Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Creativity Corner: Ohio State Stadium Cake

My 11 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.

For this year's Ohio State vs. Michigan game I made this stadium cake.  I purchased the pan several years ago from Williams Sonoma, but this is the first time I have used it.  I decided to use the recipe that was on the pan's packaging, but I would not recommend it.  It was a bundt cake recipe, but it turned out very dry compared the the recipe I usually use in these types of cake pans.

If nothing else it was a very cute centerpiece at my party :)

Monday, December 19, 2016

COYER Challenge Sign-Up

I have been in a bit of a reading funk the last few weeks, so what better way to gear up for the new year than another COYER challenge.

For the full details and the sign-up, click on this link.

I'm not the fastest reader and I may struggle with have to stick with only eBooks under $1, but I'm going to try to post more reviews for this challenge than I did last summer.

The following is the description:

This time COYER is going to be a 12 week Blackout, where you have to dedicate yourself to reading the books YOU ALREDY have acquired for less than $1.00.  The only exception is audio books, which you must have purchased for less than $5.  They must either be eBooks or audio books.

We understand that we’re all constantly acquiring new books,  though.  So we’ve provided you a little relief (believe it or not this was all Michelle!), in the form of a generator.  Every book powers the generator up a little more.  After reading 10 books over 100 pages your generator is fully powered.  Books under 100 pages only provide half the energy… So it would take 20 books under 100 pages to power your generator.
Once your generator is powered up,  you may read ANY one book you want.  Doesn’t matter how much it cost, where you got it,  what format it is.  But your generator only has enough power for ONE book,  so use it immediately and wisely.  You can’t save it to use later,  it’s now or never!
COYER Blackout will run from December 17, 2016 – March 3, 2017. We will leave the linky open 1 extra day for you to get reviews in,  but those reviews need to be posted by the end of the day March 3rd. We will announce winners of (3) $10 gift cards to Amazon or Barnes and Noble on March 4th.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bookish Goals Status Update: November 2016

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 2016 Goals.

