Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Letter to My Morning Grumble Grumble

Dear Mr. Big Truck Hauling a Boat,
You sir pulled right out in front of me while I was going 55 miles per hour on a state highway.(Okay, more like 60).  There was NOBODY behind me.  You then proceeded to pull your precious dinky fishing boat the half mile to the local fast food eatery at a snails pace and then pulled in without a turn signal.  I will let you know, that you made me slam on my brakes made my THREE year old yell WHOA and annoyed me greatly.  Seriously, THERE WAS NO ONE BEHIND ME.  I WAS RIGHT THERE.  Wait 30 seconds and annoy no one.  I hope you drive your boat better than your truck.  Watch out for the stumps.


(P.S.  I have the road rage bad, especially in the morning. Do not talk to me until my coffee is digested.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Favors & Lies

This is the third book by Mark Gilleo that I've read and it is by far the best.  His first Love Thy Neighbor was eh, with a great plot, but the writing bothered me and the second, Sweat, was better than Love Thy Neighbor, but I had to look up both of the books to remember much about either of them since it has been two years since I've read them!

I read Favors & Lies in one day.  My laptop was being weird during nap time so I ran a scan and plopped down on the couch and there I stayed for the rest of the day minus a few interruptions.

Description:  Dan Lord is a forty-year-old private detective with a law degree working the blurred line between right and wrong in the Nation’s Capital. As a self-employed solutions broker and legal consultant, he works for a very select clientele. He doesn’t advertise and only takes cases on referral. But when two people close to him are murdered, Dan's work becomes very personal.

With the assistance of a newly hired female intern, extracting clues from a ladder of acquaintances, Dan bounds through both the underbelly and elite of society, each step bringing more questions and yet ultimately taking him closer to the answer he seeks. A bail bondsman, a recluse hacker, a court clerk, a university student, an old-school barber, a high-class madam, an intelligence officer, a medical doctor, and a police detective are among the list of people Dan must cajole for help. His quest will lead him to discover things he never wanted to know, and put him in the position to reveal things that important people would prefer remain unrevealed.

Tense, ingenious, and filled with the unforgettable characters that have become a Mark Gilleo trademark, FAVORS AND LIES is the most thrilling novel yet from one of the great new voices in suspense fiction.

Dan Lord is the first main character of Gilleo's that I actually really really liked! I mean like the other's he is self-assured and confident but he DOES NOT come off as a major jerk unless he is talking to the police.  He is a main of intrigue and little tidbits about him came out as the plot thickened.  The way the book ended it left it open for a possible sequel and I would totally be interested!

This was a very fast paced suspense book that had madam's, prostitutes, the mob, CIA, Russian spies and more! It never felt like too many characters and it wasn't easily figured out.  Which, I liked.  All the questions were answered in the end and done so in a way that didn't leave you rolling your eyes or wondering how the heck that could have been!

I love detective suspense stories especially those that include the CIA or FBI.  I told my husband that if he ever were to pick up a book he'd like it and he said, "Whenever I want to read a book, you are so I can't." Whatever dude! This would make a great movie.

Do you read suspense novels? Do you watch suspense movies? I don't enjoy them as much as I do suspense TV and books!

I received this book from the publisher but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Murderer's Daughters

Ever have that book that stands out on the bookstore shelf at you time and time again and you just can't decide if you should spend the money? The Murderer's Daughters has been that book.  Ever since it came out it has taunted me.  I knew I'd eventually read it because it is right up my alley.  However, I couldn't justify a hardcover price, my library didn't have it and then finally I suggested it for a Books & Bars pick.  So, I went to my trusty friend amazon and finally spent the money.  It was worth it.

Description: Lulu and Merry’s childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu’s tenth birthday their father drives them into a nightmare. He’s always hungered for the love of the girl’s self-obsessed mother; after she throws him out, their troubles turn deadly.

Lulu’s mother warned her to never let him in, but when he shows up, he’s impossible to ignore. He bullies his way past ten-year-old Lulu, who obeys her father’s instructions to open the door, then listens in horror as her parents struggle. She runs for help and discovers upon her return that he’s murdered her mother, stabbed her sister, and tried to kill himself.

For thirty years, the sisters try to make sense of what happened. Their imprisoned father is a specter in both their lives, shadowing every choice they make. Though one spends her life pretending he’s dead, while the other feels compelled to help him, both fear that someday their imprisoned father’s attempts to win parole may meet success.

