Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Celebration of Life and One Extraordinary Soul

One of the hardest things to experience in life is to watch a beloved pet age.  Some of you may recall that back in October my cat, Hunter, who will be 18 in May, started displaying certain symptoms that required medical care. After spending countless dollars and seeing three different vets, the only diagnosis confirmed was that he had the onset of kidney failure (although just barely, especially for a cat his age).  They could NOT figure out the cause of the blood in his urine or the drastic weight loss. I suspected bladder cancer, but the vets were doubtful since it is rare in cats.

About three weeks ago, the blood in his urine increased and.....increased. I took Hunter back to the vet where they finally confirmed that he does, in fact, have bladder cancer. Besides being terribly skinny, his demeanor remained the same. As he pranced around the vet's office lapping up affection from everyone, the vet agreed - we aren't quite at the stage where humane euthanasia is necessary. But for how long we do not know.

We have been undergoing hospice care ever since.  Up until this past weekend, he has continued to amaze me each day with his positive spirit and will to fight.   However, the last few days have reminded me how sick he really is and that perhaps "decision time" is nearing.

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." ~ Anatole France

It's funny how in these past several months it no longer bothers me when Hunter wakes me up at the crack of dawn (or earlier).  Instead I relish in the sound of his meows regardless of the time.  And, now, after years of shushing him in the middle of the night, I finally celebrate the sound of his voice - regardless of time - knowing that I have been blessed with one more day with him.

I've also been treasuring his cuddles more than ever, recognizing these moments for what they are - my last opportunities to capture the feel of his fur next to my skin, the warmth of his body, the touch of his wet nose and rough tongue on my hand. Because when he is gone, THESE are the things I will miss the most. On many levels, I feel his increased affection is his way of clinging to me and my touch, my warmth, the same way I am clinging to his.  He is gathering up strength to leave while giving me the strength to survive his loss. In essence, we are bottling up each other's love.

At the same time, I have been fighting the tendency we have to treat the dying as if they are already dead. When, in actuality, they are the same living, breathing souls that entered our hearts all those years ago and set up house.  A friend recently reminded  me that it's how we live our moments, how we embrace them, that's important.

And, so with that reminder, I'm trying to gather up the courage to do right by Hunter - whatever the hell that means.  But I know in the end, I will look back at Hunter's remarkable 18 years with me and I will know that I wouldn't give up one day spent with him to have the pain I feel today taken away.  In the end, it would have all been worth it, to have been blessed with his love and companionship. 

And, then, when I'm ready, I will go to the shelter and, in his honor, I will rescue another beautiful soul and begin the journey all over again.  Because if there is one thing Hunter has taught me, it is to love without restraints regardless of fear. Therefore, in honoring his spirit and zest for life, I will do just that for as long as I live.

Read more of my personal favorites, subscribe to this blog via email, and please share. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Because Sometimes I Just Need a Little Romance (Book Review)

"....loving someone left her heart open and vulnerable to hurt and to so much more, including love and joy." ~ Love Letters

With beach season coming up, now is the perfect time to gather a list of light reads for fun in the sun. I'll admit I am not a huge romance novel fan, but every once in a while, even I like to pick one up. When I do, I go straight for Debbie Macomber.  Macomber has published countless books, several making it onto the New York Time's Best Seller list - eight of them hitting number one! Some of her novels have also been made into television movies and a series for the Hallmark Channel.

Although Love Letters is part of a series, I did not read the previous novels and really don't think you need to.  The story is set in Cedar Cove, a quaint, waterfront town in Washington State - an unassuming romantic setting if ever there was one.

The story centers around Jo Marie, a war widow and owner of the Rose Harbor Inn, and her guests - each with their own need for the "healing power" of the inn. Honestly, while Love Letters is filled with different story lines and several characters, this novel was a bit flat.  I found it sappy and predictable and out of all the characters, there were only two I liked, handyman Mark, and Maggie, one of the guests.  Despite this, the ending still made me curious enough to check out the next one in the series, which says a lot about Macomber's skill as a writer.

Human relationships are complicated, and often painful.  Macomber is a master at giving her readers a reason to believe in them again.

"The longer one drags it [emotional baggage] around, the heavier it seems." ~ Tom, Love Letters

Previous novels by Macomber I've read and would recommend to other fans of romance novels are Starry Night, Angels at the Table, and A Turn in the Road, all of which I liked better than Love Letters.

