Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review: One with You

Title: One with You
Author: Sylvia Day
Publishing Date: 2016
Genre: Contemporary
Rating: C+
Sensuality: Hot
Book Disclosure: I purchased this book at the RT Convention 2016.

Note***  If you haven't read the other books in this series, DO NOT start with this one!!!

One with You is the 5th book in Sylvia Day's Crossfire series.  It is the final installment of the sweeping saga between Gideon and Eva.  I originally thought this series would be a trilogy.  Imagine my surprise after the reading the third book and everything was not wrapped up!  Gideon and Eva's relationship can best be described as intense.  Everything about them is amped up to the maximum levels.  In this book, we finally see them learn how to deal with that intensity without wrecking themselves emotionally.  After their marriage, they have some damage to control as they inform their families and the public.  Plus, how will their marriage survive when they are unable to give in to the other in regard to certain issues?

I am on the fence with this one.  I really am.  It is very hard for me to give this book a rating.  On the one hand I enjoyed seeing Eva and Gideon work through their issues and learn to compromise without loosing a piece of themselves.  I liked that they became a team to face adversity when the world threw it at them.  There are some very tender moments between Eva and Gideon.  There is enough change and maturity in them to see that they are willing to do what's necessary to make their marriage work.  I can believe in their happy ever after.

On the other hand, there were a few problems I had with the book.  I felt like there were a few plot lines that were not wrapped up by the end of the book, and it was a long book, almost 500 pages.  I felt that the whole issue with Gideon and his mother was left open ended, as was the storyline with his childhood therapist.  Then due to spoilers I won't go into details but something very tragic happens to one of Eva's family close to the end of the story.  What!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?  This was just crazy to me and there is so much happening with that, but it is totally swept under the rug.  Ugh! I can't really say more than this, but if you want to vent, just comment or email me. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Interview: Sophia Henry, author of Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Hello everyone!  I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to my good friend and author, Sophia Henry.  I have invited her to my blog today to share with you a little bit about her recently published romance book Unsportsmanlike Conduct, which is the 4th book in her Pilots Hockey series. 
I would classify Sophia’s books as New Adult.  I’ve read the first two books in her Pilots Hockey series and enjoyed them.  They are not overly hockey-centric.  The characters are young and the stories focus on their growth and development as they emerge into adulthood.  Henry’s books are written in first person usually from the heroine’s point of view, but in Unsportsmanlike Conduct she also writes from the Hero’s point of view.  Her books lean towards sweet, not steamy romance.
As a side note, can I just say that the book covers for this series are seriously yummy!
Finally, we are getting Pasha’s book and I for one am so excited.  Since the first book Delayed Penalty, I have been looking forward to this!!  Finally, Pasha gets his story!

Sophia, tell us about Unsportsmanlike Conduct!  What inspired you to write this story?

The song “I Lived” by One Republic and Bryan Warnecke, the teen with cystic fibrosis (CF) who is featured in the video for the song. The first time I heard “I Lived” I fell in love with the lyrics and the message behind it. Then I saw the video. Around that same the time, I’d been thinking about how I could write a diverse heroine—in my own way. Bryan inspired me to write a strong heroine with CF who has the courage and drive to live life to the fullest.

Yes, about your characters, tell us a little more about Kristen and Pasha!

Kristen Katsaros is an upbeat, fun-loving, free-spirit with cystic fibrosis.  She has just graduated from college and works as an event coordinator for Motor City Bar Management, a company that owns a group of bars in Detroit.  Pavel (Pasha) Gribov is a hot Russian hockey player hiding a painful past behind his cocky demeanor.   They meet when Kristen runs into Pasha on the running track on a cruise. *Literally* run into each other when Kristen turns quickly to avoid the guy her parents are trying to set her up with.  Together they’re snarky, sweet, sexy and fun. :)

What was the biggest challenge in writing Unsportsmanlike Conduct?

The hardest part was writing a heroine with cystic fibrosis and doing her justice. All the people fighting for their lives every day deserve a kick a$$ representation of how strong and amazing they are, so I didn’t want to get it wrong. It was very important to me to show how Kristen LIVES. I don’t have CF, so I don’t know what living with it is like. I did a lot (A LOT) of research and I spoke with people who have it. I wanted to write a strong, normal, amazing person who has to work hard to stay healthy.

Can you give us a little sneak peak of Pasha and Kristen from the book?

Yes!  This is one of my favorite scenes because it’s so unexpected—for the readers and the characters! :) While Kristen and Pasha are dancing, they share details about their individual backgrounds, which gives them common ground and allows for them to get closer in a very subtle way. Here’s a snippet:

As I put weight on my back foot, rocking away from one particular creepy dude, someone caught my hand and tugged me forward into his hard chest. What kind of guy had the audacity to grab me when I obviously hadn’t been giving off those vibes?

To brace myself, I pressed my palms against a soft black button-down shirt. Pasha stood in front of me with an adorably arrogant smirk on his face. Instead of speaking, he held his arms up in a formal dance position. I took his hands and he immediately led me in a succession of smooth salsa steps.

It wasn’t intricate choreography that only two dancers who had practiced together would know, just a series of basic Latin dance steps. He led and I followed. But nobody else on the dance floor knew that. To them it probably looked like a scripted routine straight out of a musical.

And damn! Pasha could move.


This is awesome!!  If I wasn’t chomping at the bit to rush out and get the book before, I sure am now.  Thank you so much for stopping by Sophia!!  Where can readers go to find your book, Unsportsmanlike Conduct?

My books can be found at Amazon, iBooks, BN, Kobo, Google Play, and BAM When someone buys a Sophia Henry book, they are automatically supporting a charity. I donate the first $500 of the royalties from each book before I take a penny for myself. I’m proud to say that my generous readers have already allowed me to make the donations for the first three books. I also plan on doing a yearly contribution based on book sales each year.

The charity I selected for Unsportsmanlike Conduct is the CysticFibrosis Foundation. To learn more about the organizations I chose for each book, please visit my website.

***Thank you so much for having me on your blog! I truly appreciate it! ~ Sophia xx***

Monday, November 14, 2016

Movie Review: Dr. Strange

My daughter and I went to go see the latest Marvel movie, Dr. Strange this weekend.  Before I get into the review, I want to share with you a funny conversation at the concession stand.  I ordered a drink and popcorn and I could upgrade to a souvenir cup for $0.50 more.  No brainer, sure.  Let's do it.  But then the attendant drops a bomb on me.  Do I want the Dr. Strange cup or the Star Wars Rogue One cup?  Annabelle and I both immediately and turned to look at the other not having a clue which to choose.  Tough choice, right?!?!  We ended up with the Dr. Strange cup because we were informed that they would probably still have the Rogue One cup around for a while.  I'm thinking we will get it next time.

Before they showed the movie, of course we were inundated with previews.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 trailer played.  OMG!!  Looks awesome.  There was a clip of baby Groot, not the tiny baby Groot from the end of the first movie, more like adolescent Groot.  Incredibly cute, though!  It comes out next summer and we can't wait.  If you can't tell, my family and I love the Marvel universe.

