Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New Home and project list

Hooray!  Today we got word that the appraisal on the new house came in $2,000 above the contract price!  Exciting news for two reasons: 1) We already have equity in our house, and 2) now all the hurdles in the home buying process have been avoided and we are just waiting for the closing date!  Our official close of escrow date is August 8 – which means we have about 6 weeks until closing – and 6 weeks until Brooklyn’s due date after closing.  What an agonizing wait!!  But at least I can start planning things out so we can get as much done in those 6 weeks before Brooklyn comes as possible (unless she makes an early debut).

There are plenty of projects that need to be done, see the list below.  As we tackle the projects, I’ll write specific posts about them and link them here. And I also need to start planning Brooklyn’s nursery!  Finally!

Projects to be tackled:
·         Brooklyn’s Nursery

·         Backyard update

·         New carpet throughout

·         Paint house

·         New backyard door to house

·         Inspection repairs

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review: The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events #3)

The Wide Window (#3)
by Lemony Snicket
Date Read: 6/23/14
Rating: ★ ★ ★

The books keep getting longer, but at least they are getting funnier also.  I actually found myself chuckle a few times at this book.

I still like the literary and expression lessons we get out of these books.  And this one even focused on grammar!  (if you know me at all, you’ll know grammar is a pet peeve of mine!)  While I found the corrections of grammar in this book to be obnoxious in how they were done, I really liked Klaus explaining the errors in the letter.

The main plot outline of these stories all seem to be the same though: kids get a new guardian, Count Olaf disguises himself to get in with them, no one believes the children that he’s Count Olaf, and then they have to take Count Olaf down.  It’s a little repetitive, and I’m not sure I could handle that over 13 books.  But I do like that they have to figure out how to take him down differently in each book, and that each child is helpful in doing so. 

While I’m starting to get sick of seeing Olaf disguise himself and no one believes Violet, Klaus and Sunny, what I did like about this book was their adventure on the boat.  It was just them and no one butting in or getting in the way.  The only hurdle they had was the hurricane itself.  It was really nice.  The action also made the book fly by – so even though it was longer than the previous two books, it actually flew by. 

The leeches were totally creepy though – and that whole scene is pretty graphic.  As I continue reading these stories, I feel like the age at which I’ll feel comfortable having my own kids read them keeps getting older.

Now I want to watch the movie though – because I was told that it covered the first 3 books.  After watching that, I’ll have to decide whether I want to continue this series or not.  I might continue it as filler books since they’re easy reads.  But I won’t push through the series fast.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Book Review: The One

The One
by  Kiera Cass
Date Read: 6/19/14
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
That was surprisingly good.  Looking back on my reviews of the first two books, I gave The Selection 3 stars, and The Elite 3 stars (on the verge of 2.5 stars).  The first book started off slow – not much happened, dialogue wasn’t very good, her “I’m not pretty” attitude annoyed me. But once she got to the palace things picked up.  But I was very confused at the end when the rebel attack was thrown in there. It seemed so out of place.  But I enjoyed it enough (I liked Maxon a lot), that I decided to read the second one.  But that was almost worse.  I think it suffered from middle-book syndrome.  America was very indecisive in that book and it bugged the crap out of me!  But I think Maxon was written really well.  The ending was really abrupt and not a lot of questions about the rebels were answered in that book.

So let's first start with talking about that beautiful cover. I've liked all The Selection novel covers, but this is my favorite. I love the white dress - I love the roses on the bottom half. I love the reflection in the glass. I even love her hair and pose. It's just a beautiful cover. I wish I could wear that dress!

On the review of the book: Cass did a great job closing out the series.  I fell like this book really redeemed the series. I still probably would have enjoyed it just because Maxon was written so well.  But this book actually answered a lot of open questions and had a pretty good ending.

So this book actually starts off right where the other book left off – and that first scene of her trying to seduce Maxon was hilarious. I loved Maxon’s reaction. It was a great start to the book. I absolutely loved that there was no love triangle in this!  She had made up her mind in the last book who she wanted to be with.  Now, that doesn’t mean there was drama because Maxon did not know that Aspen is the guy she had been in love with before…so obviously you knew that was going to blow up at some point. But we weren’t constantly questioning who she was in love with. That was refreshing.

The questions regarding the rebels were answered. Though I feel like she could have dug deeper in to this and explained more, I still had enough of my surface questions answered and that was fine with me.

I liked the new characters that were added in this book, and there was more action in this book!  Or at least America was involved in more of the action, so we saw what was going on – she wasn’t locked in a safe room the entire time.

The one thing that makes me drop a star off this book is the fact that neither Maxon or America wanted to tell each other they loved them first. It was always “I don’t want to say it first”, “No he needs to say it first”, “Nope, I’m not saying it first”!  Good grief! Just say it already!  You’re both feeling it, you both are pretty sure about how the other feels, JUST SAY IT.  It was fine about the first two or three times, but towards the end of the book it really just started irritating me because then it would spur fights. Ugh. If she had just taken this out of the book, I probably would have given it 4.5 stars.

