Thursday, February 25, 2016

Blogger Opp - $150 PP GA-Free and Paid Options-Sign Ups End 3/12

Hey bloggers! I have a great new blogger opportunity to share with you (Hosted by Lil' Blog and More)!

 This should be an awesome event - As it's the biggest prize yet - We are expecting a HUGE turnout, so be sure to join it (There are lots of options available)!

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This is a great way to gain a lot more followers on your social media channels! There are completely FREE options, sharing options (for additional entries on the form), and paid options, available. 

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Monday, February 22, 2016

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Liar by Rob Roberge

An intense memoir about  mental illness, memory and storytelling, from an acclaimed novelist.
When Rob Roberge learns that he's likely to have developed a progressive memory-eroding disease from years of hard living and frequent concussions, he is terrified by the prospect of becoming a walking shadow. In a desperate attempt to preserve his identity, he sets out to (somewhat faithfully) record the most formative moments of his life - ranging from the brutal murder of his childhood girlfriend, to a diagnosis of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, to opening for famed indie band Yo La Tange at the Fillmore in San Francisco. But the process of trying to remember his past only exposes just how fragile the stories that lay at the heart of our self-conception really are.  
As Liar twists and turns through Roberge's life, it turns the familiar story of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll on its head. Darkly funny and brutally frank, it offers a remarkable portrait of a down and out existence cobbled together across the country, from musicians' crashpads around Boston, to seedy bard popular with sideshow freaks in Florida, to a painful moment of reckoning in the scorched Wonder Valley desert of California. As Roberge struggles to keep addiction and mental illness from destroying the good life he has built in his better moments, he is forced to acknowledge the increasingly blurred line between the lies we tell others and the lies we tell ourselves.

This was the first book I received from First to Read. This is not about the book, but I really have to get it out... I requested this book over a month ago and didn't even know that I was approved until a couple of weeks ago. I wish they would offer a Kindle version or hard copy of books. When I realized I was approved to read a copy of the book, it took me forever to even figure out how to read it. The first app I downloaded, I couldn't figure out how to login to it, and the 2nd one I tried, which I ended up reading the book in, sucks compared to all of the other reading apps I've tried.

Ok, now that I've over that little rant (which has nothing at all to do with the actual book).

By the time I was able to access the book, I was pretty frustrated and really hoping the book was going to be work it.

The first page really caught my attention, and my frustration subsided.

The principal paired him with a new girl at school, told him to take care of her and show her around, in an attempt to keep him out of trouble. Then, she was killed. This was in 1977, and even 40 years later, he researched her death in an attempt to help himself feel better and less responsible.
Her killer was never found, and every day, he looked at men and thought they could be her killer, especially before he left his hometown at the age of 18.

The book is a memoir written with excerpts from different times in the author's life. In 1984, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, with rapid cycling and occasional psychotic episodes, and despite his doctor's many warnings, he continues to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol on top of his prescriptions.

This book, while not in chronological order, goes through the ups and downs of a man diagnosed with bipolar disorder, battling addiction, and sometimes trying to navigate life as best he can. While everyone's lives have ups and downs, these can be catastrophic when mental illness is thrown in the equation. When he is diagnosed with a disease that will likely take his memories from him, he decides to document all the crazy things from his life that he can remember...or mostly things that he remembers others telling him happened, since often he was not coherent enough to remember and had to rely on those present the night before to recall what happened the night before.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE a good memoir! And this was a good memoir!

 I also am going to school to be a therapist and have always been intrigued by learning about people's experiences with mental illnesses.

I'm not sure how I feel about the book jumping around from time to time, often years, or even decades apart. You read one excerpt from 1988, then read something that happened in 2013. I hoped that a reason for this would become apparent at some point, but I think the book would have been just as effective written in chronological order.... but maybe that's just me....

So, I'm speeding through this book, really enjoying it.... then it just ends!


Right now, I cannot think of any other book that I hated the ending to it as much as this one!