So onto Dr. Strange... If you aren't familiar with the storyline, Dr. Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is a cocky neurosurgeon.  The best really.  But tragedy strikes and he is in a bad accident which injures him so severely that he can no longer perform operations.  He goes in search of a cure where he finds himself immersed in a world of sorcery.

My daughter loves Benedict Cumberbatch (OMG, I love this name.  It's so fun to say!!)  She has watched him in Sherlock and other entertainments - says he has a very soothing voice.  I haven't ever seen him in anything.  At first, you don't really like Dr. Strange.  He is pretty much an arrogant jerk face.  But eventually he hits rock bottom and realizes he has to change.  He is sort of thrown into this world of sorcery and magic.  His way of dealing with the bad guys becomes comedic because he is not a fighter, but much more cerebral.  It makes for very unusual and entertaining fight scenes.   

I wondered if the movie was able to live up to her expectations.  When I asked her if she liked the movie, her response was, " I bloody loved it!"  Her favorite thing about the move was the Cloak of Levitation.  It reminded us of the rug in Aladdin.  For me, the Cloak stole the show, but Annabelle said she wished there would have been more with the Cloak in the movie.  Either way, we both loved the Cloak. 

Final verdict: Another great addition to the Marvel Universe.  Highly enjoyable!

NOTE**  Stay all the way until the very end of the credits.  There are two extra scenes, one in the middle of the credits and one all the way at the end.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Review: Falling for Gracie

Title: Falling for Gracie
Author: Susan Mallery
Publishing Date: 2005
Genre: Contemporary
Rating: A
Sensuality: Warm
Book Disclosure: I received this book at the RT Convention 2016.

Falling for Gracie is the second book in the Los Lobos series.  (Come to find out I own the first of the series and hadn't read it.  Ugh!  I hate it when I read books out of order!)  But it didn't really matter too much.  It's just that the characters from the first book are in the second, but the romance is definitely stand alone.  Gracie Landon, a successful cake maker, comes back home after 14 years for her sisters wedding.  When she was a young girl she had this massive crush on the neighborhood bad boy, Riley Whitefield.  She made such a mess of things that her mother sent her a way to live with her Aunt and Uncle.  Gracie has done a lot of growing up since then, however fate keeps throwing her and Riley together again.

I chose to read Falling for Gracie because I wanted something light-hearted and fun to read to take my mind of off things going on in my real life.  I am happy to say that I couldn't have chosen a better book!  Falling for Gracie was just what the doctor ordered!!  It was funny and sweet.  Gracie is such a genuinely nice person and goes out of her way to help her ungrateful sisters.  As Gracie tries to help her sisters it often puts her at a disadvantage and causes her lots of problems.  The thing is, Gracie is really strong.  Even when life beats her down, she doesn't stay down for long. 

It doesn't take Riley long to notice all the wonderful attributes Gracie has.  He is drawn to her positivity and determination and begins to become a better person because of her.  I love that.  He stands up for her when her own family won't.  I adore the ending and how Riley expresses his love for Gracie.  Heart-melting!!  I loved this one!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Review - The Devil You Know

Title: The Devil You Know
Author: Jo Goodman
Publishing Date: 2016
Genre: Contemporary
Rating: B
Sensuality: Warm
Book Disclosure: I purchased this as an ebook.

The Devil You Know is the second book in Jo Goodman's McKenna Brothers series.  Goodman is an auto buy for me and I will read pretty much anything she writes.  She has been sticking to westerns for the last few years now, but I really love her regency set books too.  I feel like not to many westerns are published these days.

This story features the older brother Israel McKenna, who is a bit of a trouble maker.  The story begins with Israel unconscious, badly beaten and left for dead.  He is found by a young girl, Annalea Pancake.  She goes back to her ranch to get help and they bring Israel back where they nurse him to good health.  Israel doesn't remember much about the attack.  He knows that he isn't exactly an upstanding citizen and he seems to be running from his past.  He decides to stay on at the Pancake ranch and make a change for the better.  He finds himself falling for Willa Pancake, Annalea's older sister and manager of the ranch. 

The Devil You Know is another solid story by Jo Goodman.  I found Israel to be more of a Beta hero.  He tends to stand back and let Willa run the show.  He only takes a stand when it really matters to him.  He is protective of Willa, and he knows he might be a danger to her.  For that reason, he tries to distance himself from her, but he can't make himself stay back for too long.  The book keeps you turning the pages to find out more about Israel's past as he slowly begins to remember.  Willa has a secret too, that I did not see coming.  I must be losing my touch!  And to top it off there are a couple of secondary characters such as Annalea and Happy that suck you into the story, as well.  This is another good addition by Jo Goodman.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Out of My Reading Slump... Maybe

Yay!!! Thanks to Tiffany Snow's Power Play, I am finally out of my reading slump. It was not looking good for a while there.  I have been struggling the last couple of months to even be interested enough in the books I'm reading to pick them up.  On average, I can usually finish a book in 3 to 4 days depending on how busy I am and my interest level in the book. 

My slump started about maybe the end of August.  I was reading Untamed by Sara Humphreys.  This is a paranormal romance, the first in a shape shifter series.  I hate to say this, but I was bored to tears with this book.  I made it about halfway through before giving up on the book after a week of trying to read it.  Meanwhile, I was listening to Unmasking Kelsey, by Kay Hooper on a road trip. 

The next book I read was Rogue with a Brogue by Suzanne Enoch.  I also found this book boring and I have read Enoch before and enjoyed her.  It took me about a week to get through this one too.  Was it me?  Why are all these books falling flat? 

I decided that I had to go to one of my tried and true authors to pull me out of this slump, so I went for the latest Kelley Armstrong, Betrayals.  Yes!  The latest installment of Armstrong's Cainesville novel was great.  I read it in a few days.  More of Olivia, Gabriel and Ricky and finally Gabriel is realizing his feelings for Olivia!!!

But then I had to read Dirty Blonde by Lisa Scottoline. Ugh!!! This book was terrible. It had major plot problems. Only one person in book club liked it.  And just like that bam. My book slump was back. 

I made a mistake of trying a new author.  I read Hold Your Breath by Katie Ruggle.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.  It took me about a week to get through it.  I liked the lead characters but the mystery part was ridiculous.

Then I tried Power Play by Tiffany Snow. Whoot whoot!!  I loved this book.  I just powered through it in a day and a half.  Bam!  There is a love triangle between the heroine Sage and her executive boss and a detective.  I know so many people hate the love triangle plot, but I am such a sucker for them.  Sage cracked me up with all her antics and sass.  I was highly entertained.  My only heartbreak is that the book ended on a cliffhanger, so I will be forced to rush out and get the second book!  Oh those brilliant marketers!!