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

  • Read and review at least 40 books 
    1. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
    2. First Family by David Baldacci
    3. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
    4. Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (39 Clues Book 1)
    5. I Survived Hurricane Katrina (I Survived #3)
    6. I Survived the Joplin Tornado (I Survived #12)
    7. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer 
    8. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
    9. One False Note by Gordon Korman (39 Clues #2)
    10. The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis (39 Clues #3)
    11. My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Stephanie Perkins
    12. Shade Me by Jennifer Brown
    13. Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson (39 Clues #4)
    14. Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
    15. 738 Days by Stacey Kade
    16. Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
    17. Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
    18. The Crown by Kiera Cass
    19. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
    20. The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
    21. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
    22. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
    23. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
    24. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
    25. The Bronze Key by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black
    26. The Partner by John Grisham
    27. Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
    28. For This Life Only by Stacey Kade
    29. All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
    30. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
    31. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
    32. This Girl by Colleen Hoover
  • I am once again participating in the New To You Challenge hosted by Herding Cats & Burning Soup.  I'm going to aim for the "Dipping the Toes" level with 12 - 24 books that qualify. Any book over 80ish pages qualify as long as it is new to you.  New author, new genre, new series, etc. - Goal Complete
    1. Confessions of a Shopaholic  - New series
    2. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey - New author and New Series
    3. Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan - New series
    4. I Survived Hurricane Katrina - New author and New Series
    5. One False Note by Gordon Korman - New author
    6. The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis - New author
    7. Shade Me by Jennifer Brown - New series
    8. Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson (39 Clues) - New author
    9. Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig - New author
    10. Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire - New author
    11. The Maze Runner by James Dashner - New author & New Series
    12. The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee - New author & Series
    13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman - New author & Series
  • Read at least 10 New Adult books (My definition of NA = protagonists are post high school, but under 30)
    1. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
    2. 738 Days by Stacey Kade
    3. Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
    4. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
    5. This Girl by Colleen Hoover
    6. November 9 by Colleen Hoover
    • Last year I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was the book that had been on my Goodreads TBR list the longest.  This year, I have 49 books that were all added on September 7, 2010 that would qualify.  I plan on reading at least 3 of them. Goal Complete
      1. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
      2. The Partner by John Grisham 
      3. Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
    • Finish reading at least 5 series I have already started.  (I have several trilogies with final books I still need to read. 
      1. The Crown by Kiera Cass - The Selection Series
      2. Allegiant by Veronica Roth - The Divergent Series
      3. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater - The Raven Cycle Series
      4. This Girl by Colleen Hoover - The Slammed Series 
    • Attend a book convention - Goal Complete
      • I had an absolute blast at BEA this year.  I posted daily recaps with pictures and highlights in May.
    • I joined the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. My goal is to reach Mount Blanc level - Read 24  books in 2016 that I owned before January 1, 2016.  Ebooks that you own count, but you must own the book....No library books.
      1. First Family by David Baldacci
      2. Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (39 Clues #1)
      3. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
      4. One False Note by Gordon Korman (39 Clues #2)
      5. The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis (39 Clues #3)
      6. Shade Me by Jennifer Brown
      7. Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson (39 Clues #4)
      8. Allegiant by Veronica Roth (Divergent #3)
      9. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments #3)
      10. The Partner by John Grisham
      11. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (Maze Runner #2)
      • Achieve a Professional level in the 2016 Prequel and Sequel challenge with 76 - 100 points.  I finished last year with 82 points, so hopefully this year will be similar.  The sign up and description can be found at Novel Heartbeat. (Link Up Quarterly)
        1. First Family - King & Maxwell #4 - 2 points for a sequel 
        2. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer - Lunar Chronicles #2 - 2 points for a sequel
        3. The Girl Who Played with Fire - Millennium series #2 - 2 points sequel
        4. One False Note by Gordon Korman (39 Clues #2) - 2 points sequel
        5. The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis (39 Clues #3) - 2 points sequel
        6. Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson (39 Clues #4) - 2 points sequel
        7. Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (The Naturals #2) - 2 points sequel
        8. The Crown by Kiera Cass (Selection Series #5) - 12 pts (finished series + sequel)
        9. Allegiant by Veronica Roth (Divergent #3) - 12 pts (finished series + sequel)
        10. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (MI #3) - 2 points sequel
        11. The Bronze Key by Clare & Black (Magisterium #3) - 2 points sequel
        12. Four to Score by Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum #4) - 2 points sequel
        13. All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (The Naturals #3) - 2 points sequel
        14. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (Maze Runner #2) - 2 points sequel
        15. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Cycle #4_ - 12 pts (finished series + sequel)
        16. This Girl by Colleen Hoover (Slammed #3) -12 pts (finished series + sequel)
                                                          Total Points = 72
      • Complete 2 half marathons during 2016 - Goal Complete
        1. I ran in the Glass City Half Marathon on April 24th and finished in 2:17:25
        2. I ran the Emerald City Quarter Marathon in 1:02:26
        3. I ran the Columbus Half Marathon on October 16th. Time 2:17:42
      • I joined the New Release Challenge hosted by Unconventional Book Views and Books, Movies, Reviews Oh My! My goal is to reach New Release Pro status with 16 new releases read/reviewed during 2016.  The minimum length for a book to qualify is 100 pages.
        1. Shade Me by Jennifer Brown - Release date 1/19/16
        2. 738 Days by Stacey Kade - Release date 6/7/16
        3. Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig - Release date 10/4/16
        4. The Crown by Kiera Cass - Release date 5/3/16
        5. The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee - Release date 8/30/16
        6. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover - Release date 8/2/16
        7. The Bronze Key by Clare & Black - Release date 8/30/2016
        8. For This Life Only by Stacey Kade - Release date 8/30/2016
        9. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater - Release date 4/26/16
        10. I picked up a TON of new releases at BEA, so I should make serious headway towards this goal the last half of the year.

      Saturday, November 19, 2016

      Creativity Corner: Adult Coloring

      My 11 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.

      This week I completed my second page in the Harry Potter coloring book by Scholastic.  Some of the pages are very detailed and look like they will be quite time consuming, but the pages with the house crests are very manageable.  I tried to make it as true to the original as possible.  You can't really tell in the photo, but there are two different colors of gold used.

