Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Trio of #chicklit Reviewed in #Haiku

July 16, 2017 2 comments


Valley of the Dolls
By: Jacqueline Susann

The 1960s classic about four women and how fame and drugs destroyed them.

Haiku Review:
My dolls! My dolls! But
Hard to compete with modern
Opioid crisis.

4 out of 5 stars
Source: Gift
Buy It


The Runaway Princess
By: Hester Browne

Amy Wilde’s new boyfriend has a secret….he’s a prince! Can she fit into his world without losing herself in the process?

Haiku Review:
The Prince and Me but
British with saving the bees
Left me wanting more

4 out of 5 stars
Source: Library
Buy It


Cocktails for Three
By: Madeleine Wickham

Three friends meet for cocktails every month but life events and secrets start to pull them apart.

Haiku Review:
If you can manage
To laugh at alcoholism
Then you might like it

3 out of 5 stars
Source: Library
Buy It

Book Review: Loud is How I Love You by Mercy Brown (Series, #1)

December 16, 2016 2 comments

Book Review: Loud is How I Love You by Mercy Brown (Series, #1)Summary:
Twenty-one-year-old front girl Emmylou knows that getting her band noticed in the ‘90s indie rock scene will be no easy task. She definitely knows better than to break the number one rule of the band: Don’t sleep with your bandmates! But after she ends up having the best sex of her life with her guitarist, Travis, she finds following that rule is a lot harder than it sounds.

When the band gets the gig of their dreams, making it big seems just within reach. But Emmy’s inability to keep her hands off Travis threatens everything they’ve worked for. Can Emmy find a way to break the rules and not blow the chance of a lifetime?

It took me a moment to get past the fact that 90s now count as historic fiction. *pours one out for the 90s* But then again Fresh Off the Boat is set entirely in the 90s, much like That  70s Show, so it appears the time has come. I was not a “new adult” (refers to those post high school but pre having your shit together) in the 90s (I was solidly a kid coveting a tamagotchi) but I vaguely knew about all the fads the older kids were into like….flannel and grunge. This book oozes that, and the characters get to have the problems that arise from not having a cell phone or YouTube to promo your band. That was fun.

For those who don’t know, New Adult means to expect more sex. And oh man. The sex scenes in this book. There are a lot of them. They are explicit. I like that sort of thing, and even though I rolled my eyes occasionally at some of their more interesting bedroom pursuits (like “tattooing” with permanent marker), I still thought they were hot, well-written, within character, and, most importantly, made sense within the plot.

What I think could make people love or hate this book is the main character, Emmy. She narrates it in the first person and she is, well, she’s a 21-year-old. She makes problems where there shouldn’t be any problems. She gets all up in her head. She thinks in black and white. She is, basically, young and acts and talks like a young person. Yeah, sometimes it’s infuriating to see her fucking her own life up, but that’s realistic, especially for a character who’s supposed to be a passionate artistic type in a band. I was able to appreciate her for who she is and have faith that she’d grow and get past her issues, but I do think that not everyone would be able to see past that and enjoy it in the same way.

The series will follow other people involved in the indie rock scene, and so we’ve already met them in this book as secondary characters. I’m excited to see what hot shenanigans they get up to and hear a new voice’s take on everything going on for the various bands.

Recommended to those who want to take a visit to the 90s through the eyes of a passionate new adult.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

Buy It

Thoughts One Year Out From Losing My Dad

November 12, 2016 Leave a comment

daddyMy father passed away unexpectedly a year ago today. I was 29 then. I’m 30 now. It wasn’t something I was prepared for although we realize now that on some level he must have known it was coming. The doctors said his organs had been shutting down for months and even if he had come in for help sooner there’s very little they could have done. That’s some comfort to both my brother and I who wondered if we had gotten him to go to the doctor sooner if it would have helped. You didn’t push my dad to do anything he didn’t want to do though. I think he knew what was going on, on some level, and wanted to deal with it in his on way on his own terms. And doctors and hospitals were not his own way.

