Thursday, November 9, 2017

Creativity Corner - Halloween 2017 Jordan Spieth Costume

My 12 year-old son, Preston, is very crafty and enjoys all forms of art.  I decided to start this Creativity Corner feature as a way for us to look back on our projects while sharing ideas with others.

Preston is a 7th grader and was on his middle school golf team this year.  He decided he wanted to be Jordan Spieth, a professional golfer, for Halloween.  That was easy enough since Jordan is sponsored by Under Armour and my son's closet is full of Under Armour golf clothes.  The only problem, he would have looked like himself walking around asking for free candy. 

In order to pull off this costume, I decided I would be his caddie and he would have to be Jordan after his Masters victory.  The green jacket with the Under Armour apparel would give it a more thought out appearance.

I bought the white jumpsuit like the caddies wear at the Masters on Amazon and added "Spieth" to the back with heat transfer vinyl that I cut out on my Cricut.  I also added the #80 to the front since that was his caddie's number the year he won.  I bought the Master's patch on Etsy and attached it with velcro to a blazer I already had.  Everything else we already had, so it was a pretty inexpensive costume this year.

We stopped at the course for a few pictures before trick or treating.

"Jordan" made me carry his full set of clubs all evening.  Fortunately, I could take out the 30+ balls he had stashed in that bag.

This was also the first year Preston designed and carved his pumpkin all by himself. Here is his spooky creation.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Review: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Guide, #1)

Goodreads Overview:

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

My Review:

I started out reading the book, but I got busy and the library snatched my ebook. I switched to the audio version about 1/3 of the way through because it was available, so this is a combined book/audio review.

The description of this book was very catchy from the start.  1700's historical fiction, England, Paris, reckless rich boys...  In fact, I really enjoyed the concept along with the characters and their travels.  I loved listening to Monty's accent, the vocabulary, and reliving their lack of innovation.  I also enjoyed hearing about some of the places I have visited in Paris, such as Versailles when it was at its finest and still the home of the royal family.  

On the other hand, I felt like this book would never end.  If some of the nonsense was removed and the important elements were condensed, the story would have been far more entertaining.  I also felt like some of the major plot points were a bit far fetched towards the end, which contributed to the dragging feeling.

Overall - I ended up giving it 3 out of 5 stars.  It was better than okay, but it never captivated my attention.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why

I heard about this book back when it was released, but I really didn't think it was for me.  I wasn't interested in spending my leisure time reading about suicide.  It sounded like something I would have been assigned to read in nursing school vs. something I would select for pleasure.

When the Netflix series was released it was once again in the news.  My son's middle school principal sent out a message regarding the series and suggested parents watch it with their children as an educational tool, so my husband decided to watch it.  He didn't think it was suitable for our 7th grader, so I decided to read the book.  I can't watch a series or a movie without reading the book.  That just isn't how things should be done.

I was addicted within the first couple of chapters.  The story is told from both Clay Jensen's and Hannah Baker's points of view.  Clay was the recipient of a mysterious package which contained seven audio tapes created by Hannah Baker.  Clay listens to the tapes throughout the book and we get to hear not only what Hannah experienced the past few years that led up to her ultimate decision, but also Clay's thoughts and interpretations of the events.

It is easy to see how one small "joke" can snowball into something that soon spirals out of control.  All of the pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly yet nobody could see how each tiny piece made a huge impact on the entire picture.

This book wasn't depressing or a tear jerker like I thought it would be.  It showed readers how even small actions can have large consequences.  I don't think anyone will walk away from this book and treat people and situations in the same flippant manner they may have in the past.  

While the book is Young Adult/Teen, I will not let my 7th grader (12 year old) read this book or watch the series yet.  They are going to discuss suicide in his health class this year, so I'm not questioning that portion of the content.  It is the other adult material that I do not feel is appropriate for middle schoolers.  I would recommend this book for individuals fifteen and over.

Overall, I thought Thirteen Reasons Why was fantastic.  I couldn't put it down and I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.  I am anxious to watch the series, but I will be sure to do so when my son is not around.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bookish Goals Status Update: August 2017

In an effort to help keep myself on track, I am going to post monthly status updates showing where I stand for each of my 2017 Goals.

Anything highlighted in gray is currently in progress, but not yet completed.

