Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds

Summary (from Goodreads)In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her? 

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

Review: One of the best horror books I've read, In the Shadow of Blackbirds blew me away. Well written, Winters pulls readers in perfectly-- and keeps them captured so blissfully until the last page. Accompanying the superb writing are chilling real photos from the time, the white masks enhancing the terror of the Spanish flu. With fantastic characters, haunting photos, a perfectly executed plot, and so much more, readers will have delicious chills well after the last page is finished.

Thank you Amulet Books & NetGalley for providing me with a lovely ARC. 

Release Date: April 2, 2013 -- pre-order your book below!

Formats: hardcover

Senator Recommends:

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Real Runner

I've been sitting on this for a while. The week has passed, the heat has gone and been replaced with cool, sunny weather. The answer to, "What makes a real runner?" still evades me slightly.

I think the answer is different for everyone. And I still don't feel like a real runner because I haven't even completed a third week in a row (yet). For me, the feeling of being a real runner is, like everything else, about consistency. It doesn't matter how many miles I've logged, or how many races I've signed up for and completed... it's about the pattern of consistant, everyday self-care.
Thanks for the free use image

It's also about encouragement.

I was in a particular funk running one day and disgruntled about the monotony of my surroundings... missing the hills, suburbia, and green of my hometown -- really not liking city life, essentially. All while this was happening, my mental thoughts just trailing downward, I happened upon a nice little stretch of "suburbia" without many cars, and more friendly pedestrians.

Jogging towards me was a woman dressed in neon pink and black, her posture and stride clear to anyone that this was just another jog. Another day to do what she loved. And me, shyly looking at the ground, then up at her, puffing out as I start the running portion of my workout, hobbling ungracefully towards her. And yet, she smiled. Her smile was wide, inviting, encouraging without saying a word.

That to me makes a real runner.

She had no judgements towards me. She, a fit veteran, was inviting me into a not-so-secret club. She gave the impression that she loved what she did -- run -- and wanted anyone who wanted to try, to join in. It didn't matter I was no where near to her athletic ability, or stylish ensemble (which, oh my gosh I could drool over so many cute athletic gear), I was still a runner in her eyes.

Which helps me see that too.

Happy Running, 


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Weekly Round-Up #3


Nothing too special about this week -- relaxing, actually. Onward!

Weeks Without Meat

Days Without Dairy
(I've officially had an intolerance attack -- time to put my big girl panties on and accept my fate!)

Miles Walked / Run
Wednesday = 1.46 mi (5 min warm up / 1.5 min run + 1.5 min walk x4 / 1 min run + 1 min walk x2 / 5 min cool down)
Friday =  1.73 mi (5 min warm up / 1.5 min run + 1.5 min walk x4 / 1 min run + 1 min walk x2 / 5 min cool down)

TOTAL = 3.19 MILES                                          TOTAL FOR YEAR = 8.46 MILES

Book(s) Read
I'm slightly amazing myself with how much time I must spend on books, reading this much...

Kundalini Meditation: The Path to Personal Transformation and Creativity by Kathryn McKusker (still reading. Thank you Walkins Publishing & NetGalley for this opportunity!)

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (re-read, still enjoying)

The Storyteller's Daughter by Cameron Dokey (re-read and completed, review to come)

The 13th Sign by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb (unfinished, meh.)

Running Within: A Guide to the Body-Mind-Spirit Connection for Ultimate Training & Racing by Jerry Linch, Warren Scott (rough start, still reading)

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters (read -- LOVE, review to come. Thank you Amulet Books & NetGalley for an advanced read!)

What were you up to this week?

Happy Living,


Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Trailer: Etiquette & Espionage

So perhaps I'm a tad behind the times, as this trailer came out yesterday (to my knowledge) but it was just too darling to pass up and share.
What are your thoughts? Are you a Carriger fan? Do you think you will be after this book?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: Splintered

Summary (from Goodreads)Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. 

For now. 

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Review: A wonderful recreation and new twist on the old classics. Dark, fast-paced, and beautiful, Howard has gifted readers with a stellar story. Alyssa is one of a kind and the journey she takes to find the truth of herself and save her family in Wonderland is truly unique. The re-imagined characters from Carroll's novels are so vivid and different that they entertain when the mystery is long gone. The ending, I felt, could use a little work. Much like an abrupt plane landing, Splintered flew high and dazzled, only to leave me disoriented and blinking to find my thoughts. Still quite enjoyable and would recommend to those who love adventure and fantasy.