I do not want to give the ultimate spoiler and ruin the ending, but it was not how the author should have ended it.

I actually had to check 3 times to make sure that I was actually reading the last page and that I had not, accidentally, skipped ahead or something, since I was reading the ebook on my phone.

That being said, overall, I really liked this book! (Yes, I did, even though I just ranted about the way it ended). I will not let the last few pages get in the way of my enjoyment of the rest of the book.

This book made me want to read other books by the author.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers, via First to Read, in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Shimmer the Glowworm Finds Her Glow by Shelby Herman

So, I know this isn't the kind of book that I usually review (or read!). But I am working on my master's degree in mental health counseling, and I want to work with children. For a while, now, I have been meaning to start a book collection that I can use in counseling with children.

So when this book came to my attention, and I had an opportunity to get a copy to review, I decided that was a sign that it's never too early for me to start collecting children's books that can be used for counseling, and this happened to be the PERFECT one!

The story is all about self-esteem:
The story follows Shimmer, a glowworm who has a low glow and goes on a purposeful journey to find it. She discovers along the way that helping others find their glow is what makes her glow show.
For parents, teachers, caregivers and others with children from 2nd through 5th grades on their shopping list, Shimmer the Glowworm is a gift that keeps on giving as it teaches children through the power of story how to give to others and appreciate themselves. "My ultimate goal is to spread a message of hope, inspiration and self-empowerment/self-discovery and encourage children to build strong connections with their inner-beings and with each other," shares Herman. 
Helping children to learn about the connection between social emotions and being aware or mindful of themselves and others is shown to have long-term positive benefits. According to a new study conducted by The Greater Good Science Center at the Univeristy of California, Berkeley, by helping children "become aware of and then embody the connection between their emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations; students are better able to regulate their emotions, which then impacts things such as their behavior, stress levels, relationships, and ability to focus."
Through Herman's in-person engagement with the readers of her book in educational setting like libraries and elementary school classrooms, she has seen first-hand the impact the story is having. Among the book's critics include a 2nd grade student in Arizona, whose book review highlighted the character's journey: "I loved Shimmer the Glowworm. My favorite part was when Cray turned rainbow colors. I could show m glow I would be helping others like Shimmer did it." 
Additional reviews by parents and teachers note how the story "teaches kids at a young age to help and inspire otehrs;" and how the book has "such a great message and my 2nd grade class loved it too."
 To complement the children's book, Herman also offers Show Your Glow, an upliftinf song with powerfully inspirational lyrics to add a bit of music to the postitice message advocated; as well as 'ME TREEs', created by Herman to empower and inspire children to discover their unique qualities about themselves and to find their own treasure, ME TREEs are currently being used in classrooms to teach mindfullness and awareness. Herman is currently developing a children's musican to expand the reach of the inspirational Shimmer the Glowworm story through song; as well as regularly scheduling author visits with school, libraries and with organizations where young children and families gather. 
Disclaimer: I only read the book. However, I am interested in hearing the song and getting more info on the musical and the way the book is being used in schools.

I thought this book was great! It was clever and would be perfect for teaching children about mindfulness and increasing self-esteem.

Also, I love the illustrations in this book! Shimmer and the other animals are so cute!

The only note I had was: The text switches from black to white at certain points. There were a couple of instances when the black text would have been easier to read if it was white, because of the dark background. Not too bad, though. Just a thought.

Overall, I was very pleased with this book. I plan to read it to my nephews to see what they think. Then, I will put it aside as the beginning of my children's book collection to use in counseling, later down the road.

I encourage you, if you are a school counselor, teacher, or a parent; check out Shimmer the Glowworm!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. 

Complaint Restraint February Tumblr

Check out their new Tumblr!

We decided to open a simple Tumblr blog and invite all of you to share your own experiences with Complaint Restraint.

Congratulations! You’ve already made it through more than half of Complaint Restraint February! Some of you write us that it’s going really well, others are fighting a bit harder not to complain.

