Book Reviews: July

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Dear July, thank you for being so good to me!  I read some great books this month and I'm so excited to share some of them!

I know a lot of people loved this book, but I found a lot of it to be very boring. There were a few parts that I found interesting and the overall idea for the book was great, I just don't think the execution was a great as it could have been.  I think I liked Daniel's story the most and Vasrya's was hardest for me to read because of the animals (can't say too much more without spoiling it).  Overall this was a bit of a letdown.

I struggled with how to rate this book.  On the one hand, I loved it!  It was a little bit slow to start but then I just couldn't put it down.  I found myself needing to know what happened next and really caring about a lot of the characters.  On the other hand, there were points where it felt a bit soap-operaish, which was a bit annoying.  There were also times that I found the narrators (there were two) a bit frustrating.   I went with a higher rating because I really did enjoy this book and it really will make you feel all the feels!

I'm a fan of Cecelia Ahern and have read several books by her so I wasn't surprised by how drawn out the book was - it starts when they're 5 years old and ends when they're 50.   I enjoyed it but man did it seem like it would never end at times!  And the ending was very anticlimactic.  I did enjoy the way it was written (letters, emails, texts) and I think it made it easier to get through 45 years of life than if it had been written like a regular novel.  Even though the story was mainly about Rosie and Alex, I loved Rosie and Ruby's messages the most - everyone needs and friend like Ruby!  I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who doesn't mind epistolary novels.

"Gloriously eccentric and wonderfully intelligent" is exactly how I would describe this book.  My brother is Autistic so I usually enjoy any books that help me to understand him better.  This book was written by someone on the spectrum, about someone on the spectrum, so I think it offered a unique perspective.  There was a lot of math in this book which I kind of skimmed over (math isn't my thing and these parts were not critical to the story), and a lot of him explaining his logical thought process (which I found interesting at times, and frustrating at times).  This book wasn't at all what I thought it was going to be, but I really enjoyed it and I'm glad I read it.

Still sitting here scratching my head wondering why I waited so long to start this series!  I'm loving it and I'm loving how all the old and new characters are coming together and how their stories are intertwined!  I loved getting to know Scarlet and Wolf while also learning more about Cinder's past.  I honestly can't decide which book I liked better!  Not-so-patiently waiting for book 3 from the library!

 I received a signed ARC of this book from the I Read YA event at BookCon
I really, really liked this book.  I can totally understand why others may not, but I really did and I had a hard time putting it down.  I will say that I did expect this book to be a bit different.  There wasn't some big emotional punch or reveal like I had been expecting, but to me the whole book was an emotional punch in the face.  It probably will be for anyone who has lost someone at a young age.  For me, the circumstances were different. I wasn't there and it wasn't a school shooting.  But it was sudden, unexpected and tragic - and 10 years later it still hurts.  And everyone I know dealt with his death differently and that is a lot of what this books is about.  The aftermath and dealing with a tragedy.  It's also about the truth and how it gets twisted and I think that part of this story is so important because of the media involvement in school or other mass shootings.  Speculation hurts people - if you weren't there then you just don't know.  This book gave me a lot to think about, and I think that is why I liked it as much as I did.

I had the pleasure of hearing Angie Thomas speak at BookCon and she is fantastic! Hearing her talk about the inspiration for this book and the tie-ins to her own life made this book that much better for me!
This book y'all.  I don't really know what to say other than that this is probably one of the most important books you could read right now.  It is thought provoking, sad, frustrating, funny, and sobering.  Do yourself a favor and go get it today.

BookCon 2018

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

I discovered BookCon when I was making up my most recent 101 in 1001 list.  I saw it on someone else's list and immediately googled it.  When I saw the low weekend price I immediately texted my sister and told her she had no choice but to go with me.  It wasn't too hard to convince her.  We'd been looking forward to this weekend for month and it was definitely worth every penny!  The weekend went by so fast :( but we really enjoyed ourselves.  I can't wait to see who is going to be there next year (now that we're going to be in NY longer than expected).  Here are the panels we went to and a little bit about each one.

Time Traveling Fantasies Panel: Naomi Novik, Deborah Harkness and V.E. Schwab
This was our first panel. To be honest, they didn’t have the mic’s turned up so I didn’t hear a lot of the first half, but the second half was fantastic. I wanted to see this panel because Victoria (V.E.) Schwab was on the panel and it didn’t disappoint.

