Monday, August 31, 2015

The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen

I absolutely love when books just show up to my house and I don't know where they are from initially. Luckily for me, I got an email a few days later explaining, but what a nice surprise of a very lovely book.

The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen - Katherine Howe
The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen
It’s summertime in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie.

As they start spending time together, Wes finds himself falling for her, drawn to her rose petal lips and her entrancing glow. But there’s something about her that he can’t put his finger on that makes him wonder about this intriguing hipster girl from the Village. Why does she use such strange slang? Why does she always seem so reserved and distant? And, most importantly, why does he only seem to run into her on one block near the Bowery? Annie’s hiding something, a dark secret from her past that may be the answer to all of Wes’s questions .


I don't know that I've had a contemporary romance in awhile but that's exactly what this is. Also, I am a Katherine Howe virgin and I am so glad this is the book that popped the cherry because it is stunning!

The book centers around Wes, young and girl dumb, aspiring filmmaker and new to big city life. At the beginning of the story he finds himself helping a friend with the sound for his film in a seance where he spies a variety of characters but there's a girl who stands out. He tries so hard to get her attention, talk to her, but she seemingly vanishes. He sees her again outside a few days later and again, he's stricken by her beauty and this inexpiable need to help her, talk to her, something. But again, she vanishes. Then she appears to him, in his room no less, asking for help and he's sold. He's all in. But also he has Maddie, who doesn't disappear quite like Annie but she's peculiar- a self described fregan and squatter, he doesn't know why but he feels drawn to her too.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Annie is a ghost but Wes doesn't totally get it. But to his defense, I mean, would you really come to that as your first conclusion when a weird girl who seems kind of out of it keeps popping up and disappearing? The story does flip between Wes in modern times, and then Annie in the past shortly before her untimely death. While she's trying to figure out what happened to her, because she does seem especially confused on how she died, she realizes she only has so much time in order to figure this out. Meanwhile, Wes finds himself falling in love with Annie and I think we know how totally impractical that is going to be. And even still.. we have Maddie. Maddie never leaves us and I don't know why, but I kind of love her because she's funky and a little bit odd, and Wes is absolutely the perfect clueless boy who has zero game when it comes to girls.

Overall? I loved this book. It does start out a little slow for me which is what holds me back from giving it 5 stars. I didn't really get into the book until we flash back to Annie the first time, which is maybe when you get to about a third into the book. Somewhere in there. Once you get there it really picks up and the story flows really well. Katherine is a spectacular writer that keeps you engaged and she did such a fantastic job at crafting these characters. So much so that I really want to read what else Katherine has out, so I'll be combing her website to see what I've missed. Katherine is also on Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Twitter!

The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen will be available on September 15, 2015, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Happy reading, lambs!

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Welcome to Sara's Organized Chaos

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Try It Sunday: Cheesy Chicken Broccoli

It's that time, friends! I'm linking up with Stacy Homemaker and her Food Stars Weekly Link party where we share what we're trying this week and hopefully you'll find a whole ton of new dinner ideas for yourself! Last week's party was so great and there were so many amazing recipes that I'm already adding to my next shopping menu.

This week we are making my Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli dinner and I make this in the crock pot. Anyone who stopped by my house a few days ago commented on how great my kitchen smelled. The nice thing about being home with it is I get used to it so I don't necessarily smell it.

That is until I take the baby for a walk and come back and it's torture because it smells so good.

There are quite a few variations of this recipe but this is the one that's the easiest to make, it's stuff you already have on hand and it's a dump and go recipe. I cannot emphasize enough how easy this is AND it's a one dish meal.
 You're going to need:


  • Chicken
  • 1 can of Cream of Chicken soup
  • 1 bag of shredded cheese (I used colby jack because that's what I had on hand)
  • 2-3 cups of instant rice (I used white because again, it's what I had.)
  • One large chopped onion
  • Some frozen broccoli (I used like two handfuls)
  • If you don't like broccoli, or don't have it on hand feel free to use whatever vegetable you want! Another good option is using a broccoli and cauliflower medley. 
  • Salt and pepper to taste

First up, put your chicken in your crock pot. Toss in your onion and spoon the cream of chicken soup on top of it. Let this cook in your crock pot on low for about 6-7 hours or so.
Once that's done, add your cheese, rice, and veggies. If you feel like it's not liquid enough to cook your rice then add a splash of chicken stock. I didn't have any issues with mine, but my chicken was also partially frozen so perhaps the moisture from that helped out.

Put the lid back on and let it cook another 20-30 minutes, just enough that your rice and veggies are cooked.