But as we’ve always said, this is about the process, not any specific outcome we’re aiming for. What I notice each year during February is that while this is about myself, it’s also about the people around me, and I learn a lot about people close to me each February, too. Who’s a more negative person, who has a more positive effect on their friends? How do others deal with actually problematic aspects of their life?

So when Naomi, a participant from Vancouver, Canada, asked us about setting up a place for all of you to share your experiences, we figured why not? Here’s her email:
I have been doing my best not to complain about things I have no control over to change. But what I find interesting is being aware of others complaining about little things and wasting their energy on that. I wish with this challenge you have a forum that posted everyone’s comments so we could be changed and know how everyone else is doing thru this.
Head over to the Tumblr to share your thoughts and views on Complaint Restraint. How is it working for you? What have you learned since starting out? We’re looking forward to all of your thoughts!

Also, if you by chance know BeyoncĂ©, let her know that we’d love to have her participate next year ;)

Have a great week,
Thierry & Pieter

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Girl Who was on Fire - Movie Edition by Leah Wilson

I was excited when I saw this as an option on NetGalley, especially after finishing the Panem Companion. Not only did it help me dig deeper into The Huger Games series, but it also caused me to take a deeper look into all of the books I read, especially YA books, whether it be taking note of their cultural norms, gender roles, other societal structers, or more depth to the characters.

This is not one book, but a series of essays written by popular YA authors about The Hunger Games series. I love that, having read the Panem Companion, I has a background knowledge of Susan Collins' intentions and meaning behind THG, but this book is not just a repeat of that. This book focuses on the readers'/watchers' views, opinions and feelings about THG.

One of the first things that stuck out to me was focusing on media truths/lied. At first, Katniss has a hard time lying at all about her and Peeta's relationship, but by Mockingjay, she betrays even the readers with ehr intention to create a new Hunger Games and kills Coin instead of Snow. With this, Sarah Rees Brennan points out, in the first essay, Peeta's position in Mockingjay. His perception has been so altered that he must rely on other telling him what is "Real or not real?"

His position is horrifying, and yet it is just a magnified version of everyone's position in THG - of our own positions as consumers of entertainment that pretends to reflect reality.

I am very glad that Jennifer Lynn Barns focused on the love triangle angle. I have also become tired with the endless triangles.


THG trilogy has less to do with who Katniss ends up with and more to do with who she is - because sometimes, in books and in life, it's not about romance.


I also didn't like how I saw so much Team Gale and Team Peeta. These books were not, at their core, about love. They were about society, war and rebuilding a better society. Katniss was not all swoony, like most YA heroines, today. (Thank God!) She stick to what is important in a time of crisis, which is not who she should kiss.

JLB comes to an excellent conclusion as to why readers picked this question to represent the series, though. Since Katniss was so hard to figure out, readers did as the Capitol did and labeled her a girl in love, making it an either/or situation that would easily tell us who she is.

Maybe for a lot of readers, the questions if Peeta or Gale, who are "so different from each other that it is easy to imagine that a girl who would choose Gale is a completely different person than one who would choose Peeta."

I love that JLB refers to Gale as a firecracker and Peeta a dandelion!

This book gave me an epiphany that Susan Collins might have (perhaps?) been combatting the Peeta vs. Gale argument.
Katniss knows that the world - and many of the trilogy readers - reduce her to that one thing - romance - and that she expects better of those who know her best.
Because if you think about it, Katniss is not interested in love and romance throughout the series, as many YA heroines are.