I really don't know if my slump is over, but I sure do hope so!!  What do you do in a reading slump and any recommendations for books to keep me out of it?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Review: Unmasking Kelsey

Title: Unmasking Kelsey
Author: Kay Hooper
Publishing Date: 1988, rereleased 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Rating: D
Sensuality: Warm
Book Disclosure: I was making a long car trip and I needed an audio book for the trip.  This was about the only thing that was available for immediate check out.

I really only listened to this because I was desperate.  I have read Kay Hooper before and I have liked her books, but I had a feeling that this would seem very out dated to me since it was originally published in 1988 and then rereleased in 2012.  Here is the new cover, but the one I have posted below is the original cover.  They send quite different messages don't they?!?!  You can imagine how someone would feel if they picked up the new book cover, only to find its not quite a suspense, but a category romance.

On to the review... Unmasking Kelsey is the 6th book in Hagen series.  This series is about a team of operatives for some special unit that solves crimes that other government agencies can't touch.  The mastermind behind the special unit is Hagen and he is a bit of an unintentional matchmaker.  All his operatives have ended up in love and then leave his team.  One of remaining few is Kelsey.  He is sent to the town of Pinnacle to investigate a manufacturing company called Metatron.  Something shady seems to be going on and his investigation leads him to the stunningly, beautiful Elizabeth.  Elizabeth has been raising her sisters on her own since her parents death and seems to be in over her head.  Kelsey can't resist coming to her rescue.

Mainly, its just that the book is really outdated and is an extremely old school romance cliché.  The beautiful, helpless woman needs rescuing by the emotionally, distant operative.  Of course, once he sets eyes on her, he can't help but be taken in by her beauty and everything he has ever known changes in the blink of an eye.  The book was just very silly to me.  The plot had lots of holes and was overly ridiculous.  At the end, the heroine puts herself in danger on purpose, which sets me on edge.  Also, the narrator of this book did a southern accent because the book takes place in South Carolina, and let me tell you, not good.  For some characters it was like nails on a chalkboard when she did their voices.  Steer clear people, steer clear!!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Movie Review: Mrs. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Howdy all! I am deciding to switch things up here a bit.  Since, I haven't been reading much these days (I am in a bit of a slump - which does not bode well for my book club book that I need to get read this week) I thought I would do a movie review.  I just got back from taking my children to see the movie Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  This movie is directed by the legendary Tim Burton, who is known for movies such as Edward Scissorhands and The Corpse Bride

The movie stars Asa Butterfield as Jake, who grew up on fantastical stories about odd children told by his grandfather, played by Terence Stamp.  After Jake's grandfather is attacked in the woods outside his home and suffers a heart attack, Jake decides to travel to an island off the coast of the British Isles, where his grandfather's tales originate at Miss Peregrine's home.  Once Jake finds the home a series of events are set in motion to bring about a great adventure that will change Jake's life forever.

First, let me disclose that I am a big fan of Tim Burton.  I really enjoy his odd, quirky sense of style.  I have always enjoyed his costumes and make up and the weird characters.  Miss Peregrine's definitely delivered in all those areas.  As the movie began, the pacing seemed a little slow.  Burton had to set up the storyline and I wished we could have gotten to the Home much quicker than we did.  But I understand that the story had to unfold for the audience. 

Once Jake discovers the home and meets the children, things started to pick up a little more.  I will say that there was definitely a creepiness to the movie that I worried might bother my son.  He is 9 and a little sensitive to monsters and scary things.  I would keep looking over at him to make sure he was doing okay.  He was fine though, and I will say that by the time we get to the big climax of the movie, which is basically a battle of the children vs the bad guys, he was totally getting into it. 

One of the best parts of the movie, was the big epic battle.  Samuel Jackson, plays the bad guy and he was pretty funny.  Burton found a way to interject quite a bit of humor towards the end of the movie and children and adults alike will enjoy the big climactic scene.   I and my children were definitely entertained for a couple of hours.  If you like Tim Burton movies, this will not disappoint.  It's a little slow in the beginning, but the end makes up for it.  I give this a solid B.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Loot Crate: September 2016 Speed

September's Loot Crate shipment arrived today!  This months theme is SPEED!  All things fast are featured in this crate.  It's like Christmas in our house when the Loot Crate is delivered!  Everybody is so excited to see what is in it.

Here is what we got:

1.  Stark Industries racing t-shirt (from Iron Man 2)

2.  Batwing keychain - (heavy metal)

3.  Titan vinyl Battlestar Galactica Cylon Raider, Scar

4.  Flash hood ornament-style figure (magnetic).  Others may have received an Arrow hood ornament.

5.  Gone in 60 Seconds "Eleanor" die-cast car

6.  Loot Year Tire pin

The box turned into a little car.  We received a green one, but it also comes in red and blue.  Interestingly enough DD favorite color is green.  It's like this company knows her preferences!

DD was so excited that she didn't even notice me taking her picture (she hates to have her picture taken).  Ha ha, sneaky of me, I know!!  She is reading the little magazine that comes in the crate.  It gives little facts about the featured products and associated movies/comics/etc.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review - Sweet Little Lies

Title: Sweet Little Lies
Author: Jill Shalvis
Publishing Date: 2016
Genre: Contemporary
Rating: B-
Sensuality: Hot
Book Disclosure: I checked this one out from the library.

Sweet Little Lies is the first in a new Jill Shalvis series, Heartbreaker Bay.  Just to give you a little bit of background if you are not familiar with Jill Shalvis (shame on you!), she writes awesome contemporary books set in small towns.  She gained well deserved popularity with her Lucky Harbor series, which is where I fell in love with her writing.  So back to Sweet Little Lies... Pru, a captain of a tourist boating operation, has made it her life's mission to right the wrongs her parents caused when they chose to drink and drive.  Her last operation is to make sure that hunky, bartender Finn is happy in life.  She sets out to make sure he finds happiness by falling in love, however, she certainly didn't intend for it to be herself!

What I liked.  I am super excited about all the new characters introduced in this book.  I love the little community set in San Francisco that theses characters have been able to carve out for themselves.  You have the brooding/man whore Jake, who has taken in upon himself to protect Pru.  There are several guys friends with Finn and then several girls friends with Pru.  I smell lots of sequel baiting!! Sweet Little Lies also has plenty of funny scenes where either Pru or Finn ends up in some sort of predicament. 

Why didn't I give this one a higher grade?  Well, I had a little trouble buying into Pru and Finn's romance.  I was much more interested in everything else going on in the book that the romance was secondary to me.  Also, for most of the book Pru withholds some important information about her history from Finn and that was looming over the story.  The reader is on pins and needles waiting for the big bomb to drop.  When it finally does, it is fairly predictable how Finn reacts.  It all seemed very anti-climactic and unnecessary.

Sweet Little Lies was not my favorite by Shalvis, but I am definitely interested in reading more in this series.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Registration is open for RT 2017, Hotlanta!

