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.