Even more than I am Team Katniss, I am TEAM BUTTERCUP!
Buttercup is a better comparison to Katniss than her namesake (a potato-like root plant) or the mockingjay. The cat who refused to die. Because, that's what Katniss is, a survivor.  
I think one of the reasons THG is so popular is because Katnis is unlike most YA heroines. She doesn't find insta-love and really doesn't think much about romance at all.
If anyone doubts Katniss is more driven by family than anything else - including romance- all you have to do if look at the role that Prim plays in almost every major turning point in the series.
 Ultimately, even to the other characters in the book, Katniss isn't The Girl who Chose Peeta. She's not the Mockingjay or The Girl on Fire or the Girl Who Didn't Choose Gale.
She's a girl who survives something horrible and loses far too many people along the way. 
This was a lighter read than The Panem Companion. This explores the feelings behind the characters more than the inspiration for the characters and the facts.

If you like THG, you will most likely enjoy this book. I recommend reading the Panem Companion, first, though!

I received this book from the publishers, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Enter to win Whiskey Girl Prizes!

Up to 51 chances to win!

1st Place: 3 750ml bottles - one of each WG flavor

2nd Place: 1 750ml bottle of WG, winner’s choice of flavor

3rd Place: WG gift basket (t-shirt, rocks glass, 375ml bottle of winner’s choice flavor)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lights Out by Ted Koppel

Prior to reading this book, I'll admit, I had no clue how electricity even works.

At first, I expected this book to be a what-if scenario. Like, "this is what will happen if terrorists cyber attack the U.S. power grid..."

However, it is so much more than that. This book examines who might attach, the vulnerabilities, who is responsible for what when it comes to electricity, as well as who is planning and trying to prepare for a future attack. It also investigates those who believe it is not if, but when an attack occurs, as well as the naive, who do not believe an attack could occur.

There are many things kept secret about the power industry. They will not even go as far as to divulge how many Large Power Transformers (LPTs) exist, and their parts are not interchangeable, as most are custom-built. So, extra parts are not just lying around.

Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a response to being asked how LPTs, weighing 1/2 million pounds or more, and costing between $3 and $10 million each, of which over 75% are only made overseas, many of which are 30 to 40 years old and were transported to their current locations by railways that no longer exist, 
"I'm sure FEMA has the capability to bring in backup transformers... (but) if you want an inventory and a number, I couldn't give you that."
The government is in as much of a clusterfuck as it usually is... no, actually moreso in this case. Half of them won't admit there is a risk of a potential attack, then there's the other half that this if, not when.
Virtually all of our civilian critical infrastructure - including telecommunications, water, sanitation, transportation, and healthcare - depends on the electric grid... The consequences of a large-scale attack on the U.S. grid would be catastrophic for out national security and economy. 
People are less concerned with what exactly happened than with how long it will take to restore power. This is a society that regard information, the ability to communicate instantly, as an entitlement.
With the internet giving rise to "filter bubbles" that decrease users' exposure to conflicting viewpoints and reinforce their own ideoligied frames. 
Today, there is an expert to support almost any point of view. It has never been more difficult to convince the American public of anything that it is not already inclined to believe. 
Ours has become a largely reactive culture. We are disinclined to anticipate disaster, let alone prepare for it. We wait for bad things to happen and then we assign blame.
This book really made me think:
It is difficult for anyone holding public office to focus attention on a problem without being able to offer any solution. Then, too, the American public needs to be convinced that the threat is real. And let the record show: it is not easy to convince the American public of anything.
Under current conditions, timely reconstitution of the grid following a carefully targeted attack if particular equipment is destroyed would be impossible , and according to government experts, would result in widespread outages for at least months to 2 years or more, depending on the nature of the attack.  
If 9 of the country's most critical substations were knocked out at the same time, it could cause a blackout encompassing most of the U.S.  
A 2008 congressional commission estimated that only 1 in 10 of us would survive a year into a nation wide blackout, the rest perishing from starvation, disease or societal breakdown.
  Perhaps one of the best examples of our culture's reactive nature comes from a local fireman. The captain on duty assured the author that in case of a catastrophe, there are "secret locations where food and water have been stored."
"For all of us?" I asked
"No" he acknowledged. "Just the first responders."
"What about the rest of us?"
He considered the question for a moment, and then conceded that he would be awaiting further instructions.
"And when you get those instructions," I wondered, "how will you communicate them to the rest of us, when the electricity is out?"
"I'm due to retire in a couple of years" said the captain. "I'm hoping it doesn't happen before then."
Americans don't want to be to blame after a disaster strikes, and they are completely unprepared. But no one wants to spend the time, and certainly not the money, planning and preparing for something that hasn't happened yet, and we don't know when (or if) it will happen.

