13 February 2019

Books - January 2019 - Part One

Whew! January I was apparently really busy reading! I finished a whopping 11 books! I figure that's way too many to write about at once, or for you to want to read about at once ;) So here's the first six books I read in January 2019, with a sentence or two from me, and the goodreads summary (or the link to my review, if it's a book I was reading to review).

Haunted on Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase
I had this book on my Kindle for quite a while. I love witchy books, and I love New Orleans, so I really couldn't go wrong here. I'd give this one 3.5 stars out of 5.

"Jade loves her new apartment—until a ghost joins her in the shower!

When empath Jade Calhoun moves into an apartment above a strip bar on Bourbon Street, she expects life to get interesting. What she doesn't count on is making friends with an exotic dancer, attracting a powerful spirit, and developing feelings for Kane, her sexy landlord. 

Being an empath has never been easy on Jade's relationships. It's no wonder she keeps her gift a secret. But when the ghost moves from spooking Jade to terrorizing Pyper, the dancer, it's up to Jade to use her unique ability to save her. Except she'll need Kane's help to do it—and he's betrayed her with a secret of his own. Can she find a way to trust him and herself before Pyper is lost?"

The Shadow Cipher (York #1) by Laura Ruby
This was a book I read for our local middle school Battle of the Books.  It admittedly was not one of my favorite books of the seven in this year's contest. I found it very detailed and sometimes hard to keep straight. I wonder if it may have been more enjoyable if I had a familiarity with the city of New York? I'd give this one 3 out of 5 stars.

"It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it."

Hunt Them Down by Simon Gervais
This was a book I read and reviewed for Books I Think You Should Read.  I found it to be somewhat farfetched, but still fun to read. I gave it  3.5 out of 5 stars.

"Former Army Ranger Pierce Hunt is no stranger to violence. Fresh off a six-month suspension, he’s itching to hit a notorious Mexican drug cartel where it hurts, even if that means protecting crime boss Vicente Garcia, a witness in the case against sadistic cartel leader Valentina Mieles. But things spiral out of control when the cartel murders Garcia and kidnaps his granddaughter and an innocent bystander, Hunt’s own teenage daughter.
Mieles wants the new head of the Garcia family on a plate—literally. Hunt has seventy-two hours to deliver, or Mieles will execute the girls live on social media. With the clock ticking, Hunt goes off the grid and teams up with Garcia’s daughter, a former lover and current enemy. To save the girls, Hunt will have to become a man he swore he’d never be again: an avenging killer without limits or mercy."

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
I really enjoyed this book. It was another from our Battle of the Books list.  I especially appreciated the author's comment in her notes at the end - there's a lot written about the race riots of the 1960s, but what makes this book really thought-provoking is that it's from a kids' perspective. I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars.
"In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.

In a humorous and breakout book by Williams-Garcia, the Penderwicks meet the Black Panthers."

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
I was surprised to realize I'd never read anything by Gillian Flynn, and quickly borrowed one from the library on my Kindle. I'd heard that her characters could be rather dark and not necessarily likable. This book definitely followed that for me.  

"Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer."

For the Sake of the Game edited by Laurie R. King
This book was a surprisingly fun read for me. I may yet read some real Sherlock Holmes, as these stories inspired by his stories were quite enjoyable. Check out my full review at Books I Think You Should Read, where I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

"In a sensational follow-up to Echoes of Sherlock Holmes and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, a brand-new anthology of stories inspired by the Arthur Conan Doyle canon.
For the Sake of the Game is the latest volume in the award-winning series from New York Times bestselling editors Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger, with stories of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and friends in a variety of eras and forms. King and Klinger have a simple formula: ask some of the world’s greatest writers—regardless of genre—to be inspired by the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle.
The results are surprising and joyous. Some tales are pastiches, featuring the recognizable figures of Holmes and Watson; others step away in time or place to describe characters and stories influenced by the Holmes world. Some of the authors spin whimsical tales of fancy; others tell hard-core thrillers or puzzling mysteries. One beloved author writes a song; two others craft a melancholy graphic tale of insectoid analysis.
This is not a volume for readers who crave a steady diet of stories about Holmes and Watson on Baker Street. Rather, it is for the generations of readers who were themselves inspired by the classic tales, and who are prepared to let their imaginations roam freely.
Featuring Stories by: Peter S. Beagle, Rhys Bowen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Jamie Freveletti, Alan Gordon, Gregg Hurwitz, Toni L. P. Kelner, William Kotzwinkle and Joe Servello, Harley Jane Kozak, D. P. Lyle, Weston Ochse, Zoe Sharp, Duane Swierczynski, and F. Paul Wilson."

