Book Review: Marie Antoinette Serial Killer

Posted by Katrina Roets at 8:30 AM

Friday, April 28, 2017

Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger . . .

Acclaimed author Katie Alender brings heart-stopping suspense to this story of revenge, betrayal, intrigue — and one killer queen.

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Another of the books that I snagged from the free shelf at the airport and another one that was perfect for me to read when I spotted it...

The Good:
This book is such an amazingly easy read and though the author has a reputation of being a horror writer, this book isn't horror. I'm the biggest chicken in the world and nothing in this book even gave me a shiver. What it did give me was the joy in watching a teenager grow up and come a bit more into herself as the book progressed. It gave me a ghost story that was set in the present, but had its start in the past. I'm a history junkie and while this part was totally made up, I really enjoyed the historical aspects of the book.

The Bad:
If I had one complaint, and it's a small one, it's that not all of the french in the book is translated. Still, this was so minor and it didn't take away from the reading itself so I'm nitpicking.

The Summary:
This is another light reading book. It isn't a heavy mystery or a scary horror novel. It's a fun book geared towards the teenage set. Some have complained that the main character is a snobby bitch and that it gives girls the wrong impressions about fat girls, nice girls, and the lot, but the reality is that I have seen groups of girls made up of exactly the group depicted within this book. Is it always the case? Nope. Still it exists and Collette has to learn that fashion sense, the latest boy, and all of that doesn't define a person.

If you like light reading in this genre, I suggest you give this book a shot.

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Book Review: The Clockwork Scarab

Posted by Katrina Roets at 9:30 AM

Friday, April 21, 2017

Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes never meant to get into the family business. But when you’re the sister of Bram and the niece of Sherlock, vampire hunting and mystery solving are in your blood. And when two society girls go missing, there’s no one more qualified to investigate.

Now fierce Evaline and logical Mina must resolve their rivalry, navigate the advances of not just one but three mysterious gentlemen, and solve murder with only one clue: a strange Egyptian scarab. The stakes are high. If Stoker and Holmes don’t unravel why the belles of London society are in such danger, they’ll become the next victims.


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Lately I've had some periods where I've needed to sit around and wait on the boys to finish whatever they're up to. It's given me some bonus reading time that I completely grabbed up. It gave me the chance to finish a couple of books that have been calling out for me to read them...

The first is The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason. I picked this up from a free shelf at the airport a couple of months ago and the title alone had me from hello. Then, I read the description and discovered that the two main characters were a Stoker and a Holmes and that was it. It left the shelf and went with me.

The Good: 
This book was fun to read. The characters were easy to relate to and while I've seen it said that Mine especially seemed judgmental for someone who was supposed to be brilliant, I have to say that it seems very much within a teenage girl's personality. Just because you're brilliant doesn't mean that you don't sometimes make assumptions. Aside from all of that, the story is very much plot driven and it's a plot that had me picking the book up whenever I had a few minutes to squeeze in some reading.

The Bad:
This book is a steampunk novel and while I don't mind that per se, I did mind that the author reminded us of it every other page or so. It wasn't necessary to the story building. The book also felt slightly unfinished. We don't know who was behind what was happening. We don't really know why the time traveling character was brought there or if he ever made it home. I know that this is book 1 of a 4 part Holmes/Stoker series so I'm hoping that the author revisits these in future books and resolves them.

The Summary:
Overall, this is a really fun book. It's certainly geared towards the teenage set, but as a not quite a teenager anymore, I enjoyed reading it and I'm going to try to track down book 2 to see what happens with this pair next.


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Book Review: Princess Nenji

Posted by Katrina Roets at 11:41 AM

Friday, April 14, 2017

Nenji lives a quiet life, but with a longing for adventure. Barely considered royalty, her life is uprooted when the Dragon King sets out to eliminate the threat of the Lorac Family revealed by prophecy. Nenji has to learn quickly about magic, politics, and herself as she takes on the roles of young lady, witch, and queen. Princess Nenji is a gripping novel. This fantasy story revolves around a young 14 year old girl, mages, royalty, dragons and creatures you never even imagined. This book gives new insights about justice and mercy, coming of age, and the power of a family's love. It is a quick read, both exciting and refreshing. You will be continually surprised at how the plot unfolds. The author has been called a creative genius, and this book is unlike any other book you have read.

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Last week, I introduced you to Dani and the Dragon. Princess Nenji is set in that same realm. Heck, she's part of the same family as Dani. This book takes place after the events in Dani and the Dragon, although I believe it was written prior.

While I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as I did Mr. Carroll's other book, I very much enjoyed it. In fact, I read it in one sitting. That says a lot for a book. I loved the glimpses of characters that I had grown to love in the other book and the first thing I did upon completing it was to go to the author's Goodreads page to see if there were other books in this series. Unfortunately, there are not. I really wanted to find out what happened with all of the amazing characters that the author has put together.

If you're a lover of magic, dragons, fantasy, and princesses that can more than hold their own, I strongly suggest that you pick up Mr. Carroll's two books. It's been a long time since I've enjoyed an author so much.

Edit: The author has changed his pen name to Simon Driscoll. For information on how to find his books, check out his web page.

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I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Book Review: Dani and the Dragon

Posted by Katrina Roets at 9:54 AM

Friday, April 7, 2017

Coming of age isn't easy for a homeless orphan girl. But when Mages, Kings, and Dragons all want to control her destiny, she must uncover her past to find her future.