My father and I were quite close in spite of the physical distance between us. I know some people think that the 2 to 3 hours between Boston and where my dad lived in New Hampshire isn’t that far but you have to understand to people in rural New England it is far. It’s a whole other world. I grew up and moved away not down the road. In spite of that I talked to my dad almost every day. He was the first person I called when I was excited or upset. I called him for advice all the time. I never asked for financial support since I hit the age of 18 but I did bend his ear an awful lot.

Something like this doesn’t happen without changing you.

You can’t go through your father’s personal items, letters, finances without feeling different. What was once off-limit now isn’t. You get to know your father as a more complete person. I didn’t make any earth-shattering discoveries but I have come to think of my dad as more of a whole other person than simply my father. And my heart just aches wishing my dad had had an easier life.

Things change a lot when the first person you always turned to is gone. In the past year, I was interviewing for new jobs. I used to always call my dad to get a pep talk right before an interview because no one was more in my corner than him. I couldn’t do that this time. I had to figure out other ways to pep myself up. (I wound up making a playlist on Spotify called #girlboss to pep up right before going in). I also got a new job that’s a wonderful step up in my field. I picked up my phone to call my dad only to suddenly realize I couldn’t. It’s other little things too like when our cat would do something cute and I’d take a picture only to realize I couldn’t send it to him. Or when I wanted to learn how to brine meat and realized I had to google it instead of calling him. It forced me to be more self-reliant, and honestly I already thought of myself as pretty damn self-reliant to begin with.

It also forces you to deal with your own mortality. I’m 30 now; my dad was 58. I know that was a young age to pass but it’s still a mind-fuck to think about how I’ve lived over half of my dad’s lifetime. And that changes you. I am far more selective of how I spend my time now both who it’s with and what I’m doing. I give people less chances than I once did. Not in a mean you’ll never change way but in a life is short and we’re not a good fit way. If I don’t want to spend my time watching a movie, I’ll tell you. And I also have confronted the fact that if I want to age well I need to change some things. I already worked out a lot and ate fairly well but there are other self-care things I wasn’t so good at. Managing stress. Sleeping enough. Moisturizing. I would say I was functional but not preservational. It’s improving. There’s room for more improvement. But life is too short for stress and bullshit.

I was going through my dad’s records this week, and I found an album I used to listen to with him all the time. Olivia Newton John’s “If You Love Me Let Me Know.” It was beat up, which if you don’t know records, that means it was most likely listened to a whole lot. I remembered so many of the songs so well. One is about a girl growing up rural who wants to move to the city, and when she gets old enough her dad tells her to go. It reminded me so much of when my dad encouraged me to follow my dreams and leave, even though it must have been hard for him to watch me go. Another was this one. I think it’s a great representation of that “the world’s going to hell in a handbasket but I’m not giving up my hope” mentality that I’ve learned over the course of the last year my dad had.

My dad had a hard life, and he sure as hell got frustrated with the world and all its bullshit. But he also undeniably had hope. You can’t have kids without having hope for the world. And he was so sure that both my brother and I would improve upon his lot in life (and we did, at least I think so). The only times he’d get frustrated with me were when I was either too full of myself or repeating his own mistakes. Well, daddy, I’m doing my best to learn from them and not do that. But I also am trying to hold onto the hope you had.



Categories: Uncategorized

An Action List for Educating Yourself and Learning to Act from Love

November 11, 2016 Leave a comment

Politics can be complicated. I’ve never thought one side is right purely for being Democrat or Republican (partially because I’m third party myself). But I do believe that what is right is love. Love and compassion. Treating each other with respect and humanity. Approaching the world out of a state of hope and not fear.

What sickens me in this whole situation is how many people on all sides are reacting instead of acting. How many people are rushing to hate on everyone else. And how one man and his campaign actively stirred up these negative emotions in people on purpose. Humans are susceptible to being goaded into negative actions out of fear. It is so easy to prey on people’s fears. Especially in a world where Americans are routinely not taught critical thinking in school. Many are not educated on history or politics. And information literacy (knowing where trustworthy information is and how to find it and fact-checking things others say) is simply by and large not taught to anyone and when it is people often laugh about it and think it’s pointless.

