Friday, January 17, 2014

Flashback Friday Reviews (3)

Happy Friday, readers!

I don't know if many of you have Monday off in honor of Martin Luther King Jr, but we do and I am looking forward to the three day weekend!

Book Review
Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
Read January 2013

I had heard of Sarah Jio, but never read any of her works prior to reading Blackberry Winter. This book had been on my Kindle for a while, as it was a great sale on Amazon for the Kindle version. To be honest, I wasn't sure I would like it much. It got off to a bit of a slow start, but soon I became increasingly entranced in the novel!

Blackberry Winter, set in 1933 and 2010 Seattle, tells of a young, poor mother, Vera Ray, and her search for her missing son. In 1933, Vera Ray goes to work one day, hoping to earn enough money for her and her son to live on, but comes home to an empty house. In 2010, Claire Aldridge, a newspaper reporter, covers the "Blackberry Winter" of 1933, right around the events of Vera Ray's life. The two, decades apart, become uniquely intertwined.

I was very impressed with the two stories Jio managed to weave into one. It was an entrancing tale I would definitely recommend!

Party Review
Last weekend I hosted a girl's night at my house for my coworkers. It's always so nice for us to get together outside of work; I had a blast! Nine of us were able to make it.

The theme was "cocoa bar". I asked the ladies to pair up and bring an appetizer, while I covered the beverages. I created a cute cocoa bar, and was impressed with the delicious appetizers everyone brought! We enjoyed crab wontons, a cheesy chicken dip, a s'mores dip, pasta salad, an artichoke and spinach dip, and more!

This is a picture of just the cocoa bar portion. I had cocoa, mint M&Ms, white chocolate chips, peppermint candies, marshmallows, and a variety of adult mix-ins! We also broke out a chocolate truffle martini mix from Harry & Davids--boy, was that delicious!

I work with such an awesome group of women, and really enjoy spending time with them inside and outside of work. I'm so grateful they all decided to come! I will definitely be hosting again!

Questions for my readers:
  1. Did you set New Year's resolutions? If so, how are they going?
  2. Have you ever hosted a "_____ bar" party? If so, what type of bar was it, and how did it go over for you?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Flashback Friday Reviews (2)

TGIF, readers!

This is my second Flashback Friday Reviews post. Let me know if you have changes/additions you would like to see!

Book Review:
Kisscut by Karin Slaughter
Read January 2013

I have become an increasingly huge fan of Karin Slaughter. The first book I read of hers, Indelible, blew my mind so much I had to have more! Kisscut is the second book in Slaughter's Grant County series, and was certainly not a disappointment!

The novel opens with Sara Linton's discovery of a dead baby abandoned in the bathroom of the local skating rink. The suspects include two young teenage girls Sara had seen leaving that restroom before she entered.  Throughout Sara and Jeffrey's investigation of the baby, more child abuse and assault are revealed. The magnitude of what at first seemed like one dead baby grew to a discovery that impacted an entire town and all of Grant County.

This read is not for the faint of heart, as it deals with some pretty heavy societal issues. Slaughter does a fantastic job with character development and revealing issues that often go buried within communities.

I gave this read a 4/5.

Hobby Review:
I am addicted to the site for my crocheting projects. This site provides a library of projects, posted by other users, for knitting and crocheting. It's fabulous!

For a friend's birthday, I wanted to make her a custom wine bag. I found a free pattern on Ravelry, and a couple of hours later, here is what I had:
Isn't is adorable? This was a really fun and easy project. My friend really liked it!

I'm working on a few more projects right now, too, where I got patterns off Ravelry. I'm excited to see how they turn out! This site is turning into a crochet Pinterest for me though--I'm pinning everything, and not creating nearly enough!

Questions for my readers:
  1. Do you have a favorite website for one of your hobbies? If so, what is the site?
  2. Book series: love 'em, or hate 'em?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Chilly Sunday Morning

Hello Friends!

I am writing to you today from the arctic--or at least, what feels like the arctic. Here is a map displaying my state's temperatures:

My town is one of those in the -60 degree wind chill temperatures. Without the windchill, we are around -28 degrees. And these temperatures are in Fahrenheit. It feels like we've had a lot of these this winter!

This means I will spend this chilly Sunday curled up with a book and a hot beverage in hand. Sometimes we need these chilly days to force ourselves to stay indoors and relax. It's the perfect excuse lounge around and read all day, as cars often won't start and much of the town has closed to accommodate employees. Tomorrow will be like this too!