And THAT'S IT! Seriously! It's so delicious, your chicken is moist, and honestly, I thought cream of chicken soup and cheese would be a gross combination but it's really delicious. The best part? Both of my kids ate it, including Olivia who hates melted cheese. No, I have no idea what's wrong with her either.

Did you love this? Check back next week and I'll be sharing my Chicken Taco recipe that again, is so easy even a moron can do it. Seriously. You really cannot screw that one up! Follow me on Bloglovin' so you don't miss a post!
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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Crafty Saturday: end of summer, use up those scraps!

It's Saturday, so that means I'm spending a lot of time in my craft room/office/library. I try to finish up a few thank you or birthday cards each week because it seems I'm always in need of those, but that means I accumulate a lot of scraps. Every couple of weeks I try to go through my scrap bin and use those up because when paper is $.60 a sheet (or more.. yikes!!) I don't like to waste it.

I think these papers came in some kind of pack but I only have random pieces of them left. Plus this is one of my favorite stamps from Stampin! Up and I think I've gotten the most use out of this one out of all of the stamps I own. Same with these scallop punches- well worth the price I paid for them!
Another stamp company I absolutely love is the Unity Stamp company and this is their "what's shakin" set. Again, some random gold glitter looking paper and pretty polka dots and a super easy card.
I also have a small hoard of washi tape and Matt says I have to use it before I can buy anymore. So pretty much every card is being decorated with washi tape because A) I like pretty envelopes too and B) it's an easy use of it for sure.
I bit the bullet and bought myself circle punches because after over 10 years of making cards and scrapbooks, I'm finally sick of finding different sized circle things I can trace. You see I used more washi tape so Matt can stop with his "you have too much" argument. But I grossly underestimated what a pain it was going to be to color in the strawberries. PAIN. But cute. I'll give them that.

In the coming weeks I'm going to try to start making some Christmas things and maybe, just maybe, I'll get my rear end on Pinterest and find something that I'm actually going to make.

Friday, August 28, 2015

In the news: the best hack job,

Aw yeah, another week of In the News! This week is super fun.

Ashley Madison wants you to be a dirty skeez: So we all know that the Ashley Madison website, which exists solely for people to actively cheat on their spouse, was hacked. Sad face for them, amazing for the rest of us. Unless of course it was your spouse on there and if that's the case I feel absolutely horrified on your behalf. We also know that Josh Duggar was on there and honestly, is that a shock to anyone? I'll just say quickly that I feel so terrible for his wife. First off, the situation she's in is the worst. She was raised into a culture where divorce is unacceptable and if you get divorced you are basically cast off onto your own. Now, even if she decided "screw this, I'm out of here", they have kids. Josh would likely get joint custody or at minimum, visitation. But she would be sending her children to a man, unsupervised, who had no qualms about molesting his sisters, do we really think he'd restrain himself with his children? I doubt it. If I were here I'd hate to say it, but I'd probably stay and hate my life but you best believe I wouldn't touch him for nothing. Sad stuff. But there's also the vlogger who surprised his wife with her pregnancy test? I have thoughts on that and they aren't in his favor, but what is interesting is he's as Bible thumping as they get and yet... he's on Ashley Madison. It's hard to take anyone seriously who is so clearly a hypocrite. You have zero right to judge anyone else when you find it acceptable to cheat on your wife because though I'm no expert, pretty sure you shouldn't covet thy neighbor.

Pregnancy Lips? God dammit, Kim Kardashian. You are a terrible liar and absolutely nobody believes you that you do not go in and get fillers for your damn lips. I've been pregnant three times and the only things that get bigger are: my boobs, my ass, my thighs, and my stomach. My lips do not swell up as if I've been stung by 103 bees. The only lips that could possibly get larger are your vagina lips, and unless she's put those on her face... then I don't know what she's talking about. Also? Who would want to kiss that? I'm just saying I think a lot of drool is involved.

Dogs Sniff Porn. Honest to god, I saw this and thought for sure it was an article on The Onion. Nope, there are actual police dogs that sniff out porn. It helped bust that Subway pervert, Jared Fogle. No, I am not kidding.

China is an asshole. I think anyone with half a brain could have predicted that China couldn't be awesome forever. And since so many people are dependent on China's financial well being to stay afloat, news of the stock  market in what sounds like a free fall is making people panic. None of should be surprised but dammit if I'm not pissed that we'll never get to retire. Or I might, but we'll never have enough for me to really be the Golden Girl I want to be when I grow up.