Steampunk Party 2015, Wizard of Oz
For the last 8 years, I have been attending the RT Book Lovers Convention.  The first one I attended in Orlando, FL and was just a short drive from where I live.  I scrimped and saved so that I could attend.  I had such a wonderful experience that I never wanted to miss it again - and to this date I have actually kept that promise! 

RT 2009: Orlando, FL
RT 2010: Columbus, OH
RT 2011: Los Angeles, CA
RT 2012: Chicago, IL
RT 2013: Kansas City, MO
RT 2014: New Orleans, LA
RT 2015: Dallas, TX
RT 2016: Las Vegas, NV

When I attended the one in Orlando, believe it or not, I did not know a single soul.  But that didn't last very long.  The very first reader event I attended was with the author Karen Rose (awesome lady by-the-way) and I was sitting by myself.  These two very nice women came up and sat next to me and offered to let me hang out with them.  Before I knew it, I was apart of a small group of awesome friends who have lifted me up over the years. 

RT is awesome!  If you love to read and want to hang out with like minded individuals, play games, take home lots of free books and meet your favorite authors, then RT is for you!!  It's a ton of fun.  This year it is going to be in Atlanta, GA May 2 -7, 2017.  They already have a few big name authors in attendance: Charlaine Harris, Janet Evanovich, Karin Slaughter, Linda Lael Miller, Brenda Jackson, Beverly Jenkins, Liliana Hart, Sylvia Day, Shayla Black, Lexi Blake, Colleen Hoover, Lara Adrian, Kristen Ashley, Cora Carmack, Suzanne Enoch, Molly Harper, Lorraine Heath, Elizabeth Hoyt, Madeline Hunter, Laura Kaye, Susanna Kearsley, Christina Lauren, Tiffany Reisz, Zane and Rebecca  Zanetti.

My free books from RT last year!!

Usually, in the evening they have fun themed parties where you can dress up in costume.  It's totally optional if you want to go dressed up or not.  Some of the costumes are pretty elaborate.  Our group usually dresses up at one of the events.  But if you aren't into that you won't feel left out.  Many people show up in jeans too.  So wear what ever makes you comfortable.

Steampunk party 2016, Alice and Wonderland

Registration is open.  You have to register before you can book your hotel room, and the rooms go fast.  If you are planning on attending, don't wait to long or you might end up at an overflow hotel or worse, paying a higher room rate fee!  Let me know if you are planning on attending and we can meet in Atlanta!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Book Club Review: Choosing Charleston

Title: Choosing Charleston
Author: Lynn T. Ocean
Publishing Date: 2014
Genre: Contemporary
Rating: B
Sensuality: Kisses
Book Disclosure: This was Colleen's pick for book club.  Lucky for us it was a free ebook.  Also, as an FYI, I am seriously behind in my reviews.  This girl has some catching up to do!

Carly Stone walks in to her house to find her husband and next door neighbor doing the horizontal mambo.  This leads quickly to a series of events in which Carly decides to move back home with her parents in Charleston to regroup and lick her wounds.  While at home, she discovers that some construction company is building a new shopping plaza right across their family's home improvement store, which is sure to put them out of business.  Not going to take things sitting down, Carly sets out to find a way to halt the construction of that new plaza.

Choosing Charleston was a light easy read.  For the most part I really enjoyed the story and thought it was a cute read.  Carly is a sensible girl and an easy heroine to like.  A series of bad things seemed to happen to her, but it doesn't get her down.  The aspect that I really liked about the story was the sense of community and family that Carly has when she returns to Charleston.  Carly has a very colorful Grandmother living with her parents who brings a lot of fun to the story.  There were a few laugh out loud moments for me in the book.  Also, there are a lot of references and sayings to Southern life, which really emphasized their lifestyle.

The only weakness that I really saw in the book, was her cheating husband.  I don't want to give too much away by going into detail.  However, he really annoyed me.  Not just his personality, but the direction his character went in the story.  I felt like he was portrayed as an evil villain.  The kind of character the would be over in the corner twirling his mustache.  It was really hard to swallow that Carly, as smart and clever as she is, could fall for someone like that and not have any clue.  It just seemed out of character for her.  Other than that one little issue I had, I really liked it.

Friday, September 2, 2016

I'm so ready for this 3 Day Weekend!

FaceTime with my Jakey-Jakes!
If you have been following my blog, you have probably come to the conclusion that I travel a lot for my job.  Right now, I am sitting in Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, waiting to board my plane home.  I have been in D.C. for the past couple of days for a work meeting.  This week has been a challenge for my Hubby and the kids and I know they are looking forward to me getting home.

School started for kids about 3 weeks ago.  Annabelle started high school, but she seems to be adjusting really well.  I am really happy about that because I was really worried about the transition from leaving her small school and going to the big high school.  The only thing that has been a challenge is having to get up really early in the morning and catch the bus on days I am not there.  The bus comes at 6:00 am.  On days I am home, DH can drop her off on the way to work.  I have called home around 8:00 pm a couple of times this week and she has already been in bed!

Jake is now in the 3rd grade.  This is a very critical year in elementary curriculum.  They have a standardized test at the end of the year to determine if they get to move on to fourth grade or not.  This means the whole year the teacher is extremely focused on making sure the students can pass the test.  Jake's homework has been challenging to say the least.  Sometimes when I have called home, he is still working on his homework.  His bedtime is 8:30, so for him to spend all evening working on homework is no fun. 

Thank God for FaceTime!!  I love that I can call home and help Jake with his homework.  I can see him and he can even hold up his worksheet so that I can see it.  It makes it seem like I am not so far away, even though I am. 

Unfortunately, my travel schedule gets worse over the next couple of weeks.  After this lovely three-day weekend that I plan to enjoy whole heartedly, I will be headed down to Naples, FL for a meeting and will leave from there to train growers in Ft. Pierce, FL Wednesday through Friday.  I will be home for one day and then I will have to turn around and fly back to Washington D.C. for another meeting.  To say I am suffering from "Mom/Wife guilt" is an understatement. 

I will say that after I get back from my second trip to D.C., I plan on taking some time off to recuperate!!!  Let's hope my flight is not delayed by the storm. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review: Vortex

Title: Vortex
Author: Cherry Adair
Publishing Date: 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Rating: B-
Sensuality: Hot
Book Disclosure: Received a free copy at the 2016 RT convention.

Vortex is the third book in Cherry Adair's Cutter Cay series.  This series is about a family of brothers who own a treasure hunting business, as in sunken treasure.  Vortex features the oldest brother, Logan.  While Logan is out seeking a treasure near Lima, thanks to Dog, he discovers a woman in the water.  He is the hero of a romance novel, so of course he jumps in the ocean to save her!  Daniela was knocked on the head by her nefarious cousins and dumped in the ocean near Logan.  They are hoping she can provide Logan clues as to where the treasure is located and then swoop in and take it once Logan does all the hard work. 