Questions for my readers:
  1. What are the coldest wind chill temperatures you've ever experienced?
  2. What is the weather like where you are reading?
Happy Sunday, everyone! :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Flashback Friday Reviews (1)

Hi everyone!
I've decided to start a new feature on this blog called Flashback Friday Reviews. I intend to catch up on books and other items I have not yet reviewed on the blog. If you have ideas for other additions, please let me know! :)

Book Review:

Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult hooked me once again into another one of her fabulous novels. This particular novel tells of a seven-year-old girl, Faith, whose parents are getting a divorce. Faith was raised in a household with moral guidance, but no real religious guidance. In the midst of her parents' separation, Faith begins to have a very spiritual connection and religious conviction. She becomes able to physically heal people in the community, which is when word spreads that she is a miracle worker. Her parents try to protect her from the media while enduring a custody battle. In the end, we readers discover what impact faith can have on a family, marriage, the media, and a community.

This book really examines the relationship between characters throughout the transformation of Faith, the daughter. Cynics become believers; those who struggle with faith find themselves turning to it, and those who are skeptical are pushed one way or another. I think this is a fabulous novel, and I recommend it for all readers.

I gave this book a rating of 4/5.

Kitchen Review:

For Christmas, my husband bought be some of the best tea I have had in my life! It is a Ginger Peach Decaf full-leaf loose black tea, made by The Republic of Tea. It has a gentle peach taste, and the blend of ginger, peach and black tea are perfectly balanced. If you are a tea drinker, consider this for your next cup! It makes the perfect companion for a book on an evening in front of the fireplace.

Don't worry, this is not a real fire!
Questions for my readers:
  1. What types of features would you like to see on upcoming Flashback Friday Reviews?
  2. Is there a Christmas gift that you received as a perfect companion for your reading?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Years Resolutions, Goals, and Bookish News


Photojenic Creations
Each year is different for everyone--some years bring us blessings, some years bring hardships. 2013 was full of blessings for me, and I will be sad to see it go. Hopefully 2014 will bring happiness and blessings!

Quick overview of 2013:
  • Adopted my childhood cat on January 28th
  • Got a promotion at work on March 15th
  • Married the love of my life on April 6th
  • Purchased our first house on August 8th
  • Adopted a new puppy on November 9th
  • Completed my Master's degree on December 20th
This year was a whirlwind for me, but I was fortunate enough to have the support of my family and friends throughout everything.

Bookish overview of 2013:

I slacked this year on my reading, and blogging. My bookish goals for 2013 included two main goals: to read 21,500 pages, and to get my TBR pile under 150.

Although these goals seemed realistic to me, I did not meet either of them :(  In 2013, I read a total of 17,877 pages, or 83% of my goal. I also finished the year with my TBR pile at 159 books, which is down significantly from the 186 I started the year with. However, it just isn't close enough.

Here are the books I read this year:

My husband loves my coffee addiction.
Photojenic Creations
January 2013: (2,886 pages)
The 9th Judgement by James Patterson
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 355           Page Goal: 355/21,500
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 302           Page Goal: 657/21,500
Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 502           Page Goal: 1,159/21,500
Hot Six by Janet Evanovich
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 336           Page Goal: 1,495/21,500
Kisscut by Karin Slaughter
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 420           Page Goal: 1,915/21,500
The Personal Shopper by Carmen Reid
Rating: 2/5          Pages: 432           Page Goal: 2,347/21,500
Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 320           Page Goal: 2,667/21,500
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 219           Page Goal: 2,886/21,500

February 2013: (946 pages)

Private by James Patterson
Rating: 2/5          Pages: 385           Page Goal: 3,271/21,500
Seven Up by Janet Evanovich
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 337           Page Goal: 3,608/21,500
The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 224           Page Goal: 3,832/21,500
March 2013: (1,887 pages)
Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 344           Page Goal: 4,176/21,500
Lessons in Laughing Out Loud by Rowan Coleman
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 373           Page Goal: 4,549/21,500
Lisey's Story by Stephen King
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 513           Page Goal: 5,062/21,500
A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 273           Page Goal: 5,335/21,500
Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 333           Page Goal: 5,668/21,500
10th Anniversary by James Patterson
Rating: 5/5          Pages: 395           Page Goal: 6,063/21,500