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I'm not going to lie to you. This book has been sitting on my shelf for far too long. That's what happens when you fall apart and have to put yourself back together. Things get set aside for far too long...but in some ways, it makes them that much more awesome when you pick them up again.

In this case, I had no idea what to expect from this book. I picked it at random from a stack when I knew I was going to be spending a lot of time sitting around while the youngest child performed with his steel drum band. Turns out that it was a really good random book choice!

All of the characters in this book are really well written. Dani is a character that you can't help but get attached to. With every step of her journey, you're right there with her. Though the book is fantasy, you believe that all of these things have happened or are happening to her. The writing is just that good. The story progresses at a steady pace and you're caught up in the world of royals and dragons and one girl who is just trying to figure out what's right for her.

Would I recommend this book? Yep. Totally. Go and get it. It's a great read and another one that I couldn't put down.


Edit: The author has changed his pen name to Simon Driscoll. For information on how to find his books, check out his web page.

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I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own. 
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Book Review: The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories about Facing the Unknown

Posted by Katrina Roets at 11:04 AM

Friday, March 31, 2017

From storytelling phenomenon The Moth, 45 unforgettable true stories about risk, courage, and facing the unknown, drawn from the best ever told on their stages.

Carefully selected by the creative minds at The Moth, and adapted to the page to preserve the raw energy of live storytelling, All These Wonders features voices both familiar and new. Alongside Louis C.K., Tig Notaro, John Turturro, and Meg Wolitzer, readers will encounter: an astronomer gazing at the surface of Pluto for the first time, an Afghan refugee learning how much her father sacrificed to save their family, a hip-hop star coming to terms with being a one-hit wonder, a young female spy risking everything as part of Churchill's secret army during World War II, and more.

High-school student and neuroscientist alike, the storytellers share their ventures into uncharted territory and how their lives were changed indelibly by what they discovered there. With passion, and humor, they encourage us all to be more open, vulnerable, and alive.

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Sometimes you pick a book and you're not sure why. That was the case for me and this book. I had no idea what was drawing me to it, but once I started reading, I knew that I'd made the right choice. While this book can be read in small snippets, I couldn't stop reading and actually read this in one sitting. Every story had something in it that made me nod or smile or even cry a time or two. I truly believe that there's something in it for every single person out there.

My one and only complaint was that the stories in the book are almost all from well known people. One of the things that draws people to The Moth are the average people who get up and talk. They were left out of this tome and I really wish that they had been more included. I'm just an average person and I really was looking for an average person to connect to in this book.

That being said, I know that this book is going to go onto my shelf and be one that I come back to time and time again. I sincerely hope that they do more in a series of books because storytelling is such a powerful tool and we all have something to share.

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I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.
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Kids...They Grow Up Fast

Posted by Katrina Roets at 1:33 PM

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

This past Saturday was a long one. Roger and I were up at 5am so that we could join his high school steel drum band at a festival for the day. The festival was pretty awesome and I'll share a link to the mass band performance at the end of this post, but that isn't what I want to talk about...I'm going to sit here and I'm just going to write about being a mom.

For the longest time, mom has been my primary title. It's been my world and my life. Those two boys have been my world and my life. It's only been in the past little while that I've started thinking about what I'm going to do when they're gone and living their own lives. I still don't really know but I am thinking about it.

On Saturday, I had expectations. I expected that this was an event that Roger and I were doing together. Except, the event really wasn't what either of us had figured it was. So, instead of spending the day with me, he spent it with his band and with his friends. He did pretty much everything with them. He sat with them. He had lunch with them. Since this wasn't my usual group of band kids, I wasn't invited to join them. I ate lunch alone. I sat in the bleachers alone. I watched them laughing and inside, a part of me hurt. I was happy he was having a great time, but it still hurt that I was on the outside looking in.

Still, there were those moments where he was completely my boy...he ran over to me to make sure it was okay that he spent $5 of the money we'd set aside for his band trip. During the concert, he was sitting on the opposite side of the gym from me and I realized that we were sitting in the exact same position. He'd make faces at me from across the room and I couldn't help but smile.

What's the point of all this you ask? Just that Sunday, after his dad had picked him up, I was sitting there thinking about the weekend and I realized something. The very fact that he was confident and comfortable enough to not need me on Saturday meant that I had done my job. He may not know how to sew a button back on but he's learned the skills that will help him become the man that he wants to be and the fact that he'll still make goofy faces at me from across the room means that no matter how old he gets, he won't forget he's my kid. With that realization, I was filled with peace and that, my friends, is a very good thing indeed.

If you'd like to check out the mass band performance, check out this video!


If you'd like to hear the HHS Steel performance, head on over to my YouTube channel where it's almost all kids, all the time.

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Book Review: The Clancys of Queens

Posted by Katrina Roets at 8:30 AM

Friday, March 24, 2017

Fifth-generation New Yorker, third-generation bartender, and first-time author Tara Clancy was raised in three wildly divergent homes: a converted boat shed in working class Queens, a geriatric commune of feisty, Brooklyn-born Italians, and a sprawling Hamptons estate she visited every other weekend. This childhood triptych comes to life in The Clancys of Queens, an electric, one-of-a-kind memoir.  

From scheming and gambling with her force-of-nature grandmother, to brawling with eleven-year-old girls on the concrete recess battle yard of MS 172, to hours lounging on Adirondack chairs beside an immaculate croquet lawn, to holding court beside Joey O’Dirt, Goiter Eddy, and Roger the Dodger at her Dad’s local bar, Tara leapfrogs across these varied spheres, delivering stories from each world with originality, grit, and outrageous humor.

