other nights, we knew it fondly as "APPlebee's."

So, I'm familiar with UCF's Applebee's. I've been there late many many times and it has always had a very "restaurant-y" sort of feel. Always.
It would make me laugh when I'd drive past the Bee's on my way to campus over the years and see the sign outside proclaim "Get your Pong on, Fri!" or "Toga party this Thurs!" It sounded so ridiculous. Who'd go to Applebee's to party?

Apparently, more than I'd think.

I went the other night for a friend's 21st birthday dinner/drinks event. She had class the next day extremely early that she couldn't miss, but she had to recognize the momentous occasion somehow. So a few 2 for 1's after midnight and some half-off apps sounded like just the ticket for her.


Did you know that Tuesdays at Club Applebee's are Karaoke Night?
I walked in and heard the opening chords of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." It's always been a favorite of mine and since becoming a "Gleek," I think I love it even more. I smiled and began to bob my head with the beat. And then my smile faded. I listened to Journey get absolutely mutilated.
No, wait, scratch that. I listened to Journey get beaten, raped in a back alley, stabbed and left to die a painful death.

The girls singing were so obliterated that they pretty much screamed the words off-pitch. They staggered around the bar arm in arm, holding the microphones up to strangers' mouths, telling them to chime in. They finished their song to laughter and, as the song switched to an upbeat dance song, they gyrated in the middle of Applebee's. Until one of them fell on the floor.

Outside on the curb, a man yelled into his phone that he "had 2 shots and is getting fucked UP tonight!"

The music inside pulsed loudly, the bell rang as the bartenders got tips for their drinks, and many of the patrons grew slowly inebriated.

I have never known an Applebee's like this.

Oh, Applebee's. We hardly knew ye...
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