Wednesday, November 26, 2014

30 Books By 30

Last year, on my 29th birthday, I set out to read 30 books by my 30th birthday.  Well, today I am 30!  How did that happen?

I once read somewhere, that you should not allow others to make you feel bad about what you like to read.  I liked reading this because I am a Christian and I sometimes feel bad reading romance novels, because I think that somehow they will make me bad.  It is just really nice to read something mindless, after reading heavy stuff... classics, or emotional books. But, I have realized that I am still the same person and I just love to read, no matter what the book may be about. I think having the ability to read is very important and it should be impressed upon our young people, and if they want to read something that you wouldn't necessarily choose, that is ok, because hey, they are reading (use discernment... obviously it would be highly inappropriate for a 6th grader to read '50 Shades of Grey'.. heck I haven't even read it.)! And, perhaps they will realize that they do not like a specific genre, on their own, rather than being told not to read it by someone else. So, go forth and read what you want!  You will be happier in the end!  Although, I will say that I generally choose books that I find interesting or important via some strange equation in my head.  Ha ha. Sometimes, you just have to read a really dumb book, so that you can get back on track, with the good ones!


Here is the list of books that I read (as you can see, I'll pretty much read anything, as long as I find it to be interesting!):



1.  Q&A (a.k.a. 'Slumdog Millionaire') by Vikas Swarup






















I saw this movie when it came out, and I am guessing I purchased the book then, because it has been on my shelf for years.  I liked the book, but it was still just so sad.  I suppose it ended in a good way, but still... sad.  I give this 3 out of 5 stars.  I liked it.

2.  Morgan's Hunter by Cate Beauman



I won the fifth book in this series through goodreads.com, which led me to this book, the first in the series.  I have never really been a romance literature type of person, but the way that Cate Beauman throws in the suspense, they just draw you in.  I guarantee that if you read this book, you will want to read the rest of the series, too.  Morgan is a wildlife biologist and she runs into some trouble and that is where Hunter comes in.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

3.  Falling For Sarah by Cate Beauman



Sarah finds herself in a dangerous situation, when she is stalked by a crazy man.  Good thing Ethan is there for her, or things could have ended off much worse.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.  FYI:  This book has a twisted man and he does horrible things, so beware!

4.  Hailey's Truth  by Cate Beauman



A young babysitter and college student, trying to do things with her life, gets the opportunity to go on a trip to Mexico.  I have a feeling that this trip was more than she bargained for.  Austin is the bodyguard that is along for the ride.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

5.  Forever Alexa  by Cate Beauman



Alexa is the mother of a young daughter and older sister to Abby.  This book in the series deals with Alexa trying to save her sister Abby, after she is kidnapped.  Jackson, a man from the past and father of Alexa's daughter comes back into the picture, in order to help Alexa find her sister.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

6.  The Princess in the Opal Mask by Jenny Lundquist



I really enjoyed this book, it was a fun twist to an orphan story.  The author is a friend of a friend and I really liked this book because it was a good read.  I literally read it in one day.  I give it 5 out of 5 stars.  It was amazing! (Amazing is a very strong word, but it was pretty darn good!)

7.  Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers



Mary Poppins is one of my favorite Disney movies!  I never knew that it was a book until 'Saving Mr. Banks' was about to come out (a great movie by the way).  So, I immediately decided that I needed to read it.  Something you should know, is that the movie and the book are not too much alike.  I give this 3 out of 5 stars.  I liked it.

8.  Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson






















Growing up, my Grandma purchased all of these books for my mom and I always wanted to read them.  However, my mom decided to give them all away to the Good will a couple of years ago.  Tear.  Because of this, it has taken me some time to get to them.  Luckily, my mom gave me the first in the series for me birthday last year.  A fun Baker who solves crime.  Food and mystery, does it get better than that?!  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

9.  Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie



This is the first Agatha Christie book that I have ever read.  I am kind of in the middle of a huge mystery/ suspense spell.  This book hit the spot.  Boy does Christie know how to get you to second guess yourself and the characters in this book!  This is definitely a honeymoon gone wrong!  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

10.  Ice Baron by Jennette Green



May I just say that I love Jennette Green!  She writes well and creates fun stories that you cannot put down.  These is another sweet love story... there is anger, there is adventure, and there is love.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

11.  Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt



A short and sweet tale, with a twinge of sadness.  It struck me in a way that I cannot explain.  I give it 5 out of 5 stars. It was amazing!