But The Clancys of Queens is not merely an authentic coming-of-age tale or a rowdy barstool biography. Chock-full of characters who escape the popular imaginings of this city, it offers a bold portrait of real people, people whose stories are largely absent from our shelves. Most crucially, it captures—in inimitable prose—the rarely-heard voices of New York’s working-class women.

With a light touch but a hard hit, The Clancys of Queens blends savvy and wit to take us on an unforgettable strata-hopping adventure.
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 I finished this book over a week ago and I've been trying to decide how to write this review.  I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this book up. I love memoirs but traditionally, I choose ones by people that I actually know. In this case, I have and had no idea who Tara Clancy was, though I did get to know her throughout her book. In fact, I got to know quite a few interesting characters. When the book opened up, I smiled at her memories of her grandparents and what life was like when she was with them. As the book progressed though, I found myself smiling less as the language picked up and some of the stories seemed too out there to be true. Are they true? I don't know. I mean, I have stories that people look at me and say there's no way that happened, but they did. Then, the book abruptly ended and it didn't feel as if there were any closure to it. If I had to rate this book (and I kinda do), I'd give it at 3 out of 5. It's not a bad read, but I feel as if I may not have been the right audience for it.

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I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.
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Questioning Me Part 2

Posted by Katrina Roets at 10:00 AM

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Last post I left off with the conversation that I had with myself on the drive home after a busy day. Today, I want to tell you about what happened after that....

I came to the conclusion that I think I knew all along. Once I cut away all the insecurity and all the garbage surrounding the truth, there it was waiting for me. It wasn't anyone's doubt in my abilities but my own. He didn't use me (or anyone else) because he didn't feel he needed to. He had the confidence in his work that I never seem to have in my own.

The review on Amazon for the book that I worked on with Nick was harsh but it was true. I didn't give the book the attention it needed on what should have been its second to last pass through. As I worked on the book, Nick repeatedly told me that it needed more of me in it and after taking the time to process the review, I think I finally understand what he meant. I tweaked his story but I didn't add to it. I didn't change it. It's still Nick's book with me making the most minor of changes, things that most people wouldn't even notice when reading it.

By the time I pulled into my driveway, I was completely calm and at peace with the situation. I had hope that no longer feeling the panicked anxiety that I had failed Nick on book 1 would allow me to get back to work on book 2. Wednesday is supposed to be my writing day, you see. It's the day that I have 3 hours set aside to do nothing but write. Except, that isn't what happened...

I looked at my bag where my writing notes live. I looked at the folder icon on my laptop. I did both these things but I couldn't go further than that. I was suddenly overwhelmed by exhaustion. I decided that perhaps the time had come to lay down and explore these feelings and to try to get to the bottom of the situation. Except, the oddest thing happened...I laid down on the couch, stared up at the ceiling and started working my way through things. What was the cause of the anxiety? That part was easy...

1. I "failed" at book 1. While people seem to like it, I didn't do my job to the best of my abilities and I let Nick and myself down in that.

2. Book 2 is supposed to be far more me. Nick has made that clear when we've talked about it. This book isn't supposed to just be me tweaking. It's supposed to be me adding things to it, changing it, and when I finish this book, I'm supposed to write a third book all by myself. I'm terrified of book 3. I don't know that I can do it.

3. See author in quotes triggered my ptsd. It brought back every moment when I was told that I couldn't do something and/or wouldn't ever be anything.

Except, as I laid there, I wasn't feeling any of the anxiety. I was laying there, completely clear minded as I went over everything in my mind. Finally, I asked myself one question, telling myself that whatever my first answer would be would be what I trusted. I asked myself, "What are you supposed to do?" and without second thought, I answered "Write book 2." I had total peace and no insecurities, no indecision, just peace that this is what I was meant to do.

What does this mean? Well, it could be a few things...

1. The anxiety over working on the second book may not be true anxiety but something I've taught myself. The only way to get over it will be to force my way past it and to just pull out the notebook, to open the file and and do something. It won't be easy but it will be something I do.

2. I've acquired a form of ...numbness when it comes to this. This happens to me in high anxiety/stress situations. I don't realize just how badly things are affecting me until I have some sort of physical manifestation of the stress. This first started happening to me when I was 19. It's called conversion disorder and it's not much fun. For me, it's happened different ways...I develop a cold spot in my chest, my hands go cold, one time I had a pain that raced down my left arm and for 3 days, my hand on that side was pins and needles as if I'd slept on it.

3. I have finally, on some level, accepted that this is what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to write. I have stories to tell and I'm supposed to tell them.

If I really have to say, I'd say it's a combination of all three. Knowing that gives me power though. It means that the next time I have the chance to pull out my files and notebook, I will take a deep breath and I will pull things out. It may take me a couple of attempts to actually start working again on the book, but  I will start working on it again. I have an April 30th deadline. It won't be done by then and that's okay.

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Questioning Me

Posted by Katrina Roets at 12:39 PM

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Once upon a time, I probably lived without anxiety, without fear, without constant worries, but I don't remember that time. These things have been a part of my world for so long that they've become a part of me. I've lived with certain levels of anxiety for so long that to not have it starts a new wave of fear and anxiety.

Those are the thoughts that led to me writing this post today. No, those are some of the thoughts. There are times that my mind moves so quickly that i can't keep up with it. Last night wasn't one of those nights and that's truly what led to me sitting here now writing as if I'm sharing secrets with my closest friends....

