Review: The Replacement

The first time I saw the cover of The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, I was intrigued.I mean, it is creepy, creepy, creepy.

Now, I am *not* much of a horror person.In fact, I *hate* scary movies. So, I was a little afraid to pick up this book.

But I am *really* glad I did.

Mackie Doyle seems like everyone else in the perfect little town of Gentry, but he is living with a fatal secret – he is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now the creatures under the hill want him back, and Mackie must decide where he really belongs and what he really wants.A month ago, Mackie might have told them to buzz off. But now, with a budding relationship with tough, wounded, beautiful Tate, Mackie has too much to lose. Will love finally make him worthy of the human world?”

— Description from GoodReads

This is a really unique story. The world that Brenna Yovanoff creates is so creepy and dark.A town where infants are replaced with changelings, half-dead creatures that can’t survive in the human world, in exchange for the town’s prosperity?

It’s a very original concept in a genre permeated with stories of supernatural beings trying to come to terms with their individual destinies.

Yovanoff has taken that same, tired story and given it a fresh edge that readers won’t soon forget.

I loved that this was told from a boy’s perspective. Mackie is a likable character. And Yovanoff does  good job of portrayed a guy in a realistic way — yes, he stares at boobs now and again, but at least he doesn’t want to talk about his feelings while sipping Cosmos.

It’s amazing to me how everyone in the town seemed to know what was going on, but just wanted to ignore it. It’s very telling of human nature.

This was a fast read that was easy to immerse myself into. I lost myself in the world of Gentry and turned the final page wanting more.

There was a very Sleepy Hollow-like vibe that drifted throughout the story and made it even more interesting.

Brenna Yovanoff has a gem in this debut novel about dark destiny in a creepy small town.

It’s Book #4 in my 2010 Debut Author Challenge.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff will be released Sept. 21, 2010.
**Disclaimer** An Advanced Reading Copy of this book was provided to me for review by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers GroupThanks to the publisher for the chance to read and review this book early!

Skydiving With the Golden Knights

Last week, my dad had the chance to go skydiving with the U.S. Army Golden Knights, but the weather didn’t cooperate.
So, they rescheduled the jump for two days later.
And this time, it was on like Donkey Kong.
After hanging around and watching some other folks jump, it was time to get suited up.
Doesn’t he look dashing in his bright yellow jump suit?
Pretty soon, it was time to fly!
They went up in this plane…
And floated down to the ground!
Please forgive the glare in many of these photos. The sun was so bright and scorching hot — it was so hard to take good photos!
Here they are coming in for the landing.
Dad kept the form (Legs up! Back arched!) all the way to the ground.
Soon, they were nestled safely among their parachute.
Each jumper received a DVD of footage of themselves being interviewed before and after jumping, and footage of their freefall.
Doesn’t he look elated? He had such an adrenaline rush!
Here’s dad with his tandem partner, Jon, and the Golden Knights commanders, LTC Joe Martin and SGM Stephen Young.
They were a lot of fun and we had a good ol’ time.
Here’s Dad with the Army recruiter for his school, Sgt. Nguyen, and the GK commanders.
You may remember Jon from the Texas Rangers Game early last week. We’re glad he was ok!
Too soon, it was time for the suit to come off and the fun to be over.
I know Dad had a great time, and we’re so thankful to the Golden Knights for giving him the opportunity to do this!
Thanks for looking!

Review: Chalice

One of the first Sci Fi/Fantasy books I read (and loved!) was The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley.I was immediately swept away into the story and couldn’t get enough.

That was 10 years ago.
I’ve devoured her books since then.Chalice is one of the best I’ve yet read.

As the newly appointed Chalice, Mirasol is the most important member of the Master’s Circle. It is her duty to bind the Circle, the land and its people together with their new Master. But the new Master of Willowlands is a Priest of Fire, only drawn back into the human world by the sudden death of his brother. No one knows if it is even possible for him to live amongst his people. Mirasol wants the Master to have his chance, but her only training is as a beekeeper. How can she help settle their demesne during these troubled times and bind it to a Priest of Fire, the touch of whose hand can burn human flesh to the bone?

Robin McKinley weaves a captivating tale that reveals the healing power of duty and honor, love and honey.”

–Description from Goodreads

McKinley has such an amazing way with words. She assumes you know the logistics of the world from the beginning. Even though you have no idea at first what’s going on, you soon catch up as she flawlessly weaves details about the backstory in with what’s currently happening.

I was immediately drawn into Mirasol’s world, where bees are friends and citizens have a relationship with the land.