12.  Ordeal By Innocence by Agatha Christie






















Another great Agatha Christie book.  Everything is in the family, for this one!  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

"Someone was guilty- and got away with it.  But the others were innocent- and didn't get away with anything."

13.  Black Boy by Richard Wright



I like this book.  I read it because the kids in the English honors class at my school was reading it.  I found it to be sad.  He fought his way through life.  But he never gave up. (I really tired of reading about Communism in the end.)  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

14.  The Vigilante's Bride by Yvonne Harris





















A cute, fun, and quick read.  I wish that there was more to the love story of Luke and Emily.  I feel like the story was building and building and then it just kind of ended.  I give this 3 out of 5 stars.  I liked it.

15.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak



I don't really know what to say about this book, except that it was lovely and beautiful.  I think I shall remember this story for quite some time.  I am curious to see what the movie is like, now.  I give this 5 out of 5 stars.  It truly was amazing!

16.  Girl With a Peal Earring by Tracy Chevalier






















I thought before I started this book, that it might be a little boring and that I wouldn't like it.  But, it wasn't boring and I liked it a lot.  I liked the time period.  I liked the art.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

17.  Tangled by Emma Chase



A very quick and funny read.  It is not everyday that you read a romance novel from the guy's perspective.  This is a true romance, so there is some sex, beware.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

18.  Twisted by Emma Chase



This is the sequel to 'Tangled'.  I hated this book!  I mean, I actually really liked it, but the characters did not communicate and all of their problems could have been avoided, if they spoke with one another! Ugh!  What I gathered from this:  Communication is Key!  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

19.  Justice For Abby by Cate Beauman



This is the 6th book in the Bodyguards of L.A. County series.  As you know, I really enjoy Cate Beauman and this series.  I was waiting for this book to come out in February.  I was able to order it in late April and I read it right away.  Abby has been rescued and now she is living a very guarded life.  She is hidden away from cameras and newspapers.  She can't be discovered, for the safety of her and her family.  Jerrod is doing more than keeping her safe, though.  Wowza!  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

20.  Divergent by Veronica Roth



As a young adult, I was unaware of the genre titled 'Young Adult', when searching for books.  I have always just read what I thought might be interesting.  As an adult, I have become aware of this genre and I quite like it.  Even though I enjoy a good romance novel, there is something so great about the sweet love that is discovered in a young adult novel.  It's cute and though I am an adult, I hope that I can find a sweet love.  This book was fun!  I happened to be reading it at the same time as several of my students and were able to talk about it, which made the reading experience better.  This book reminded a bit of 'The Hunger Games' in the aspect of the population being split into different factions (districts) and the whole fighting for your life scenario.  Other than that, this book stands on its own and  I liked it.  I also liked that the name of each of the factions is truly a real word and the peoples demeanor reflects the definition of that word, though I suppose that was why the author chose those words.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

21.  A Triple Knot by Emma Campion





















I loved this book.  It took me the first few chapters to get the characters in order, but after that I couldn't stop reading.  I literally was silent in my car pool, to and from work for a week, because I was reading.  Because it was the end of the school year and I was finished grading everything, I also read during my prep periods.  I am now interested in learning more about Joan of Kent because of this story.  Some complained that the title of the book does not make sense, but I have to disagree... it makes total sense.  What a crazy life Joan lived, in order to be with the man she loved (tossed here and there by her own family).  I knew how the book ended, because the back cover hinted at it, but that didn't keep me from crying at the end. Thomas Holland!  Joan!  Stupid Will!  Thomas Holland! Ned!  Ahhh!!  I highly recommend this book!  It has great flow and is very easy, yet enjoyable to read.  I am now highly interested in reading Emma Campion's other book, 'The King's Mistress'.  It too sounds great!

I won this book from Goodreads.com and got to read in it May... two whole months before it came out!  I now feel lead to learn more about Joan of Kent.  I am also Highly interested in reading Emma Campion's other novel, 'The King's Mistress', about Alice Perrers.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.