This isn't a book that wraps things up neat as can be at the end.  But, is there a happy ending after your father kills your mother and tries to kill himself and one of his daughters? This book focuses on the emotions and the havoc that is caused in Lulu's and Merry's life after their mother is killed by their father.  When you are essentially orphaned and your families hate each other and your grandmother's are old, whom do you turn to? Who will rise up and save you? This book focuses on the helpers and those hurt hindered Lulu and Merry after their childhoods were ruined.

It's sad and honest.  It's heartbreaking and beautifully written.  A simple question asked by one of the girls to their father at the end had instant tears in my eyes as I thought of my OWN baby girl growing up without me and wondering a simple fact about her mother that tore her up because she had no one to ask her family history. 

Ugh, gut wrenching, but I do recommend it!

Did you ever wonder if you were adopted when you were growing up? Did you ever imagine what life would be like if your parents passed away? Do you get along with your siblings?

Monday, September 22, 2014

October's Group Read is..

....The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry!

Description: On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, but large in weight. It's that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

I will be posting discussion questions on October 31st! Who will be joining?

Monday, September 15, 2014

October Group Read Suggestions

Once again, I apologize for taking September off, I needed a breather with certain live issues! Here is a list of books we've already read and discussed...

The Pearl that Broke its Shell
On the Island
Eleanor & Park
Jane Eyre
The Rent Collector
Labor Day
Orphan Train
The Death of Bees
Liberating Paris
Life Sentences
Looking for Me
Ladder of Years
Where'd You Go Bernadette?
Beach Music
The Dinner
The End of Your Life Book Club
Still Alice 
The Song Remains the Same
Those Who Save Us
We Are All Welcome Here
Gone Girl
Prisoner of Tehran
The Wednesday Sisters
Looking for Alaska
Cutting for Stone
One Summer
The Year of Fog
Winter Garden
The Violets of March
State of Wonder
The Invisible Bridge
The Postmistress
The Scent of Rain and Lightning
Still Missing
The Sandalwood Tree
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Something Borrowed
The Blue Orchard
Sammy's Hill
In the Woods
Shanghai Girls
The Weight of Water
Water for Elephants
The Color Purple
The One That I Want
The Secret Garden
House Rules
American Wife
Firefly Lane
The Reader
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Awakening
Pride & Prejudice
I See You Everywhere

What sounds good for you in October? Leave a suggestion in the comments on this post until the 19th and I will use random.org to pick a book for October!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

September Meal Plan

Back to the grind again so that means back to meal planning a month out.  I let it go after spring break last year and that definitely turned into poorer eating choices and irresponsible grocery shopping.  But I'm starting off the school year fresh again with a plan.  Last year I had good intentions of making muffins on the weekend and having them for breakfast.  I think I lasted one or two weeks.  I'm giving it a go again this year but with the intention of freezing some each week and switching out with other ideas.  So, I will always have a quick to go in the freezer option or the generic cereal/milk or whatever we have around.  We always have oatmeal as well. 

For dinners I'm definitely starting the school year with a collection of your favorite one skillet meals, soups and crock pot recipes!

Week 1 -
Breakfast - Pumpkin Oat Chocolate Chip Muffins

2nd - Cheesy Chicken & Rice in crock pot
3rd - Rotel Chicken (crock)
4th - leftovers
5th - leftovers or take out

Week 2
Breakfast - Baked Oatmeal Squares (big plans to add in pumpkin!)

8th - Quesadillas
9th - on our own (AND MY BABY'S FIRST DAY OF PRESCHOOL!!!!)
10th - Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese
11th - Cheesy Taco Soup

Week 3
Breakfast - Hard boiled Eggs

15th - Southwestern Chicken Skillet
16th - leftovers
17th - Three Cheese Lasagna Skillet
18th - leftovers
19th - takeout

Week 4
Breakfast - Banana Chocolate Muffins

22nd - Skillet Chili Mac
23rd - leftovers
24th - Buffalo Chicken Cheeseteaks
25th - book club / on your own
26th - Italian Chicken

Week 5
Breakfast - Smoothies

29th - Spaghetti
30th - Tacos

When I am doing my weekly shopping I will decide on fruits/veggies depending on what is on sale / our garden and what goes well with what is on sale.  I do rely on a lot of steamfresh bags of veggies for our sides.

Lunches are typically leftovers, quick sandwiches or I'm thinking of using muffins/hard boiled eggs as options too.  I have to eat my lunch with my students so I need something quick.  Especially now that we are eating in our classrooms and I probably won't be able to run out to use a microwave until nap time so then that would push my lunch time back until after 1:30.  So quick lunches with no need to reheat need to happen.  I never have good ideas for lunches besides chicken salad sandwiches and salami and cheese until I get sick of that.  I never really want salads at lunch unless they are taco salads.  Any lunch ideas?