The media seeks only to elicit clicks and watches and not to bring about truth. I was 15 when reality tv first hit the world, and now we’re seeing the consequences of this. People becoming famous and wealthy for negative actions taken in full view of others rather than positive ones. This is what happens when we reward negative behavior and purposefully stir up fear.

I had already made a commitment to strive for more positive energy in my own life months ago. But now I want to encourage others to do this and more. Seek truth. Educate yourself on history. Listen to historians when we warn you. Discover how the world actually works, not how you think it does. (It blows me away how many people didn’t understand the Electoral College before this week). It’s ok that you don’t know. God knows there are things I don’t know. I encounter that every day through my work in academia. Accept what you don’t know. Embrace it with humility. Then get out there and learn more from trustworthy sources. Learning is a lifelong process. Accept it. Seek it out. Act out of love, not out of fear. Be inspired by people who deserve to be famous for their positive work and actions. The change really does start with each and every one of us. Below is a list of just a few resources and suggestions to maybe help you get started.

  • Coursera
    This is a wonderful place to take online classes from academic institutions worldwide for free. You pay a nominal fee if you want to get a completion certificate but actually taking the class and gaining the knowledge is 100% free. All assigned reading and videos are freely accessible too. Consider taking a course in US History, politics, international relations, comparative religion, etc….
  • Learn and use the CRAP test when evaluating whether a resource (source of information like a website or a book) is trustworthy.
  • Choose a group you dislike or fear and go out and seek unbiased nonfiction about them and fiction written by them. We fear what we don’t understand. Knowledge is power.
  • Books
  • Begin a meditation practice as a first step towards mindfulness
  • Begin a gratitude practice –> write down one thing you are grateful for each day.
  • Choose one positive action to perform each day aka make someone else’s life better today by virtue of you being in it
  • Choose one healthy change you can make and begin working on it. Remember to set a SMART goal –> Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound
  • Finally, if you are suffering from an addiction or you feel like you are drowning in despair or anxiety, reach out for help. The first step is asking for help. The change starts with each of us individually. Heal your own hurts and the world heals.

Om Mani Padme Hum

Categories: Uncategorized

Giveaway: Unreal City by A.R. Meyering (INTERNATIONAL)

December 3, 2015 Leave a comment

cover_Unreal cityIt’s the fifth giveaway of 2015 here at Opinions of a Wolf.  Woohoo!!

There is ONE ebook copy of Unreal City by A.R. Meyering (review) available courtesy of the author, A.R. Meyering.

What You’ll Win:  One ebook copy of Unreal City(review) by A.R. Meyering.

How to Enter:

  1. Leave a comment below stating how you would design your portion of Unreal City – remember you are not limited by the laws of science! It can be buildings that float in midair if you want!
  2. Copy/paste the following and tweet it from your public twitter:
    Enter to win UNREAL CITY by @ARmeyering, hosted by @McNeilAuthor #fantasy #giveaway #newadult #na #entertowinYou may tweet one entry per day. The blog comment gets you one entry. Each tweet gets you one entry.


Contest Ends: December 11th at midnight!

Disclaimer: The winner will have their book sent to them by the author.  The blogger is not responsible for sending the book.  Void where prohibited by law.

Categories: Uncategorized

In Memory of My Dad

November 17, 2015 5 comments

dadpic10On November 12th, my dad, William Frank McNeil, passed away.  He was 58 years old.  You may see his obituary here.

Yesterday was his funeral.  I gave a eulogy there that I have reproduced below. 



In Loving Memory

One of the first things people often say to me when they get to know me is, “You’re such a daddy’s girl,” and my response always is, “Of course, why wouldn’t I be? I got a great one.”  I hear so many stories of absentee fathers. Quiet fathers. Fathers who don’t know how to talk to their daughters. Fathers who clearly wish their daughters were sons.  I never had any of those problems with my dad, and I know he had to fight to make that so.