22.  That Night by Chevy Stevens





















I won this book off of Goodreads.com, through their first reads giveaways.  I had the opportunity to read it at the beginning of May, even though it wasn't released until mid June.  Pretty cool! To be honest,  I read the first ten pages and I got a really bad taste in my mouth for this book.  The writing was choppy and had no flow.  The author's style of writing got on my nerves.  So, I stopped reading it and read 'A Triple Knot' instead.  Once I finished that, I picked this book back up.  I am glad that I did so, because I actually ended up liking this book very much.  I was intrigued my the story line, even before I began reading it, but once I got beyond those first few pages, I became adjusted to the writer's style.  I knew who the real suspect was, but I didn't expect the twist that was revealed as well.  A good story.  I kind of wish that there was a little more.  Boy howdy the main character's mom is really mean!  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

23.  Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah



It may be surprising to some, but I have been in love with someone and I identified very well with Kate because of this.  She had the guts to eventually tell the guy she loved, that she loved him... and this is where she and I differ. I will never, ever tell this person.  At times, I wanted to slap Kate and say, "Speak your mind, woman!"  But, then I realized that I often keep things to myself, because I feel that by being honest (and not meanly so), I am going to hurt someone's feelings and that makes me sad, but yet leaves me frustrated with myself.  Tully is very self centered and I kind of wanted to punch her.  Ha ha.  This is a novel about true friendship and how it can go awry after so many years, and somehow it can still be called upon when truly needed.

I cried so much while finishing the last 100 pages of this book, that I got  a headache.  I went into the restroom and saw my reflection... I was a mess, but as I looked closer, I couldn't help but laugh.  Why, you may ask?  Because I had tiny flecks of tissue stuck all over my face!  Ha ha.  Besides my real best friends, books are my best friends and I have learned a lot from them and one thing is for certain (Firefly Lane), nothing matters in life, more than friendship, family, laughter, and love. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I really liked it.

24. Holes by Louis Sachar


Surprise, surprise! This book was beautifully made into a movie.  I mean, I knew that it was a movie.  I own it.  I like it a lot.  However, the book and the movie are like one in the same, other than the fact that Stanley is a bit over weight in the book and in the movie he is not.  As I was reading the book, I kept picturing scenes from the movie.  This is usually why I am disappointed when books are made into a movie, because the director did not make it the way that I saw it in my head.  A good, fun, and light read. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.


I own a leather bound book, that holds all of Jane Austen's novels. Unfortunately, I have only read 'Mansfield Park' and 'Sense and Sensibility'. Of course, I loved both. I am certain that even if I had knowledge of 'Pride and Prejudice' before reading 'Pride and Prescience', I still would have greatly enjoyed this book. It was a fun light read and a good mystery. I really enjoyed it! I think I will head back to the library to get the next book in this series. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I really liked it.

26. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This is the leather bound book that I own (not my photo, though). I got it from Barnes and Noble. Though I got it three years ago, they may still carry it. The link is for a cloth bound version which I love equally and may some day purchase because it is lovely.

As before stated, I had read two of Jane Austen's novels previously and I knew that I quite liked her style of writing and story telling. I enjoyed this novel immensely! Elizabeth blinded by prejudice (misguided) and Mr. Darcy, by pride.  Although, as a friend just pointed out it is not one fault per person, but that they both were prideful and held prejudice within their own classes and against another class, in society.  I agree.  They each hold parts of these. It all worked out in the end! Though, if only these characters communicated, their issues would have been resolved at a much speedier pace. I iave this book 5 out of 5 stars.  It was amazing!

27. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty





















This is a great story and it is also very well illustrated. When I was in my teaching credential program, many moons ago, I was introduced to 'Iggy Peck, Architect', by this very same author. I purchased it right away because it is so fun. This book follows suit and it is a great lesson in perseverance. If you want something bad enough, make it happen, and don't let others stop you! I just had to get this for a very special baby girl that was born in September, to my very dear friend. It is never to early to start a private library! I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

28.  Suspense and Sensibility: Or, First Impressions Revisited by Carrie Bebris























I am really glad that I stumbled upon this series at the library! Fun, funny, and nice little mysteries. I like seeing Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth interact with each other (in my mind). Even though these are not written by Jane Austen, I enjoy seeing this couple live beyond the pages of 'Pride and Prejudice.' Mr. Darcy though, should start believing his wife a little sooner when it comes to the matter of the unnatural, for it seems she is always right. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I really liked it.


29. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen






















While I enjoyed this book, I did not like it as much as the other Jane Austen novels I have read previously. However, it has sprung in me a desire to read some Gothic novels. I have not done so before and I think I shall find them quite interesting.