Minnesota is more dangerous than Somalia? I am going to fully acknowledge that Minnesota does have gang activity. In some parts of Minnesota, specifically near the Minneapolis/St.Paul area, it gets pretty dicey and I certainly wouldn't be walking around alone and I wouldn't want to raise a child in that environment. What I would do is maybe move to another city, or another part of the city if I had to but I would not send my child to god damn SOMALIA. Nobody ever is like, "You know where I want to go? Somalia. It's so lovely and peaceful." Somalia is like, 24/7 violence. I'd venture to say Somalia is 1000 times worse than Minnesota. I mean, Minnesota Nice and all of that. But this is just killing me, parents who are sending their children to countries out east and wondering why bad things happen to them. It's like signing up for the Army, being sent to war and then saying, "Oh I didn't think I'd actually have to you know, shoot a gun". Um, what? Stop being stupid. Just stop it already.

So that's the news this week. Have a news story you want me to comment on? Comment here and you just might get featured! In the meantime, follow me on Bloglovin' so you don't miss a damn thing.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Language of Miracles

I just have to start out by saying this cover is as beautiful as the story. So great.

The Language of Miracles - Rajia Hassib
In the Language of Miracles
Samir and Nagla Al-Menshawy appear to have attained the American dream. After immigrating to the United States from Egypt, Samir successfully works his way through a residency and launches his own medical practice as Nagla tends to their firstborn, Hosaam, in the cramped quarters of a small apartment. Soon the growing family moves into a big house in the manicured New Jersey suburb of Summerset, where their three children eventually attend school with Natalie Bradstreet, the daughter of their neighbors and best friends. More than a decade later, the family’s seemingly stable life is suddenly upended when a devastating turn of events leaves Hosaam and Natalie dead and turns the Al-Menshawys into outcasts in their own town.

Narrated a year after Hosaam and Natalie’s deaths, Rajia Hassib’s heartfelt novel follows the Al-Menshawys during the five days leading up to the memorial service that the Bradstreets have organized to mark the one-year anniversary of their daughter’s death. While Nagla strives to understand her role in the tragedy and Samir desperately seeks reconciliation with the community, Khaled, their surviving son, finds himself living in the shadow of his troubled brother. Struggling under the guilt and pressure of being the good son, Khaled turns to the city in hopes of finding happiness away from the painful memories home conjures. Yet he is repeatedly pulled back home to his grandmother, Ehsan, who arrives from Egypt armed with incense, prayers, and an unyielding determination to stop the unraveling of her daughter’s family. In Ehsan, Khaled finds either a true hope of salvation or the embodiment of everything he must flee if he is ever to find himself.

Writing with unflinchingly honest prose, Rajia Hassib tells the story of one family pushed to the brink by tragedy and mental illness, trying to salvage the life they worked so hard to achieve. The graceful, elegiac voice of In the Language of Miracles paints tender portraits of a family’s struggle to move on in the wake of heartbreak, to stay true to its traditions, and above all else, to find acceptance and reconciliation.


Yes, very lengthy book description. I don't know what else to say about this book that isn't fully covered in that other than the story is exquisitely well written. It's a bit wordy in some spots and again, much like a book reviewed earlier this week the dictionary app on my phone was my friend for sure. But the story just flowed so well and it felt smooth when you read it, if that makes any sense to you at all. But as much as the book is beautiful, it's equally horrific in some aspects. 

What got me was similar to other books where you have a teenager or child who commits an unspeakable act, all of the other characters look to the parents for answers. What did they do wrong? How did they screw a child up so badly that their child does this? In this book, not only do the parents have that kind of attention to them but throw in the fact they are immigrants and basically outsiders. Everything feels exponentially worse when they don't really have anything solid to lean on. And it's not just that they are immigrants, they are post 9/11 immigrants and we all know immediately following 9/11 that if you are not American born and you even tip toe to the line of tragedy, people will turn on you and it's not fair. Then to compound it even more, not only did their son kill someone he kills himself so they are left reeling with the pain their son caused another family but also mourning the death of a son they loved. It's hard to reconcile that. The public paints your child as this terrible person forgetting that he was loved and wanted, but at the same time, you don't condone his actions at all. 

Truly, this might be up there in my top 10 books of the year. I just love how it was written, I love the story, I love how the author gives you every angle and you see every point of view so clearly. Truly, for a subject so heavy in sadness and disbelief, Rajia Hassib did a phenomenal job writing it all the way to the end. I cannot wait to see what she does next. 

You can pick this book up at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, of course. In the meantime, visit Rajia's website to learn more about her and the book! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Come Away With Me and GIVEAWAY!!!

You guys? NO WORDS. Honestly, it's up there for Book of the Year for me.