      I also completed the first page in the Johanna's Christmas coloring book.  This book is a great way to put someone in the holiday spirit if you are looking for a gift idea.

      Monday, November 14, 2016

      Review: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

      The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2)

      The Scorch Trials is the second installment in the Maze Runner series.  While I really enjoyed the original book, there was something missing this time around.  The characters now realize they are part of an experiment, what they need to do to survive, and how long it should take them to complete "The Scorch Trials."  The element of surprise was completely eliminated, which removed all of the suspense.  Danger still presents itself in various forms, but I felt like the characters were simply going through the motions to reach the "safe haven."

      We have the same cast of characters, but trust becomes a major issue for Thomas.  WICKED is supposed to be good, but they keep putting them in dangerous situations for no obvious reason.  When things don't go as planned WICKED swoops in to help Thomas, but they place him back in the trials without any explanation.  In addition, Teresa was supposed to be his best friend.  She is taken away and replaced with a boy from "Group B" who can also speak telepathically with him.  The Gladers discover there was another group consisting of all girls and one boy that went through an identical maze experiment.  They are now competing against the other group in addition to simply trying to survive the trials.

      The end of the book did not provide much of a conclusion.  The "scorch trials" are complete, but it is clear there is another book in this series.  The characters aren't provided any more information than what they started with.  They have no idea what WICKED is trying to accomplish or how much longer the trials will continue.  Based on past experience, they can only believe the safe haven is a temporary reprieve and there is more to come. 

      I do not feel like I gained very much from reading this story.  We picked up some additional characters along the way, but Thomas and his friends are in basically the same situation they were in at the end of The Maze Runner.  I am hopeful The Death Cure, which is the final book in the original trilogy, will provide the EPIC conclusion I am looking for.     

      Wednesday, November 9, 2016

      Creativity Corner: Magical Jungle by Johanna Basford

      My 11 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.

      Last weekend I completed my first page in Johanna Basford's Magical Jungle.  It is such a great coloring book and I can't wait to start on the next page, but my Johanna's Christmas coloring book arrived last week and I have to add it into the rotation.  I'm already working on the first page in that book :)

      Monday, November 7, 2016

      Review: All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

      All In (The Naturals, #3)

      All In is the third book in the Naturals series.  For those of you who are not familiar with the series, it is a murder mystery series involving 5 teenagers recruited by the FBI for their abilities to profile, read emotions, detect lies, and analyze statistics.  Due to their individual upbringings and unusual childhoods they naturally honed these skills to exceptional levels.  

      This time around there is a serial killer on the loose in Las Vegas.  So far he has killed 1 person at a different casino each day starting on January 1st.  The FBI is called in because the casino owners want to put an end to this as quickly and quietly as possible before business plummets.  To top things off, there is a huge professional poker tournament just around the corner that must go on as planned.

      The naturals struggle with the case because there doesn't seem to be a common denominator.  Different locations, different methods and no common element between the victims,  The only connection between the cases is a mysterious set of numbers found on the wrists of each victim.  

      In addition, there is a breakthrough in Cassie's Mother's murder case.  Some remains were found that are believed to be hers.  Jennifer takes this portion of the story in a direction I don't think anyone would have anticipated.  What was deemed to be solid evidence in the case isn't as solid as it appeared and everything Cassie believed to be true is far from it.  

      Sloan, the statistician, eventually discovers a pattern that links each of the cases.  The locations and dates of the murders are tied to a mathematical code or sequence that has been around for hundreds of years.  They just need to discover when and where the next murders will take place in order to catch their UNSUB. (Unknown Subject)

      If you enjoy YA and thrillers/mysteries this is definitely the series for you.  I have thoroughly enjoyed every book in this series and have been glued to each detail from start to finish.  I love all of the characters and their unique abilities as well as their individual personalities.  They are all so different, but they complement each other beautifully and have really developed into a family.  

      The final book in the series, Bad Blood, was just released last week.  I should receive it from the library within the next few days and can't wait to see how the series will conclude.  If you haven't started the series yet, now would be the perfect time. 

      Thursday, November 3, 2016

      Creativity Corner: Halloween 2016

      My 11 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.