Magic and Power Panel: Marissa Meyer, Cassandra Clare, Brandon Sanderson, and Tomi Adeyemi
 This was a great panel about fantasy novels. They discussed their newest books, how they came up with the ideas for their stories, where the inspiration for some of the characters magics came from, and so much more.

 I Read YA: Met and got advanced copies of books from Scott Westerfeld, V.E. Schwab, and Kody Keplinger.  These are some awful pictures of me (thanks sis) but I don't even care - I fangirled so hard!

 Dear Evan Hanson Panel: Justin Paul, Benj Pasek, Steven Levenson, and Val Emmich 
 The creators of the show and the author of the upcoming book talked about how they took a popular Broadway musical and made it into a book. I can’t wait to read it when it comes out!

 The Real Reel: Becky Albertalli, Lauren Oliver, Angie Thomas, and Soman Chainani
 This was a great panel about what it’s like to have your book turned into a movie. They talked about how much control they have over things (note: not much), and what it’s like to see something you created come to life. Also, about the difference between Hollywood and publishing.

PBS: The Great American Read: Glynnis MacNicol, Yahdon Israel, Veronica Roth, and Daniel Jose Older
This was probably one of my favorite panels. The moderator had a bracket and a bowl of books from the Great American Reads list. She picked two books at a time and then each panel member would have to choose a book and defend their choice. The audience then voted by a show of hands. This went on until we had a winner (Harry Potter, of course).

 The Hate U Give Panel: George Tillman Jr., Sabrina Carpenter, Amandla Stenberg, Angie Thomas
 YOU GUYS!!! My sister and I saw Angie Thomas at a panel earlier in the day and really loved her. That coupled with the fact that my sister is a Sabrina Carpenter fan, we decided to stay for this panel (and got really good seats). Between this panel and the PBS one, I got up to get us some food. When I came back I noticed a sign saying no taping during the screening – and a whole bunch of scary guys in suits.  Y’all we got to see the first ever screening of clips from the movie and it was amazing! When I say first ever, I mean the author and the actors saw it for the first time just minutes before us. I freaking can not wait to see this movie! I guarantee this is going to be one of the most important books/movies of our generation

Here are the books I got signed and some of the things I brought home from BookCon.  We didn't get as much as we probably could have because we were more interested in the panels than the free stuff. 

Since the first day of BookCon ended around dinner time, we went out and enjoyed the city for a bit.  I honestly can't remember where we got dinner, but we spent the rest of the time in Times Square.  My sister isn't a big fan of NYC but she does enjoy Times Square.

Book Reviews: June

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

June was a solid reading month for me - I enjoyed every book I read.  I'm so excited to get into all of my books for Erin's Challenge in July!!

As far as enjoyment goes, this book was a solid 4 for me.  The story line was interesting and I really wanted to know what was going to happen to Lena.  I also love that it takes place in the south (near a town we are considering moving to).  My only issue was that I found the narrator a bit annoying and very repetitive.  I also think it could have been a bit shorter.  I'll definitely be reading the next book in the series.

Honestly, Fredrik Backman can do no wrong. He can pack more of a punch in less than 100 pages than a lot of authors can in a whole book. 

My first thought after finishing Cinder was, WHY did I wait so long to start this series?!?  I'm not typically a science fiction fan - there have definitely been sci-fi books that I've loved, but it isn't something I gravitate towards.  This one just blew me away.   One of my favorite things about this book (especially as a YA book) is that the characters weren't all caught up in their emotions.  They made mature choices based on how it would affect the people around them, not just how it would affect their love interest.  Also, Iko is the best!  I already have the next book on hold at the library and I can't wait to see where this series goes!

This was the first Backman book I was ever hesitant to read.  I loved Beartown and I didn't know if I really wanted a sequel, but I couldn't let a Backman book go unread.  As always Backman came through with a beautiful and emotional story.  I there was several times throughout this story where I was holding my breath and bracing myself.  While I still loved Beartown more, this sequel definitely didn't disappoint and I definitely recommend it! 

Documentary Review: National Parks Adventure

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Documentary: National Parks Adventure
Watched On: 06/17/18
Duration: 42 Minutes
Narrated By: Robert Redford
My Rating 4/5 Stars 

This was my first documentary watched for my Day Zero Challenge. I decided that in order to get the most of out each documentary, that I would take notes and post about each one.  National parks Adventure was a fantastic first pick and I'm really glad I watched it. 