For more of my book reviews click here.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Out of My Comfort Zone and Into a Swamp

One of the reasons I was looking forward to becoming a stay-at-home mom was the freedom I would have to do things like chaperone school field trips. Tuesday was one of those opportunities.   It was an added bonus that we were going to one of my favorite nature preserves to go canoeing.

Or, at least that's what I thought.

Weeks ago I signed the waiver warning participants that they would be exposed to areas containing alligators, poisonous snakes and plants, as well as other dangers.  Then I excitedly awaited for the day to arrive!

Now, before I continue, let me first explain I have an intense fear of the water.  To clarify, it's not the water, it's what lurks in the water.  ANY water.  My rule of thumb is if I cannot see the bottom, I don't venture into it. Period, end of discussion.  Consider it an aversion to the unknown - perhaps even a control thing. But, from the safety of a canoe, I could do it!

The guide informed us that the first order of business was dip netting.  Okay, that's fine.  The kids will get a bit wet perhaps, but I can stay on shore and watch.


The guide proceeded to explain that we will have to trek through the swamp waters to get to the area where we would be collecting our samples.

Yeah, that's not happening.  I signed up for a canoe ride, not to be a contestant on Survivor. With plenty of guides and chaperones, I turned to the teacher and said, "I'm not going in there.  If I do, I'll be in therapy for years!"

Phew, disaster averted.  Just before heading in, one of the students asked the guide, "Are there leeches in there?" No, no leeches we were assured.  So off the group went armed with nets.  The water was up to their mid-thighs, higher on the shorter students, a category I would have fallen into. 

When they returned, the first words spoken to me were, "Would you believe one of the kids was bitten by a leech?"  WHAAAAAT?  "Yes, it's very rare," the guide said.  

I wanted to slap her.

We moved over to the covered hut where we looked at our findings that were carefully placed into little plastic viewing containers: water spiders, plankton, water scorpions, water beetles and a whole slew of other bugs, dragonfly nymphs, apple snails, tadpoles, crawfish, and......yep, the now infamous leech, which, by the way, the guide was way too excited about.  

Finally, we were in my element - THIS is what I loved, seeing these little guys from the comfort of land.

As we passed the containers around for a closer look, I turned to the teacher and said, "No wonder they show us what's in the water only after we get out! So, are we going canoeing next?"

"No, we're not going canoeing, we're going on a swamp walk." She said that too calmly, so clearly she means along the boardwalk.  Right? RIGHT!?

We split into two groups, changed guides, and the next thing I knew my group was following the boardwalk deeper into the preserve.  We arrived at an area along the wooden trail where there was a ladder leading down into the swampy waters.  He said this is where we will descend into the swamp to begin our walk. 

I looked around.  Besides the two guides, I was the only school chaperone in this group which meant one thing. My luck had run out. I was definitely going in. The guides handed each of us a large walking stick and went over the rules, none of which I heard because - well, my God, I was about to do something I  successfully avoided my entire life.

Here's where two things could have happened.  

1) I could have outright refused to go into this swamp, throw a tantrum and start to cry.  


2) I could have sucked it up, focus on the lecture and ignore the panic that was creeping into my mind.  

For my son's sake, I chose option number two. Aren't you proud of me?

So what is it like to step into a swamp?  

The water was cool but completely black from the disturbed mud, your feet sink with every step, and an array of grasses, twigs, and leaves wrap around your body like water moccasins going in for the kill.  If you can ignore ALL these sensations, you'll do fine.

We trudged and we trudged.  We stopped to observe specific vegetation and learn the difference between the swamp land and the marshland twenty feet away where the gators live.

And, then, finally I saw it - the ladder that will take us out of this swamp and back onto the boardwalk.

When we got out the lead guide looked at me and asked, "Now, was that so bad?" I smiled and answered truthfully, "No, it really wasn't."  I was honestly so happy I had done this and experienced it with my son who was in his glory.

We never did get to canoe - something about the gators being too agitated due to mating season.

It's pretty awesome when our children can push us beyond our safety-nets. I am not one who normally steps out of my comfort-zone, but man do I feel great when I do - especially when I live to tell about it.

As we left the preserve, my son asked if we could come back and do it again sometime.  I replied, "Ask your father." 

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Young Adult Mystery Set Close to Home (Book Review)

NOTE: I received this book free from the author requesting an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's rules and guidelines.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a local indie writer, Terri M. Collica.  Collica has just released her debut novel, Fuzzy Visions, a young adult mystery, which is the first in what will become A Sunny McBain Mystery series for teens.