My dad had a hard life. He lived so much in his far too short 58 years.  He worked so hard. Harder than I realized when I was little.  One of my earliest memories is of running to the door to meet him at the end of a workday yelling, “Papa Papa,” and he would pick me up and immediately play with me.  As an adult now I realize he was coming home from often 12 to 14 hour shifts doing physical, hard labor. He could have so easily begged off as being tired. Too tired for the antics of a 4 or 5 year old. But he never did. He always met me with this overwhelmingly positive response. It was like I was the center of his world.

But my dad didn’t just love me or spoil me. He was also tough on me in lots of little ways that helped me be who I am today.  My friends often tell me, “Amanda, you’re so brave.” What they don’t realize is that I’m really not.  At least, not naturally.  My dad taught me to be.  The best example of this is when I went away to college.

When I was 17, my dad took me to tour Brandeis University in Boston and he told me, “This is it. This is the one for you.” And I listened.  But when I got there, I had a major freak-out that many first-generation college students have.  Brandeis was a top-level, historically Jewish college, and I was there on scholarship.  I was surrounded by people and a culture that I knew nothing about. I felt like I was on an alien planet…or at least in Europe.  They talked about things I had no understanding of and bonded over going out shopping and to restaurants….and to their ski chalets.  When my computer broke the first week of school, I cried, and my roommate said, “Well just buy a new one” not understanding that that was just not possible.  I called my dad crying, begging him to let me come home and go to culinary school instead.  He told me no, that being a chef was a hard life and physically difficult, and he wanted more for me.  He told me, “You belong there, Amanda. You’re smart as a whip and you are not a quitter. Don’t forget our family motto. To conquer or die. You can conquer this.”  Then he made a deal with me. He said if I was still miserable by Christmas I could come home.  I thought he was caving. I realize now he was just smarter than me and knew I would be happy at Brandeis by then. Oh, and he somehow magically got a computer and sent it down to me.

My dad was not perfect. He had a hot temper when I was young…it mellowed with age. He was stubborn. He would have periods of being very down and sad. He often didn’t take care of himself as well as he should, putting oxygen masks on literally everyone else on the plane before himself (that’s a metaphor, my father did NOT fly in airplanes.)

But. My dad was always willing to admit when he was wrong and say he was sorry. He always tried…so hard. So incredibly hard. He didn’t stagnate. He changed his opinions if given enough new factual information.  He was funny. So incredibly funny. His dry wit in the face of terrifying things like a triple bypass is something I strive to live up to. He had a near-magical way with animals. I literally never saw him meet an animal that didn’t immediately glom onto him with love. And he was so incredibly smart. He was able to do insanely complex math in his head…math that would make my head spin if you gave me a high-powered computer to help me do it. He read voraciously at a speed I have never seen anywhere else. He had an eye for beauty. His furniture he crafted were truly works of art.

My dad always told me that my brother and I were the best thing he ever did. That he’d go through everything again just to have the two of us. All he ever wanted was for us to have better lives than he had. To have physically easier jobs. To get to enjoy life more. To have partners who truly loved us. The best advice he ever gave me was to never settle and to wait for your one true love.  It was hard in my early 20s when it seemed everyone else around me was coupled up. But my dad’s assertion that it’s better to be alone than to be with the wrong person kept me strong and waiting. And then I met Phil. And I brought him home to meet my dad. My dad was a bit skeptical since Phil is an engineer….and my dad did not have the best experience with engineers in the shops. So he quizzed him with a math problem that usually stumped the engineers, and Phil got it right. And my dad said well, he’s an engineer but he’s no dummy. He was just teasing us though.  He sat me down and told me very seriously how much he liked Phil. that Phil clearly made me happy. Happier than I’d ever been before.

Seven weeks ago, my dad came and stayed with us for a week while we got ready for our wedding and got married.  Daddy helped me bake my bridal pie. It was the last time we’d ever cook together, after 29 years of doing so, though I obviously didn’t know it then. He watched me marry my best friend.  He danced our father-daughter dance with me, and while we were dancing he whispered to me, “I am so proud of you,” and I swear that he meant it more than he did at my college graduation.

