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Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Undying by Ethan Reid, a unique entry into post-apocayptic fiction!

In The Undying by Ethan Reid, an unknown calamity has befallen the planet. leaving nothing but death, destruction and oh yes...there be monsters. (Because the earth can't just drop dead...it's going to drop dead with panache!)

It's a little hard to categorize this novel. Apocalyptic--check. Post apocalyptic--check. Zombie--yup. Or are they Vampires? Certainly the monsters in this novel are different than your garden variety zombie/vampire/werewolf lit!

Jeanie, a complex young woman,  and her best bud Ben, have just arrived in Paris for a New Year's blowout bash. When they wake up, hung over and feeling crummy on New Year's Day, they find the world has gone to Hell. Now they must survive Paris if they have a hope of returning to the U.S. and their families.

We never discover the certain source of the worlds end in this novel. Comet strikes, nuclear missiles, aliens, it's all just speculation. And the source of the monsters, again, completely unknown. The monsters even change and evolve throughout the book, and all this uncertainty builds suspense.

My thoughts on The Undying were equally uncertain. At one point, I almost stopped reading, but I couldn't develop a clear reason why I didn't want to finish the book. It wasn't slow or lagging, the protagonist was a great character, and her conflicts were often unique and quite interesting. Honestly, the only thing I could come up with....Ugly American that I am, was the frequent use of the French language. I know....I KNOW! The book is set in France, what the hell else would they speak??? Totally unreasonable of me. Totally. And that was weird. I wasn't bothered in the least when Japanese was spoken frequently in Shogun. The use of Spanish in novels isn't worrisome either. I usually like trying to figure out what they're all saying. So I really don't know what the hell my problem was with French. Maybe it was that many of the French characters were so quick to dismiss Jeanie derisively as "et Americain". I did wonder if these French characters were pandering to our American stereotype of the French. Heck, maybe I'm the epitome of an American stereotype to the French. Then I wondered if stereotypes exist for a reason....hmmm....circular thinking makes my brain hurt...

The book ends in a kind of "non ending " fashion, not  completely satisfying, but leading me to wonder if the author has plans for sequels. And many sequels could come from this. I would be interested to know what was happening in the United States during all this, especially to Jeanie's mother, and Ben's family. The book refers to events in Brazil, which would make a good book as well. And of course, I'd love to see how/if/when the world rebuilds from this disaster. Or what the genesis of the disaster is for that matter!

I'm glad I stuck with the book, it was a solid and satisfying read. And I really do hope that this is the beginning of a series. I do love a good series, and I think The Undying is begging for a sequel. If you're a fan of post-apocalyptic novels, with strong female leads, this one should go on your "To Be Read" pile!

(Review copy provided by Simon & Shuster, via Net Galley. Opinions provided by yours truly!)

My rating: 


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Brother by Ania Ahlborn? Creepy, gory and scary!

I'm not a fan AT ALL, of gory, creepy, "hang people on a meathook" slasher flicks. And yet, I don't mind the genre at all book wise. Brother by Ania Ahlborn is just that type of book. ( Which probably indicates that I am seriously twisted in many ways....)

In Ania Ahlborn's "Brother",  we meet Michael Morrow,  and his completely batshit crazy Deliverance meets Psycho meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre family. Michael was kidnapped as a very young boy by the Morrow family, and brought into this horrifying household. His older brother, "Reb" is just a sick and twisted as "Momma Morrow", and gleefully joins into the family business of kidnapping and murder. His passive/aggressive/enabling father, Wade, is a terrifying, yet almost a wee little touch sympathetic. (Or is that pathetic??) There are also two Morrow sisters, Michael and Reb's sisters, who both add some small amount of humanity to the family. The brothers participate in the *ahem, "family business", which involves stalking, kidnapping, torturing, murdering and dismembering victims for Momma's pleasure. (I'm not exactly sure what they do for actual jobs that keep the electricity flowing...and yes, practical weirdo that I am...I did wonder....)

It's interesting how the family dynamic is developed. Although individually, pretty much every member of the family is warped beyond our understanding, we still manage to find shreds of humanity in each one. (Ok...Momma and Reb might just be completely inhuman and thoroughly terrifying creatures....) The author manages to weave a narrative that explains this family, but manages to never  excuse them. There are a few surprising twists, one of which I sort of speculated about prior to actually getting to that point in the book.. (see above...seriously twisted reader...). I suppose the fact that I was thinking about the book when washing the dishes probably indicates my interest level! Brother is creepy, gory and hideously disturbed and disturbing in very many ways. But it was different, and it kept my interest. And even though I wish it had ended differently, I really can't think of a different ending that would have worked for this story.