      Last March we stayed at the Artist's House in Key West, which was the home of Robert the Doll.  The doll is believed to be haunted and was the basis for Chucky in the famous horror movies.  My son isn't old enough to watch the movies, but he was fascinated by the story.  We actually stayed in a two bedroom suite, which included the turret where Robert slept.  

      Below is a picture of the Artist's House and Robert the Doll from our vacation.  FYI - You aren't supposed to take pictures of Robert without asking his permission first or you will be cursed.  We did ask for permission and hopefully it was granted :)    

      You can read about the Legend of the Real Life Chucky at the attached link.

      To cap off this haunted experience, we were at the Halloween store looking for costumes and came across a Chucky mask.  My son thought it would be fun to dress up as Chucky.  It was a done deal when he saw the pretend knife with moving "blood" in it to accessorize the costume.  

      I actually lucked out because we already had overalls from his minion costume last year and Chucky just wears a striped shirt underneath.  My husband then suggested that I should be the "Bride of Chucky" from the fourth movie in the series.  When I googled it I decided that would be easy enough.  I already had everything I needed with the exception of the wig, which was $10 on Amazon.

      Here are the pictures of us from Trick or Treat.

      We even made a Chucky themed pumpkin this year:

      Friday, October 28, 2016

      Review: For This Life Only by Stacey Kade

      For This Life Only

      For This Life Only is very different from Stacey's other books.  It doesn't contain her usual quick wit and humor that I have come to expect.  In fact, it was a bit of a tearjerker at the end, so you may want to keep that in mind if you are planning on reading this book in public.  Stacey grew up as a PK (pastor's kid), so I'm sure this book was harder for her to write than most of the others because it certainly hits closer to home than ghosts and aliens.

      Jace and his brother Eli are the twin sons of the local minister.  Their father expects everyone in the family to maintain a perfect image and to always reflect positively on the family and the church.  Their grandfather was the minister before their father took over and everyone assumes they will eventually carry on the family tradition.  For Eli, that may be a possibility, but Jace is well on his way to a baseball scholarship and plans on moving as far away as possible.  Everything changes the night Eli and Jace are involved in a car accident.  Jace injures his arm and leg and will never be able to pitch again.  Eli was even less fortunate.

      The majority of the book revolves around Jace's family struggling with the loss of Eli.  Jace always viewed Eli and the "good twin" while he was the "bad twin" or the screw up.  They were two halves of a whole and without his brother, he is only half of what he should be.  

      Jace has always been taught to believe in the afterlife, but after nearly dying and losing his brother, be begins to question his beliefs.  He can't turn to his family or the church, so he seeks guidance from Thera, who he discovers was secretly friends with Eli.  The reason for the secrecy....she is the daughter of the local psychic and the church does not approve of this profession.  The church would also like to take over her mother's property, which is located directly across the street from the church, and has been trying to force them out for years.  The more Jace gets to know Thera, the more he realizes his brother may not have been as perfect as he seemed.  

      Overall, this was a very thought provoking book.  Stacey doesn't attempt to provide the answers to Jace's questions about loss and the afterlife.  She does; however, share some research and evidence that allows readers a chance to explore their own thoughts on the subject without pressuring anyone into a certain set of beliefs.  We also get to see Jace mature and stand up for himself and the things he believes in, which provided a silver lining in this otherwise tragic story.  

      Thursday, October 27, 2016

      Review: Four to Score by Janet Evanovich

      Four to Score (Stephanie Plum, #4)

      Stephanie Plum is back in action as Trenton, New Jersey's most lovable bounty hunter.  She may not be the most talented, but she certainly is the most entertaining.  

      This time around she is looking for Maxine Nowicki, who was arrested for stealing her estranged boyfriend's car and failed to appear for her court date.  It seems strange to everyone that Maxine would run from the police for such a minor offence.  This could have all blown over by simply paying a fine and returning the car.