Maxon and America’s relationship is what I absolutely loved about this book though. Well, mostly I love Maxon. But their relationship actually seemed real to me.  They both had tempers though, so they fought a lot, but I loved how they would learn from each other and always work past it.  Maxon was so romantic in this book, I just swooned!  I know. A lot of it was pretty cheesy, but I don’t care. I’m pregnant and the cheese is welcomed! Every girl wants a guy to gush over her like that. Fight for her like that. Protect her like that. [swoon]

The ending actually caught me off guard!  I had seen someone post some quotes from the  book and I totally thought something different was going to happen than did! [SPOILER: I thought that Aspen was going to be the one who was shot and I expected he would die.  But when it was Maxon who jumped in front of America to take the bullet, and he laid there dying saying those things to her, I started crying! That was not how it was supposed to end! I had hope he wouldn’t actually die though since she was so convinced that he WAS dead.  But Aspen made it through too – which surprised me. I was happy with the ending for Aspen and Lucy.  I was shocked when Celeste was shot in the head (I just started to like her!). I was expecting the King to be killed but not the queen. I was surprised how late the fight about Aspen happened – but in honesty, it was actually the perfect place to happen. He almost made the wrong decision because of that fight but having him almost lose her and she him in the attack was the perfect way for it to end. END SPOILER]

A lot of people actually ended up dying in this book. While you don’t see much of it happen, it’s all told to you at the end or in the epilogue. The epilogue was even done well. I liked that it switched to present tense.

I wish we had gotten more.  I was thoroughly sucked in to this book and I still want more. I mostly want more of Maxon, and Maxon and America together. Cass did a great job ending her series, and I think she really saved it with this one. If you’ve enjoyed The Selection enough, I recommend that you finish the series. Once you get through it, I don’t think you’ll regret it. I know I didn’t.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

2 Year Blogoversary!

Well, I just missed my blogoversary!  Life has been so crazy lately, that I completely missed it.  I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since I started my blog!

It’s fun to look back and see how far my blog has come.  What started as just a hobby blogging about my husband writing his book, has manifested in to a full blog about my life.  From projects, to restaurants, to book reviews, and life in general (living through and moving on from a miscarriage), this blog has become pretty important to me.

While I know not that many people actually read my blog, when I receive comments about how one blog post was able to help one person, then I know I’ve done my job.  Our miscarriage is really what got me back in to my blogging last year - or at least taking it more seriously.  I needed a way to get my feelings out, and writing has always been that for me (it’s hard for me to actually sit and talk to someone about my feelings…but it’s easy for me to write them down somewhere). And I realized that talking with a friend who’d been through the same thing really helped me. So I melded the two and decided to post blogs about how I was feeling, and if I could help one person, then it was all worth it.  I’ve had a few comments from people, and it makes me feel good that in that moment, I was able to help someone else work through their pain too.

Of course, it’s just fun to keep friends and family in the loop of things too – from blogging about the little girl we are expecting to home projects we’re working on, I wanted to share the news.  I’ll have plenty of new projects to add to my blog once we get in this new house (assuming the appraisal goes well – please send prayers and good vibes our way for that!).

With our travels, we’ve tried so many new places.  When I find a gem, I post it on my Recommended Restaurants page.  So if you’re planning on traveling somewhere, check it out and see if there’s anywhere I’ve been that you should try!  If you have any suggestions as well, I’d love to see them in the comments section so that I can go there if I ever travel to that place.

My book and movie reviews are probably my favorite thing. I love reading and going to movies – and then sharing my thoughts.  I think I’m almost to the point where I need to start alphabetizing my reviews instead of just adding it to the list.  =)  I’m hoping once Brooklyn arrives, that I’ll still have enough time to keep up on my reading. I’m sure I won’t be able to read 50 books in one year (unless they’re all graphic novels or something), but I would like to still get through a decent amount of them – if not just to keep my sanity.  =)

Anyways – I just wanted to acknowledge my blogoversary and thank everyone for supporting me.  Hopefully my blog continues to entertain people and will keep growing over the years.  Thank you for all your support - and hopefully soon I'll have some more posts about Brandon's novel! The goal is to get it sent to publishers by the end of the year!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Liebster Blog Award

The wonderful Inge at Bookshelf Reflections nominated me for a Liebster Blog Award. At first, I have to admit that I had no idea what that meant. But I’ve learned from reading her blog that it is basically a way for we bloggers who do not have as many followers to talk about ourselves and network ourselves, and then pass it along to others. While it’s a lot of work, it was a lot of fun as well. So here it goes:

  1. List 11 facts about yourself.
  2. Answer the 11 questions asked by whoever nominated you.
  3. Nominate 9 bloggers with less than 300 followers and leave them a comment saying they’ve been nominated.
  4. Ask 11 new questions for your chosen nominees.
  5. You cannot re-nominate the blog that nominated you.