I could understand Mirasol’s love for the land, because I had experienced her memories as they were told in her dreams. McKinley doesn’t *tell* you what’s going on — she throws you in the mix and expects you to keep up. But she doesn’t leave you empty-handed. She gives you the information you need, without force-feeding it to you.

I love that. It is so refreshing, especially in Young Adult literature.

There’s not a lot of action, but enough intrigue and mystery to move the story along.

You’ll truly enjoy this story. I know I did!

Peanut Butter Cookies

I have a love/hate relationship with Peanut Butter Cookies.
I’m not the biggest fan of peanut butter, so I don’t particularly care for the flavor. I’ll eat them, I just don’t *love* them.
But, I do like the chewy texture of peanut butter cookies. It reminds me of the impossible chewy texture of Sugar Babies candy bars. Remember those? I haven’t had a Sugar Baby in forever.
All that’s to say that I love the texture that this recipe produces: Soft and Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies. Mmmmm.
Peanut Butter Cookies
1/2 c shortening
3/4 c creamy peanut butter
1 1/4 c firmly packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cream the butter, brown sugar, shortening, vanilla and milk in a large bowl.
Add in the egg and mix to incorporate.
Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
Slowly add the flour mixture to the batter and mix to combine.
Scoop batter by the teaspoon and roll into a small ball, placing two inches apart from other cookies.
Use the tines of a fork to flatten the cookie and add a criss-cross pattern to the top.
Bake for 7 to 8 minutes. You want the middles to still look a bit undercooked — that’s where the chewy texture comes from.
If the edges start to brown, you’ve overcooked them.
Serve with a GIANT glass of milk, or if you’re lactose intolerant like me and The Nerd, an icy glass of Dr Pepper. :)
These Peanut Butter Cookies are soft and chewy — you’ll need a big glass of Milk to wash them down!

Fragment Friday: Infinite Days

Happy Friday everyone!
That means it’s time for Fragment Friday, a weekly event hosted by Book Chic Club where we read passages from books that we’re currently reading or that we love!
Check out my pick:
It’s time for the Book Blogger Hop from Crazy for Books!
Today’s question:Do you use a rating system for your reviews and if so, what is it and why?

I do — it’s a five star rating system. You can see it over there —–>

Click on the different ratings and you’ll get a list of books that have each rating.

I chose this system because it’s similar to the system used by Goodreads.

It makes it easier for me to categorize books in my head.

Most of my ratings are four- to five-star ratings. Why? It’s not because I’m easy on the books, but because I specifically select books to review that interest me. If I choose a book to review, I’m probably going to like it. :)


If you’re a new follower, leave me a comment letting me know, and I’ll follow you back!Also!

While you’re here, don’t forget to enter my Waiting on Mockingjay giveaway to win fabulous Hunger Games accessories!

Happy Friday everyone!

May Your Knights Be Golden

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Earlier this week, my dad had the opportunity of a lifetime: to skydive with the Golden Knights.
He’s a high school counselor, and works very closely with military recruiters.
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So, when the U.S. Army Golden Knights offered to tandem jump with some local celebrities and educators, my dad jumped at the chance.
There he is. Doesn’t he look excited?
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Here he is with local weather forecaster Fiona Gorostiza.
As you know, we live in Texas, land of unpredictable weather.
It has been HOT (like over 100 degrees every day) and DRY for the past several weeks.
Well, of course, it had to rain the *one* day they were scheduled to skydive.
The sky was GRAY and the clouds were HEAVY.
So, while we were waiting for the clouds to (hopefully!) clear up, the Golden Knights did a demo jump.
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Because they were jumping alone, they could jump from a much lower altitude and avoid the layer of clouds that we were hoping would go away.
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Some of the jumpers came flying in really fast, and others just kind of coasted in.
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It was so cool to get to be so close to them as they landed.
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On the ground, they had that massive parachute to deal with.
We got to see a demonstration of how they repacked their own parachutes.
It was really interesting to watch and learn.
But, after much waiting, the weather finally decided to make up its mind and stay cloudy.
So, the tandem jump was postponed.
In fact, my dad is jumping TODAY. But I don’t think I’ll be able to go and take photos. I’m really bummed.
But it was fun to get to learn a little bit more about the Golden Knights, and take some photos of them!
Thanks for looking!
My dad got the chance to skydive with the Golden Knights. And while Mother Nature had other plans, we got to see the Knights in action!