08 February 2019

10 Random Things for Friday

  1. Yeah - I suppose you already know how much I don't like the cold. We had two more snow days this week. That brings our school district up to 10 snow days so far this school year (snow meaning snow, or ice, or cold...). 
  2. And yet as cold as it is, I shaved my legs this morning. I know, TMI. But tonight is the Valentine's party at AquaTots, and I'm going swimming with the family. 
  3. Middle school Battle of the Books for 2019 is done! The winning team (which is the same excellent team who won last year) had 49 points. They are all 8th graders, which means they'll be out of the running next year ;). Our team had 30 points, so they finished somewhere in the middle of the pack. The team to beat next year will be this year's third place team - all 6th graders, including the younger brother of one of the 8th graders on the winning team. 
  4. I am still a reading fiend. LOL I read 11 books in January, and so far two more in February. I'm currently a few chapters into A Map of Days, the fourth book in Random Riggs' Miss Pergrine's Home for Peculiar Children series. 
  5. Have you heard what some kindergarten teachers ask kids when they have a tummy ache? If it's above or below their belly button. See, a tummy ache below the belly button frequently means they have to poop. LOL So there's something that's good to know.
  6. We don't have a full week of school for two more weeks -- February 25 - March 1. Next week we have a half day on Friday, then the week after that is mid-winter break (Monday and Tuesday off).
  7. I won a pair of sunglasses from Henry Ford OptimEyes (HFO)! It's the shop I got my glasses and sunglasses from a few weeks ago, and they asked customers to post a picture on their Facebook page with their new glasses on. I did, and I won! :O I'll go pick them out next week - yay!!
  8. I really hope the groundhog was right last week. I heard that we were supposed to have an early spring. Right now, it's bitterly cold, with crazy wind, and no snow other than what's blowing violently across the road. I don't know where it lands, it's just always blowing. Ick.
  9. It looks like our weekend has no special plans! I'm totally all right with that. Hubs will still teach at the ski hill tomorrow, and I think he said he has plans with friends in the garage on Sunday. Which is also fine. I haven't made any dinner plans yet, so I'll need to think about what sounds good and hit the market at some point.
  10. Thanks for checking in! What are you most looking forward to lately? Hope you're staying warm and safe :)

05 February 2019

Lego Movie 2: The Second Part - My Review

I got to see my first 'big screen' movie for 2019 a little earlier than I was planning! Thursday night (yes, after our fourth snow-day in a row...) I was visiting other blogs and entering contests, and was lucky enough to win screening tickets for Lego Movie 2: The Second Part from Finding Sanity in Our Crazy Life. It releases to theaters this Friday, February 8, but the kids and I were lucky enough to enjoy it last Saturday, February 3!

We were already fans of the first Lego Movie, and were happy when the second part pretty much picked up where it left off. Remember when the sister's Duplos said they were there to destroy the rest of the Legos? Well, they did just that. The old Legos we know and love were living a dreary existence in Apocolypseburg, until things went from bad to worse. Invaders from outer space took Lucy, LEGO Batman, Benny, Unikitty, and Metal Beard as captives to go to the Sistar System and be part of a wedding.

Emmett meets the tough Rex and they embark together to save Emmett's friends from Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi. Can they do it? Can Emmett be as tough as Rex? Can things ever go back to when everything was awesome? You'll have to see the movie to really find out!

The kids and I really enjoyed the movie. We'd give it 4 out of 5 stars, and considered it to be as entertaining as the first movies. I look forward to seeing it more times so I can pick up on more of the excellent writing, where they slide in the side comments that the parents get in reference to older cultural icons (like talking about all the actors who have played Batman). I'd recommend this movie to fans of the first movie, and Lego lovers of all ages. 

01 February 2019

Haiku My Heart - Battle of the Books Countdown

Battle of the Books
Close friends since early school years
Staying connected

I'm joining in with Haiku My Heart with recuerda mi corazon.

Battle of the Books. This picture is from last year's fifth grade battle, but now we're getting ready for the middle school battle with a whole new team. I'm tempted to say that I don't feel we're ready, but what is ready, really? My goal as coach was that the team members (all girls this time - the Greek Goddesses of Reading) enjoy themselves. So I tried to let myself off the hook from pressuring everyone to read the books. They all heard the announcement from the principal at least once a week reminding the battle team members to read all seven books. I didn't want their battle memories to be of the coach yelling at them to read. They've had practice battles at school now - they should know where we stand.