Yesterday was a busy day. I had my first eye exam in about ten years. I wasn't nervous until they called me back and put me in a chair. Suddenly I was having to take deep breaths and to remind myself that it was only an eye exam...to fail it meant nothing more than getting a pair of glasses. I felt ridiculous for being anxious over something so small.

From there, I picked up my oldest and took him to his annual check up with his orthopedist. The appointment seemed to go too quickly and she has essentially released him from her care unless something happens. That led to another round of anxiety, especially when his stepmom questioned the entire thing. I had to remind myself that her office is only a phone call away and if I feel as if I need to go talk to her, I can go and talk to her.

After that it was picking up the youngest and waiting for him to get changed into his tux, taking him back to the school, helping a little bit with the concert set up and enjoying the annual Band-o-Rama concert. It was during this that I saw an instagram post that showed that I wasn't doing editing work on a comic that I had been 150% sure that I was. I was waiting on the file to arrive. It turns out that I misunderstood and there had never been an intent for me to work on the book.

My reaction scared me. There was the usual bit of hurt and such, but then something shifted. I took a look around the gym, at the kids rushing about to make sure everything was perfect and I just stopped caring about a comic.  For the next two hours, I didn't care. Instead of being wrapped up in my fears, insecurities, and anxiety, I was wrapped up in the music and what was happening in front of me.

It was after the concert, after I had dropped the kiddo off at his dad's and during the 30
 minute drive home that it all came back. I cycled between insecurity, being completely calm, and perhaps somewhere between the two. I had entire conversations with myself:

"He didn't use anyone. He probably doesn't feel as if he needs a proofreader/editor for comics, just for prose type things."

"Yes, but he said he was sending it to me."

"Yes, that's probably how you took his yes when you asked about seeing it that week, but that's probably not what he meant."

"What if he doesn't think I'm capable of doing it? After all, that one book review said I sucked as an editor and that a professional needs to look at it and fix it. What if he agrees with her?"

"And what if you acknowledge that you aren't perfect and that you rushed the second review of the book and didn't do a third like you usually do because you were more worried about disappointing him by missing the deadline than you were with your usual level of perfectionism?"

Yep, sometimes I'm pretty darn harsh with myself. Still, that last self was right. I didn't give it the third review that I do with all of my projects. I missed things. It's the accepting that it's okay that's the hardest. Anything less than perfection in this kind of thing isn't okay and I will be going over it again and sending it back in so that hopefully it can be updated.

Why am I telling you all of this? I don't honestly know. I think, more than anything, I felt the need to write, to share some of  this with someone.

There's more to this, but this post is long and perhaps it's better left to another post...


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Book Review: Lightning Wolves

Posted by Katrina Roets at 12:43 PM

Friday, March 17, 2017

It's 1877 and Russians forces occupy the Pacific Northwest. They are advancing into California. New weapons have proven ineffective or dangerously unstable. The one man who can help has disappeared into Apache Country, hunting ghosts. A healer and a former sheriff lead a band into the heart of the invasion to determine what makes the Russian forces so unstoppable while a young inventor attempts to unleash the power of the lightning wolves.

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Do you want to know how you know that you're really enjoying a book? It's when the power goes out and you curl up on the couch with a flashlight so that you can keep reading. Seriously. This happened to me last night. Thankfully the power was only out for about 30 minutes, but during that 30 minutes, I was reading by flashlight. Why? Because I loved the alternative take on history. I loved the ideas of new aircraft and ways of doing things that fascinated me. The characters were well done and while I was reading the book, I celebrated and mourned right alongside them.  If I had one complaint, it's that I didn't realize this was the second book in a series. It does explain though why at some points, I felt as if I ought to be familiar with a character that I wasn't. Ninety-Five percent of the time though, this book did great as a stand alone.

Would I recommend that you track down a copy? Absolutely. As for me, I'm going to see if I can't get my hands on book 1 and book 3 of this series.

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I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own. PS I want a lobo. No idea what that is? Guess you'll have to read the book...hehe...

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Crockpot Monday: Chicken and Dumplings

Posted by Katrina Roets at 9:28 AM

Monday, March 13, 2017

Nothing says comfort food more than chicken and dumplings. All the yummy veggies in a yummy sauce with yummy bready dumplings...I may be drooling on myself now...

Ingredients:
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
16 ounces frozen vegetables
2 cans cream-of-something soup, or combine in a saucepan:
4 Tablespoons butter
6 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 can refrigerated biscuits, or one batch drop biscuits

Directions:

Put the chicken and vegetables into the bottom of the crockpot. Add the cream-of soups, or your homemade substitute.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-5. An hour before serving, shred chicken with two large forks, and drop in the biscuit dough.

Cover and cook on high for another hour. The biscuits are done when you can insert a knife and it comes out clean.

Serve in bowls, with a biscuit or two per person.


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Five Years...

Posted by Katrina Roets at 1:02 PM

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Five years ago today I got the call that would lead to the end of something that had started 10 months previously. Looking back, I think I can say that it was the day that I finally lost myself after the previous 5 years of fighting to find myself again. I suppose that I ought to give some background so that this makes sense to someone other than me...

In 2005, Peter and I agreed that it was time for a divorce. In June 2006, the divorce was finalized. Memorial Day weekend 2017, I left the house that we had bought together and everything I knew to move to New York. To say that I was lost is perhaps the understatement of the century. I left behind everything I knew and in some ways, my very identity. For the 10 years or so before that, I had been known as Peter's wife. Since 2000, I had been someone's mom. There was no me outside of those two roles. I didn't have any local friends. The only people I socialized with were online.