Fuzzy Visions centers around Sunny McBain, a high-school senior who is legally blind.  Sunny is an intelligent, witty, and confident young woman.  Adopted as an infant to a wealthy, Palm Beach family, Sunny grows up in one of the most elite societies in the country. The author captures the ambiance and culture of the area perfectly giving her readers a glimpse of life as a Palm Beach teenager while drawing on her experience as a special education teacher to realistically portray both Sunny and her friend, Leo, who is deaf.   Despite Sunny's opulent upbringing, she is grounded and her friends, Kat and Leo, provide additional balance making the trio likable and realistic and ones that teens of any social class will relate to. 

As the three friends get ready for graduation, they must deal with one unexpected circumstance - the murder of the school's head custodian. And, since Sunny was the one who stumbled upon the crime scene first, she is thrown into the whodunit immediately.  However, being legally blind, how much of a reliable witness will she make?  The mystery offers just enough twists and turns to keep the reader's interest without becoming complicated and difficult to follow.

Collica brilliantly gives readers insight into the world of the visually impaired. The most fascinating aspect of the novel was the way Sunny is able to "read" people by seeing colored auras surrounding them. Different colors are indicative of their various moods. Also, her heightened other senses gave a very real look at how the blind experience the world.

This isn't a sophisticated crime story, but it is interesting and geared toward middle and high-school students who will relate to the characters. I would have liked more "crime-solving" moments and less day-to-day dialog and happenings of the characters.  Yet, overall, this is an enjoyable teen mystery that will leave young readers anxious for the sequel.

Fuzzy Visions is available in paperback and as an eBook on Amazon.

For more of my book reviews click here.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Liebster Award

So thrilled and thankful to have been nominated for a Liebster Award by fellow blogger and wonderful supporter Alisha Trost.  Alisha's blog, My Rainy Day Reads, is definitely worth a read by book lovers out there! 

For those of you who don't know, the Liebster Award is a recognition given to bloggers usually by other bloggers.  I love this idea of supporting each other. I'm going to answer the questions Alisha posed and then will give you MY nominations. 

Where does your blogging inspiration come from?

My inspiration comes from every day things - spending time with family, reading a book, watching a film, traveling, and finally being of an age where I am comfortable expressing myself.

Is your blogging simply a hobby? What kind of dreams do you have for it?

I suppose blogging is just a hobby.  However, it is also a major part of my journey to re-discover myself.  As mothers, losing sight of our dreams and aspirations is far too easy.  This is a step toward gaining some personal insight back.  I take one day at a time and have no set goals for my blog except that I hope to inspire others to go on similar personal journeys.

What is your support system like and who are your biggest supporters?

My biggest supporters are my readers.  Without them, no matter how much I enjoyed writing my posts, the motivation to do so would probably dwindle. 

What are 10 random facts about you?

I have conflicting personalities - one the world traveler; one the homebody.

If it walks, crawls, runs, slithers, flies, or swims - I love it!

I'm a new vegan and I thank the heavens above that there is vegan chocolate!

I've lived in Florida for more than half my life, but still consider New York my home.

I am vertically challenged.

I'm a daydream believer.

If I had superpowers, I would want them to be teleportation and flying.

I enjoy photography.

When I was a child, I wanted to grow up to be an actress or a rock star.

As my former students will tell you, I have absolutely zero artistic talent.

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

Inspiring others or making people think about a topic. Connecting with my readers is a  huge plus. Sharing my passions!

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed with too many tasks at once?

I am the queen of to-do lists and feel better when I get to cross out a task after it is completed. That simple act alone gives me the motivation to tackle the next thing on my list.

What would you do with a large sum of money given to you?

Buy a large parcel of land and open an animal sanctuary.

What was one of the most moving books or movies you have ever read or seen?

Hachi: A Dog's Tale  

Where would you like to see yourself in the next couple of years?


Do you have a bucket list? Name 5 things on that.

No, I honestly don't have a bucket list.  However, I do long for the day when I can walk into an animal shelter and say, "I'd like to adopt whoever has been here the longest."

What is your single best piece of advice for someone starting out in the blogging world?

Do it for no other reason than because it is a passion. And, while it is great to have a competitive nature in life, in blogging the key to success is to support other bloggers!