There are so many things that I will never get now that my father is gone.  I never got to go to a Patriots game with him. He won’t see me turn 30. He will not get to see me pregnant or meet any kids Phil and I may have one day.

My world I live in now is so different from my father’s world. I worry out loud to my husband that no one will know where I come from.  And he tells me. You are your father’s daughter. Your father lives in you, whether you realize it or not. You have his sense of humor, his chin, his temper. You are short and stubborn. And incredibly determined.  But what I really hope is to emulate my dad in another way.

My dad was a good man, but he was quiet about it. He was never ever prideful. In fact one of the few times he would yell at me was if I got too full of myself.  He lived Jesus’ commandment, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” I think this commandment speaks to more than prayer. It speaks to any good you do.  My dad did the right thing because it was the right thing to do, and he never called attention to it.  And he was rewarded for it.  Just look around this room, and you can see it.

Daddy, in the face of so much hardship and opportunities to do otherwise, you were a good man. And I will miss you every day of my life.



Giveaway Winner: Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard (International)

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Mountains.The winner of a paperback copy of Emotional Geology courtesy of the wonderful author, Linda Gillard, and determined by is…….

Comment #2 Diane Jolly!

Diane will be contacted for her shipping information today, which will be sent on to Linda Gillard who is mailing the copy.  Thank you all for entering!

Categories: Uncategorized

Giveaway: Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard (International!)

November 29, 2011 10 comments

Mountains with water in foreground.I am super-excited to get to offer up my second giveaway here at Opinions of a Wolf, and this time it is INTERNATIONAL.

There is one paperback copy of Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard up for grabs, courtesy of the lovely author herself.  Since she lives in Scotland, she said she is fine with shipping internationally.  That made me very happy, because I know I have a lot of followers from outside the States.

What You’ll Win:  One paperback copy of Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard.

How to Enter:  Leave a comment on this post with your email address or twitter name so I can contact the winner for his/her mailing address.  ALSO please note if you took part in the MIA Reading Challenge this year.  Those who did get a second entry, since this is relevant to the challenge.

Who Can Enter: Anyone! International! Yay!

Contest Ends: December 13th. Two weeks from today!

This giveaway is now over! Thank you all for entering!

Book Review: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (series, #1)

October 24, 2011 8 comments

Crow against moon.Summary:
A New England town’s oldest resident dies leaving no known surviving family.  His journals end up at the university where a professor loans them to a writer friend.  In the first three folios, we learn of young Will Henry whose father and mother died in a terrible house fire leaving him to the care of his father’s employer–Warthrop.  Warthrop is a monstrumologist.  He studies monsters, and people arrive in the middle of the night for his help.  One night a grave robber arrives with the body of a young girl wrapped in the horrifying embrace of an anthropophagus–a creature with no head and a mouth full of shark-like teeth in the middle of his chest.  Will Henry, as the assistant apprentice monstrumologist, soon finds himself sucked into the secret horror found in his hometown.

This book was creating a lot of buzz last year, and I acquired it through the Book Blogger Holiday Swap.  Clearly it took me almost a year to read it, and I’m glad I saved it up for Halloween.  The chills and thrills were just right for this spooky month.  I must admit, I was skeptical at first that it would live up to the hype–particularly the cover blurb praising it as Mary Shelley meets Stephen King.  I am pleased to say, however, that it more than lived up to this apt comparison.

This is a combination of classic New England style horror (complete with a small town, small town values, a creepy insane asylum, cemeteries, etc…) with 19th century style lyricism present in the language.

How oft do they rescue or ruin us, through whimsy or design or a combination of both, the adults to whom we entrust our care! (page 251)

Seeing language like this in a new book being marketed as YA (a point I disagree with, but anyway) gave me chills.  It was a pleasure to read for the language alone.  Yancey, in particular, is quite talented at alliteration.  The story itself, though, kept me guessing and was genuinely scary.