For the next five or six years, I fought to figure out who I was without being someone's wife or mother. (Of course, I was still the boy's mom but I had made the heartbreaking decision to leave the boys with their dad because he had the job, the money, the insurance, and the location where all of Ben's team were located.) I missed almost an entire semester of school due to a depression so bad that it crippled me and gave me panic attacks whenever I tried to get into the car to go anywhere. I ended up in therapy that was mostly useless because the therapist decided that my entire issue was that I was lonely. I wasn't lonely, I was lost.

I did finish that semester of school by some tiny miracle, dropping most of my classes, and having some incredibly understanding instructors. I finished the following year as well and while it improved, I never really shook that depression. Later, I would be diagnosed as Bipolar II. I graduated with honors with a degree in Psychology and was once again faced with the idea of having nowhere to go. The people I had been renting from wanted me out and I wanted out. The atmosphere was unhealthy on almost every level. In the end, I decided to "come home". I needed to be back with my boys. I found a house to rent in Sunfield, about 25 miles from them. It wasn't perfect but it was at least within driving distance. I threw myself back into being their mother. I drove (and still do) every day to town to do homework with one or both of them. I went (and still go) to all of their events. This was a me that I knew.

Slowly, piece by piece, I recovered from losing the world that I knew and I started to build up a new one. I was finding me again. I started writing again. I started crafting again. I slowly purged the things that I had accumulated and that I really had no need for. I felt as if I had close friends, even if they again lived nowhere near me. I started working out and eating better. In fact, I think I lost close to 75 pounds and for the first time in a long time, didn't hate myself when I looked in the mirror.

My Grandparents
Then, my world started to crumble again. The only person who I had ever felt loved me unconditionally got sick and suddenly everyone was leaning on me for strength and acted as if I could somehow magically fix it. I should have been stronger. I should have said no, but I didn't. They knew what cards to play. They reminded me how she'd taken me in when my own parents didn't want me. Before I knew it, I was spending almost every weekend at her house cleaning, organizing, purging, sorting and with my poor boys in tow. It wasn't fair to me and it wasn't fair to them, but the guilt laid on me was too much for me to say no to.

I stopped working out. I stopped cooking because I was tired and stressed and I was starting to crack around the edges. I was trying to keep everything normal but nothing was normal and the guilt of the fact that I was dragging my children into it added to everything. Five years ago today, my grandmother died after being sick for 10 months. I'm not going to lie. I was glad. I was glad that she was no longer suffering and I was glad that it was over. Except, for me, it wasn't over.

For the next six weeks, my family would guilt me into going through ever box that had been packed and sorting it into things they could sell and things they could toss. I was exposed to their greed, their hypocrisy, and their selfishness. They were allowed to mourn but I was expected to work. During that six weeks, I was pushed to my breaking point and at the end, when I finally had the strength or perhaps the desperation to say no more, it was too late. I had lost myself again. I had lost myself and I had lost the few close "local" friends that I had thought I'd had. I went home and buried myself..literally.

Boxes and boxes of her things had made their way to my house either because I'd brought them there or because they'd been dumped there. On top of that, I had started to surround myself with stuff in a desperate effort to feel some sort of security. In the years that followed, it would only get worse. There are very few who know the true conditions that I was living in and in some ways, still live in. I wish I could explain how this was "okay" to me but I can't because it wasn't. The worse the house got, the worse I felt. The guilt, the anxiety, all of it overwhelmed me until I was crippled and frozen by it.

Five years ago, I lost myself again and I'm just starting to find myself. Some of you have seen the tag Reclaiming Me either here or on Facebook. That's a very real thing for me.  Just over a year ago, I started purging my house again. I've backslid at times and made huge strides at others. Eight months ago, Nick convinced me to work with him on a book series. When he brought it up in exchange for doing something for me, we both knew that it wasn't a fair deal but neither of us cared. I think he knew I needed to push myself, that I needed a challenge and as for me, I felt ready to take that challenge. Oh, I've had major bouts of anxiety and self doubt since that agreement, but I finished book one and it's had good feedback.

Five years is a long time and I'm not back to the place I was before it happened. I wish that I could say that I was, but I'm not. Every day is a challenge on some level. Today, I woke up and my power was still out because of a wind storm yesterday. I was cold, tired from waking up repeatedly because i was cold, emotional because of today's anniversary and while what I really wanted was to have a message saying I love you, I had one that felt harsh...harsher than it really was but a tired me is a vulnerable me. I'm not going to lie. I laid on the couch for an hour and just cried. The world felt like it was just too much for me. Just thinking about it has me in tears again. This morning I relived the loss of everything that mattered to me and it's still in my head... but I got up, changed into jeans, and drove to someplace warm that had outlets so I could recharge things in case there's still no power when I get home tonight.

Five years is a long time, but it isn't forever and today I'm a little bit stronger than I was then. Today, I got up off the couch. Today, I walked out my front door. Today, I wrote this. Tomorrow, I will write more. Two years from now, I will make a final decision on where I'm moving to and hopefully, I will have the courage to do it. I know where I want to be at that point. It's not just up to me though, but today, under the fear and the emotions, there is hope.