      Stephanie soon discovers that Maxine's good friend Margie "accidentally" cut off her finger and Maxine's mother has a nasty head injury, which was also an "accident."  In addition Maxine’s former boyfriend, Eddie Kuntz, is willing to pay Stephanie $1,000 to find Maxine, so there is clearly more to this story than meets the eye.  
      Eddie starts receiving mysterious clues from Maxine, which are in a secret code that nobody can solve.  Stephanie recruits the services of her elderly neighbor's nephew who is a pro at solving these types of puzzles.  He also happens to be one of Trenton's most famous drag queens, which really spices things up.  Add in Lula, Grandma Mazur and the other usual suspects and you have one hilarious page turner.

      In addition to the hunt for Maxine, things are beginning to heat up with Joe Morelli.  Stephanie is forced to move in with him when someone sets her apartment on fire.  She doesn't want to bring any trouble to her parents' house, so she turns to Joe for help.  They have had a love/hate relationship since Stephanie was 6 years old, but they may be moving in a more positive direction.  

      I'm still very early in this series, which currently has 23 novels plus some holiday stories.  I'm not sure how long Evanovich can keep up this all luck / no skill bounty hunter routine while still keeping the series funny and fresh, but so far so good.  I gave Four to Score 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads and will definitely continue onto book five.

      Saturday, October 22, 2016

      Stacking the Shelves: I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

      Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  It is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, be it physical or virtual.  This means you can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

      Tynga publishes her post each Saturday, so be sure to link up your posts and check out what books others have added to their shelves that week.

      I traded for this book in our little free library:

      Goodreads Overview:

      I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies, #1)Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books--but we are real.

      Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. We have lived among you without you knowing.

      But they know.

      They caught Number One in Malaysia.
      Number Two in England.
      And Number Three in Kenya.
      They killed them all.

      I am Number Four.

      I am next.

      Monday, October 17, 2016

      Marathon Monday: Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Half Marathon

      Sunday October 16th was the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Half and Full Marathon.  It was 60 degrees while we waited at the start and warmed up to the mid 70's for those full marathon runners that took a little longer to finish. It was probably only in the high 60's by the time I finished a little before 10:00 A.M., so I couldn't have asked for a better day.

      Here I am with half of my cheering section prior to the race.

      The start of the Columbus race is always exciting with fireworks and music to send off the runners.

      I saw my "fan club" a couple of miles into the race and again at the 7 mile point.

      They were also at the finish, which was quite impressive compared to the last time I ran this race when I never saw anyone until well after I finished.  

      Here are my official results:

      And of course you have to get the customary post race celebration picture.

      Friday, October 14, 2016

      Review: The Partner by John Grisham

      The Partner

      I was a huge fan of John Grisham's legal thrillers back in high school, but I haven't read many since.  I decided to pick up where I left off and read his 8th book, The Partner, which was released in 1997.  I've heard that some of his never books aren't as good as the originals, but he certainly had his A game when he wrote this novel.

      The Partner is about a young attorney in Biloxi, Mississippi named Patrick Lanigan who faked his death to start his life over.  He was in a bad marriage and discovered the partners in his firm were planning on firing him before he could cash in on their corrupt scheme.  He carefully gathered the evidence he needed before staging a car accident and sailing off into the sunset.  The partners of the firm put on a good show at the time of his funeral, but were secretly grateful for their good fortune.  

      When the 90 million dollar settlement was wired into the firm's account it immediately went missing.  The firm was supposed to receive 1/3 of the amount (30 million dollars) with the remainder being transferred to their client.  Everyone began to question the circumstances surrounding Patrick's death and the search soon began.

      When Patrick is found in Brazil four years later everyone thought he would finally be brought to justice and their stolen money wold be returned.  Little did they know the depths of the research and planning he had done the year before he left as well as while he was on the run.  

      I was absolutely amazed by the level of detail.  Everything is woven together seamlessly and I couldn't help but root for Patrick to come out unscathed.  While his actions appeared to be inexcusable on the surface, he managed to have an explanation for everything.  There was always a bigger fish in the sea with regards to every accusation and Patrick had every detail covered.

      I was highly entertained and would definitely recommend this book.  There was a shocking twist at the very end that I never would have anticipated.  I guess Grisham didn't want to leave readers with a too good to be true feeling and decided to drop a bomb in the last chapter.  Now I'm curious if there is more to Patrick's story in one of his future novels of if he truly was left hanging in the balance.