"There's a real danger here. And I think we just haven't done nearly enough. There's not enough awareness of it, but also, government is asleep at the switch." - Ray Kelly (NYPD)

When I first started this book, I was a little disappointed, because it is different from what I was expecting. After the first 50 pages, it got extremely more interesting. The first part of the book is a little slow, but necessary to understand the rest of it... That is, unless you already understand much more than I about electricity, the power grids, and who is in charge of what... The author does a great job at teaching someone who has no idea about electricity, the internet or cyberattacks. Then he delves into the issues.

The author is long-time friends with the former Wyoming senator, Alan Simpson (83).

Simpson befriended Norman Mineta while he was in a Japanese internment camps during WWII.
Only 2 years after Pearl Harbor, parents and mentors of a Boy Scout troop in Cody (WY) encouraged their children to befriend members of the Japanese-American troop.

I read Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp a while back. In the book, the author discusses envying the white Girl Scout troop and their camping trips. She states that Japanese girls were not allowed to join the white troop, and they did not have a Japanese equivalent.

This tidbit from the book made me wonder if it was different for Japanese boys at the time, or if it was the different location. As Mr. Simpson shows in the book, Cody is a place where being neighbors means much more than living near one another. So, perhaps, it was Cody's culture to include the Japanese boys in Boy Scouts. But I wonder if it was the same for the girls there?

Ok, sorry about that little detour, but it made me wonder about other Japanese boys' and girls' experience with the Scouts during that time.

Back to Lights Out:

The author talks with doomsday preppers, who are likely to fare out far better than most, in the event of an attack on the grid.

One of the main things that resounded with all of the preppers (no matter what kind of catastrophe they feared and were prepping for, be it natural disaster, EMT or nuclear attack) was their self-interest. When asked what about others who need help or what about friends and neighbors, the general assent was that they should have listened and prepared better. All understood that conflicts were likely to ensue over possession of their preparations.

One said, " Of, that could get ugly at some point."

The author travels to Bob Medel's (early 70's) 5,000 acre ranch, which is surrounded by 175,000 acres of federal forest land.
Not only would he and his ranch hands survive a cyberattack on the electric power grid that serves Wyoming, they would barely notice it.
But when asked how he thought a city like NYC would do, he "seemed genuinely stumped.
"No answers. It scares me to death just to think about it. I don't know how one would cope with that, other than that there needs to be local, state, county programs sponsored by the federal government. These are real issues. These are real concerns. It is overwhelming just to think about it. 
Unlike the doomsday preppers, "Bob Medel seems like a genuinely caring man, and he wants to be helpful... (and he) stresses not survival skills, nor land investment, but community involvement."

However, these techniques may not help in big cities, and "Wyoming does have an unusually strong culture of both self reliance and civic cooperation."

Important to note: Wyoming has the smallest population of any state in the U.S., and gun ownership is the highest in the country (62.8%).

Have you ever been to Utah? I have.

And when I saw the next chapter I was about to read was titled "The Mormons," I understood...but not to the degree I thought I did. I've read a little about Mormon beliefs, but I didn't know much about their history and what makes them so prepared for a nation-wide, long-lasting disaster.
No group of comparable size comes close to matching the scale and organizational discipline of the Mormon's efforts to prepare for whatever catastrophe may come. Their example is hardly an easy one to follow, but it serves as a model of what can be done.
Their reaction to Hurricane Katrina is the perfect example of this:
While FEMA was floundering, the church dispatched 10 trucked fill of tents, sleeping bags, tarps to cover wrecked roofs, bottled water, and 5 gallon drums of gas to New Orleans and other hard-hit areas.
One article called it "a performance that put the federal government to shame."