April 2013: (1,520 pages)
A Faint Cold Fear by Karin Slaughter
Rating: 5/5          Pages: 422           Page Goal: 6,485/21,500
Favorite cat ever--Missy is 16 years old,
and still my reading partner!
Faithless by Karin Slaughter
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 549           Page Goal: 7,034/21,500
Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter
Rating: 5/5          Pages: 573           Page Goal: 7,607/21,500
Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 398           Page Goal: 8,005/21,500

May 2013: (465 pages)
Lethal by Sandra Brown
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 465           Page Goal: 8,470/21,500

June 2013: (1,164 pages)

I've Got your Number by Sophie Kinsella
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 433           Page Goal: 8,903/21,500
Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 405           Page Goal: 9,308/21,500
Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 326           Page Goal: 9,634/21,500

July 2013: (2,124 pages)
Born to Die by Lisa Jackson
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 473           Page Goal: 10,107/21,500
Triptych by Karin Slaughter
Rating: 5/5          Pages: 480           Page Goal: 10,587/21,500
One Pink Line by Dina Silver
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 261           Page Goal: 10,848/21,500
The Witness by Sandra Brown
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 438           Page Goal: 11,286/21,500
Poor Little Bitch Girl by Jackie Collins
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 472           Page Goal: 11,658/21,500

August 2013: (867 pages)
When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Rating: 5/5          Pages: 506           Page Goal: 12,164/21,500
Kill Me if You Can by James Patterson
Rating: 5/5          Pages: 361           Page Goal: 12,525/21,500

September 2013: (1,438 pages)
Zoo by James Patterson
Rating: 5/5          Pages: 395           Page Goal: 12,920/21,500
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
Rating: 5/5          Pages: 460           Page Goal: 13,380/21,500
Auron at 6 weeks, when we brought him home.
The Lat Child by John Hart
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 419           Page Goal: 13,799/21,500
Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich
Rating: 2/5          Pages: 164           Page Goal: 13,963/21,500

October 2013: (2,128 pages)
Another Piece of my Heart by Jane Green
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 386           Page Goal: 14,349/21,500
Fractured by Karin Slaughter
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 388           Page Goal: 14,737/21,500
11th Hour by James Patterson
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 391           Page Goal: 15,128/21,500
Low Pressure by Sandra Brown
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 500           Page Goal: 15,628/21,500
The Starter Wife by Gigi Leangie Grazer
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 463           Page Goal: 16,091/21,500

November 2013: (394 pages)
12th of Never by James Patterson
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 394           Page Goal: 16,485/21,500

December 2013:  (1,392 pages)
Afraid to Die by Lisa Jackson
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 388           Page Goal: 16,873/21,500
Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 352           Page Goal: 17,225/21,500
Paris in Love by Eloisa James
Rating: 2/5          Pages: 246           Page Goal: 17,471/21,500
Cross Country by James Patterson
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 406           Page Goal: 17,877/21,500
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
On the Run by Iris Johansen
At First Sight by Stephen J. Cannell
11/22/63 by Stephen King

 Blog Overview of 2013:

The living room in our new house. Perfect reading place!
I am very disappointed in myself for the small quantity of blog postings from 2013. I understand how busy I was, but I hate using excuses. The point is that I only had a total of 11 posts for the entire year. I will be intentionally focusing on the number of posts I'm doing in 2014.

 New Years Resolutions of 2014:

I think you readers all know by now that I'm not one to create huge New Year's Resolutions, or even typical ones. Mine usually are a specific goal involving reading. Sure, I could try for weight loss, more organization, etc., but I can start those any day--no need to focus on changing things only one time per year.

Here are my New Years Resolutions for 2014:
  • Read a minimum of 21,500 pages
  • Get TBR pile under 140 books by the end of the year
  • Write and publish blog post at least 4 times each month
  • Paint kitchen, basement, and master bedroom (not relevant to reading, obviously)
  • Legally change my name (oops--this should have been done by now)
And that's it! I try to make my goals attainable, and I'm looking forward to beating the 21,500 page mark. Matt believes if I try, since grad school is done, I can complete around 30,000 pages. I think that's ambitious, but I am happy to shoot for the 21,500 and meet it this time! :)

Questions for my readers:
  1. What are your New Years Resolutions? Do any involve reading?
  2. If you were to set a page goal, what would it be?
  3. How large is your TBR pile? (don't let the hubby know, or he won't let you buy more books!)
I wish you all a wonderful 2014 and look forward to connecting with you more!

Fantastic photo of our wedding cake!
Photojenic Creations