I want our battle team members to come out of the battle feeling like they built closer relationships with the other team members. I want them to remember reading as something enjoyable, not a pressure. I want them to hear next year's battle announcement and say, "Yeah! That was fun! I wonder what the other people I teamed up with last year are doing?"

The middle school Battle of the Books is next Friday - wish us luck!

31 January 2019

Throwback Thursday

I opened up the old pictures folder, and couldn't pick just one.  Both of these are pictures from a family trip to the Tail of the Dragon in June, 2011, where we met up with a bunch of friends (also with families of their own) from a web forum way back when.

First up, we have Maggie and I (and Jack on the inside) by the sign at the bike club. Have you been to the Tail of the Dragon? It's 318 turns in 11 miles on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. We had met up with the sam peeps a few times before any of us had kids. I remember a trip when Maggie was still on the inside (just a month or so before she was born!).

And here's a great shot of Maggie bumming a ride with our friend Jake, in his Lotus Elise. I still remember her little sweatshirt - it said, "I'm the big sister."

The kids love when we pull out old pictures. They're actually on random as the background screen of our TV. Maybe next week I can come up with some of little Jack.

28 January 2019

Happy Homemaker Monday {28 Jan 19}

Whoa - I sort of disappeared for a bit there, eh? I'm back home for the day (snow day, that is) and linking up with Sandra at Diary of a Stay-at-Home-Mom for Happy Homemaker Monday. I have so much fly through my head for just random posts, but everything feels so opionated and divisive. And I don't want to go there. So I'll just keep it nice and shallow and friendly instead. :)

The weather::

Well, I don't know if that looks like a good time to you, but it looks cold and miserable to me. LOL As a school employee for a whopping 10 hours/week, I do appreciate sleeping in, but I've already maxed out my paid snow days. So I won't get paid for today, and I fully expect to have at least one or two more snow or cold days off this week. Yay for sleep, boo for my paycheck in mid-February.

On my reading pile::

I'm getting a crazy amount of reading done this year. I can't exactly say why, other than the fact that I've made it a priority. I've been reading with all my spare time, and I've finished nine books so far in January, and I expect I'll finish the tenth later tonight.
The book I'll be finishing tonight on my Kindle is Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. I haven't yet watched the movie version, but I hope to - I love book/movie combos. Next I'm starting The Forgotten Hours by Katrin Schumann.

On my TV::

That's cute, how you think I might have some control over my own TV set. I've never been a big TV watcher. Right now I think it's some goofy kids YouTube thing - looks like HobbyKidsTV. I don't have any shows I'm currently watching.

On the menu for this week::
Monday - Hubs and daughter are out skiing, so I don't cook for just two. The little man and I will scrounge up some leftovers. Maybe hubs will let me know where they grab dinner and bring me something. Maybe not. No biggie either way.
Tuesday - Hubs teaches skiing, and the kids have activities til 5pm and 6:30pm. Last week we got pizza on the way home. It was good. Maybe we should do that again.
Wednesday - I got a box mix for red beans and rice with sausage. I'm hoping hubs will like it. Maybe we'll try it Wednesday.
Thursday - See Tuesday. LOL No, not pizza again, but hubs won't be home, so the kids and I will just warm something up.
Friday - Chicken of some sort. I need to pick up another can of chicken broth, but then I'll either put together the chicken and stuffing that my daughter really likes, or maybe some chicken and dumplings in the crock pot.

On my to-do list::
Finish getting daughter's laundry out of the dryer
Dry son's laundry and get it put away too
Do another load of whites so hubs has long johns clean for Thursday
Wash my jeans
Spend some time working on counted cross-stitch if we get another snow day this week

Looking around the house::
So happy I filled up my birdfeeders outside the front door. I love friendly little visitors. I'd like to get a couple more feeders to adorn more of my shepherd's hooks.

From the camera::
If only I were more ambitious about getting good pictures. Sorry there's a little bit of window reflection. I didn't want to actually go out in the cold and snow.

What I'm wearing today::
Double sweaters - a sweater, and then a poncho sweater my mom made over it. I hate to be cold. And a pair of jeggings that would not be warm enough outside, but I knew I wouldn't be going anywhere today.

My simple pleasures::
Curling up with an afghan and reading. Listening to music. Feeling no pressure to do anything. Yay for a good snow day!