Logan never trusts anyone and he can smell a lie a mile away.  To say Daniela is lying would be an understatement.  The thing is, she is genuinely afraid of something so Logan's protective instincts are in full swing.  I love a protective hero and I think readers will genuinely enjoy Logan's overprotective side when it comes to Daniella.  He can be a little heavy handed, but Daniella is no wilting wall flower and can stand her ground. 

Cherry Adair's books are guilty pleasures for me.  They really are over the top in lots of different ways.  There is always a lot of action, usually resulting in explosions of some kind or gun fights, etc.  The male heroes are larger than life, very protective and rich beyond belief.  The women are in need of rescue.  I am a sucker for this kind of a read!  It is total escapism. 

I have read all the books in the series so far and am enjoying them for what they are: fun, adventurous, sexy reads.  If you want something deep and meaningful, this is not for you, lol!!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Travel Adventures: Gaylord Palms Resort, Orlando

Beautiful walkway area in the courtyard
(and Pokémon Stop, LOL)
The nice thing about living in Winter Haven, is that we are a hop, skip and a jump from good ol' Orlando, Florida; one of the most sought after family destinations in the world.  It's always fun to get away for the weekend and since we live so close, it is very convenient.  My good friend Amber, also has a son the same age as mine.  (She is in book club with me) and she suggested we stay at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee for a mommy/son weekend.  I had never stayed at this resort before, and let me tell you, it is absolutely stunning!!!  OMG!! I will definitely be coming back.

Gaylord Palms in Orlando is famous for it's holiday event, ICE!  If you have never heard of ICE!, it is an indoor wonderland where they feature beautiful ice sculptures and ice slides.  It is neat to go see it at least once, if you haven't done so.  Of course, since we were there in August, this event was not happening at this time.  The resort is very unique in that it has a beautiful glassed-in atrium that allows for many beautiful stone walkways that feature native floral and fauna of Florida.  There is even a section that houses small alligators.  We were able to watch them get fed on Saturday night.

Alligator feeding

There are three different sections in the resort, all of which make up a side of the atrium to form a central courtyard area.  The sections are the Everglades, St. Augustine and Key West.  Our room was located in Key West.  Each area has shops and restaurants.  It amazed me how big the hotel was.  It really was like it's own little city.  We walked around quite a bit, and they boys had fun playing Pokémon Go.  There are quite a few stops on the property!

Since we went in the off season, it wasn't very crowded at all.  I imagine in peak summer and holiday, it would be very crowded.  When we checked in on Saturday, they had a room ready for us at 11:00 AM and check in is usually not until 4:00 PM.  There are two pools, one that is adults only and the other for families.  The family pool had a water playground area which has four water slides.  We spent pretty much all Saturday at the family pool area.  Amber and I spent time catching up on our reading and chatting while the boys played.  Later that night we had dinner in the Moor restaurant, which was the main restaurant in the Key West area.  It's deck is shaped like a boat, which you could see from our balcony.  Did I mention that the rooms had balconies?  I'm telling you, I felt like a queen all weekend!

View from our balcony of Moor restaurant

Gaylord Palms is a gorgeous property.  Whether you are on a family vacation or a romantic getaway, this resort has it all.  I am definitely going to come back and bring the Hubster, sans kiddos!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Review: The Grand Sophy

Title: The Grand Sophy
Author: Georgette Heyer
Publishing Date: 1950
Genre: Historical
Rating: B
Sensuality: Kisses
Book Disclosure: Received a free copy at the 2016 RT convention.

Some of Georgette Heyer's regency historical romance novels are being republished by Sourcebooks.  The Grand Sophy is about a young women who comes to stay with her Aunt due to her Father's journey to Brazil.  When she arrives at her Aunt's home she discovers she couldn't have come at a moment too soon.  The household seems to be in great disarray and no task is too small for Sophy to straighten out.  Her oldest cousin Charles, has inherited the estate and seems to manage it with an iron fist.  His management style has everyone in an uproar, especially his sweet sister Cecilia.  To everyone's consternation Cecelia is refusing to marry her fiancé and instead thinks she has fallen for an angelic poet who has no means of providing for her.

I have only read one other Heyer novel, Frederica.  Heyer's writing reminds me of the old fashioned style of writing, similar to Jane Austin's work.  The way the characters speak and act seems very genuine to the time period.  If historical novels with modern heroines annoy you, you won't have to worry about that in Heyer's work!

The Grand Sophy is a fun read.  Sophy is a hoot.  She has a great enthusiasm and zest for life.  She loves involving herself in everyone else's business, but she does it in a way that is fun, instead of meddlesome.  It's especially evidenced when ever she would interact with Charles's prickly fiancé, Eugenia.  Eugenia was also meddlesome, but always in an annoying, mean way. I love how Sophy outsmarts her in the end... so wickedly clever, but without any meanness at all.

There are a ton of characters in this book and sometimes it is hard to keep track of them all.  Sophy is such a clever person that she has her cousin spinning in circles and he almost doesn't know in which direction to turn next.  If you can get past the old-timey writing style, I would recommend this one.  It really is a cute story and very cleverly written.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Loot Crate: August 2016 Anti-Hero

Box that everything came in
A few months back I made a deal with my DH.  If he would put up shelves in my DD's bedroom, I would get them a Loot Crate subscription.  If you aren't familiar with Loot Crate, it is one of these online subscription programs where they send you a box filled with pop culture goodies each month.  They describe themselves as providing a crate for "geeks and gamers".  They usually come with a t-shirt (you choose the size upon subscription order) and then a couple of figurines and other various miscellaneous goodies.  Our subscription costs less than $20.00 a month.

I just started our subscription, so this was our first shipment.  Low and behold to my DD's surprise this month' anti-hero was the theme.  She was super-stoked because Harley Quinn from the DC comics is one of her favorite characters and she got a Harley Quinn figurine.  She and DH went to go see the Suicide Squad opening weekend, which she had been looking forward to for over a year now.

First off, the box they ship the stuff could be turned into Harley Quinn's hammer.  How cool is that?!?  DD explained that every month the box is designed to be useful in some way. 

August Loot Crate Items
In the crate were the following items:

1.  Archer t-shirt (I have no clue who Archer is, LOL)
2.  Harley Quinn figurine
3.  Kill Bill socks
4.  Hellboy, Hand of Doom piggy bank
5.  World of Warcraft pin + 30 subscription to the Warcraft game for PC.


My DD informs me that every crate comes with a pin.  Her friend who has subscribed for over a year puts all the pins on their backpack for display.  She is following in his footsteps!

I think it is a fun concept.  A friend of mine told me about it when I commented on his Labyrinth T-shirt he was wearing.  (It was so cool with all the characters from the movie on it with David Bowie front and center.)

Are any of you subscribers to Loot Crate out there?  I seem to be a fan of these monthly subscription sights, LOL!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: Fade Away

Title: Fade Away
Author: Harlan Coben
Publishing Date: 1998
Genre: Mystery
Rating: B+
Sensuality: N/A
Book Disclosure: Downloaded an audio book from the library.