      Tuesday, October 11, 2016

      Review: The Bronze Key by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black

      The Bronze Key (Magisterium,  #3)

      The Bronze Key is the third book in the Magisterium series.  Call, Aaron and Tamara are on a quest to uncover who the "spy" is within the Magisterium and why he or she is targeting Call.  The most obvious reason is the fact that he is a Maker, which is someone who specializes in chaos magic.  There are very few Makers in each generation and very little is knows about their form of magic.  As a result, many people are afraid of them or perhaps want to be them.  The students don't believe that is the reason for the threats on Call's life because Aaron is also a Maker and he hasn't been threatened.

      Call does have a secret that only his father and closest friends are aware of, which is most likely the reason for the attacks.  They can't share this information with anyone.  Call, Aaron, Tamara and Jasper must work together to solve this mystery on their own.

      The conclusion of this book was not at all what I was expecting.  This is a middle grade series, but Holly and Cassandra certainly aren't coddling these characters or their readers.  There is an epic battle as one would expect and the fallout was more than a little shocking.  I have no idea what direction they will take the series next, but it probably leans more to the "Evil Overlord" side of the spectrum.

      Overall, this book wasn't as fast paced and gripping as the first two books in the series, but that is often the case with middle books in a series.  Hopefully things will pick up again with book four or I'm afraid they will lose their appeal to younger readers.  I have a sixth grade son that probably would enjoy the first two books in the series, but he would likely struggle to get through this one.  

      Thursday, September 29, 2016

      Review: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

      It Ends with Us

      Lily Bloom is a high school student who has grown up in an abusive home.  Her father never touched her, but his drinking lead to a number of incidents involving her mother over the years.  As a way of working through her thoughts and feelings, she wrote letters to Ellen DeGeneres in a journal.  I've only watched Ellen's show a few times, but I loved how Lily wrote as if she were actually sending the letters to Ellen.  It was such an original way for Colleen to share with the readers what was going on in Lily's head.

      Atlas is a senior at her high school who also comes from a broken home.  His mother kicks him out of the house when he turns 18 and he ends up living in an abandoned house behind Lily's.  She discovers his situation and starts helping him.  She gives him food, blankets, invites him over to use their shower when her parents aren't home, etc.  They slowly develop a strong friendship and begin watching Ellen together after school.  

      Lily and Atlas dream about eventually moving to Boston where "everything would be better."  When Lily graduates from college she does in fact move to Boston and starts a career in marketing, but she has always loved gardening and dreams of owning her own flower shop.  She also wonders what ever happened to Atlas and why he never came back for her.  

      Ryle is a neurosurgeon completing his residency at Mass. General.  He is ambitious and can be extremely loving and caring, but there is a dark side to him.  He has an uncontrollable temper that seems to come out of nowhere.  Lily and Ryle meet and eventually start a relationship about a year later.  Everything appears to be perfect until Ryle's temper starts creeping up.

      Lily loves Ryle, but she refuses to end up like her mother.  She swore to herself she would never allow something like that to happen to her, but when it does...it isn't as easy as she thought it would be to walk away from the person she loves.

      Overall, Colleen did a remarkable job of creating characters you couldn't help but love.  Ryle was even fictional boyfriend material the majority of the time, so I was as conflicted as Lily was when various situations arose.  In the end, I think she made the right decision and I was extremely happy with how things turned out in the epilogue.

      This book was based upon real events in Colleen Hoover's life and brings up a difficult topic most people don't want to talk about.  So many people judge others without understanding the full pictures, but Colleen allows the reader to see the situation from all sides.  It certainly isn't as black and white as outsiders often believe it is.

      Much like Jennifer Brown's novels, this book is very thought provoking and is not something readers will soon forget.  I have yet to read a Colleen Hoover novel that I haven't enjoyed and this is no exception.  

      Wednesday, September 28, 2016

      Waiting on Wednesday: The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

      Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases we are eagerly anticipating.

      The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer
      Release Date: November 15, 2016

      I know not everyone loved the Twilight series, but I did.  I tried reading The Host, but it was too Sci-fi for me and I called it quits before I was very far into the book.  I love mysteries, so this sounds like another Meyer book that will be perfect for me. 