Come Away With Me - Karma Brown
Come Away with Me
One minute, Tegan Lawson has everything she could hope for: an adoring husband, Gabe, and a baby on the way. The next, a patch of black ice causes a devastating accident that will change her life in ways she never could have imagined.

Tegan is consumed by grief, not to mention her anger toward Gabe, who was driving on the night of the crash. But just when she thinks she's hit rock bottom, Gabe reminds her of their Jar of Spontaneity, a collection of their dream destinations and experiences, and so begins an adventure of a lifetime.

From the bustling markets of Thailand to the flavors of Italy to the ocean waves in Hawaii, Tegan and Gabe embark on a journey to escape the tragedy and search for forgiveness. But they soon learn that grief follows you no matter how far away you run, and that acceptance comes when you least expect it. 


Heartbreaking, hopeful and utterly transporting, Come Away with Me is an unforgettable debut and a luminous celebration of the strength of the human spirit.

DEBUT novel, folks. Debut. I would not have believed that at all if someone on the street told me that, but it's clearly a debut and holy cripes- it's amazing. I don't care who you are, if this book doesn't punch you in the gut repeatedly? You are a dead soul. You are dead and just nobody I want to know. I'm going to tell you I was doing JUST FINE until chapter 53 and then... then I had to stop drinking liquids because I started choking and started with the full on ugly cry to the absolute end of the book. 

WHAT KIND OF PLOT TWIST IS THAT, KARMA?!  I feel like a page before chapter 53 that says, "Stop reading here unless you can commit to finishing the book in one sitting. Stop reading if you are in a public place, wearing eye makeup, eating/drinking, or have small children who will be concerned when you start sobbing." 

OK. *calming breath*

The book is about Tegan. Tegan is happily married to what is easily the best guy in all of the world, Gabe and currently 6 months pregnant with their first son. The chapters flash back to "before the accident" and "after the accident" because that accident is the catalyst for the entire story. Tegan and Gabe are driving to his parents house, running late, and they hit black ice. It's a horrific accident that it's amazing there were any survivors. Tegan loses the baby and subsequently undergoes an emergency hysterectomy to save her life. Upon learning that, Tegan spirals into a world of pity, depression, and immense sorrow. Friends and family are deeply concerned that she's never going to come back to normal. When she's hit the absolute bottom, Gabe asks her to bring out their Jar of Spontaneity, which is full of things they wanted to do in their shared life together, to be done when things were feeling dull or stressful during married life. Reluctantly she does so and it starts their six week journey to Bangkok, Italy, and Hawaii. They meet amazing people along the way and Tegan struggles to mourn the life she thought she would have and figure out what life is going to be now. 

All along the way, Gabe talks to her and reassures her that she can do this. She's not sure and you just feel absolutely awful for her. And then chapter 53 happens and you feel like you've been punched in the face. So much so that I had to go back and RE-READ the entire first 52 chapters and I could not believe I was that stupid and missed all of the clues. 

Seasoned reader here missed ALL of the clue. 

Slow clap, Karma Brown, slow clap. 

I cannot tell you any more. I can't. It ruins it for you and I swear to you this book is something you need in your life. I think what else drew me to this book was I identified with Tegan. Her and I feel like kindred spirits and one section of the book early on sealed the deal there: 

I'm a beacon for the talkers. It's as if I have a flashing sign that reads, "I want to hear all your stories, especially about your pet or disgusting medical issue!" No matter where I am, whether on the "L" train or walking through a shopping mall or sitting at a picnic bench in the park, the talkers flock to me. "It's your eyes," Gabe says by way of explanation. "You have curious eyes."

Then, at the end of the book, Tegan's dad says something to her and it encompasses everything I believe about marriage: 

"I don't love your mother any more that I did all those years ago, but the way I love her has changed." 

And isn't that just the truth? I feel like having this printed on little note cards so that every time an idiot says, "I love him, I'm just not "in" love with him" I can throw the card at them. That phrase is the basis for so many divorces because people don't get that love changes. No matter what happens to any of us in life, the way we love changes. 

Anyways. 

I highly recommend this book. I can't recommend this to enough people. Go buy it right now on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. If you know me at all, you know one of my favorite authors of all time is Susanna Daniel because she is just amazing. Her books are in my heart forever and I have a feeling Karma Brown will be there right with her. This book... gut wrench but amazing. 



But you are in LUCK! One reader (US/Canada only) has a chance to win a copy for themselves! If ever there was a time to knock a person out, it would be right now fighting for this book. So in order to win a copy for your very own, what are 3 bucket list items of yours? Leave me a comment with that (and include your email!!) and I'll draw a name on Monday, August 31! 