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Crockpot Monday: Cheeseburger Soup

Posted by Katrina Roets at 9:21 AM

Monday, March 6, 2017

Cheeseburgers are always a favorite around here. I have secret dreams of traveling the country trying out different types of burgers in different places. It's just one of my food travel dreams. Do you have any crazy dreams like that? I have another one for specialty hot dogs...and crazy desserts...You know, I might just love to eat good food!

Ingredients:
4 cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon dried onion (or 1/2 of a white onion, diced finely)
1 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 potatoes, cut in 1-inch cubes
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 cup milk (to add later)
24 oz Velveeta, cubed (to add later)
Tabasco sauce (optional)
Crumbled bacon (optional)

Directions: 

Brown the meat on the stove top with the onion, and drain off any fat. Set aside to cool a bit.

In a 5-6 quart crockpot, pour in chicken broth. Add garlic, bell pepper, and potatoes. Stir in the browned meat and onion.

Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, or until onions are translucent and potatoes are tender. Stir in milk and Velveeta 20-30 minutes before serving. If you'd like the broth thicker, blend a bit with a hand held stick blender.

Garnish with Tabasco sauce and crumbled bacon, if desired.

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Crockpot Monday: Broccoli and Three Cheese Soup

Posted by Katrina Roets at 9:16 AM

Monday, February 27, 2017

When your kids were young did you put cheese on their veggies to get them to eat them? Do you do it to your veggies? If so, you may just love this recipe. It's all those yummy cheeses with some veggie thrown in!

Ingredients:
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups milk
2 10 oz bags of frozen broccoli florets
1/2 diced white onion
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup each of three different shredded cheeses

Directions: 

Mince the onion into really small pieces. Add the onion to your crockpot and top with the milk, broth, and spices. Stir in the two frozen bags of broccoli.

Cook on low for 7-9 hours, or on high for 4-6. The broth is done when the onion is cooked nicely.

20 minutes or so before serving, shred all the cheese you are going to use (if you didn’t buy it already shredded) and stir it in.  The cheese will be stringy and will stick to the broccoli. If this bothers you, you can use an immersion blender to blend up some of the larger pieces of broccoli.

Serve with your favorite rolls or drop biscuits.

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Crockpot Monday: Baked Potato Soup

Posted by Katrina Roets at 8:07 AM

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ut-oh...another thing that I already professed my love for has turned into another recipe! I'd apologize if these weren't so yummy! Plus, it's the perfect time of year for soups and stews and my favorites are always the really hearty ones!

Ingredients:
5 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced in 1 to 2-inch chunks
1 teeny onion, diced (a bit less than 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
2 quarts chicken broth
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, to add at the end
Crumbled bacon and green onion or chives as garnish (optional)

Directions:

Use a 6 quart or larger crockpot. Peel and dice the potatoes, and put them in. Add onion and garlic. Sprinkle in the seasonings and pour in the broth. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4. The potatoes should be fork-tender. You can use a potato masher to mash the potatoes in the soup, or a hand-held immersion blender.

After smashing the potatoes, crumble in both packages of cream cheese, and put the lid back on. Cook on high for about 30 minutes, or until the cream cheese is completely dissolved. Stir a few times during the 30 minutes.

Garnish with crumbled bacon, green onion or chives or even some shredded cheddar cheese. Yum!

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Book Review: Before Him Comes Me

Posted by Katrina Roets at 8:53 AM

Friday, February 17, 2017

Faced with an unexpected choice, a simple nod is all it will take to change the course of Zara's life.

Bound to a life predetermined by the restrictive traditions of her community, Zara is offered a glimmer of hope by a complete stranger, a man selected for her. She can choose to walk away from the life she has been trained for.

Make new friends and lose her best friend.
Explore new places and lose her home.
Find herself and lose herself.

Will Zara nod and risk everything she knows to discover who she is meant to be?

**Disclaimer**


Although this book is BDSM theme it is not an erotic/a genre. No Sex scenes invovled, BHCM is categorized as a NA Contemporary Romance Genre.

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Okie dokie...here's a new book for all of you! Let me start by saying that I included the disclaimer simply because the author chose to include it on her book synopsis. (Yes, including the misspelled word.) Do I agree with it? Sure. It doesn't include any sex scenes and I'm assuming that NA stands for New Adult so any adult themes are covered under that.  Now...let's get into the review!

The Good: The story line moved at a smooth pace and was interesting. As someone with some experience with BDSM, I found the idea of the cult that the author writes about intriguing. It wasn't entirely a new idea, but still an interesting one. I also appreciated that the author used "hometown" locations that she's familiar with. Living not too far away from that area, I may check out one or two that she mentioned. That brings me to the characters. I appreciated the fact that they were well thought out and developed. It's easy to overlook secondary characters and Ms. Sure did a good job of making sure that didn't happen.

The Bad: The book is written entirely in present tense which can make it incredibly difficult to read. There's a reason that few authors go this route and more than once I had to take a break while reading because of this. On top of that and perhaps because of it, some of the scenes read more like a play by play than narrative. First this person does this, then that person does that. I'm not going to lie...though the book held me until the end, more than once I thought that the author set about to write the "anti-50 Shades of Grey" book and that she herself didn't have much experience within the BDSM lifestyle. If that was her goal, she was entirely successful. This book does show what is in essence the anti-Christian and it does it well. Since I know y'all are waiting for it...yes, the author did use an editor and yes, she needs to find one who pays a bit closer attention to details. Maybe I'm just too picky but I've read too many books with amazing attention to detail and grammar to believe that not paying attention is the norm.

