BOOK REVIEW: Guitar Notes - Mary Amato

Author Website: Mary Amato
Form: eBook
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Romance

I found Guitar Notes on the library ebook downloads, and thought the summary sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a shot.  The book was a very quick and easy read.  I read it in about 4 hours total, I think – less than one day.  The chapters move very quickly, especially in the beginning as Tripp and Layla are establishing their connection.  From the beginning, however author Mara Amato traps you into their world.  Tripp is kind of a sad fellow, but as you read you find out that he has many reasons for his emo exterior.  (He’s not exactly emo, but I kept thinking in the beginning – oh boy, a sad troubled teen…).  Tripp has somewhat recently lost his father, and his best friend moved away at almost the same time.  His thoughts and emotions are actually pretty natural in my opinion.  Layla is a very very good cello player who has a lot of pressure from her father to move forward with her career.  Most surprising though, this the pressure that she receives from her “best” friend.  I have a personality a bit like Layla’s, so I can completely understand the desire to tell Annie (best friend) off and try and explain what’s going on inside to her dad – but they are both so driven and involved, it would not be an easy road to navigate.
Anyhow, this book moves forward expectedly when notes are left in the practice room at school (I forgot to mention, Tripp plays guitar as his emotional outlet…kind of important to include, yeah?)  What starts out as sniping and smart alec retorts turns into understanding and friendship.  The book has many smiling and laugh out loud moments, but at the heart is just sweet and great. I will say, at the climax I was almost in tears.  I mean, I KNEW this book was going to have a happy ending, but some very harsh things were said and I couldn’t help but feel really bad for Tripp.
This book is well written, characters are funny and interesting.  Best of all – this book is in the “teen” section, and it absolutely belongs there.  Very age appropriate and not to hot and heavy, yet I think in many ways it captures the confused emotions and the pressure that some teens face…with a lot of innocence thrown in there.  I liked that.


BOOK REVIEW: Love Unscripted - Tina Reber

Author WebsiteTina Reber
Form: eBook, Netgalley
Genre: Adult Romance Fiction 

What girl at one time or another hasn’t dreamed of randomly catching the eye of their favorite, super-hot, movie star??  This is basically the story that Tina Reber has written. Even if Taryn wasn’t actually dreaming of the dreamy Ryan Christenson, she has definitely caught his eye and affection – this spinning her off into the limelight and razzel, dazzle of the paparazzi, grocery store tabloids and the craze that comes with ultimate fame.
Honestly, what Tina has captured is exactly why I do not go ga-ga over movie stars.  I absolutely love movies, and yes, of course I like the way actors look – who doesn’t…but even as a young teenager I really didn’t become star struck.  Okay, I take that back.  I really had a thing for Devon Sawa.  He was a cutie!  Anyhow, just knowing that 1. I never stood a chance, living in the middle of Ohio, of ever actually meeting these people, and 2. The fact that deep down they were just people, continued to keep me grounded ( and still does) about movie stars.  Reading Love Unscripted I was continually brought back to the Twilight craze when the first movie was filming.  I felt so bad for both Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in those early days.  I honestly wouldn’t want to live that way.
Anyway, Love Unscripted captured my attention pretty early on.  Taryn’s chance meeting of Hollywood superstar, Ryan Christenson, was entertaining – and the chemistry was great from the very start.  The book continued to keep me engaged – mostly.  Really, over 700 pages of this relationship seemed a bit too much.  All I know is that I was torn between, “is this about done yet?” and “I have got to know what happens…” pretty regularly. 
I can tell that this book was a first complete and published novel (at least as far as I can tell by website, etc.) because it is a little bit rough around the edges.  Sometimes the dialogue was a bit flat and seemed….well…scripted.  There is a part where Taryn and Ryan decide to let their relationship “grow naturally,” and I kind of feel like the book could have used a little bit of that as well.  As I said, the story was good, and kept me engaged from the start, but it does get a bit rough to deal with Taryn.  She is a bit of a tough cookie.  She has had a run of bad relationships, and that doesn’t help, but she is suspicious at every corner – just waiting on the other shoe to drop.  (Who wouldn’t, he’s a MOVIE STAR!)  No matter how true it is though, the constant back and forth in the book would make anyone reading roll their eyes along with Ryan, “what, we’re back to this?” 
I also had a hard time with her difficulty receiving gifts, and feel that there should have been some kind of impactful big “ah-ha” moment that helped her overcome this…or compromise.  Something. 
The good parts – the chemistry between Taryn and Ryan make this book worth the read.  When it’s just the two of them, and no suspicion or anything, they are excellent.  They are both romantic and loving.  Ryan, from the start, is a normal down to earth guy with an awesome job – even a bit shy, which is always endearing.  With the exception of a brief time in Florida, he seems to remain that way.  Both of them just want to love and take care of each other, even if Taryn is a bit unreasonable with her, “I’ll never let them hurt you,” mantra that she continues to repeat.  Silliness is what that is.  Oh well.
I feel like I may have been a little hard on this book – I really did enjoy it.  I think that a good portion of my feelings about the parts I didn’t like would have been eliminate if a couple hundred pages of this book was cut out.  Yes, really.  They went back and forth on the trust issue so many times, I’m pretty sure we  (readers) could get the point without it happening so much.  I think that Tina’s writing will get increasingly better as she continues to write and publish books, and I’m looking forward to watch her grow.