What's on your menu? Any crock pot links that you've tried and loved? How do you make your hard boiled eggs? How do you eat them? Favorite fall food?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Stitch Fix #1

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that I am honest.  If I don't like a book, I'll tell you.  I don't change my opinion based on getting free books vs. buying them with my own money. I've only ever had one author angrily contact me because I said his book sucked (and it did).  So please know that I am also completely honest with my Stitch Fix review.

I've wanted to try out Stitch Fix for about 9ish months or more now.  I've been in love with pieces I've seen in other people's fixes and wanted them for myself.  I was a bit leery on prices because my shopping motto tends to be -- buy it on clearance or buy it cheap.  However, I do really need nice clothes.  I am getting sick of my wardrobe or lack thereof and I hate trying on crap.  So Stitch Fix is genius for me.  Have it delivered to my house and return it pain free.  And it was almost pain free returns until I almost clicked BUY on all of them.  Eeek.  Thank God for the review window or I'd have bee SOL! ha.

So Stitch Fix.. I got my Fix in the mail a day early and COULD not wait for my child to go down for her nap so I could play dress up.

The first thing I did after taking pictures of the box was to quickly try on the necklace because I loved it.  Sadly, the clasp was a bit broken and I was sad.  HOWEVER, they have awesome customer service.  After I had finished trying everything on and realized I did really want to keep the necklace, I emailed their customer service and they checked to see if they had another to send me.  Sadly, they did not, but they said if I thought it could be fixed they'd give me a 15 percent off discount.  I consulted with my husband and we decided to keep the necklace. Yay.  I've worn it twice so far and it has held up fine!

Also, I don't like surprises and as soon as I saw that my order shipped I may have stalked my items online.  I'm horrible at Christmas.  So I was super excited because what I could find online looked cute!!!

So the first thing I attempted to try on were the Emer High Waisted Cropped Trousers.  Just looking at them I didn't think they would fit.  Halfway up my thighs it was confirmed.  No go. Also? They were 98 dollars and I would not have bought them even if they had fit.  That's too much for me!

Then I tried on the Clarice Multi Stripe Knit Fit & Flare Dress.  OMG guys.  I loved it.  It was awesome.  It was THE PERFECT length for me.  But it was too snug at my boobs.  If this had fit better I'd have bought it for sure. 

Then I tried on the Azalea Heathered Open Cardigan.  I live in cardigans.  Sadly, the sleeves were too snug for me so this was a no go as well.

Lastly, I tried on the Adela Embroidered Split Neck Blouse.  I tried this on with jeans, a skirt, leggings, you name it.  I texted pictures to friends. I hemmed, I hawwed.  I decided it was too snug as well and I couldn't justify keeping a snug shirt that I'd have to buy a cami for that was 68 dollars.

So in conclusion, I kept zero clothes and 1 necklace.  I was disappointed.  When I returned my stuff I did adjust my sizing because the stylist had me down but the sizing was not right.  But, it's probably just my fat ass that needs to work out.  I will totally be trying out Stitch Fix again and hoping for some better fitting results.  So, here it is, my first Fix, keeping it real here.

If you've been thinking about checking out Stitch Fix, please use my link https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/3976539 to sign up! I do get a 25.00 credit when you place your first order! Thanks. ;)

Have you tried Stitch Fix? What did you think? Do you like shopping?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chicago Dives and Pizza

A couple weeks ago my husband, my sister-in-law and myself headed down for a Friday afternoon in Chicago.  It takes about 4ish hours to get there and with construction and what not, we were READY to walk and drink when we got there.  We've all been to Chicago before and we really didn't have many plans.  We knew we wanted to be around the Michigan Avenue shopping area, eat some deep dish pizza and enjoy some cold beverages.  By the time we had parked and driven by a few establishments we knew we wanted to start at Timothy O' Tooles and headed back a few blocks to check it out.

We decided our rules for the afternoon were:

1.)Use Yelp, find a dive bar within a short walking distance of current location.
2.)Drink one drink/possibly share an appetizer and move on to the next.
3.) End up at Giordano's slightly after 5pm for dinner.

Timothy O' Tooles was a perfect first stop.  It was nice and cool inside and it was refreshing to step out of the crazy sidewalks into the sports bar area.  I had a very yummy Woodchuck Amber and we split the sampler platter of appetizers because it was closing in on 1:30 local time and 2:30 our time and we hadn't eaten all day.