If you have a low tolerance for mayhem, murder and gore, you might want to avoid this one. If you aren't too creeped out  by loads of violence when it's central to the plot, then you'll want to pick this one up. It's a disturbing, but interesting read.

(Review copy provided by Gallery Books via Net Galley. The opinions provided by yours truly!)

My rating:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Peter Meredith--Hooray for Zombie Lit! (Is that even a genre??)

I have to begin my Peter Meredith post with a big THANK YOU to Book Bub for introducing my cheap miserly ass to this author. Back in January, I received my daily BookBub email with the list of freebies and almost freebies of the day. For some reason, I've been binge reading apocalyptic zombie stuff for the past couple years.  I'm sure some shrink out there could look at me and give me a detailed explanation given what the past couple years have been...but I don't care...just gimme a good zombie book, ok? That particular day, Peter Meredith's book, The Apocalypse (The Undead World Book 1) popped up. I thought to myself, "self...it's 99 cents...and it's got 4 1/2 stars with well over 500 ratings on Amazon.. go for it."  

I was hooked after the first couple pages. This guy writes a terrific story!! Great characters, multiple story lines, just an all round great read. And I was off and running...It was a Peter Meredith-palooza (Peterpalooza sounds better but.....you know....)  around here for a couple months. First there was The Apocalypse, immediately followed by The Apocalypse SurvivorsThe Apocalypse Outcasts, The Apocalypse Fugitives, and The Apocalypse Renegades. Then I was done with the Undead World Series. So bummed. But wait! This guy has written lots of stuff, all equally *ahem* "affordable" on Amazon...(I mentioned I'm cheap, right....)

The Trilogy of the Void, was my next Peter Meredith binge.  No zombies here, just a terrifying romp through hell, filled with monsters, demons and the damned. With, of course, the Meredith hallmark of great characters and  action. I'll admit, I wasn't as fond of the Void series as the Undead, but it was very good.

Once again, I was done. Sigh. Now what? Wait...oh boy! Another Peter Meredith zombie book! The Apocalypse Crusade War of the Undead Day One: A Zombie Tale. Yeah, it's a mouthful, but here is the genesis of the zombie apocalypse, according to Meredith. Hooray! I am such a fan of this guy. He never fails to bring his A game!

I was intrigued by his new set of characters, what was the cause of the zombie outbreak, who would survive the first day, who would escape quarantine to bring the disaster to the rest of the world, industrial spies, Chinese spies, insane convicts, cancer patients, corporate intrigue, with action and pathos galore!! I enjoyed this book just as much as the Undead Series. So, of course, when I received an email that his newest book was available for pre-order, I signed up right away, promptly forgot all about it and was delighted when I woke up one morning to a shiny new Meredith book on my Kindle.

I'm currently reading The Apocalypse Crusade 2 War of the Undead: A Zombie Tale,and it's great!!  I haven't made my way through Mr. Meredith's entire bibliography yet. He has a series called The Hidden Lands, which I'm not sure is up my alley. I'm not much of a fantasy reader. And I do want to read some of his freestanding books. I have The Sacrificial Daughter on my Kindle and The Perfect America sound interesting too.

All in all...Peter Meredith...you rock my socks! Peter Meredith books give you  more bang for your buck than you can imagine!!! So far, this author has never disappointed me. And I'd like to extend a big THANK YOU to Mr. Meredith for sharing his stories with me, it's been great fun!!

And if you read this, Mr. Meredith...please? Another Undead World book? I'd love to know what happens to Jillybean, Neil and the whole bunch!!

My rating for all the Peter Meredith books I've read so far?


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Homemade Granite Cleaner really works!

I know, I know....GRANITE CLEANER???? What does that have to do with a book blog? The way I see it, if I can clean the kitchen fast and make the granite look good AND save a ton of money in the process...more time reading and more money for books!

