Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

Those Who Wish Me Dead
I first became acquainted with this author when I read So Cold the River (which was a great book), so I was excited to see he had a new one. Jace Wilson witnesses a murder, while trying to prep himself for a normal teenage dare, and ends up a wanted witness. He is put into witness protection, to save him from the two killers--named the Blackwell Brothers. Unfortunately for Jace, they have someone on the inside and he senses they will find him, despite being sent into the wilderness with a guide for troubled boys. As the story unfolded, I was intrigued by the storyline but also by the Blackwell Brothers themselves, who were creepy enough to belong in a Cormac McCarthy book.

Trial by Fire (The Worldwalker Trilogy)
Lily Proctor is a teenage girl living in modern day Salem, afflicted by mysterious allergies and fevers. Then in a fit of anger, she finds out that she can't live in her world because she isn't meant for her world. Transported to a different Salem, Lily finds out that there is another Lily who goes by Lillian and rules with fierce magical power. I read this one because the librarian asked me to screen it for the shelf, and I definitely enjoyed it. It was kind of cheesy teen romance in parts, but overall, the story was engaging and I could shut my brain off to read it.

The Young Elites
Adelina is a survivor of the blood fever, which swept her country a decade ago and left countless dead and others forever marked by the disease. It begins to emerge that some of the children who survived the blood fever were left with… otherworldly powers. Called young elites by some, malfettas by others, these children are both worshipped and feared. Taken in by the Dagger Society, a group of young elites forged to overthrow the king, Adelina struggles with her loyalty toward her former family and her new one. I liked the Legend series by this author, and I can't wait to see where this series goes next.

What are you reading?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Golden Tote November Review

What is Golden Tote?
A clothing service that has two options:
1. A $149 tote, where you choose two pieces and receive a total of 5-7 items.
2. A $49 tote, where you choose one piece and receive a total of 2-3 items.
3. Something that is giving much-needed life to my wardrobe.
4. An all or nothing deal. You can return an entire tote but not individual pieces. This helps them keep their price point low. However, there is a Facebook group where you can trade or sell unwanted items. I've had huge success with this!

I had a few referral credits (thank you to whomever clicked my link and ordered--please let me know what new clothes you purchased!), so I was able to budget a $149 tote this month. This is amazing because I hate winter clothes, due to my deep seated hatred of winter. It's also amazing because since discovering Golden Tote, I feel so much better about my wardrobe. I get so many compliments on my clothes, and I truly do believe it's an excellent value.

In my comments when I ordered, I asked for items that could be worn through the winter or through transition times. I feel like this was definitely reflected with my tote.

My first chosen item was the Perfectly Plaid Dress. I am a sucker for a dress that I can wear throughout the winter. I absolutely love this one. The fabric is stretchy, but hits in very flattering ways. When I put on heels, it hitched up a little but still completely appropriate with opaque tights. It was also very warm.

My second chosen item was the chunky knit pullover sweater.

It was a little bigger than I thought, but it was so comfortable. It is incredibly soft! I tend to not be a sweater person because blah blah winter clothes, but this one may get me through the winter.

And now my surprise items! Mak B Olive sweater with faux leather elbow patches. Another sweater! This is so soft, like a fleece blanket. I've never done elbow patches before, but I think I like it. At the very least, it's so comfy and warm.

Everly shift dress. I love this one. It is way too short in the back for me to wear as a dress, but it is perfect with leggings. It is ribbed and lined and can be worn through winter and probably fall and spring, as well. I wore it with a black kimono cardigan and it was perfect.

Split personality top. I loved this one and knew it was a winner when students were complimenting it. It's super cute and has a longer back, which I love. The sleeves were almost like sweatshirt material. What I love about these clothes is that they are stylish (I think) but still very functional and comfortable. This is huge for me!

Skies are Blue top. The front of this is like silk almost but the back and sleeves are sweater material. Someone told me I looked really skinny while wearing it, so I am definitely putting this one in my "wear often" category.

I am telling myself that I don't need a December tote because Christmas and all that, but it has been so nice to slowly update my wardrobe while feeling that I'm getting a good deal (six quality pieces of clothes--two of them made in the USA--for $150) and generally feeling a little bit better about myself, too. The next round of Golden Tote will be released the first Monday of December at 11AM PST, but you can always order November pieces before then.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

Revival: A Novel
Like most readers, I have a love-hate waver between old Stephen King and new Stephen King. As a child, Jamie Morton is covered in a shadow while playing in the yard. The shadow turns out to be that of the new minister, Charles Jacobs, in his town--seemingly harmless. Yet that shadow follows him his whole life, irrevocably changing him. The reverend leaves suddenly, after the death of his wife and child, but Jamie encounters him later down the road, Jamie himself a damaged adult battling his own loss and a drug addiction. What grabbed me about this story is that it led up to a quiet but still very terrifying conclusion, as Jamie and Charles Jacobs danced a dangerous dance around one another.