My 5 nominations (blogs with 200 followers or less) are as follows in no particular order along with a brief explanation of their blogs in their own words.  Check them out!

Recipes for Busy Mums by Lavinia Lynch: I have loads of recipe books but like most busy mums I never have half the ingredients in the house. My partner, Conor, always makes fun of me because I usually make the dish anyway! I decided it was time to share my expertise with the world. Other people's recipes with my short cuts!

The Search for Love, Sex, and Self in relationships by Gerry Pirani: Blogging about improving human relationships through self-reflection and easy day-to-day tips.

Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze by Parenting 365: A Guide to Single Parenthood. Tips, tricks and life long lessons about just getting by.

Creatikaa by Gowthama Rajavelu: Travel, Sports, Books, Photography, Movies, Environment, Conservation, News, Science and Communication defines ME.

Emerging Stronger by Anahita Batra


Attention Nominees: Here are the instructions as they were given to me:

"Nominees it is your turn to answer the questions and award some blogs if you are willing. Answer the above questions in your own blog post and then nominate some of your favorite blogs that have fewer than 200 followers (it can be whatever kind of follower you like - I used blog followers). You can either make up a new list of questions for your nominees or just use the ones I used. Leave a comment on your nominee's blog so that they know that they were nominated! Include a link back to your post so that they know what to do. Participating in awards like this is a great way to build your community in the blog atmosphere and connect with other bloggers."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Going Vegan in 2015: Confessions of a New Vegan

I am in my fourth month of my vegan journey. I call it a journey because as you know this wasn't a decision I made overnight and my successes aren't manifesting themselves without deliberate measures. In fact, there are many areas in my life that I am still working on in regards to going vegan. Eating is just ONE facet of living a vegan lifestyle and the one that I have chosen to concentrate on first and foremost.  That doesn't mean I am not making strides in other areas at the same time, such as seeking out cruelty-free cosmetics and clothing.

So, while I am thrilled with how the process is going for me, I wouldn't be honest if I said there aren't some challenges. Most of these "challenges" have stemmed from the simple fact that my family is not vegan and I am, therefore, surrounded by temptations on a daily basis. However, the point of me blogging about this lifestyle change is to help others not only make the change toward veganism themselves, but also to learn how to cope with the transition as painlessly as possible.

Let's take a look at what has been my nemesis the last few months.

I can virtually sum up my struggle with one word - NUTELLA, which I buy for my older son. Several times a week I am having to spread that insanely indulgent chocolate and hazelnut spread over croissants for him - all the while staring longingly at it, occasionally stealing a sniff to help satisfy my craving.

Unfortunately, it all proved too much for me to bear and one day - about a week ago - I succumbed to the pressure and engulfed two heaping spoonfuls of the stuff.  I felt awful afterwards, and honestly, sick to my stomach, but I vowed to learn from this setback.

Besides this "Nutella incident" I have only had one other time in these four months when I have fallen off the wagon.  It was earlier on and I was baking sugar cookies.  I'm not much of a baker, but my mom gave me the mix leftover from the Christmas holidays and thus compelled me to make them for my sons. When the first batch came out of the oven, the smell of freshly baked cookies enveloped the air surrounding me and I crumbled.  Before I could say "DROP THAT COOKIE!" the cookie was in my mouth. UGH, don't judge me - again it's about being less cruel, not perfect, but even I was disgusted with myself.

The good news is that unlike the Nutella that I have to learn to deal with, I don't see myself baking in the near future.  So, this temptation can easily be avoided in the future.  

The truth of the matter is that I am going to have to learn to deal with these foods being in my reach without allowing them to sabotage my goals.

But how?

There are tons of vegan dessert recipes out there. I just have to get over my aversion to baking. OR, more likely, just learn to live without these sweet-tooth concoctions.  I also need to go to my local health food store when I'm not in a rush and really look around and see what vegan alternatives are out there.

I have discovered a very yummy vegan chocolate which helps during those high-crave moments.

I am discovering that the more primitive the food item is as an animal product or by-product (meat, cheese, eggs) the easier it is to resist.  But when the ingredients are masked (like the milk in Nutella or the eggs and butter in the sugar cookies) it is a bit harder to resist.

Other than the two stories above, I have been overwhelmingly surprised with how little temptation I am experiencing.  I have had little to no temptation for any kind of meat and have found that the meat alternatives are plentiful and delicious.  I don't even miss cheese and omelets like I imagined I would. When my mom made homemade manicotti a couple of months ago, sure it looked and smelled fantastic, but I wasn't chomping at the bit to shovel some in my mouth - like, yeah, you guessed it - Nutella.