  • Read and review at least 40 books 
    1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
    2. Everbound by Brodi Ashton
    3. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
    4. This Girl by Colleen Hoover
    5. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton
    6. The Black Circle by Patrick Carman
    7. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
    8. Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout
    9. Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready
    10. Unhinged by A.G. Howard
    11. The Death Cure by James Dashner
    12. Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter
    13. Matched by Ally Condie
    14. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
    15. Ensnared by A.G. Howard
    16. Elegy by Tara Hudson
    17. Bitter Pill by Stacey Kade
    18. The 6th Target by James Patterson
    19. United We Spy by Ally Carter
    20. In Too Deep by Jude Watson (39 Clues #6)
    21. When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt
    22. Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell
    23. Until the Beginning by Amy Plum
    24. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
    25. One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank
  • I am once again participating in the New To You Challenge hosted by The Herd Presents.  I'm going to aim for 12-15 books. Any book over 80 pages qualifies as long as it is new to you.  New author, new genre, new series, etc.
    1. Three Dark Crowns - New Series and New Author
    2. Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout - New Series and New Author
    3. Matched by Ally Condie - New Author and New Series
    4. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead - New Series
    5. When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt - New Author
    6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher - New Author
    7. One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank - New Author
  • Read at least 10 New Adult books (My definition of NA = protagonists are post high school, but under 30)
    1. This Girl by Colleen Hoover
    2. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
    3. Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready 
    4. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
    5. Bitter Pill by Stacey Kade

    • Last year I read three of the books that had been on my TBR list the longest.  I now have 46 books that were all added on September 7, 2010 that would qualify.  I plan on reading at least 3 more of them this year. 
      1. Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell

    • Finish reading at least 5 series I have already started.  (I have several trilogies with final books I still need to read. ***Challenge Completed***
      1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater - The Raven Cycle Series
      2. This Girl by Colleen Hoover - The Slammed Series 
      3. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton - Everneath Series
      4. Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready - WVMP Radio Series
      5. The Death Cure by James Dashner - The Maze Runner Series
      6. Ensnared by A.G. Howard - Splintered Series
      7. Elegy by Tara Hudson - Hereafter Series
      8. United We Spy by Ally Carter - The Gallagher Girls Series

    • TBR Challenge.  For this challenge I want to read at least 20 books that were on my TBR list AND were published prior to January 1, 2017. ***Challenge Completed***
      1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
      2. Everbound by Brodi Ashton
      3. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
      4. This Girl by Colleen Hoover
      5. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton
      6. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
      7. Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout
      8. Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready
      9. Unhinged by A.G. Howard
      10. The Death Cure by James Dashner
      11. Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter
      12. Matched by Ally Condie
      13. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
      14. Ensnared by A.G. Howard
      15. Elegy by Tara Hudson
      16. Bitter Pill by Stacey Kade
      17. The 6th Target by James Patterson
      18. United We Spy by Ally Carter
      19. Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell
      20. Until the Beginning by Amy Plum
      21. One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank
      • Achieve a Professional level in the 2017 Prequel and Sequel Challenge hosted by Novel Heartbeat with 76 - 100 points. You can click on the link for the sign up. ***Challenge Completed***
        1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Cycle #4_ - 12 pts (finished series + sequel)
        2. Everbound by Brodi Ashton (Everneath #2) - 2 pts for a sequel
        3. This Girl by Colleen Hoover (Slammed #3) -12 pts (finished series + sequel)
        4. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton (Everneath #3) - 12 pts (finished series + sequel)
        5. The Black Circle (39 Clues #5) - 2 points for a sequel
        6. Where She Went by Gayle Forman (If I Stay #2) - 2 pts for a sequel
        7. Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready (WVMP #4) 12 pts (finished series +sequel)
        8. Unhinged by A.G. Howard (Splintered #2) - 2 pts for a sequel
        9. The Death Cure by James Dashner (Maze Runner #3) - 12 pts (finished series + sequel)
        10. Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls #5) 2 pts sequel
        11. Ensnared by AG Howard (Splintered #3) - 12 pts finished series +  sequel
        12. Elegy by Tara Hudson (Hereafter #3) - 12 pts (finished series + sequel)
        13. The 6th Target by James Patterson (Women's Murder Club #6) - 2 pts sequel
        14. United We Spy by Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls #6) - 12 pts completed series
        15. Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell (Kay Scarpetta #4) - 2 pts sequel
        16. Until the Beginning by Amy Plum (After the End #2) - 2 pts sequel

                                                          Total Points = 112
      • I joined the New Release Challenge hosted by Unconventional Book Views and Books, Movies, Reviews Oh My! My goal is to reach New Release Newbie level with 16 new releases read/reviewed during 2017.  The minimum length for a book to qualify is 100 pages. 