Thank you Amulet Books for providing Bookstar, Studio City with a lovely ARC

Formats: e-book, hardcover

Senator Recommends:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: Millie's Fling

Summary (from Barnes & Noble)He's the best thing that ever happened to her. He's also the worst. He's Millie's Fling.

From one of the premiere contemporary authors in the UK, here is a fun and romantic tale that proves the road to matchmaking hilarity is paved with good intentions.

Bestselling novelist Orla Hart owes her life to her friend Millie Brady, whose rotten boyfriend has just left her. So Orla invites Millie to Cornwall, where Millie looks forward to a summer without any dating whatsoever. But Orla envisions Millie as the heroine of her next novel and decides to find Millie the man of her dreams. Except the two women have drastically different ideas about what kind of guy that should be.

With Orla and Millie working at cross-purposes, and a dashing but bewildered hero stuck in the middle, the summer will turn out to be unforgettable for all concerned... 

Review: Millie's Fling is the perfect antidote to any unpleasant day or week or if you just need a laugh. Mansell write sharp characters with just enough self-deprecation that any chick-lit fluff feels natural, like that bubble bath you desperately want and can have -- AFTER you've done the hard work of the day. Well written and riddled with laughter inducing moments, Millie's Fling is the perfect read for lounging in the summer sand and sun... even if it's just to pretend you are.

Formats: e-book, paperback

Senator Recommends:

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Weekly Round-Up #2

For more inspiring photos and quotes visit
Active Happiness on Facebook

This week has been most illuminating, if not supremely taxing on my emotions. Oddly enough I made a LOT of advancements in my life and deep cleaning AND still keep a vague appearance of keeping it together. I couldn't have done it without my friends and my family, either. Thank you, if you're reading this. You guys mean more to me that I can express!

Days Without Meat

Days Without Dairy
(I've cut out most dairy though, especially cheese, for the last 3 days -- now to give up those trace amount of butter or milk IN the things I buy!)

Miles Walked / Run
Monday = 1.38 mi (5 min warm up / 1 min run + 1.5 min walk x6 / 5 min cool down)
Wednesday = 1.7 mi (5 min warm up / 1 min run + 1.5 min walk x8 / 5 min cool down)
Friday = 2.19 mi (5 min warm up / 1 min run + 1.5 min walk x8 / 10+ min cool down)

TOTAL = 5.27 MILES                 TOTAL FOR YEAR = 5.27 MILES

Book(s) Read
Fair warning, I was busy this week....

Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson (review can be found here)

Blameless by Gail Carriger (re-read and completed, just for fun)

Millie's Fling by Jill Mansel (re-read and completed, review to come)

Kundalini Meditation: The Path to Personal Transformation and Creativity by Kathryn McKusker (sill reading -- It's pretty amazing. Thank you NetGalley & Walkins for this opportunity!)

Splintered by A.G. Howard (completed, review coming soon. Thank you Amulet Books for providing Bookstar, Studio City with a lovely ARC)

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (re-read, still enjoying)

What are you grateful for this week?

Happy Living,


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: Valkyrie Rising (#1)

Summary (from Goodreads)Nothing ever happens in Norway. But at least Ellie knows what to expect when she visits her grandmother: a tranquil fishing village and long, slow summer days. And maybe she’ll finally get out from under the shadow of her way-too-perfect big brother, Graham, while she’s there.

What Ellie doesn’t anticipate is Graham’s infuriating best friend, Tuck, tagging along for the trip. Nor did she imagine boys going missing amid rumors of impossible kidnappings. Least of all does she expect something powerful and ancient to awaken in her and that strange whispers would urge Ellie to claim her place among mythological warriors. Instead of peace and quiet, there’s suddenly a lot for a girl from L.A. to handle on a summer sojourn in Norway! And when Graham vanishes, it’s up to Ellie—and the ever-sarcastic, if undeniably alluring Tuck—to uncover the truth about all the disappearances and thwart the nefarious plan behind them. 

Deadly legends, hidden identities, and tentative romance swirl together in one girl’s unexpectedly-epic coming of age.