 Waaaaay back in 2008, here at the House of Unlimited Potential, you may remember the Hubs and I tore out our kitchen and redid the whole danged thing. When we got to the countertops, I cheapied out and didn't want to spring for slab granite. (And yes...much  much regret now.....) So we used 12" square granite tiles and have a granite tile countertop. All the durability of granite with the pain in the ass grout lines of tile. What WAS I thinking???? And, because I couldn't decide what color to chose, being a quilter, I went with the light, medium, dark rule. The floor is light colored tile, the cabinets are a medium oak, so I went with black Ubatuba granite. Again...WHAT WAS I THINKING???!!!  It all looks so awesome when it's shiny, dust free and streak free. For those 30 seconds after its all wiped down with $8 a bottle granite cleaner. Then the dust starts showing. Place a glass of water on in...bingo...moisture leaves a smear. Place your hand on the counter...finger smudges...ARRRRRGH!!!  And I'm sick of shelling out 8 damn dollars for a bottle of cleaner...even at TJ Maxx, it's $6.

Pinterest to the rescue! I found a homemade granite cleaner recipe, and thought, "What the hell, it's not like I don't have an empty Method granite cleaner bottle under the sink!" Here's how I mixed it for the 28 ounce Method bottle.

1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol
About 8 drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid
About 20 drops of lemon essential oil (from a little set of three essential oils I found at TJ Maxx, lemon, rosemary and peppermint, for 4 bucks. They're going to last me a long time! Although I'm a little skeptical about rosemary scented granite cleaner....)
Water to fill.

I put the alcohol, Dawn and lemon oil in the spray bottle, filled it up  the rest of the way with water and.......TA DA!!!! 

Ohhh.......shiny........!!!!    (It's hard to take a good picture of shiny granite!)

And yes, I'm yearning for slab granite, and one of those splotchy beigy colors where you can't even see if you  have toast crumbs on it.

My rating for homemade granite cleaner:

Thank you Chuck Norris. (Dodge Ball reference....because of its important life lessons: If you can dodge a wrench. You can dodge a ball.)  Love that movie...it's dumb but hilarious!!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Vale of Stars by Sean O'Brien makes me want to read more Science Fiction!

Wow, okay, so its been a while and I'm pretty sure my reviewing skills are a might rusty. So please bear with me as I get my stuff together! Recently I was in a local bookstore and noticed a poster regarding a local author who would be signing books there. And even though I never, and I mean never read straight up "on another planet with the weird character names" science fiction, I said to myself, "Self, support the local guy." So I got myself a copy and started in.

As I was saying, I don't do  sci fi...Yeah, I read Dune back in the day, and Battlefield Earth and I really did try to read book two of that series. (It was AWFUL!)  I've read my minor share of Bradbury too. But it has been decades, so here's me, dipping my toe back into the reviewing pool with a genre heretofore unknown to me.

Sean O'Brien's Vale of Stars is an ambitious book, covering four generations of women colonizing a distant planet. The book opens aboard "Ship", where we meet our first protagonist, Jene Halfner, as Ship approaches Epsilon Eridani near the end of a hundred year voyage. Jene is a member of the fourth generation born aboard Ship as they make their voyage. The plot has some surprise turns that I really never saw coming. Perhaps because it's an unfamiliar genre? But perhaps because it's just quite imaginative.

The book incorporates many of the ills of our own society, and I'll admit, I kept waiting for it to become preachy or heavy handed as so many books that include the themes of  racism, segregation, religion and environmentalism tend to. Much to my happy surprise, the author manages to include these themes without beating us over the head with them. Not as a preachy point of view, but rather as hard issues faced by the characters.

Since I'm not a geneticist, doctor or any other type of scientist, I can't do any of the nitpicky stuff that I'm sure some readers will do. I found the scientific explanations believable, readable and downright enjoyable. Is any of it even remotely plausible? Heck if I know! But I enjoyed reading about it and imagining what might be!

There are large gaps of time between each part of the story, and I found that it often discombobulated my old brain for a few pages until I sort of caught up. However, I liked that the author doesn't spend time explaining the changes in societal mores, language, physical appearance and the like. He assumes we readers aren't dumb, and we'll figure it out as we go along. And, little miss Smarty-pants that I am, I did.

While on its face, the story is about the colonization of a distant world, this is much more the story of four strong women, faced with difficult choices, and the ramifications of their decisions. It's about people constructing and finding their way within brand new societies; all of whom never chose to be there in the first place.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't expect to like the book, and I found myself staying up way too late during a very busy week to read. And I found myself thinking about it for quite a few days after. In fact, I really only found one negative thing, and it's an aforementioned nitpicky thing....I read an electronic version, and the last 25% of the book had some typos that proofreading should have caught. And if that is the worst thing I can say about a book then it deserves at the very least an enthusiastic thumbs up from me!