Catherine is a silly girl, but quite nice and innocent and is easily led my her imagination. It is sad that her kindness is abused by her friend Isabella. I am happy she found a friend in Miss Tilney and that a true love was found. I give this book 3 out 5 stars.  I liked it.

30. North by Northanger by Carrie Bebris























This was my favorite of the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, thus far. It was all mystery from the beginning! I liked that Elizabeth came to know Mr. Darcy's mother, even though she had been gone some 20 years. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.  It was great!

I finished the above 30 books by June 19, 2014. I can't believe that I reached my goal before half of the year was even over! I really love to read and this was a fun little challenge for me. I don't know if I would have accomplished this task if I did not make it a point to sit down and read.  Life has a way of getting in the way of things that we truly enjoy.  They are often the first things that we kick to the curb when our schedule fills up. So, it was a joy to read and read often.

The following books were read after my challenge was met, but still before my birthday:

31. The Matters at Mansfield: Or, the Crawford Affair by Carrie Bebris



32. Emma by Jane Austen



33. The Turning by Jennifer Armintrout



34. The Intrigue at Highbury: Or, Emma's Match by Carrie Bebris



35. Persuasion by Jane Austen



36. The Deception at Lyme: Or, the Peril of Persuasion by Carrie Bebris



37. Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss

38. The Riddle of the Deplorable Dandy by Patricia Veryan



39. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte



40. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte



Currently reading: A World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime Germany by: Sigrid MacRae

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Hats

I recently discovered the blog, 'The House That Lars Built' and that blog lead me to 'Studio DIY'. One of Studio DIY's last posts was actually written by the gal at 'The House That Lars Built'. Wild, right?! Anyway, Thanksgiving hats were featured on the blog and they were so cute, that I had to make them. Luckily, the school that I teach at has an annual Thanksgiving feast, before we all head off for our short holiday break. I decided that my family class would make these and sport them at the feast, as head pieces and boutonnieres.

We finished all of the pie accessories up yesterday.  At first, I was curious as to how one makes the form of a triangle, because the directions on Studio DIY were a bit vague. I looked around Pinterest and came across DIY Individual Pie Slice Box by The Proper Pinwheel. A template is provided. I printed this template out and it was so small. I find it hard to believe that a piece of pie can actually fit inside of it, unless it is enlarged. However, the small size was perfect for my class craft.

The great thing about this craft, is that it is so easy to make... and all you need is paper, glue, scissors, and some ribbon!

If you would like to make these, yourself, I suggest that you use the Proper Pinwheel template combined with the directions on Studio DIY. I love the idea of making holiday hats with family and then wearing them all day. It seems like so much fun!

Go and create! Good luck!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Artsy Craftsy Time

I have always wanted to go to a Paint Nite. You know, the ones, where you go to a bar or restaurant and you paint a painting in one night?! Many times, I have asked friends to go with me and they say yes, but when it comes down to brass tacks, they don't end up going. So, I decided to hold my own paint night at my apartment.

Not only did I invite friends over to paint, but I disguised it all as a 30th birthday party. I purchased the pattern, the transfer paper, and the paintbrushes from the website Social Artworking. They give you a list of the paint colors that you need and instead of buying those from the website, I went to Michael's and picked up similar colors.  Consumer Crafts was having a nice sale at the time, so I got my 16x20 canvases and all of the easels from them.

The instructions state that it should have taken 3 hours to complete this painting project. Well, the faster ones in the group finished in 5 hours and the slower more particular friends needed 6 hours. I am sure that my friends didn't actually plan on spending the entire day with me, but that is the way that it turned out. We had fun! We listened to music, we ate food, we had good laughs and conversation. It was a great time!!

What was the food, you ask? Just snacks, essentially.  I served Hashimoto Pasta Salad, because it is so good and it has turned out to be a great crowd pleaser.  I also made a Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with a Milk Chocolate Ganache and Pumpkin Whipped Cream. For drinks, I made cranberry spritzers. I used Cran-Cherry juice mixed with some Schweppes original sparkling spritzer water. Super easy and delicious! I also served cold and hot tea, as well as water. This party came together easily and it was very enjoyable to me, to have a small group of  my best friends partaking in an activity that I enjoy.

Here are some photos!









We all followed the same directions, and each painting turned out so differently! I think that that is my favorite part. Unique and fun just like all of us!

The cake! It was soooo good! And a quick and easy recipe, too. #FairTrade cocoa from Equal Exchange.


That's all she wrote, folks! Have a great week!