We were going to go to one place but when we stepped outside on the sidewalk the GPS changed the distance of the next place so we just kind of wandered out to Michigan Avenue to enjoy the people watching and try to decide our next plan.  A little while later we decided on Pippin's Tavern.  This was also a very small divey place where we each had one beer.  I can't remember what I had beyond that it was a New Holland beer.  My sister-in-law tried to get a Stella but the keg was being changed and we honestly felt like it was new bartender-who-doesn't-know-how-to-pour day.  So she switched to something else so we could just get moving ha.  It is next door to Downtown Dogs if you are in the mood for a hot dog ha. ;)

After that we headed out and turned the corner and headed to Streeter's Pub.  As we walked down the stairs into the bar I commented that it reminded me of How I Met Your Mother.  They had ping pong tables inside and a large wooden jenga game to play.  We sat at the bar and I got a McKenzie's Black Cherry Cider.  It was amazing.  I don't generally drink cider's but I was in a mood for them on that day and it helped switching it up between a beer and cider.

We did make one more stop but I cannot remember what it was called.  I had a red that was unremarkable and they did have rum punch special that my sister-in-law got and enjoyed.  It was SUPER close to Giordano's though, like right down the block.  I stink at remember names! Also, it was not so divey ha.

Giordano's was as good as I can remember.  The wait did suck but we were there on a Friday night right at dinner time, so I can't complain.  I liked being able to pre-order so that by the time we got to our table we only had to wait about 5 more minutes for our food.  And oddly enough, a table of older women next to us offered to let us try their thin crust pizza because they weren't taking it home with them and they had a ton left.  So since we were all starving and may have had a few beverages, we totally tried a strangers pizza.  The whole time we were like, umm I hope they didn't poison us! But all is good in the world, we survived.  I definitely preferred the deep dish to the thin! If only I could get that exact same pizza at home!

We had a great quick day visit into Chicago.  I'm glad we got to be carefree and just jump from place to place.  Our one complaint --- to us dive bars = cheap beer.  6 to 6.50 a beer didn't seem to cheap to us.  But the insides of the bars definitely = divey! ;)

What is your favorite thing to do in Chicago? Do you like to bar hop in new cities? Deep dish or thin crust? New York or Chicago style pizza?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Don't Try to Find Me

Rachel comes home from her job and finds a note from her daughter, "Don't Try to Find Me.." written on the whiteboard.  Her daughter, Marley, is 14 and has run away from home.  The point-of-view switches between Marley and her mom Rachel.  It also changes from months before Marley goes missing and in the days after.  The twist in all of this comes as you learn more and more about the narrators and you have to decide who can you trust? Are either of them a reliable narrator?

In the days following Marley's disappearance her parents, led by her father, put on a whole out social media frenzy in attempt to find her.  As they get more and more exposure, more details emerge about Rachel and her relationship with another man and other parts of her life that lead the police to think of her as a person of interest. 

In theory this is a book that I would really enjoy.  In reality it took me over two weeks to read it.  It just didn't hold my interest, was way to predictable and I just didn't get into it.  I honestly think I will end the month of August with possibly one book read, this being it. 

There's nothing wrong with the story.  It has unreliable narrators, a bit of a mystery that slowly explains itself and it has some pretty sad characters.  It's not a perfectly put together mystery and there are bad things that happen. If I read it at a different time, perhaps I'd think differently.

Description: When a 14-year-old runs away, her parents turn to social media to find her-launching a public campaign that will expose their darkest secrets and change their family forever, in this suspenseful and gripping debut for fans of Reconstructing Amelia and Gone Girl

Don't try to find me. Though the message on the kitchen white board is written in Marley's hand, her mother Rachel knows there has to be some other explanation. Marley would never run away.

As the days pass and it sinks in that the impossible has occurred, Rachel and her husband Paul are informed that the police have "limited resources." If they want their 14-year-old daughter back, they will have to find her themselves. Desperation becomes determination when Paul turns to Facebook and Twitter, and launches FindMarley.com.

But Marley isn't the only one with secrets.

With public exposure comes scrutiny, and when Rachel blows a television interview, the dirty speculation begins. Now, the blogosphere is convinced Rachel is hiding something. It's not what they think; Rachel would never hurt Marley. Not intentionally, anyway. But when it's discovered that she's lied, even to the police, the devoted mother becomes a suspect in Marley's disappearance.

Is Marley out there somewhere, watching it all happen, or is the truth something far worse.

Do you like books with unreliable narrators? Do you think using social media to find lost/missing people is helpful or does it possibly hinder the process?

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher for review. All thoughts and opinions are mine.