      The ChemistGoodreads Overview:

      In this gripping page-turner, an ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life.

      She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn't even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning.

      Now, she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They've killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon.

      When her former handler offers her a way out, she realizes it's her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the information she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous.

      Resolving to meet the threat head on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life, but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of.

      In this tautly plotted novel, Meyer creates a fierce and fascinating new heroine with a very specialized skill set. And she shows once again why she's one of the world's bestselling authors.

      Monday, September 26, 2016

      Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

      If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)

      If I Stay has been on my TBR list since September 2011.  I read a number of great reviews, but I always seemed to overlook it whenever I needed to select my next book.  Perhaps it was the vague description?  I think that was a huge part of it.  I really had no idea what this book was about until I started reading it.  I don't want to give too much away, but I was immediately concerned this was going to turn into another The Fault in Our Stars, which required an abundance of tissues.  I am happy to say that was not the case.

      Mia is a high school senior who is waiting to hear if she will be accepted at a prestigious music school in New York.  While this is an amazing opportunity for her, she is conflicted because the school is on the opposite side of the country.  She will miss her family and her boyfriend Adam, who is an accomplished musician in his own right.  He is a member of a band that has been gaining popularity and was recently signed by a record label.  They are in the process of recording an album in Oregon and touring the west coast.  They barely have time to see each other while living in the same state, so moving across the country seems like an insurmountable challenge.

      If I Stay quickly brings life into perspective.  The petty concerns in one's daily life, which seem like the end of the world at the time, are nothing in the grand scheme of things.  Everything can change in the blink of an eye.  

      If I Stay is only 200 pages long and was a very fast read.  We learn about Mia and her family through a series of flashbacks with the occasional glimpse at the present.  As Mia processes the life changing events that have taken place, she needs to decide "if she should stay."  Gayle did a remarkable job of telling this story without the "John Green effect."  Anyone who has read TFIOS knows what I am talking about.  She incorporates several light and happy stories from the past to offset the gloomy aspects of the present.  The mix of emotions allowed me to keep my emotions in check and softened the tragic aspects of the story, which I greatly appreciated.

      I would definitely recommend this book and gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.  

      Monday, September 19, 2016

      Review: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

      City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)

      City of Glass is the third book in the Mortal Instruments series.  It is my understanding it was originally a trilogy, which Cassandra decided to expand into a 6 book series.  The ending definitely felt like the conclusion of the series.  Everything comes together nicely and I was very content with how she left each of the characters. 

      From what I have heard, that isn't the feeling readers have had that continued reading books 4 through 6.  For that reason, I am going to consider this series complete for the time being and move onto Cassandra’s Infernal Devices series, which numerous people have told me I HAVE to read.

      I love the Shadowhunter world Cassandra has created.  The battles against Valentine and his demons added the necessary danger and excitement to keep the pages turning.  I also enjoyed watching the characters grow though out the series.  Simon gains a tremendous amount of confidence in this installment as he comes to terms with being a vampire and embraces his new talents.  I also enjoyed seeing Alec open up about his relationship with Magnus.  Perhaps the greatest revelation was discovering who Sebastian really is and how that news impacts the rest of the Shadowhunters. 

      What I enjoyed the most about City of Glass is that it brought the Shadowhunters and Downworlders together to fight for a common cause.  They all have unique abilities, so it always surprised me that the Shadowhunters looked down upon the vampires, warlocks, fae, and werewolves.  If only they would have aligned themselves sooner, a great deal of death and evil likely could have been prevented.  The alliance also makes it possible for all of our favorite characters to live together peacefully, which definitely contributes to the warm and fuzzy ending to this trilogy.

      I would definitely recommend this series to any YA fan.  If you have read the last three books in the series, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Should I read them or not?

      Tuesday, September 13, 2016

      Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

      I loved Divergent and gave it 5 stars.  There were some things I didn't really care for in Insurgent, so I gave it 3 stars and was REALLY hoping the series would end on a solid note the way it started.  I pre-ordered Allegiant, but was reluctant to read it after so many readers gave it mixed reviews.  People seemed to either love it or hate it, with the majority of my friends being on the latter end of the spectrum.  