This documentary was less about what they were saying and more about what they were showing - the immense beauty that is the National Parks in the United States.  They started in Yellowstone which happens to sit on top of the worlds largest super volcano (which was the subject of a book I read a few months ago!), and is home to over half of the geysers on earth.  Next up was a short visit to the Grand Canyon whose exposed rock layers date back up to 1.7 billion years ago!  The next stop had me freaking out a bit - not because of the monument itself but because of the fuzzy friends who live there!  Devils Tower in Wyoming is  home to one of my favorite animals - Prairie Dogs!  Prairie dogs are super cute and happen to have a very sophisticated vocabulary.  They have different sounds to alert about different types of predators, and it's the females who do the alerting.

Native Americans believe that the ridges of Devils Tower are the claw marks from the great bear.  They are, in fact, massive crystals of rock which formed the heart of a volcano which has long since eroded away.   From there, the climbers take you to Redwoods National Forest.  The Redwood trees are in danger of disappearing which is really sad as some of these massive trees are over 2,000 years old!  95% of the Redwoods were spelt for lumber back in the early days of this country.  It is in Yosemite that you learn about the formation of the National Parks system, and the camping trip that started it all (for that information, you'll have to watch for yourself).

One of the most interesting facts I learned watching this documentary is that it was actually a woman's club that fought to save the Everglades back in the early 1900's after discovering that millions of birds were being killed by hunters every year.

I learned a lot of interesting facts about the National Parks while enjoying the beauty of these parks.  The amazing scenery is what really made this documentary great.  If you have any interest in our National Parks here in the US, I'd definitely recommend watching National Parks Adventure on Netflix.

101 in 1001: Fitness/Health

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Last 101 post, I promise! I have some PCS goals, too but I don't feel like those need any elaboration, so this is it.  These are my health and fitness goals.  I've gotten really out of shape this winter and really want to change that.  I also miss hiking and really want to get back to it so hopefully these help.

Learn to hold a handstand
I could do a handstand when I was younger and I actually had some success in 2016 at the beach, but in general it is a skill that I totally lost.  This one kind of ties in with some yoga goals, but I really want to be able to do a hand stand and hold it for at least 10 seconds.

Complete a Walk to Mordor challenge
 This is another goal that I found on the Day Zero website and I thought it looked fun.  The goal is to walk 1779 miles "from the Shire to Mordor" in your own neighborhood or parks etc.   They calculate that if you walk 3 miles every other day that it can be done in 20 weeks (4.5 months), but I think I'm going to challenge myself to complete it in half that time.

Hike in the Adirondacks
 If I calculated correctly, we can be in the Adirondacks in about 1.5 hours.   Now, the part I really want to go to is a little bit farther than that, but still a doable day trip, especially if we take the dogs like I want to.   I'd like to do more than one hike, but I'll take whatever I can get. 

Hike with the dogs once per week
This is, of course, a summer goal and also weather permitting.  The pups LOVE to go for walks and love going in the buh-bye car because that usually means that we are going somewhere fun.  I'd like to get out and find some new trails and go back to some old ones this summer. 

Get a massage
It just needs to happen.

Complete a 30 day yoga challenge
I love Yoga and I was doing it all the time when there was a night class at the gym.  But the instructor PCS'd and now there is only AM classes.  I really want to find an app that has a 30 day program and just do it at home on my own time. 

Use my fit-bit to track my activity for 3 months
I've actually already started this one!  I'm currently doing Isagenix (and I don't plan to stop!) and the Isa App connects with my fit-bit app to give me a more accurate idea of my calories in vs calories out.  I really want to continue to track my activity and really work on getting my steps above 10,000 at least 4 to 5 days per week. 

{Find a workout schedule that works for me, Keep that schedule for 6 months} 
 With my work schedule, finding the time to work out is a bit difficult.  I really want to write up two schedules for each day - one for if I do work on that day and one for if I don't.  That way I always know when to work out and what I'll be doing each day as soon as my work schedules are published.

101 in 1001: Blog/Writing

Thursday, June 21, 2018

I'm trying really hard to be better about blogging, so I had to throw some blogging goals onto my 101 in 1001 list.   Last time I was a bit too ambitious, so this time around I made the goals a bit more realistic for me.