Read my complete Going Vegan in 2015 series here.

P.S. People taking Warfarin, need to regularly monitor their INR levels to balance the risks. One risk is excessive bleeding, which happens when they have high INR levels. Another risk is clotting, which happens when they have low INR levels.  Learn more by going to this article from my sponsor, INRTracker or this government health link.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Heartfelt Look at Life Through the Eyes of a Dog (Book Review)

"That which you manifest is before you." ~ The Art of Racing in the Rain

It just so happens that I am a huge animal lover.  Coincidentally, I am a also an open-wheel race fan.  So when you have a novel where race car driving acts as a metaphor for life and is narrated by a dog, a dog who believes he will be reincarnated as a man, you have a story that is perfect for me! 

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein makes the reader take stock in his own life and how he is living it.  Filled with inspirational thoughts that could only be observed by a wise dog, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a heartfelt look at life that will remind you that just as the race car driver must accept and then correct his mistakes to stay in the race, so must we accept the consequences of our behaviors and take necessary actions to correct them in order to survive life.   

It was one of those books where I found myself re-reading sentences, paragraphs, even entire chapters, not because I lost focus or interest, but because the prose is so thought-provoking, you want to meditate on the words again right there and then. Plus, it proves that dogs really are a higher-being - better at listening, better at feeling, better at coping

On the eve of his death, Enzo, the family dog, looks back at his life and tries to make sense of it all. He recalls when Denny, a semiprofessional race car driver, picked him out of the litter and took him home. But little did they both know at that time how huge a role Enzo would become in the life of Denny, his wife, and his daughter.

I did become frustrated, even angry, with Denny for being so naive and getting himself into predicaments that were so clearly manipulated by others.  But, that was only because I really liked and cared for Denny. This connection to his character is exactly what I look for in books.  

An unusual element of this novel is that since it is narrated by Enzo, so much of what happens is relayed via hearsay - only bits and pieces of what Enzo is privy to.  But that gave this novel its charm.

This was a difficult book for me to read because I am currently dealing with the impending death of a beloved pet. But I am so happy I picked it up. I loved Enzo's story and his zest for life. I enjoyed the reflections on racing and moments of racing history Stein provided - all of which neatly tied into this unique story that even non-race fans will connect with.

The Art of Racing in the Rain will make you smile, make you sigh, and if it doesn't make you cry both tears of sorrow AND joy, you've probably never experienced a deep love and connection with a pet.  I've always loved dogs, their ability to communicate without words and create bonds with their people.  But even I will never look at dogs the same way again.

"To live every day as if it had been stolen from feel the joy of life. To separate oneself from burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful.....That is something to aspire to....." ~The Art of Racing in the Rain

I recommend this book to anyone who has ever loved and lost a pet, but also to readers who enjoy taking philosophical journeys through fiction.  Don't necessarily read this one for the plot, which became a bit unrealistic and predictable at times.  Instead, read it to take a lesson from a dog on how to live life. And, remember, "Your car goes where your eyes go." So stop staring at the wall! 

Check out more of my book reviews.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Family Movie Review: Megamind

"Destiny is not the path given to us, but the path we choose for ourselves."

Going back a few years for this one, but, Dreamworks' Megamind is one of those hidden gems, a delight among feature animated films that needs some recognition.  My sons received this DVD a few years ago and knew very little about it.  Therefore, they resisted watching it for a long time. However, once I convinced them to sit down and watch it with me, it became an instant favorite. Therefore, when my 10-year-old and I decided to watch this one again the other night, even my middle-school son couldn't help but sit down and watch it with us......and laugh throughout!

When two infant superpowers from nearby galaxies fall to earth, their lives collide. They become destined to grow up as archenemies in the ultimate battle of Good vs. Evil. However, in a bizarre twist, it is our hero, Metro Man (Brad Pitt), that comes across as a pompous jerk, while our villain, make that our SUPER-villain, Megamind (Will Ferrell), is likable with a certain undeniable charm.

When Megamind finally succeeds in defeating his nemesis, he quickly realizes it's no fun being a super-villain without a superhero to fight.

"What's the point of being bad when there's no good to try and stop you?"