Read Vale of Stars. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

My rating:

Friday, September 18, 2015

So....I'm back and damn it's been a long time....

I've been absent from the blogosphere for quite some time. I wondered, "Should I just review a book, and ignore my long absence?" Is that weird? Yeah, it is. I mean lets face it. I haven't exactly been  bashful in the past. You all know waaaay to much about pooper cancer thanks to me. So I decided to simply tell you about the past 18 months or so.

In short...2014 was a tough one. As was the first half of 2015. When I last posted, I was getting ready to begin chemo and looking back on my last post, wasn't I a feisty one! Chemo sorta kicked the stuffin's right outta me. But I did get the entire Jack Reacher series read, so, bright sides and all that. I started chemo in March of 2014. The very best thing that could happen to anyone, happened the end of April 2014, the hubs and I were awarded the Grandparent award when our daughter and her hubs had their first wee one. A beautiful, hilarious, bundle of energy. For purposes of this blog, I'll call her Twinkles, because she is just the happiest kid in the world! This picture isn't terribly new...it's from last November..but you see what I'm talking about...right??!
So..light of our life and all that!!

My daughter was sad when someone said Twinkles was our consolation prize for such an awful year. I told her that the root of the word "consolation" was console. And Twinkles consoled me in wonderful ways. Because yes, then things really got bad.

A week after Twinkles was born, my youngest son's girlfriend, with whom he had lived for two years, went into the same hospital with a migraine. Issa had been having them for about 5 years. The hospital did a CT and found a mass in her brain. Biopsies, bleeds, intracranial pressure, shunts, MRI's, and days of impossible decisions ensued before she was finally diagnosed. She had a non operable glioblastoma.She was more than a friend, she was a sister to my kids, like a daughter to us, and my son's  beautiful soul mate. I wish you all could have known her. She was as loving as she was beautiful. Funny, sassy, generous, loyal, and fiercely protective of those she loved.

When I had cancer surgery, she showed up with food to feed everyone in the family for days. While I was recovering, she brought me albondigas and posole...and giggled when she told me she toned down the heat for my Montana farm girl tastes. 

When I started radiation, she brought me...of all things, a "medicinal herb" that she had got from a friend with a "medicinal herb card". I laughed...but it ended up being what got me through both radiation and chemo. When I was in chemo she called me frequently to check up on me and just to talk. She was an extraordinary young woman.

And the crap storm that was 2014 continued...

The end of May of 2014, I had a pulmonary embolism. I don't recommend this. Hurts like a bitch. I always thought I was a tough old broad...had 4 kids with natural childbirth...yeah...I'm tough. And then...BAM...wow...those suckers hurt. And I had to start taking blood thinners for 6 months. No more "medicinal herb" on those bad chemo days. It interacts with the blood thinners. I finally said, to hell with it, and used it on the last couple chemo rounds, got yelled at by docs, but hey...I'm still standing...so there!

Two weeks after I completed chemo, in the beginning of July, we had to  move my mom in law out of her assisted living apartment building in a city 60 miles from our home. Her dementia had made even living with that limited amount of assistance untenable. The good news was that we were able to find a nice place much closer to our home, so I no longer had to make the twice weekly trek out to see her that I was doing prior to my cancer diagnosis and treatment. Now it only takes me about 10 minutes. I'll admit I had hoped to delay the move until I was feeling better, but I guess it all worked out in the end. I certainly don't miss those hours spent in traffic!

On July 26th, our son's lease was up, and since as he said, "I didn't move out to live alone, I moved out to live with Issa", he moved back home with us. Two days later, Issa passed away. She had been released from Cedars Sinai a week before to hospice care at her sisters home. My son and her family were all there with her when she died.

She died on July 28th, 2014.  And here it is, more than a year later, and I still can't write all this without crying. We miss her so. It's so hard to watch your child try to survive a broken heart.

Then began the year of firsts. Issa's birthday, our first Thanksgiving and Christmas without her, and all those other happy events that we memorialize throughout our years. Those things become sad and painful reminders of things lost.

I've had some problems with the long term side effects of pelvic radiation, I had some internal scar tissue removed from my *ahem, internal lady parts, (knocked out, sound asleep...no big deal...bring on the anesthesia!). In April of this year, I developed a hole in the center of  my retina, I blame chemo....retinal surgeon says...ehh...maybe...no proof. But damn....I'm like 30 years too young for that! I had surgery to repair it, and had to spend 5 days in a face down position, with a 5 minute break each hour. I'll probably develop a cataract in that eye within the year and have to have that removed. Aargh. But my vision in the eye is better...the blind spot is wee little now...whereas before I could close my good eye and the entire lane of oncoming traffic would *poof* disappear. And the immense flare up of previously mild osteoarthritis has suuuucked.....again..no proof it's from treatment, but weirdly coincidental....