No matter how charitable the Mormons are, though, they can't save us all, in the event of long-term power outages.
"We hope that (in the event of a nation-wide disaster) all the families have enough to care for themselves and to help their neighbors. But there is no way we can take care of the whole country."
I love how each chapter title was followed by a quote that applied to the chapter!
"For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong." - H. L. Mencken
I enjoyed this book much more than I ever thought I would! Even though it was completely different than I expected, it completely exceeded my expectations.

I know this was long, but I only scraped the surface. Koppel goes much deeper and explores much more! It had me so enthralled that I did not want to put it down!

I encourage you to read it, and learn more about what's not happening to prepare and protect us from an attack on the power grid.

I received this book from the publishers, via Blogging for Books, in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Complaint Restraint February

I received a reminder email today about Complaint Restraint February. Truthfully, it could not have come at a better time!  I'm struggling with my class at school,  especially since all three days of class were canceled last weekend, but we still had to take the midterm from home. Plus my car is messed up (again). Basically,  there's a bunch of things that I could be complaining about right now.

I signed up for Complaint Restraint February a while ago and didn't think about it too much after that.  But this email gave me a reminder at a great time. Instead of explaining it all, I'll just post the email. Also,  I will post the link below if you would like to join and try to look at the positive aspects of your life this month,  instead of complaining.

Let the Complaint Games Begin! 

Hello there!

Today is the first day of this year’s Complaint Restraint February. I’ve already complained once this morning. Pieter earlier on complained about his laundry, and then complained about complaining. But we notice, and we try. So can you.

We don’t know how to change your life. What we do know is that participating in Complaint Restraint every February has helped us to get to know ourselves better. And so today I want to share that aspect with you. This project is not a self-help book in the making, promise. But there’s some self help involved: organizing Complaint Restraint February allows us to listen a bit more to ourselves than we usually do. It allows us to realize where our superficial complaints come from, and to spur us into action to change our circumstances.

But let me be clear: I’m talking from a position of privilege. I’m a white male born in Switzerland. Pieter is from Belgium. You may not be born into as lucky circumstances as we were, or may not live in such circumstances at the moment. And so we definitely don’t want to tell you what to do to change any of that. We can’t.

But what we do know is that doing this each February has helped us to let go of useless complaints. And with that, it has helped us to let go of anger and bitterness that didn’t help us get better at all. While we can’t help you change your life, what you can do yourself is to look at the positive side of your life whenever you’re included to instead focus on small negative aspects.

On Friday, when you see your friends after work and they ask you how your week was—how about telling them about that great evening you spent with your parents, or your new partner, instead of complaining about your shitty boss? How about talking about how the wind in your face felt awesome on Thursday, instead of moaning about how horrible winter weather generally is?

We take Complaint Restraint one moment at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time. That’s how it started, too—Pieter and I agreeing to not complaining for a single week, more than five years ago.

Last year, someone took part in Complaint Restraint February who was going to move cities in February. That sounds pretty horrible. But they did the move and kept up their goal of not complaining. So how about not complaining about having missed the bus this morning? It’s February, there’s always lots to complain about. Instead, how about you focus on the things you are happy about, and make them a larger part of your life.

Grab a friend, tell them about your new project this month, and get going. One complaint at a time—and remember, there’s no magic bullet. Whenever you complain, just remind yourself of your larger goal, and keep going.

Time to get going!
Thierry & Pieter

PS: We had some trouble with our email address last week. If you’d consider writing a few words about your own experiences with Complaint Restraint, simply reply to this email and we’ll get back to you soon. Thank you!
Copyright © 2016 Complaint Restraint Project, All rights reserved.

If you would like to subscribe to the Complaint Restraint February emails click here or visit