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.  

      Thursday, August 17, 2017

      Review: When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt

      When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

      This was one of the choices for my son's 7th grade summer reading, so we both read it.  The book is about a boy name Toby who lives in Antler, TX, which is a small town where "nothing ever happens."  The story takes place during the summer of 1971.  His best friend Cal's older brother is currently serving in the Vietnam war and has been writing each week, so we learn that war is nothing like how they used to play soldiers in the lawn.

      The biggest thing to happen in Antler is the day Zachary Beaver's trailer pulls into town.  He is supposedly the world's fattest boy and is put on display like a circus act.  People can pay $2 to see him in person.  This would have been a novelty, but Zachary's legal guardian leaves town without him and nobody knows when he will return for Zachary.  The town sort of adopts him and the boys soon realize they have more in common with Zachary than they ever imagined.

      Another theme in the story is abandonment.  Not only was Zachary abandoned, but Toby's mother leaves for Nashville to try out in a singing competition.  Toby eventually realizes his mother's dreams of becoming a country music superstar were not being fulfilled in Antler and she wasn't happy here.  He begins to wonder when or if she is really coming back.

      This was a pretty fast read with a number of thought provoking topics for young readers.  My son and I both remained engaged throughout the book and enjoyed the characters and their stories.  I would definitely recommend it for middle school children.  There was a lot more substance to this story than your typical middle grade book and it allowed my son to read something a bit different from his typical reading selections.

      Friday, August 4, 2017

      Review: In Too Deep by Jude Watson

      Image result for In too deep 39 clues

      In Too Deep is the 6th book in the 39 Clues series.  This time around Amy and Dan are off to Sydney, Australia.  This was the last destination their parents visited while on their quest.  Amy and Dan visit their Dad's cousin Shep who is a pilot and surf bum in Sydney, to see if he has any clues as to what their parents discovered or where they may have visited.  He helps them trace some of their parents steps, which of course puts them in great danger at the hands of the other Cahill family members.  

      Irina informs Amy that the only person who can tell her who killed her parents is herself.  She begins having increasing flashbacks and starts piecing the events of that night together.  She is afraid to tell Dad what she remembers, which causes some tension between them.

      Our history lesson in this book is about Amelia Earhart.  Her final journey involved stops in several of the areas Amy and Dan visit and of course they discover Amelia was a Cahill.  

      The stakes are getting higher and the violence continues to escalate.  One of the Cahill family members even dies in this book, which was a bit of a shock.  Amy and Dan have been told from the very beginning that they shouldn't trust anyone.  They are now even questioning if their au pair, Nellie, is working for someone involved in the quest. 

      This was another entertaining story.  My son and I have enjoyed learning some history while following the Cahill children on their quest.  Once he finishes his assigned summer reading for school I'm sure we will start the next book in the series.

      Thursday, August 3, 2017

      Bookish Goals Status Update: July 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. Until the Beginning by Amy Plum
        22. Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell
      • 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

      • 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.
          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. Until the Beginning by Amy Plum
          20. Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell
          • 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. Until the Beginning by Amy Plum (After the End #2) - 2 pts sequel
            16. Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell (Kay Scarpetta #4) - 2 pts sequel
                                                              Total Points = 108
          • 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 2, 2017

            Review: United We Spy by Ally Carter

            United We Spy (Gallagher Girls, #6)

            United We Spy is the 6th and final book in the Gallagher Girls series.  The Circle members have been after Cammie for the majority of the series, but their identities and motive have always been a mystery.  Now they are on the verge of starting another world war, so time is running out.

            The Gallagher Girls and Zach can't rely on the CIA, MI6, or any other government agencies because someone is leaking information to the Circle from the highest levels.  Fortunately, they have the unlimited resources of Macey McHenry's family.  Their private jet comes in handy on more than one occasion and Macey has a few other tricks up her sleeve.  With a genius like Liz on her team and some of the best trained spies in the world as her best friends, Cammie sets out to complete a mission that has been escalating for generations.

            Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the conclusion of this series and my time at the Gallagher Academy.  From the castle like stone building to all of the secrets it contained, this was a very unique setting for an action packed and highly entertaining series.  With the girls graduating from high school and moving on with their careers, we can only hope their most dangerous mission is now behind them.