The Happiest People in the World: A Novel
If you believe statistics, the happiest people in the world live in Denmark. In this book, the people of Denmark also make questionably racist or not politically correct cartoons, leaving one cartoonist in the witness protection program where he is relocated to the sticks of New York. Jens, who becomes Henry in his new life, settles in to his job as a guidance counselor at Broomeville HS. As the story unravels, it seems everyone in Broomeville is pretending to be someone else. This was one of those books that began with the ending, then started over and wound back to the end. I loved almost all of it, but the ending fell apart a little for me. The writing and humor was still completely worth it, though.

Let Me Be Frank With You: A Frank Bascombe Book
I love Richard Ford. Frank Bascombe is a recurring character, but you need not have read any previous books to read this one. In four stories with one connecting thread (Frank), you get glimpse of the world through Frank's eyes. Like most Richard Ford, this is not an exciting cliffhanger. It is full of exposition and full of life through a perspective that may or may not be one we share. The stories are slow and illuminating and very enjoyable.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

So, the library hold list hasn't been my friend lately. I didn't get any new books in for ages, then they all came in at once. Of course! In the interim, I finished reading The Last Apprentice series. It was good, and I am super excited for the movie to come out in February.

A New Darkness
This is book one of a spinoff of the Last Apprentice series. It continues on with the darkness that was begun in the Last Apprentice series, but with a few new twists.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"
I was pretty excited for this book, but I won't lie. I found it kind of boring. Kind of tawdry. And kind of made me feel like it was written by THAT GIRL who pretends to be really drunk when she's not and who exaggerates stories for attention. I finished it because it was a simplistic read, but it didn't engage me at all.

50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days -- and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance!
Ultra runners like Scott Jurek and Dean Karnazes amaze me. I feel like some people are just made to run and run and that's incredible. I cannot imagine running all night and then continuing into the next day, but when the zombie apocalypse happens, I imagine the post-apocalyptic world to be largely populated by ultra marathoners. This is Dean Karnazes' account of running 50 marathons in 50 days--one in each state. I cannot fathom running one marathon, let alone running 50 of them all in a row. While traveling and sleeping in hotels and tour buses. No thanks! Still, I loved his stories of the different marathons and the camaraderie found on each course.

The Children Act
Fiona is a judge who precedes over cases in the family court division. In the midst of her marriage falling apart, she's presented with a case of a 17 year old Jehovah's Witness boy who needs a blood transfusion to live, though both he and his parents are against this on the grounds of religion. Fiona visits the boy, Adam, in the hospital to speak to him and gain a sense of what he is facing prior to making her decision. In this one simple act, followed by her decision, their lives are irrevocably intertwined. This is not a long book, but it was a heavy book and I was completely enthralled.

Thirteen Reasons Why
Sometimes the librarian will pass along books for me to read, to see if I think we can get away with putting them on the shelves. In the wake of a classmate's suicide, Clay comes home to find a package of audio tapes on his porch. After opening them and listening to one, he discovers they're from Hannah, the classmate who recently committed suicide. The tapes purport to outline the 13 reasons why she killed herself and must be passed along to all 13 people who are connected to her suicide. From here, the story splits into two narratives: Hannah's words on the tapes, along with Clay's memory and Clay's present self wandering the streets of his town, alone and scared with the tapes.
Although some of this book is trite, I think what engaged me the most is that Clay comes across as the protagonist while in part, Hannah comes across as the antagonist, leaving behind this horrible aftermath with her tapes. Yes, you feel sorry for Hannah and all she's been through, but you also wonder why she left behind words to make others suffer (though some of them deserved her words).

The Slow Regard of Silent Things
I was super excited when I first saw this book because I thought it was the final book in the Kingkiller Chronicles. Alas, it is not. Instead, it was more of a novella about a character in the Kingkiller Chronicle. It is not a book that you could read alone, unless you want to be very confused. The first book in the Kingkiller Chronicle is The Name of the Wind. Although I'm not a huge fantasy person, I devoured this book and the second in the chronicles, the story of a boy named Kvothe (pronounced quoth) who begins the chronicle a boy who looks like he will amount to nothing, yet becomes a very powerful wizard.