Starting to read: Love Unscripted

I'm starting a NetGalley book called Love Unscripted, by Tina Reber.  I wanted to share the preface with you:

         "You never know which way the wind blows" was one of my father's favorite expressions.  I used to think it was silly, just one of those sayings we tell ourselves when we don't think we have control over our own destiny.
        But I've since come to realize that sometimes when those winds of change blow, they're strong enough to toss you into a whole new world, and you really have no control over where you fly or how you land.
        I'd always been quite content with my life; it was fairly easy and predictable, with only a hint of drama here and there caused by an occasional light breeze.  There were a few times when Mother Nature hit me with her best shot, but I always managed to land on my feet.
       Somewhere along the line I actually thought I had gained control over the weather, keeping the possibility of a terrible storm always at bay.
       That was until the day the wind blew through my door and carried me away.

Love Unscripted by Tina Reber
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Book on sale: 9/8/12; in print 1/1/13


Product Review: UNREAL(TM) Candy

The kids and I recently had the opportunity to test a new product called "UNREAL(TM)Candy," which is basically candy, minus anything that is unnatural. No artificial flavors, colors....products in general.


This was a really good review for us to do, because since the beginning of the year we have been trying to "unjunk" (to use one of the Unreal's key phrases) our lives. We have cut out as much processed, or preserved foods as possible. Basically, we by only buy fresh (and occasionally frozen) fruits and vegetables.  There are very few exceptions to this rule at this point.  And while this works for breakfast, lunch, and dinner - snacks are more tricky. Granted, that is not saying Unreal Candy is "good" for you...it's still a snack food, and as we all know, snack food is a sometimes food - not an everyday food.

Okay, kindergarten lesson over.

So I get coupons in the mail, and need to hunt down the Unreal Candy...simple right? Eh, not extremely simple. I went to one store that was listed as a seller (at least I think it was), but needless to say, no Unreal Candy.  I was a little bummed out.  So a couple days later I hit another store.  At first I thought I was going to strike 2, because the candy wasn't where I was expecting it, but meandering the store a little bit I struck gold!   Here you can see the display I found:

So, looking for Unreal Candy at this point in the game, you're probably not going to find it in a "typical" spot, it seems as though they (the sellers) are trying to make you stumble upon it and pick it up as an impulse buy. Or appeal to kids shopping for school supplies??    Hopefully in the near future the Unreal Candy can be found in....THE CANDY AISLE...(novel idea, right?)  So my thoughts on product placement - needs work.  But this is hardly the candy's fault.

Here's what I decided on (basically all they had to offer except candy covered chocolate with peanuts):

What you see here, the two red "bars" are like caramel bars, the purple is caramel, peanuts and chocolate. The bag is candy coated chocolate, and the last (blue) is peanut butter and chocolate.  (I purposefully tried not to mention the candy these are trying to replicate, unfortunately, if you watch the video of my kids, they aren't so polite...they call it as they see it! =)  )

So I tried one of the caramel bars for myself, and honestly I was under impressed.  I think it just reminded me of  one of those protein supplement bars, they aren't my favorite.  I also was expecting a hard cookie base, I think THAT might have been the biggest disappointment for me.  I'm not exactly sure what the base was, seemed kind of milky...kind of like what is in that candy bar with "milk" in the name...yeah, kind of like that.  BUT, don't let my first impression deter you.  You must have a more extensive research panel.  So I recruited three unbias kids, who just see candy as candy...who cares if it's all natural? IT'S CANDY!!

The judges:
(They aren't excited or anything)

The candy:

And I will let these "judges" speak for themselves in a moment, but first let me give you my opinion.  First I'd like to point out the candy covered chocolates - notice their colors aren't near as vibrant and pretty as the other brand??  Do you think the kids gave a lick about that?  NO WAY, they scarfed them down just like any other candy.  And I will say, they tasted less - well fake.  After eating these I can tell how much of the dye I could taste on THE OTHER candy.

Second, the chocolate covered peanut butter - I saved this for last because I thought it would be my favorite.  It was eh, okay.  Pretty good, but not what I was hoping for.  I think I must be really addicted to the million tons of sugar they put in the original of this.

Last, but absolutely the best - the chocolate covered nuts with caramel.  YUM YUM.  This was my favorite, and Azalyah agreed.  This was her favorite too.  I'm not sure Elijah or Abigail actually attempted to have a favorite.  They were more interested in getting to eat candy!!  Anyway, this candy bar didn't taste JUST like the original, but I think you can never go wrong with the chocolate, caramel nut combination.  It tastes good all on it's own regardless.  And if I were to crave anything - it would be THIS one.

(The kids enjoying their candy)

So in conclusion, would I buy Unreal Candy again?  Yes, I would.  If I'm craving chocolate and looking for a fix, just knowing that this product is doing their best to try and leave the junk out of their food -  I would go for this candy first and foremost.  Not only do I believe in what they are doing,  but the price is comparable. And while I may not have been over excited about a few of the items, they were still very yummy. (Except for the caramel bar...I think that one needs something fixed...)

The Video