      As part of the COYER (clean out your e-reader) challenge, I decided it was time to finally complete this series.  I managed to avoid spoilers with one not so minor exception.  I did hear that someone significant dies, I just didn't know who it would be until I actually read the book.  All in all, that is pretty remarkable since the book was released almost 3 years ago and sparked a ton of conversation and debate in the blogging world.

      I'm not going to give a synopsis like I usually do because I honestly don't feel like I have anything to say.  At just over half way through this book, I sent a message to Book Nerd Flo and said "Literally nothing has happened so far."  She said she felt the same way when she read the book.  Until the last 75 pages or so I felt like I gained next to nothing from the time I had invested.  Then there is a major twist that nobody would have seen coming, which is what lead to all of the debate.  I personally did not care for how the series ended and would not recommend reading beyond the first book in the series.  

      I think Veronica could have wrapped things up in two books instead of three.  Readers could have saved their time and money and the majority of people would be able to look back on the series in a far more positive light. 

      Monday, August 29, 2016

      Marathon Monday: Emerald City Quarter Marathon

      August 28th was a beautiful morning for the Emerald City Quarter Marathon in Dublin, Ohio.  This is the second time I have participated in the event as a training run for the fall Columbus Half Marathon and I really enjoy this well organized, but local event.  The weather was a little warm for a 7:00 AM start, but it was manageable.  I'm really looking forward to some cooler fall temperatures as I continue to ramp up my training. 

      I am shooting for a 2 hour half marathon this fall, so I will need to pick up my pace a little over the next several weeks.  The following are my official results.

      The paparazzi were out on the course...AKA my husband and son, so here are a couple of pictures from the event.

      Friday, August 19, 2016

      Creativity Corner: Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford

      My 11 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.

      This week I completed the second page in Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford.

      Thursday, August 18, 2016

      Review: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

      I received an ARC of Katharine McGee's debut novel, The Thousandth Floor, at BEA.  The August 30th release date is less than two weeks away, so you will not have to wait long if you don't already have a copy.

      The story is set in New York City in the year 2118.  The majority of the city has been taken over by a MASSIVE tower that is 1000 stories tall. There is transportation within the tower, schools, restaurants, businesses, etc.  The more affluent you are the higher you live in the tower, which brings me to an introduction of the characters.

      Avery and Atlas Fuller live on the 1000th floor.  They are siblings by adoption and have just about everything they could ever want.  They are extremely wealthy, attractive, and popular, but there is one think they can't have that could destroy them both.

      Eris Dodd-Radson lives on the 985th floor.  She is a social butterfly and is Avery's oldest friend.  Life as she has always known it is threatened by a secret that is revealed early on in the story.

      Leda Cole lives on the 962 floor and is Avery's best friend.  They have never had any secrets between them until Leda returns from her summer away from the tower.  The secrets compound throughout the story and neither girl can trust the other by the end.

      Cord Anderton lives on the 967th floor.  His parents died in a plane crash, so he lives by himself in the massive apartment until his older brother shows up unexpectedly.  

      Watt Bakradi lives on the 294th floor and is a computer genius.  He developed a quantum computer that can hack into just about any system, which allows him to generate some additional income.  His "online services" brings him into contact with some of the upper floor kids previously mentioned.

      Rylin Myers lives on the 32nd floor.  She had to quit school to support herself and her younger sister and takes a job working as Cord Anderton's maid.  Their relationship becomes more complicated as they begin to develop feelings for each other, but Rylin still has unresolved "issues" with her not quite ex-boyfriend.

      Throughout the book we discover that everyone within  the tower has a secret.  There is a very delicate balancing act that must be maintained or everyone will come crashing to the bottom.  If they do not play their cards perfectly their secret may become exposed and life as they know it will cease to exist.

      Katharine told the story from a number of the characters' points of view.  This allowed the reader the opportunity to witness all of the drama as it unfolded from just about every possible angle. If you think the Real Housewives have drama, you haven't seen anything like this.  I can't wait to see how everything will play out in the next book in this series.