What are you reading?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hallo-Frozen-Weekends at Cedar Point

Last year, we were unable to attend HalloWeekends at Cedar Point, much to the disappointment of my children. I promised them we would go this year, but we were unable to find anyone to watch Morgan when we were invited. Then, a second invitation came, and I knew we had to make it work. I was excited to go, but a little wary of the weather because fall can be tricky in the Midwest.

Last weekend was absolutely beautiful, by the way. Mid-70s and glorious fall days. Then on Halloween, it snowed with 40mph wind gusts. I mean, seriously? SNOW?

My karate kids were very, very cold but wouldn't stay in and miss free candy.

We left very early the morning after Halloween to drive to Sandusky, our plan to stay at the park until the boys collapsed or we lost our minds. We drove in sunshine until we reached Sandusky, when it started to pour. At this point, I felt like the weather was personally attacking me. Fortunately, it stopped as we got to the park, but when we went to guest services to pick up our tickets, we were surrounded by people asking for money back because so many of the roller rides were closed due to high winds. When we got our tickets and went in, the girl who took them told us that most of the rides were closed. (And she didn't laugh at my National Lampoon joke about the moose out front, probably because she'd heard it 1100 times already.) However, although most of the big roller coasters and some of the rides along the water front were closed, there were many still open. Mostly kiddie rides were open, but we were also able to ride the Corkscrew and Iron Dragon with Luke.

Because we left so early, I had the boys in warm pajamas. When we got to the park, I had them add long pants, a long sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, a winter coat, hats and gloves OVER their pajamas. They were very well layered and I definitely think this helped us enjoy the park more. Aside from their faces, they were insulated and didn't complain too much. First, we went trick-or-treating. So fun!

They also loved the small corn maze and went through it three or four times by themselves, then Luke asked me to go see if he was old enough to ride some of the bigger rides that were open. This resulted on us going on Troika while the winds off of Lake Erie whipped our faces.

I don't like spinning rides at all because I get super queasy, but I was willing to do it for this kid who was taking the closed roller coasters in stride. We admired the crazy angry waves on the lake while we were spinning up high!

We were a big fan of all the Halloween decorations. One nice thing about the weather is that we definitely didn't have to wait to take pictures in front of decorations!

The other nice thing? No lines!

The boys would ride some of the kid rides and just say that they wanted to stay on again because no one else was in line. When Luke and I rode Corkscrew, we walked right up and got on in five minutes. It was like we had a fast lane pass without paying for one! This, honestly, made it such a blast. If there was a line, it was never long and we could get off a ride, get right back in line and be on it again right away. My kids LOVED this. We rode the Scrambler so many times in a row, while sleet whipped our faces. And we all rode the carousel over and over again. (At some point, I also snuck into a gift shop and paid the best $30 I've ever spent for a hooded sweatshirt to put over my two layers.)

We ended up staying for seven hours, at which point we were absolutely frozen. I had thought we would stay later, but when the sun started to go down, we were all wind whipped and weary and ready to go wrap ourselves in blankets at the hotel room. We stayed at Breakers Express, which is a great place to stay if you're going to spend most of your time at the park. We loved their Halloween decorations!

While we didn't spend as much time at the park as I intended and didn't partake in any of the after-dark festivities due to the weather, we had an absolute blast. Last time we were at Cedar Point, it was warm and sunny and of course, we had fun. But I truly think that our frozen festivities were way more fun. We were so cold, but we spent the whole time laughing together as a family. Because so many of the big rides were closed, Luke and Tommy rode SO many rides together and we did so many as a family, too. As we drove away, the boys were already excitedly talking about going to Cedar Point next year and which rides they would ride first. I was initially dismayed at the weather but now in a weird way, I'm thankful for it. We had such an amazing day, and I have to say that all the ride operators were so awesome. You could tell they were cold, but they were all so friendly and accommodating, making jokes about the weather along with us. It was Cedar Point from a different perspective. One where the walkways were so open that we could let our kids joyfully run ahead of us without worrying about them being lost in the crowds, where we rode rides over and over again until we got tired of that particular ride and moved on. And at the end of the day, we were thanked for our weather patience with a glorious sunset that beamed off the rides and spread across the lake.

So, lesson learned. Don't ever bail on an outside activity because the weather is not the best. You might end up having a blast! Other lesson learned: Cedar Point is so much fun regardless of the weather.

Tickets provided by Cedar Point because I'm a CP Blogger. All opinions my own!