Fade Away is the third book in the Myron Bolitar series.  Myron is a sports agent who is of the curious bent and seems to find himself involved in solving crimes.  He has an unusual past.  He was drafted to play in the NBA, but a horrible knee injury in a preseason game crushed that dream.  Instead he went off to Harvard and studies law.  He worked for the FBI before opening his own sports agency.

I have to say that Fade Away is my favorite book so far in the series.  Myron has been asked to look into the disappearance of NBA basketball star Greg Downing.  Downing and Myron had played as competitors in college and high school.  This investigation turns very personal for Myron as many long ago suppressed memories from his basketball days resurface.  The reader finally really gets to understand Myron and his motivations, especially when it comes to his current relationships.  In turn, he comes to some profound realizations with his girlfriend, Jessica Culver.

I'd say about half the book is focused on the mystery plot and the other on Myron's past.  Myron is a very likable character.  He had a strong morals and has a very soft squishy heart.  He also is very sarcastic; a definite smartass!  His partner, Win on the other hand, has no such scruples.  It makes for a good partnership and interesting read.  I listened to this book on audio tape, (actually also the first and second books, as well) and I like hearing them read.  The books are pretty funny. I find myself laughing out loud at times in the car while I am listening to them.  I would recommend this series to readers who enjoyed the Stephanie Plum mysteries.  While, there isn't much focus on romance, the cast of characters are fun and of course there is always a mystery to be solved.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Travel Adventures: San Diego APRC


Memorial down by the Midway.
I am in San Diego, California for work this week.  This time it is not involving food safety, but recycling!!  Yes, this probably doesn't make sense, but go with it.  I wear two hats at my job; food safety and sustainability.  This time I am focusing on sustainability by learning more about recycling agricultural plastics, which is something which growers are interested.  I am at an Agricultural Plastics Recycling Conference.

I flew in yesterday and had an uneventful fight, which means I was not delayed.  Yay!  I like flying out west because the planes are nicer.  The flight from Dallas to San Diego had TVs on the back of every seat.  I watched the movie Mother's Day with Julia Roberts and Kate Hudson in it.  It was cute, a great way to pass a long flight.  I took Uber from the airport to my hotel.  I accidentally clicked on Uber Pool.  Whoops!  I had to share my ride with someone else.  It actually worked out okay because they were already in the car and were sitting in the front seat.  I was dropped off first.  My ride was only $7.00.  I ordinarily would not have chosen that option, because (I don't know... I don't want to ride with a stranger)!!  In hindsight, it really wasn't that bad.

I am staying at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay because that is where the conference is located.  After exploring around yesterday, I am not a big fan of this location.  I would never choose to stay here if it wasn't for the conference.  It is just located really far from everything.  If you don't have a car, forget it.  It's not like you can walk anywhere.  They only have a couple of restaurants on property, one of which is pretty pricy.  The hotel is also very dated and in need of an update.  Some of the paint is peeling off in my bathroom and the door is so awkwardly placed that it almost hits the toilet when you shut it.  Yes, I can hear my neighbors through the walls. Ugh!  On the positive side, I have a seriously nice view of the bay and ocean.

Today, I had time before the first session of the conference started.  I decided to do the hop-on-hop-off trolley tour.  Luckily it picked up from the hotel and took us to the trolley sight.  I love doing these trolley tours because they give you the highlights of whatever city you are visiting.  We had stops at the Midway, a retired Naval ship, San Diego Zoo, Coronado Island and Little Italy, etc.   I have to say, I am totally in love with San Diego!!!  There is a ton of stuff to do here and the city is so clean.  I wish I had my family with me.  I am definitely going to plan a trip back here.  Also, it is August and the weather is gorgeous!!  Here are a few photos from my tour.

Bar where Tom Cruise sings in Top Gun

Ship in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean

El Prado Art Museum and Balboa Park

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Review - Kiss an Angel

Title: Kiss an Angel
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Publishing Date: 1996
Genre: Contemporary
Rating: A+
Sensuality: Hot
Book Disclosure: Received a free copy at the 2016 RT convention.

As far as I know, Kiss an Angel is not part of any series by SEP.  Daisy Devreaux's mother was a famous model, with whom her father had a fling with once and never married.  Daisy was raised by her unconventional mother and has lived a life of privilege.  Since her mother's recent death, Daisy has racked up a substantial amount of debt, enough that she could serve jail time.  Her father is willing to pay off Daisy's debts and keep her out of jail as long as she agrees to marry Alex Markov.  Alex owes Daisy's father a debt and Alex always pays his debts.  Alex is tasked with reigning Daisy in and teach her how to grow up and be responsible for once in her life.

As you can see from my rating, I absolutely adored this book!!!  Daisy might just be my favorite heroine ever.  At first you think, oh God, she is going to be a brat.  And this is exactly what Alex assumes, as well, when he meets her.  But actually Daisy nothing like you would think.  She is actually such a sweet caring person you can't help but fall in love with her.  She is very naïve about things and assumes the best of people and that it gets her into trouble.  Right after she marries Alex, he takes her to her new home, which is a run down trailer in a circus.  Yes, that's right.  A circus.

Let me tell you this book had me in stiches.  Some of the exchanges between Alex and Daisy are hilarious.  Daisy gets a few over on Alex every once in a while, but most of the story, Alex is ruling the roost.  Even though at first you think Alex is the stronger character, the reader quickly realizes that Daisy is the stronger one.  SEP always takes her heroines to rock bottom, only to have them strengthen their resolve and face the challenge head on.  Kiss an Angel has so much heart, and laughter and tears.  I loved it.  And this book has to have one of the best grovel scenes I have ever read.  I love, love, loved it!!  What are you waiting for??? Seriously, go and read this book!!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Its official! I'm Addicted to LuLaRoe!

Have you heard of LuLaRoe, the clothing line? 

I am going to tell you that I knew nothing about LuLaRoe about six weeks ago.  It wasn't until a really good friend of mine, Wendy Bennett aka author Sophia Henry, decided to become a LuLaRoe consultant and invited to me check out her product that had even heard of.  Seriously, it is sort of a cult!!  If you are curious, please join her group.  If you don't like it, you can leave at anytime.

I'm wearing a Maxi as a dress with a suit jacket over it.

Wendy is my bestie!!  Of course, I wanted to support her in her new business endeavor.  If she was selling, I was buying, LOL!!  She hosted her first pop-up online shopping event and I bought a couple of tops.  Ooooh, I was so excited to get them in the mail, and yes, they were as soft and comfy as everybody was saying they were!!

So that was just the start of my journey down LuLaRoe Lane. Fast forward to present day and I am embarrassed to admit that I belong to over 130 LuLaRoe groups on Facebook.  *Hangs head in shame* Yes, I am addicted!!

I'm wearing a Classic T and Madison Skirt.

I can't help it.  What is the appeal you ask?  Well let me tell you...