When his creation of a new superhero goes terribly wrong, Megamind discovers his true purpose and finds love along the way.  In fact, I'll go as far as to say this is the sweetest animated love story since Beauty and the Beast, but with a comical flair that only Ferrell and Tina Fey (who portrays his love-interest, Roxanne Ritchie) can bring.

In the end we learn that it's what lies in our hearts that truly make us a hero or a villain. 

With a clever screenplay, the added talents of David Cross, Ben Stiller and several more, along with great music and fun dance sequences, Megamind is a fabulous film suitable for the entire family. This film is rated PG for action and some language.

For more of my family movie reviews click here.

Monday, April 6, 2015

An Absolutely Phenomenal Novel (Book Review)

"They had no idea how decency, loyalty, courage, how it all shrivelled away when one was frightened." ~ The Paying Guests

This is one of those novels that I am completely thrilled to be writing a review for because I cannot say enough good things about it! With tasteful and passionate love scenes and characters that are rich and multi-dimensional, The Paying Guests delves into the psyche of the human mind without apology.  I couldn't help question my own intellect while reading and wonder, "What would I do? What the HELL would I do?"

The Paying Guests is a historical novel set in post-Victorian England.  The novel is beautifully written with amazing attention to detail.  Readers are taken back to 1922 London - the grit, the greyness, the unmistakable changes that were in the air.

Due to financial hardships, Mrs. Wray and her daughter, Frances, are forced to take in tenants to help pay the bills. Long passed are the days of servants and high-society status. The arrival of the "paying guests," Mr. and Mrs. Barber, will prove to turn Frances' entire world upside-down. Can love survive traumatic consequences?  
The Paying Guests

A mix of a love story, a crime novel, and a psychological look at human behavior under the most dire of circumstances makes The Paying Guests one of the most fascinating and addicting books I've read in ages.  I quickly became sucked into the plight of Frances and Mrs. Barber, Lilian. I felt elated, heartbroken, and even frightened along with them.

For those of you who read my other reviews, you know that I am very critical of novels that are predictable.  Well, not the case in this one! Waters will keep you guessing and wondering what in the world is going to happen next up until the very last page.  Even the ending doesn't entirely wrap everything up for the reader. Yet that is exactly the point of it all.  Life is anything but a neatly-wrapped package. 

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys period novels, crime novels, and women's fiction.  Please don't let the length of this one keep you away.  Every page is a masterpiece. The Paying Guests will keep you wondering about the characters long after you've finished the book.  I look forward to reading other novels by Sarah Waters. 

Read my other book reviews and find your next read!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Family Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania

Holy rabies!  I completely forgot how laugh-out-loud funny Hotel Transylvania is.  It is unquestionably one of the funniest family films made in recent years. But what would you expect with an all-star cast of voice talent including Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, David Spade, and Jon Lovitz - just to name a few!  If you haven't seen it, put it on your family movie night list before the sequel comes out this fall. 

How does Count Dracula, a single-father to his daughter, Mavis (voice by Selena Gomez), keep her safe and away from her only threat, humans? He builds a fortress for monsters only! For over one hundred years the castle, which also serves as a popular vacation spot for monsters, remains undetected by humans. 

Now, on the weekend of Mavis' 118th Birthday celebration, Dracula must deal with an unexpected guest - a human! Fearing for his life, Jonathan (played by Andy Samberg) must play along and hope the other monsters don't uncover his secret identity.  If the guests discover that a human has infiltrated the safety of the castle, the reputation of Hotel Transylvania and the Count will be ruined.  

This is more than a story of a doting father trying to keep his daughter under his wing a little while longer. It's a lovely tale of a young vampire who, at 118 years old, wants to get out and experience the world on her own. When a romance blossoms between Jonathan and Mavis, it's too much for Dracula to handle and the shenanigans that ensue are both comical and sentimentally endearing.  Turns out the young human has a lot to teach the Count about life and love and letting go. 

The screenplay is just brilliant, filled with more one-liners than viewers can possible catch in a single sitting. Any "inappropriate" lines will go right over the heads of younger viewers, but will keep older kids and adults enthralled. 

The film is rated PG but suitable for most family members, at least those five and older. There is some rude humor and a few frightening images (Dracula's angry face!), but overall, this film makes a great family movie night.  You've never see a more lovable group of monsters.  Even the zombies are comical!  So get ready to laugh and jam out to some great music, too!  

Hotel Transylvania 2 hits theaters on September 25.   

Click here for more of my family movie reviews.