Blog twice per week for 1 year
 I really do enjoy blogging but with working two jobs most days, I just don't feel like blogging when I get home.  I want to put more effort into blogging on my days off.  If I can just complete one post on each day off, I'll meet this goal.

 Keep a journal for one year - write 2X per week
I've always wanted to keep a journal so why not start now.  I've been thinking about starting this on my thirtieth birthday (next year!  Yikes!) and documenting the first year of my thirties.

Make a list of 100 things I've already done
 When I first started blogging, another blogger had posted her Reverse Bucket List - a list of awesome things she's already done in her life.  I thought that was a great idea and did one of my own.  It really reminded me how lucky I am and how much I have actually done in my life.  At that time, I wasn't feeling too great about my life so it was a good reminder to be grateful.   I plan to do this on a much larger scale with a list of 100 things I've done. 

Make a list of 100 things I want to do before I die
For my 101 in 1001 list, I needed to be realistic about what I could accomplish in the next 2.75 years.   With this list I get to be a bit more lofty with my goals and think a little farther into the future.  Though I do plan to be a bit realistic, I mean I know I'm never going to have my own huge library on my property, as much as I would LOVE that.

Document one week of my life in photographs
I've noticed that I'm starting to take less pictures (other than pictures of my dogs) of daily life.  I used to take photos all the time even if it was something that seemed trivial.  I've always been pretty good at being able to take a photo but still actually enjoy whatever it is that I'm looking at.  However, lately I've just not been motivated to take pictures.   Hopefully this goal will help me get back into taking pictures of daily life.

Do at least 1 Vlog
I have never liked seeing myself on video so I know this will be a hard one for me and probably one that I'll put off for a while.  However, I do what to give it a try.  Some of my favorite bloggers do the occasional Vlog and I always enjoy them!

101 in 1001: Random/School

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I had a few goals that didn't really fit into any of the other categories and became their own "random" category.  I also have a few goals for when I return to school.

Finish German Rosetta Stone
I've had this damn Rosetta Stone for years.  I was doing so well with it, but then the audio went out on my laptop.  I haven't had the chance to get it fixed, but I was told I'd probably need a new laptop which I can't afford.  I've installed it on Josh's laptop and hope to get started fairly soon.
Complete 7 goals in 1 week
 I saw this one on someone elses list and thought it sounded fun, so I added it to mine.  No other reason behind this one.

Go horseback riding
I LOVE horses!  I rode when I was younger and have been wanting to get back into it, but it is an expensive hobby!  I'm hoping that it's one I can get into again once we're closer to being debt free. Even if I can only go once per month, I'm cool with that. 

Get comic and giraffe photos framed
We have three prints that we've needed to get framed for like 2 years!  We want to hang the comic ones in the spare room and the giraffe one in our room.  We don't want expensive frames, we just need to get them measured because they're all weird sizes.  So basically it hasn't gotten done because I'm just lazy. 

Make Christmas cards
By this I mean cute little cards with photos of us and the pups.  I always do the generic ones you can get in a box from Walmart because they are cheaper.  We'll have more money either this Christmas or next so I'd like to finally do a cute personalized Christmas card. 

Put together a Will
We both need one and I don't have one.  Josh has one through the Army which is fine for as long as he's in, but I need to do one for myself.  I'm not too worried about this until we actually have more money saved than we do debt. 

Get the pups fully trained
Y'all these dogs drive me nuts!  Both of them are terrible on a leash.  I've taken Bolt to three different trainers and he just doesn't care.  Belle is just bad because I haven't taken the time to train her separatelyWe are having issues with her going potty in the house.  Accidents are getting fewer and fewer but it's still annoying and we can't figure out why she does it.  We potty trained her by letting her out every 30 minutes when we first adopted her, and praised her every time she went outside.   She knows better.  We're going to see a trainer soon to see if there is something we're missing.

{Begin school, Maintain a 3.5 GPA (at least), Maintain a 4.0 GPA in all Paralegal classes}
I plan to start attending school when we move.  I wanted to get most of our debt cleared before starting because I wont be working as much once I start.  I would start next semester but I want to start and finish at the same school.  I plan to study to be a Paralegal and do so very well!
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