All in all...I do not recommend radiation and chemo. Unless, of course, it's going to keep you alive and kicking and all that.....

Anyway....I am apparently terrible at 'summing up' .. Inigo Montoya would be disappointed in me. I'm in remission. Hopefully forever. Statistically speaking.. ..40% chance of recurrence, so I try to remain aware. I'm not sure exactly what I try to remain aware of, since I never had any symptoms in the first place. But if anyone asks, yeah, I pay close attention to things....?? The bummer black cloud I had hovering over my head last year and the first part of 2015 is dissipating. I can actually listen to my "Happy Music" playlist on Spotify now without wanting to chuck my phone out of my car window...so that's good! We got an adorable puppy in February, who always makes me smile. And our little Twinkles is hilarious to hang out with. (more about both later!)

Thanks for hanging in with me. Life's a wild pony ride. Sometimes it tries its best to buck your ass off, so you just have to hang on for all your worth. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Choice. It's a funny thing, how I forgot about choices. When talking about my treatments with my family, I always say, "Well, it's gonna suck, but it's not like I have a choice....".  And I've been thinking about that, and I'm wrong. Saying I have no choice abrogates my own responsibilities. And it ignores my own abilities and intellect. Damnit, I DO have a choice. And this is the path I chose. I chose the chemo/radiation. Yes, it was recommended as the best treatment, but nobody forced me into the TomoTherapy machine every day for 32 days. I chose to be there. (And my butt is a nicely browned, well done toasted color...thank you very much.....)  Nobody held me down and force fed me 6 Xeloda tablets every day during that time. I chose to take them to increase the efficacy of the radiation.

 I'll start chemo in two weeks. Eight rounds of Folfox 6, and that too, is MY choice. I could refuse and take my chance with chemo/radiation only. I could chose the Xelox regimen instead of Folfox. But I've done my research and once again, I am in agreement with my doctor, that Folfox 6 is the best choice for me. But it is MY responsibility. No one else's. 

I'm not going to be forcibly strapped to a table tomorrow when I have surgery to insert the chest port. I chose to have this port. I've researched and come to the conclusion, that yes, my doctor is correct and a portacath will save my veins from the corrosive effects of chemo. I've studied the different types of ports, and I have decided that for me, the chest port will be preferable to the arm port. I've chose the Folfox 6, which requires a few hours of infusion, followed by 46 hours on a continuous pump. And a port in the arm would be awkward with a pump, so chest port it is.

When my oncologist said we would start chemo on Feb. 25th, I decided that was too soon for me. So I chose to postpone for a week, and will start on March 4th. Again, this is my choice.

So why have I been saying, "I have no choice"?  It seems I've been making choices since last October when I was diagnosed. I've always been a "do-it" myself kind of person. Leaking faucet? I can fix that. Dryer stops heating? Google it. Yep, I can fix that. Lay some tile, plumb a sink, tear out a kitchen, install a toilet? Sure, why not?  Give it a shot. But for some reason, this past week, I've been feeling diminished, somehow made smaller, weakened, by this whole process. Dare I say, gulp, passive? Good Lord, last week I somehow became the "woman who cried about freaking everything". I don't think a day passed without the waterworks. And don't get me started on the Valentine cards my hubby gave to me and our two daughters. Just thinking about them might get me going again. Maybe it was just the mind numbing drive to radiation every day. The 299.1 seconds I was being slowly sucked into the machine, whilst thinking..."Oh jeez, I gotta pee....."! (Yeah...deep thoughts while I'm being radiated....)  I just felt raw, mentally, physically and emotionally. Sort of like the universe had a giant sander with 80 grit paper that had just been grinding away at me.

But last night, I had an epiphany...I'm still here. And I'm still standing. And damnit, the past six weeks weren't something that was "done to me", but something I had done, to extend my chances at a long life. It was me, using the tools at my disposal to fix something. I'm still me. Today is my last day of radiation. I made it. I'm still here, still me, still standing and ready to keep bringing this fight. My choice. I chose to live. Cancer started this fight. I'm going to finish it.