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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Avelynn

I am on such a roll of amazing books and for that I am truly grateful. It's always terrible when I get into a rut and literally liking nothing in my stack. Yay for great reads!

Avelynn- Marissa Campbell
Avelynn
One extraordinary Saxon noblewoman and one fearless Viking warrior find passion and danger in this dazzling and sensuous debut

Marissa Campbell's debut novel is a winning combination of romance, history, and adventure sure to appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon.

It is 869. For eighteen years, Avelynn, the beautiful and secretly pagan daughter of the Eadlorman of Somerset has lived in an environment of love and acceptance. She hasn't yet found a man to make her heart race, but her father has not pressured her to get married. Until now. With whispers of war threatening their land, her father forces Avelynn into a betrothal with Demas, a man who only covets her wealth and status. The dreaded marriage looming, she turns to her faith, searching for answers in an ancient ritual along the coast, only to find Alrik the Blood-Axe and sixty Viking berserkers have landed.

Alrik is unlike any man she has ever known, strong and intriguing. Likewise, he instantly falls for her beauty and courage. The two stumble into a passionate love affair, but it's more than just a greedy suitor who will try to keep them apart.

As the Saxons and Vikings go to war, Avelynn and Alrik find themselves caught in the throes of fate. Can they be true to their people as well as to each other?
 


Yet another stunning debut I've read this summer! Marissa Campbell is making me love historical romance and I really never thought I would be into it, yet here I am, eagerly waiting for her next book. I finished Avelynn in one day, friends. ONE DAY. It's been in my to-read pile for a couple of weeks and I had a break in review action and I thought I'd just give this one a whirl when my kids were gone for the week and man alive, I devoured it.

In the story we have Avelynn, a Saxon by birth and she's part of a socially well placed family. She is on the edge of 18, which means she should have been well and married by now but she doesn't want to settle. She's a romantic at heart and she's holding out for a guy who gives her butterflies. Her very practical father thinks this is ridiculous (though hypocritical because Avelynn's mother gave him the butterflies and vice versa, but her mother has long since died so he doesn't see Avelynn's reasoning), and commands her to marry Demas. Which, from the word go, you realize Demas is a skeez and a total dirt bag but the height of his depravity doesn't really hit us full force until the second half of the book. But Avelynn is also a practicing witch destined to be a high priestess, which is strictly forbidden during this time. Basically, if anyone accuses her of being a witch her death will not be easy nor swift.

I want to share a passage in the book that just struck me as relevant to even now, if only in a different perspective:

Ten generations ago, when Goddess ruled the land, a woman was free to choose her mate, even casting him aside if the whim overtook her. But when the Christian church grappled England to her knees, a woman's rights began to vanish. I could own land, and my oath was respected, but decisions such as marriage were at the sole discretion of my father.

Sure, we might not be forced into marriages in most modern societies, but women's rights are challenged daily in different arenas. So from that perspective, maybe that's what got me hooked in the book, so much of the book could be compared to modern politics. If you aren't necessarily a fan of historical romance, if you go into it with that mindset, you might end up really enjoying this book.

Anyways, on a trip to Avalon to visit her mother's grave and do a ceremony to give her guidance on what to do about Demas, she's interrupted by Viking's, who are not fans of Saxons. Just as she's about to be attacked, the Viking goes down and there stands... Viking Alrik.

Commence butterflies.

This is the start of what really is a star-crossed lover situation. Avelynn has to go back because war is looming so they set up a series of rendezvous. In the meantime, Avelynn learns about her family (a start of a family history at least), the losses she experiences are tremendous and your heart just breaks for her, war breaks out, she makes terrible decisions, she puts her life in danger, ends up in the arms of not-so-nice Vikings, all hell breaks loose, someone's penis gets hurt (yes, that happened and I cringed on his behalf), and romance. Swoon.

I have zero complaints about this book. When I first finished it, I demanded a sequel like RIGHT NOW (is there a sequel?! I have no idea but I kind of  hope so!), but even if there will not be a sequel, it gives you a fantastic ending. It got dicey, I wasn't sure if I would need to be resuscitated at the end but all is well, I'm alive and breathing. And so ridiculously in love with this book And this author. I'm all in, whatever Marissa Campbell throws at me, I'm all in.

OK, so the book is available on September 8, 2015 so in the meantime, pre-order this! You can find it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I'm told fans of Diana Gabaldon would absolutely love this and I can't say because I've not read anything by Diana Gabaldon (I know, don't judge! It's on my to-read list, CALM DOWN.). But I do know this is a solid historical romance book and you will love Avelynn. I have to give this book 5 out of 5 stars. You know how stingy I am with my stars but I'm not kidding, I am in love with this book.

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