      Wednesday, August 30, 2017

      Queen of the Kitchen: Instant Pot Chicken Broccoli & Rice

      I have been reading rave reviews of the Instant Pot (IP) for quite a while.  Last week I finally broke down and ordered the Instant Pot Ultra from Amazon and it arrived on Friday.

      After taking it out of the box and performing the mandatory water test, I was ready for my first recipe.  I had some chicken in the fridge and found this Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Recipe on I Don't Have Time For That's site. (You can click on the link for the recipe and step by step instructions and pictures).

      The recipe was VERY easy to follow and I had a delicious meal on the table in about 10 minutes with minimal effort or mess in my kitchen.  The most time consuming part of this recipe was cutting the chicken into cubes, which only took a few minutes.

      The only other food prep was chopping some broccoli.  I used my Pampered Chef food chopper, so that was also a breeze.

      During the five minutes the Instant Pot was cooking I was able to clean up the kitchen and I only had a couple of measuring cups and the IP to tend to once we were finished with dinner.

      My husband and I gave it two thumbs up and I've already added it to my recipe collection for future use.

      Tuesday, August 29, 2017

      Review: Until the Beginning by Amy Plum

      Until the Beginning (After the End, #2)

      Until the Beginning is the conclusion of the After the End duology.  It picks up pretty much where the first book left off.  Miles and Juneau are running from Mr. Blackwell, who is the owner of a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company....and is also Miles's dad.  Juneau and her clan developed a drug that prevents aging and cures most known diseases which Mr. Blackwell is desperate to get his hands on.  

      Mr. Avery is also interested in the drug and has kidnapped Juneau's clan.  The majority of the book is spent finding and trying to rescue her clan.  Along the way Juneau discovers the Elders in her clan have been lying to them for generations.  She begins to question everything she has known and accepted her entire life.  

      Overall this book was a little better than okay for me. Most of the magical elements were so far fetched it made the story unbelievable at times.  I couldn't quite comprehend how a medication could cause side effects that can't be explained by any form of science, which is exactly how Miles felt when he first met Juneau.  She sticks to her beliefs and eventually convinces him by showing and teaching him.

      Now...I know you can argue that I have loved books and series involving ghosts, vampires, and other mythical creatures, but the authors of those series were able to convince me the events could really happen.  In this case, I enjoyed the characters and their developing relationship, but I just couldn't believe everything that was happening.  It isn't a bad story, just a little too much science fiction for me.

      Monday, August 28, 2017

      Review: Cruel & Unusual by Patricia Cornwell

      Cruel & Unusual (Kay Scarpetta, #4)

      Cruel and Unusual is the fourth book in the Kay Scarpetta series.  Kay is the Chief Medical Examiner in Virginia and assists the police and FBI with solving murders that make their way through her office.  In this case, the killer sets Kay up to take the fall.  She needs to work to clear her professional reputation as well as prove her innocence in all of the crimes.  

      The story begins with the execution of a death row inmate named Ronnie Waddell.  Kay completes the autopsy while her assistant Susan has to excuse herself for some strange reason.  Susan's behavior becomes increasingly erratic, which she blames on her pregnancy.  

      When Waddell's fingerprints turn up at a number of crime scenes after his murder Kay is at a complete loss.  She tries to find Waddell's fingerprints within her files, but discovers they are nowhere to be found. Someone hacked into her computer system and even her administrative and HR files have been tampered with.  

      Kay calls in her niece Lucy, who is a 17-year-old college student with a genius level IQ in computer science.  She sets out to find out who logged into Kay's computer and what was altered.  I obviously have no idea what will happen later in this series, but I have a feeling Lucy will eventually work for the FBI and help Kay solve future cases.  

      Overall this was an excellent murder mystery.  I started this series at least 15 years ago and really enjoyed the first couple of books.  I think I lost some of my motivation because there are so many books in the series.  As of this post there are 24 novels, so I still have 20 to read if I'm going to catch up.