1.  The clothing and the company are all about flattering women and celebrating women's diversity.  The clothes make every women in different shapes and sizes look beautiful and feminine.  Seriously!!  I have watch fashion shows that show women from size 2XL to XXS model the clothes and all the women look gorgeous!!

2.  OMG the fabric and cute prints!!!  LuLaRoe only makes a certain number of items in a print, so if you love a particular print, get it immediately.  Not every consultant gets the same items and it is a hunt to find the item you want in your size.

3.  The clothes are of good quality and priced right.  The fabrics are buttery soft and in beautiful prints.   They are also so comfortable and affordable.  They run from $25 to $65 from legging to dresses.

4.  The way the company is structured you are helping women become independent, confident, business women.  I love that they give this opportunity for so many women to have a flexible way to earn an income in such a positive way.

5.  Each item can be worn in different ways.  For example, the maxi skirt can also be worn as a dress.  Or the Cassie skirt can be worn as a top.  They are very creative and give you lots of ideas to wear the items in multiple ways.

6.  Facebook Live.  Yes, the consultants go live on Facebook, videotaping themselves opening up boxes of their shipments.  It is like Christmas morning everyday!!  I can't help but watch in excitement to see what products they are going to reveal in that very moment.

I'm wearing a Julia dress

How about you?  Have you heard of LuLaRoe?  If so, what is your favorite style.  I don't have a favorite yet.  Ha ha!  I love them all.  I have only scratched the surface.  There are many other styles I am itching to get, like a Nicole, Amelia and leggings.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Book Review: Marked in Flesh

Title: Marked in Flesh
Author: Anne Bishop
Publishing Date: 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Rating: B-
Sensuality: N/A
Book Disclosure: Rented from the library.

Marked in Flesh is the fourth book in Anne Bishop's The Others series.  When I read the first book in the series Written in Red, I was blown away.  I loved the world Bishop had created and the main character Meg's childlike innocence in dealing with the dangerous world she lived in was fascinating to read.  These books really ought to be read in order as they build off of one another. 

Marked in Flesh is about humans, and more specifically humans who belong to the Humans First and Last (HFL) movement putting in motion a series of events to wipe out the Others and take control of the earth.  (Right.  You puny and petty humans.  As if!)  Now, not all of the humans feel this way.  However, if they are not with the HFL they are branded "wolf lovers" and ostracized from human cities and establishments.  HFL goes so far as to attack the "wolf lovers" not only damaging their businesses but trying to murder them, as well. 

Meg is a cassandra sangue, which is a blood prophet.  She is human, but her blood is not considered edible by vampires or shifters.  She is considered "not meat" from the others.  She has visions about the terrible acts the HFL is going to bring against the Others.  In this book, Meg doubts that what she is seeing is true or how to prevent the HFL from carrying out their attack.

Meg's relationship with Simon is starting to change from one of friendship to taking it to the next step, except neither is sure of how to do that without offending the other.  You know how I love my romance and I am getting frustrated with these two tippy-toeing around the issue!!  Get on with it already, LOL!!  So that is driving me crazy.  It is one of the reasons I didn't rate this book higher. 

The other reason is that there were so many different characters in the book.  A lot of them had very similar names.  For example, I kept getting Joe and Jackson mixed up and they were both living in different towns.  I was getting confused.  I managed to muddle through it, but it detracted from my enjoyment of the story.  The other question I have, is where the author is going with this series.   I am not sure of the big picture, or what the endpoint would be for this series.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Travel Adventures: IAFP St. Louis

Every year I attend the International Association of Food Protection (IAFP) Conference.  This meeting is the best meeting for food safety professionals.  I always walk away from this conference learning so much about the latest scientific findings concerning all things food safety.  Usually, the FDA attends to give updates on the latest rules and regulations.  My favorite workshops deal with recent outbreaks and the investigation into finding the cause.  This year there was a great workshop on the cucumber/Salmonella outbreak that occurred across the US this year.

My dear husband (DH) usually attends this conference with me.  Usually, it is in a different location throughout the US and DH has a goal to visit all 50 states.  Last year it was in Portland, so he got to knock Oregon off his list.  This year it was in St. Louis, Missouri.

I can tell you that this trip did not start off well, especially with the fact that my last trip involved the dubious "Southwest Debacle".  We flew out of Tampa on American Airlines and had a layover in Dallas.  We get to Dallas, eat lunch and are informed that our connecting flight to St. Louis is delayed - not by too much, only an hour.  Long story short, the plane scheduled for our flight was undergoing some maintenance.  We didn't board the plane until about 6:00, which means we didn't arrive in St. Louis until about 8:30.

American Airlines gave everybody on the flight a $12.00 voucher to use at any of the vendors in the airport - but it was only good for that day.  I spent our vouchers at Garrett Popcorn.  If you haven't ever tried this popcorn, you are missing out.  Get the Garrett mix, which is caramel and cheese popcorn mixed together.  Yum!  I also was given a glass of wine on the plane for free.  I had my credit card out to pay, but the flight attendant told me it was the least she could do because of the delay (Sweet!). We also received an email the next day apologizing for the delay and credited us with 5,000 bonus miles for our frequent flyer program.  I'll give AA props for trying to make up for the delay. 

When we arrived at the airport,  it was completely deserted and all the shops were barred up and closed off.  This arrival really set the tone for the rest of our trip.  We caught a cab out of the airport and headed downtown.  (We tried to use Uber, but only the black car option was available).  We were staying at the Marriott Grand Downtown, right across from the convention center.  It's Saturday night, downtown at about 9:00, and the place is a ghost town.  No people are walking around, hardly any bars or restaurants are open.  Very spooky!  We are exhausted anyway from a day of doing nothing really, but waiting around and decide to go to bed.

Sunday was better.  We got to experience ribs at Pappy's Smokehouse!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  If I have to describe the only thing worth going to St. Louis for, it would be Pappy's.  Seriously.  The ribs are fall-off-the-bone delicious and meaty as all get out.  This place opened up at 11:00 AM on a Sunday.  We got there at 11:15 and the line was already through the restaurant.  It wasn't quite out the door yet, but close.  They have a really good system, so you go through the line pretty quickly and even though you think you won't get a table, you will.

DH so happy about Pappys BBQ!

We took a trolley ride around St. Louis, which showed us some of the popular sights for tourists.  Much of the trolley ride focused on Forest Park, which is where their zoo, art and history museum are located; all of which have free admission. We didn't have time to do that and I would have loved to go to the history museum because they were having a Little Black Dress exhibit I would have loved to see.  It featured black dresses from several time periods.  Ugh!  So up my alley!

The rest of my trip was spent at the conference.  Monday and Tuesday were full days of food safety workshops.  DH was on his own to explore the city.  I will share with you his opinion of this city in his own words. 

"I just realized it's not an arch.  It's a big fucking frown."

Needless to say, DH was not a big fan of St. Louis.  He rated the city a D+, saying he would have rated it an F if it wasn't for Pappy's and the Busch Stadium tour, which is where the Cardinals play.