The anthropophagi are truly distressing.  They are essentially land sharks who live underground and can pop up, like Mushu says in Mulan, LIKE DAISIES.  You’re trotting along and all of a sudden, BAM, there’s a monster popping out of the graveyard dirt for you.  Only unlike zombies there’s nothing humanoid about them, and they’re fast.  The truly perfect monstrosity.  It doesn’t hurt that Yancey connects them to myths and legends of the past, even quoting Shakespeare!

The characters are all well-rounded and memorable.  From the way everyone calls Will Henry by only his full name to the terrified and perplexed constable to the eccentric Warthrop to the truly delightfully darkly witty Englishman who is brought in to help with the problem (“His teeth were astonishingly bright and straight for an Englishman’s.  (page 266)”), everyone is lifelike.  In fact I think they will probably live on in my mind forever; that is how clearly and forcefully they are drawn.

More than a delicious fright, beautiful language, and lifelike characters though, the narrator, being an older man looking back on his youth, brings to light several serious real-life questions that there aren’t any easy answers to, but it is lovely to read about within literature.  You’ll be reading along, enjoying the terror and horror and wit of the main story, then stumble upon a passage like this:

Perhaps that is our doom, our human curse, to never really know one another. We erect edifices in our minds about the flimsy framework of word and deed, mere totems of the true person, who, like the gods to whom the temples were built, remains hidden. We understand our own construct; we know our own theory; we loved our own fabrication. Still…does the artifice of our affection make our love any less real? (page 362)

And you stop, and you close the book, and you think about it, and maybe you cry a little bit, then you get back into it to see how Will Henry does against the monsters, but that thought, that beauty, that fact that someone else on the planet has wondered the same thing as you (only put it quite a bit better) sticks with you afterward.  And that is what takes good writing and characterization into the land of exquisite storytelling.

Frankly, I think everyone should read this book.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

Buy It

Counts For:

Hey Authors! Don’t Do This!

October 6, 2011 8 comments

You all know that I’m not only a reviewer, but I’m also an author.  My years of reviewing have taught me how to take every review seriously, yet with a grain of salt.  Even a negative review can teach you something as an author, and it’s always best to thank the reviewer for taking the time and energy to read and review your book.  It really is true that even bad press is good press.  I’ve had followers go out and read books I’ve panned on this blog purely because what I didn’t like they thought they would like.  It happens.  Even if that were not the case, however, writing is a craft and an art-form.  It is always able to be improved.  For instance, I’m working on the second Tova Gallagher book right now and am taking all of the critiques I got on the first one to heart when writing it.  If you think you are perfect, your writing will never improve.  Even the famous writers like King and Palahniuk have received bad reviews.

So, what’s the one thing you shouldn’t do when you receive a bad review from a reviewer?  Oh how about send them an email in which you look like a pretentious twit, such as this email sent to me by Adam Pepper who wrote Symphony of Blood that got 2 out of 5 stars from me yesterday (only edited to leave out the hi and bye):

I really appreciate the time and care you gave to my book.  Wow.  It was rather scathing.  I accept that you don’t like the story structure and that you found the characters unlikeable.  However, your lack of editing comments I think were unfair.  Yager is hardly a capital offense and rippled wasn’t an error at all.  Most importantly, the only present tense that appears in the book is an intentional style choice that reflects the conversational voice of the narrator.  That may not have worked for you but it does not reflect some bumbling ineptness of the author to understand the proper use of tense, as you portray it in your review.


Again, thanks for the review.  I’m sorry the book didn’t work for you.

Let me translate this.  “Ok, I’m going to say thanks but OMG YOU ARE WRONG MY BOOK IS AWESOME YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND ME.”

I don’t know about you all, but I do know that when I’m reading a published book I expect it not to have spelling errors as obvious as Jaeger spelled wrong. I’M JUST SAYING.  “Hardly a capital offense”? Ok. I suppose you’d say the same thing to your accountant if he put the decimal point in the wrong place.

THIS IS YOUR CRAFT.  You should be taking pride in it, not excusing your mistakes as “not a capital offense.”

But no.  You’d rather be a defensive child.  Ok. Good luck with that.

Categories: Uncategorized