The Summary: For a first book, the author does a very good job at telling what is a very interesting story. If you'd like to read how a teenage girl "bucks the system" and changes her life, there's a very good chance that you could really like this story. Would I recommend this book? I would, but with the caveat that it's written in present tense and that you need to pay attention when you're reading it. For now, it's going onto my shelf and I'm going to keep my eyes open to see if the author goes back and tells the stories of the 3 other ladies who "bucked the system".  They were merely touched upon in this novel and I think they deserve their own telling.


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Crockpot Monday: Baked Bean Soup

Posted by Katrina Roets at 8:59 AM

Monday, February 13, 2017

If I'm not careful, y'all are going to think I have some sort of obsession with baked beans! I can hear it now... "She loves them so much that she turned them into a soup!" I can't even deny it because I'm about to type in a recipe for baked bean soup. Just promise me that you won't have me committed, okay?

Ingredients:
1 (15-ounce) can white kidney beans, or pinto beans
1 cup finely diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
3 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 (14.5-ounce) can fire roasted tomatoes (and juice!)
2 cups water
salt to taste before serving

Directions: 

Use a 5-6 quart slow cooker. Put beans into pot, and top with onion and carrot. Add all seasonings and spices. Pour in the entire can of tomatoes, and add water. Stir.

Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or on high for 4-5. Before serving, pulse a bit with a hand-held stick blender to blend some of the beans. This will thicken your broth and provide a richer flavor. If you don't have a stick blender, scoop out about 1 cup of liquid and pulse in a traditional blender, and stir back into the crock.


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Crockpot Monday: Cheesy Creamed Corn

Posted by Katrina Roets at 8:50 AM

Monday, February 6, 2017

Sometimes you just want something that is in no way good for you and is in every single way is delicious! This recipe fits that bill perfectly! It's soooo good! Again, try to make sure you save some to go alongside whatever you make with it!

Ingredients:
2 (16-ounce) packages frozen corn
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
2 Tablespoons white sugar
2 Tablespoons water
4 slices American cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Use a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker. Empty the corn packages into your slow cooker. Unwrap the cream cheese and put the blocks on top. Add sugar and water, and fold the American cheese slices a few times, then crumble it in on top.

Cover and cook on low until everything is all melty, about six hours. Stir well before serving.


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Book Review: Stellar Detective Tales - The Hunt for the Living Shadow

Posted by Katrina Roets at 8:30 AM

Friday, February 3, 2017

In the year 2073, Earth, suffering from overcrowding, energy shortages, and planetary disaster, sent 8 million people aboard a colony ship towards Proxima Beta, the nearest habitable planet. For 100 years this ship, the NEW YORK, better known to its inhabitants as ‘The NAWK’, has traveled in relative peace. But with 900 years to go, cracks are beginning to form in the perfect society. It is into the warm pot Detective Leslie Flynt finds himself thrust into the life of Officer Samuel Teegs, becoming a member of the thin blue line in a century he’s never even imagined.

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Every so often, you get something kind of spectacularly cool. In this case, I received the very first copy of the very first print run of a book. Then, every so often, life gets in the way and you have to shelve it for a couple of weeks before you get to read it. That was the case with this book. Then, I had an entire day where I just refused to do anything. The oldest and I caught up on some tv and then while he was watching some Netflix, I picked up this book...

The Good - So many books have been written about time travel and gritty police drama, but somehow this one managed to come at it from a new direction. There are bits of sci-fi, bits of noir, and lots of adventure packed into one 222 page book. The characters have a good level of development and while the book takes place far into the future, there wasn't anything so "unbelievable" that you went hey, wait a second....In fact, I found the futuristic setting to have a realistic feel to it that allowed me to sink into it and keep reading.

The Bad - This author badly needed to get his hands on a good proofreader/editor. While his story is great, his grasp of commas just isn't. While the author had manually made corrections in this edition of the book, there were so many more that needed to be made. I also spotted two times where the author had put the wrong name.

The Summary - Great book that I won't hesitate to recommend, so long as comma misplacement doesn't bother you. I get paid to find these things so I know that they jump out at me more than they might the average reader. I'm also thrilled that this was written in such a way that it's clear that it's book one of a series.  I'm eager to get my fingers on book 2 once it's released.  This book and hopefully future books will have a spot on my bookshelves for sure. Want to pick up a copy for yourself? It's available on Amazon!

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Crockpot Monday: Boston Baked Beans

Posted by Katrina Roets at 8:33 AM

Monday, January 30, 2017

Mmm...baked beans. Last week, I mentioned how much I love them. Want to know a secret? I love them so much that I keep my tv remotes stored in an old bean pot that's missing its lid! Okay, I loved the pot and needed an excuse to buy it at a garage sale..lol! I do love baked beans though!

Ingredients:
3 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 medium onions, chopped finely, or 2 Tablespoons dried minced onion
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 pound of bacon

Directions:

Drain and rinse your beans, and add them to the crockpot. Add onion and brown sugar. Pour in the molasses and ketchup. Add spices. Stir to combine. Lay slices of uncooked bacon over the top of the beans.

Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours, or high for about 4.

Try not to eat them before the rest of dinner is ready! Oh wait, maybe I'm the only one with that problem...

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Crockpot Monday: Barbecue Beans

Posted by Katrina Roets at 9:25 AM

Monday, January 23, 2017

I love baked beans and these are just a little bit different since they're barbecue, but they're still yummy alongside your favorite dinners! In our case, we do burgers year round (thank you, Foreman grill!) and these go alongside perfectly! I only wish I could get corn on the cob year round ...but then it wouldn't be as special in the summer...