I can tell you, I was more indifferent than he was.  But looking back, yes the downtown was devoid of shops and restaurants and there were not many people aside from those of us who came for the conference.  It was strange.  It is definitely not a place I am dying to get back to visit again any time soon.

I just realized as rereading this post, I really hope I don't offend anyone from St. Louis!!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Book Club Review - Memory Man

Title: Memory Man
Author: David Baldacci
Publishing Date: 2015
Genre: General Fiction/Suspense
Rating: A-
Sensuality: N/A
Book Disclosure: July Book Club book, Candy's choice.  Rented from the library.

Memory Man is the first book in the Amos Decker series.  I believe the second book has been released.  I believe this is the first time I have read David Baldacci.  I know. I know.  He is a big powerhouse in the fiction world.  How am I just now reading him?!?!  He happens to be a favorite of a few ladies in my book club.  FYI, I plan to do a separate post on my book club so that you can get to know those ladies.

Back to Memory Man.  Amos Decker is a very unique character.  He was a professional football player and he took a very bad hit on the field.  So bad in fact, that the had to be resuscitated twice by the medical staff.  He survived, but his brain had been altered by the hit.  He is now able to have perfect recall of anything that happens to him.  If he reads a story, he can recall every detail.  Fast forward to present day and Decker is a mess.  He was a detective on the police force whose world shattered when his wife and only child were brutally murdered.  It has been 18 months since their death and no suspects were found.  Out of the blue, a man walks into the police station and confesses to their murder.  Decker doesn't have any recollection of the man but thinks he might be connected to the real killer.

I very much enjoyed Memory Man.  What makes the story so great is the main character, Amos Decker.  He is such an unusual character.  Not just the fact that he can never forget anything, but that he is completely likeable.  He is very humble.  He is big and fat.  He feels like he lost all of himself, first with the football accident and then secondly when he lost his family.  Even thought the mystery takes front and center in the story, really it is also a story about self discovery. 

Amos isn't the only well drawn character.  From his former partner, the chain smoking woman who also has a daughter with down syndrome, to the actual killer - wow totally did not see that one coming, the cast is truly rich and well developed.

Never saw who the murderer was at all.  The mystery was laid out brilliantly and kept me guessing the whole time.

I would say the only negative that I found with the book, was that the author kept explaining Amos's brain condition, as if something like that is difficult to grasp.  Um no, got it after the first time you explained it.  However, the author kind of kept going on and on and on about it. 

This review reflects many of the my own thoughts as well as those of the ladies in the book club.  There were 7 of us there, out of 10, and all of us there liked the story.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Travel Adventures: Minneapolis & the Southwest Debacle

I had a work meeting in Minneapolis last week.  I wrapped up IFT in Chicago and then flew to Minneapolis/St. Paul airport.  For my job I am part of a working group that approves content for the GAP Harmonization Standards.  Boy that's a mouthful!  GAP stands for Good Agricultural Practices.  Basically, it is the set of standards that when applied correctly reduce contamination of pathogenic bacteria from getting on your fruits and vegetables which you might consume raw.

Recently, new laws were released from FDA regarding farm food safety.  We are meeting to make sure that our GAP Harmonization audit meets with FDA requirements.  The meeting was held at the Target Headquarters in downtown Minneapolis.  It was such a cool building.  You could tell that it was a good working environment.  They had a lot of really cool lounging areas set up in the building with comfortable furniture arranged in small groups so that people could come and relax or have smaller, intimate meetings.

This was a huge mural on one wall at the Target HQ
The meeting ended a little after 3:00 and we were able to accomplish all objectives that day.  It was really cool to work with so many different experts from the industry.  There are times with not everyone agrees, but everybody is very respectful of the different opinions.  Its a great group.

Me and a few fellow colleagues were not flying out until tomorrow.  We decided to all go together to dinner together.  Reggie is a foodie, so he picked the restaurant and took care of the reservation.  We ended up going to Eat Street Social.  Can I just say yum!  The menu was small, but all of the dishes looked very well thought out.  I ended up choosing the duck breast with fig risotto and roasted Brussels sprouts.  OMG!! This was delicious.  Have you ever had duck?  It is a fatty meat, but when cooked right it just melts in your mouth.  This dish also I think had the skin on it, which was very crispy.  The texture and taste reminded me of bacon in a way.  It had a bit of crisp but was so tender to almost melt in your mouth.  Heavenly!

Eat Street Social, Duck Breast w/ Fig Risotto
So now I get to the sucky part of my trip.  My flight out tomorrow was through Southwest Airlines.  If you have ever flown Southwest you know that you board the plane in the order you check in online.  I always set an alarm to go off so that I can check in at exactly 24hrs (this is the earliest you can do it).  When I went to go check in there was something wrong with the Southwest website.  Fast forward two hours later, the website was finally back up and I had my line assignment.  I was in the B boarding group, so not too bad.  However, in the back of my mind I was worried about my flight being delayed because I was hearing of flights being cancelled.

The following day, I had a teleconference meeting in the morning and was scheduled to fly out at 4:00 in the afternoon.  I had some time to kill so my trip to Minneapolis would not be complete if I didn't go to the Mall of America, the largest mall in the US!  I had lunch in the mall and walked around.  It's three stories high and is adjacent to hotels.  In the middle of the mall there is a Nickelodeon amusement park.  It's kind of crazy to see roller coasters in the middle of a shopping mall.

Mall of America

I headed to the airport to find out that my flight had indeed been delayed.  But only by 30 minutes.  Not too bad.  However, once the plane arrived, they made an announcement that while our plane was there, no crew had been assigned to it.  What???  How do you have a plane but no pilot?  So they told us to sit tight and they would work on getting a crew assigned to our flight.  Long story short, our flight was cancelled as were several other Southwest flights at the airport.  Each gate counter had a line of at least 20 people standing in it.  The other bad part, is that if you were looking to reschedule through Southwest you would not be able to get another flight out of the city until at least Saturday, possibly Sunday (this was Thursday).  I think not!

I got on my phone and quickly booked the next flight out through American Airlines.  I wouldn't be leaving until the next morning, but hey I would be getting home before the weekend!  It also cost me double for flying out of AA rather than on SW, and I now had to get a hotel room, which were booking up fast.  I actually ended back at the Mall of America at the Marriott there.  The Mall is pretty close to the airport.

To get refunded, I was instructed to call their 1-800 number and give them my confirmation code.  When I did this the attendant on the phone could not find a record of my confirmation number.  It took about an hour for him to get help only to tell me that I was going to have to send an email through the website in order to get things straightened out. *Sigh*

I sent my email explaining my situation.  I received a very prescribed email back telling me that I would receive a full refund plus a $200 voucher to use on my next Southwest flight.  I have to say, I am not really sure I want to go on another SW flight.  Right now, their customer service is in the crapper!   I was just travelling by myself.  Had I been with my family, I doubt I could have afforded to book a ticket on another airline.  Have any of you been effected by flight cancellations?  If so, how did you muddle through it?