Review: A solid debut book in a series, Valkyrie Rising takes readers to the shores of Norway where mystery, fantasy, and adventure is abound and where Elsa (the main character) finds herself. For the first half of the book I felt the characters were a tad one dimensional, but thankfully Paulson just sets readers up for a fantastic story-line. While there is a love interest, Valkyrie Rising is not saturated by it. It is only one of the ingredients (flavorings?) that aid this book to what it is: a fantastic adventure for anyone curious about what it takes to really know- and own - who you are. Even when Norse Gods are want to meddle in human affairs.

Formats: e-book, hardcover

Senator Recommends:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Life Scouts

I heard about this just this morning and had to share it with as many people as I could. I love the concept of "earning badges" for life and being able to share them with others. I only have three... possibly four (I can't remember if I've been to the Empire State Building or not) and I'll be sharing the stories soon. Here's an explanation in the video (from it's creator):

Visit to check out the badges that are out now, and keep checking back for more!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Weekly Round-Up #1

For more inspiring photos visit:

So this will be new, mostly to keep me accountable. Herein you will find what I've done with my week. This week in the three main areas of my life.

Days Without Meat

Days Without Dairy
0 (I'm eating cream cheese as I type. Bad lactose-intolerantee, bad bad!)

Miles Walked / Run
Saturday = 1.5 mi (easy outing around the neighborhood)

Book(s) Read

Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson (still reading)

Blameless by Gail Carriger (re-read, still enjoying)

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale (enjoying on & off. Goal is to FINISH by end of February 2013)

What has your week shaped up to be?

Happy Living,


Friday, January 11, 2013

Running Crack

My training for my 10K starts this week and I've been mentally preparing for this for a while, apparently. See that picture, to the left? With all those running books (that doesn't even include the three e-books)? Yeah, I bought most of those within the span of the last 2 1/2 months.

Because I live in Southern California and apparently am a weenie for the cold, I've taken some time off from running. A long while. To fill up that running hole I've turned to books about said activity. Have I read each of them cover to cover? Naaah. Do I drool over more training books and pine to buy more soon? Of course!
Photo from

They get me into the mood of running. They get me jived about wanting to wake up an hour early and hit the pavement. They show me I'm not alone when I'm cranky and see the sun is not out and want the comfort of my own, warm bed. They tell me it's OK to go slow. In fact, they endorse it. As a beginner who used to be an intermediate this is a hard pill to swallow.

When you're pushing your body too hard, it's time to take a break, and that's what I did. I trained too hard, set my bar too high, and I fizzled completely. I firmly believe that any physical activity is 90% mental and 10% physical so if you're even thinking about getting up off that couch and haven't yet, it's OK. Read blogs, buy cute running clothes, read training books for men, for women. Read inspirational books about your favorite athletes. I guarantee you'll be over the moon and chomping at the bits to follow through and take those baby steps if you do. Whenever and however you take your first step, that's perfect.

Happy Running,


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Reflections and Resolutions

Full, original photo found at:
Let me first state that while I've missed the blogging community, the past few months have been pretty enlightening and my catalysts for change began before January 1 of this 2013. I am on a path that now veers quite sharply, demanding I stay alert and true lest I fall to old habits and must climb the mountain again. As this is my life and I've had to change with it, so must my blog. Since I plan to be incorporating more personal accounts, there is no time more like the present to start! I'll share the format my church uses -- those of the  congregation participating fill out this form, and the prayer ministry prays for them and their goals all year long -- isn't that so nice!?!

My Goals for 2013

Spiritual Unfoldment
     Meditate Everyday
     Live & give from the overflow

Well Being
     Running/ exercise 6x/week
     Vegan/ no processed foods
      Race 5K in under 30 minutes

Loving Relationships
     Expansion of the good I already have

Abundant Expression
       Home of my own (and the money to afford it)
       Financially secure + have the money to spend at whim (vacation/ pamper money)

Creative Expression

      Tidy all the time (20+ min a day)
      Proactive and observant of all things
      Get great at math (memorize!)
      Be more eloquent & direct/ coherent in my speech

Well, those are my goals... have you set any? If you are just percolating on a few, and maybe feel stuck or frazzled by how daunting the goals may be I offer up these great sites and book.

Senator Recommends:

Goal Setting Guide
Self Discipline (a GREAT 6-part post)
Goal setting worksheets (I find it helps to write these things down)

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way
by Robert Maurer