Ingredients:
1 pound of dry kidney beans (If you are crunched for time, this would work fine with 4 cans)
4 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce
2 packages of Lil' Smokies, or cut up hotdogs

Directions:

Wash and sort kidney beans the night before. In the morning, drain and put into a large pot with enough water to cover with an additional 2 inches. Cover, and bring to a boil. Boil briskly for at least 10 minutes before draining, rinsing in cold water, and adding to the crockpot. (This only needs to be done if you're using dry beans.)

Cover parboiled beans with enough water to cover another 2 inches. Cook in your crockpot on low for 7-10 hours. Drain and rinse the kidney beans then cover with bbq sauce and plop in your hotdogs or smokies. If you’re using canned beans, you can skip right to this step.

Cook on low for 4-5 hours, or high for 2-3. Everything is cooked already, so it's just a matter of heating through.

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Book Review: The Kill Fee

Posted by Katrina Roets at 8:00 AM

Friday, January 20, 2017

Poppy Denby, Arts and Entertainment Editor at The Daily Globe, covers an exhibition of Russian Art, hosted by White Russian refugees, including members of the surviving exiled Romanov Royal family. There is an armed robbery, a guard is shot, and the largest Faberge Egg in the collection is stolen. The egg itself is valuable, but more so are the secrets it contains within - secrets that could threaten major political powers. Suspects are aplenty, including the former keeper of the Faberge Egg, a Russian Princess called Selena Romanova Yusopova. The interim Bolshevik Russian ambassador, Vasili Safin inserts himself into the investigation, as he believes the egg - and the other treasures - should all be restored to the Russian people. Poppy, her editor Rollo, press photographer Daniel, and the other staff of the Globe are delighted to be once again in the middle of a sensational story. But, soon the investigation takes a dark turn when another body is found and an employee of the newspaper becomes a suspect...The race is on to find both the key and the egg - can they be found before the killer strikes again?

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When I chose this book to review, I had no idea that it was book 2 in a series. Thank goodness I didn't or I might have missed out on what turned out to be a fantastic book! It works just fine as a standalone. There, now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's roll on to the actual review!

This book starts out with lots of explanation type stuff. There's a map, a list of characters, and and explanation to do with the differences between the White and Red Russians. Taking the time to read this really helped me get into the book. It helped me "investigate" alongside Poppy and while the results weren't totally what I thought, I also wasn't horribly surprised. I'm good with that. I'm not a giant fan of books where I feel like a total dingbat at the end.

The story is easy to read and Poppy is a fantastically likable character. The tidbits of history were one of my favorite bits but that's not surprising because I love history. All in all, this is a book that you're going to want to pick up if you're a lover of history and mystery.

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I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Crockpot Monday : Baked Potatoes

Posted by Katrina Roets at 9:16 AM

Monday, January 16, 2017

This week's recipe is one of my favorite things to eat but not always one of my favorite things to make! Why? Usually when I think to make them, it's late and it takes too long! Crock pot to the rescue! The best thing about baked potatoes is that they can be a meal in themselves if you pair them with some chili or other yummy toppings, you don't even have to make anything else!

Ingredients:
Large Baking Potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold)
foil or parchment paper (optional)

Directions:
Wash the potatoes and let them dry or dry them off. Prick them a few times with a fork and then wrap in foil or parchment paper, if you want. This step isn’t necessary. Add the potatoes to your crockpot. You don’t need to add water.

Cook on low for 6-7 hours on low or high for 3-6 hours or until desired tenderness. Check with a fork. When the potato falls off when poked with a fork, it's done.

Eat alongside your favorite meal or add your favorite toppings.

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Book Review: Red-Blooded American Male

Posted by Katrina Roets at 10:00 AM

Friday, January 13, 2017

Emmy award-winning photographer Robert Trachtenberg presents today's playfully "macho" coffee-table collection of 100 modern (and cheeky) portraits of men including Channing Tatum, Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, and more.

James Van der Beek in a state of undress; Mark Wahlberg arm-wrestling his son; Channing Tatum bromancing with friends in the park. These are the portraits of today's tongue-in-cheek masculinity, as conceived by Emmy Award-winning director and photographer Robert Trachtenberg. Red-Blooded American Male presents 100 of his most imaginative, striking, and unconventionally sexy portraits of both celebrities and regular guys going about their thoroughly modern lives. No longer do men have to be serious businessmen or hunky firefighters to be deemed attractive--they can also ride tricycles and get pedicures. Revealing a surprising (and often self-deprecating) side to Mel Brooks, Seth Rogan, Jimmy Fallon, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Hamm, Conan O'Brien, and more, this gorgeous coffee-table book features an introduction about male images and stereotypes plus pithy captions about each photo's shoot, giving readers a peek behind the curtain of a famed portrait photographer's creative process.

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Every so often you come across a book and you just plain fall in love with it. That's exactly what happened the moment I opened up Red-Blooded American Male.  The photographs are amazing and I just love the descriptions that go along with the photos. The part that I like the best? The life that's in each and every photo. It takes an amazing photographer to draw out in these celebrities what Robert Trachtenberg drew out. I could probably go on all dang day about how amazing this book is if a) you love photography b) you love celebrities c) you love both or d) you have a goals of becoming a celebrity stalker. No wait, scratch d. Don't become a stalker. Go buy this book and admire these amazing people and the amazing talent of this amazing photographer from your favorite snuggly spot.


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I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.
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