Review: Mockingjay

The Hunger Games is one of those books that stays with you.
I read it earlier this year, after I had started following a book message board and it was highly recommended by all of the members. I devoured it in one night. The next day, I couldn’t get my hands on Catching Fire, the sequel, fast enough.
That was all before I started this blog, so I didn’t write reviews of the books, or even record my thoughts on them somewhere. One day, I might.
But I *have* recommended them to anyone who will listen to me. My family. My friends. I’m sure they are tired of listening to me talk about the genius of Suzanne Collins.
I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m just disturbed by stories about governments using and manipulating children. But this series *got* to me.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins in the third, and final, installment in the series.
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. 
Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.”
— Description from Goodreads
Ok, so I’m just going to talk about my feelings regarding this book for a bit. Then, I’ll show you the cover, the rating and the link to purchase it.
After that, will be spoilers. So, if you haven’t read it yet — don’t go past the cover below!
This story is *powerful.* It’s told from Katniss’ point of view, which is one of the best things it has going for it.
Katniss is a flawed character. She’s tough. She’s angry. She doesn’t forgive easily. She’s impulsive. She can be mean. But above all, she’s a *survivor.* And you just have to admire that about her.
Peeta. Oh, Peeta. I’ve been rooting for Peeta from the beginning. He is selfless. He is loving. He can be manipulative. But above all, he is good.
At times, it seems like he is the complete opposite of Katniss. 
Then, there’s Gale. He’s capable. He’s strong. He’s filled with a slow-burning fury at their situation. And he will do *whatever* it takes to change things.
I love how honest this book is. You see each character’s flaws. Not a single one of them is perfect. It may be set in a fictional land in the far-distant future, but Collins describes human nature exactly.
This story will leave you raw and emotional. Have a box of tissues handy. 

PS – If you love The Hunger Games, be sure to enter my Waiting on Mockingjay giveaway!


Ok, so I’ve got to get a few things off my chest.

Team Peeta vs. Team Gale


This really bothered me. This is not a story about love. This is a story about change and growth and brutality.

It is not about love.

I’m okay with the whole Team Edward vs. Team Jacob debate for Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, because, after all, that was a love story. It was a story about a girl’s struggle to choose who she wanted to be with.

Mockingjay was not about that at all.

It was about survival — how does a young girl survive when all the odds (and a country!) are stacked against her.

The Peeta vs. Gale love angle added depth to the story through Peeta’s unconditional love for Katniss.

Sometimes, it felt like we were taking a deep, dark, brutal story and diminishing it to a teenage love triangle.

I loved Peeta, and I wanted her to choose him, but I would have been happy, whomever she chose, if she chose them to further the deeper story.

And she did.

She chose Peeta because, as Gale put it so well, “Katniss will pick whoever she thinks she can’t survive without.”

Katniss realizes that, no matter what psychological damage the Capitol has inflicted upon Peeta, he will always be there for her. He will always be the good — the change — whatever she needs. And that may be selfish, but it is true to Katniss’ nature and character.

“What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that.”

The Story’s Pace and Ending

I’ve heard people complaining that the story seemed rushed. That there weren’t enough details at the end. What happened to Panem? How did things play out? And Gale was just gone?

I must say that I disagree. Again, this story is told through Katniss’ point of view. We see what she sees. We learn about stuff she cares about.

The fracture with Gale was a long time coming. I think it first started when he lied to her (by omission) about Peeta’s condition. And then when he suggests collapsing The Nut. She can’t seem to come to terms with his destructive nature. His willingness to do whatever it takes for his side.

I was not surprised that he just moved away and she never heard from him. He was never really there for her emotionally.

And the love between Katniss and Peeta was also a long time coming. Yes, he hated her. Yes, he wanted to kill her. But she made a conscious choice on their (fake) mission to assassinate Snow to try to help him recover. You could see the real Peeta returning. And I’m not surprised at all that he returned to District 12 and to her.

I cried when I pictured Katniss singing Rue’s song to her children. I think that including Katniss’ children in the Epilogue was Collins’ way of showing us that things are ok in Panem. Katniss did not want to have children in The Hunger Games because of the possibility that they would facing the Reaping.

By agreeing to have children at all, Katniss is showing us that she sees hope in the future for her country.


I’ve droned on long enough. I could talk about this story for hours.

Let me just say that I think that Suzanne Collins is a genius. She is like Katniss is a way. She did whatever it took to stay true to the story — sacrificing Finnick and Prim, breaking Peeta, and showing us the the love between Katniss and Peeta is flawed.

But there is hope.

And that’s all we can ask for. Protection Status