  1. When I was little, I first wanted to be a Veterinarian. I loved dogs so much, that I thought it would be awesome to work with dogs all day! To this day, when I walk in to a pet store, I want to adopt them all. Then in 5th grade I had to do a research project on it and realized I’d have to go to school in Colorado (there are no Vet schools in AZ!), and that I’d have to work with cats… thus my dream vanished.
  2. I love to travel. Until I got married, the only place I had been outside of the United States was to Rocky Point, Mexico. And that was when I was in college, and I don’t think you can really call Rocky Point an international destination. I had also never been off the contiguous United States (that is the mainland – so I hadn’t been to Alaska or Hawaii either). When we got married, we took our honeymoon to Cancun, Mexico, and I loved it. Cancun is very different from Rocky Point, and my husband and I decided we definitely wanted to travel around the world. We want our kids to experience different cultures also. Since then, we’ve taken week long trips to New York City (yes it’s still in the US, but it’s a very different culture from Phoenix), Greece (I had some culture shock when we first arrived – so this is definitely a place I want our kids to experience so they can appreciate where they live), Italy (Venice and Rome – I can’t wait to go back to Rome), Orlando (a long trip filled with theme parks), and Williamsburg (also in the US, but filled with US history). We plan to go to Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Spain, Argentina, France, Australia, England, the Mediterranean, etc., in our coming years also – perhaps with some cruises to check out certain spots before we plan a full vacation there.
  3. I have lived in Phoenix, Arizona my entire life. I’m one of the rare natives here now. Why, you ask? Several things: 1) My immediate family lives here, as well as my husband’s immediate family. We think family is very important and definitely want our kids to be around family. 2) There are no natural disasters in Arizona – I think it’s the only place in the US – no tornadoes, hurricanes, or even earthquakes! 3) The cost of living is much more affordable than other locations such as California. If I were to spend the same amount of money for a house in CA or NY, I would only get a few hundred square feet…where I’m getting a huge lot and 2,500 sqft in Phoenix. 4) Sure it’s hot 6 months of the year, but I treat it as those who live in snow. What do you do when it’s snowing somewhere? You stay inside and find things to do. Well, that’s what we do in AZ in the summer. And at least I can go from my air conditioned house, to an air conditioned car, to another air conditioned location. When it’s snowing, you’re stuck in your house. And we’re also just a short 6 hour drive from San Diego where it is much cooler and we can enjoy the beach.
  4. I have difficulty with change. This is a sub-conscious thing. I don’t sit here and worry day and night about something changing in my life, but it was pointed out to me when I was in college by a lady I worked with, and I’ve really paid attention to it since then – and she was totally right! For instance, when my husband and I were buying our first house, I consciously was very excited to have our own place. And consciously the money didn’t worry me. But the night and morning of signing all our papers, I felt sick to my stomach. I honestly didn’t think I would make it through signing all the papers. But once we were on our way to pack up our houses, waiting for our keys, I was magically okay. Sub-consciously, holding myself responsible for that much money apparently freaked me out! And I’ve noticed it in other circumstances as well. I usually make it through, but the stress of the actual transition is usually pretty rough on me.
  5. In 5th grade, I was playing on the jungle gym at lunch time with my friends. We were playing and I was standing on the top of the gym (there was a ladder with two rungs to climb up to where I was was). I decided I didn’t want to go down the slide and I would climb down the ladder to go to the monkey bars instead. Well, whether intentional or not, my friend’s foot was in the way, just at the end of the drop. I tripped over it, and fell the 4 feet down…but I didn’t go straight down, I went horizontal toward one of the really thick blue poles supporting the jungle gym, head first. My mouth took the brunt of the impact (don’t ask how), so at least I didn’t get a concussion. But I felt that I was missing a tooth. I was rushed to the nurse, and she called my mom. My mom had to rush me to the orthodontist first to get my braces taken off, and then to the dentist to get my broken tooth taken care of. Turns out, I didn’t smash the entire tooth – I just basically cracked off half of it in a diagonal manner. The dentist thought he was able to save the root of the tooth since he got to it so quickly. He was able to put some bonding on the tooth so it looks normal. They figured 10 years later when I was 18 and going to prom, I would need a root canal and a cap. REPORT: I’m now 28 years old (20 years since the incident), and the root is still alive and well and I haven’t had to have that root canal yet. Can you say miracle dentist??
  6. I acquired lactose intolerance when I was a teenager. You might ask, how does one “acquire” this? Well, I ate some raw chicken (it was a leg and I bit in to it before seeing how red it was inside!) at Busch Gardens while on vacation in FL one year. I came down with a severe case of food poisoning from it. A few weeks later, my stomach was hurting really bad randomly through the days. I finally went the hospital, and they couldn’t tell me what was wrong – I had a CAT scan and spinal tap done, and only found out that I was super healthy. I wasn’t able to trace it back to anything I ate because it never seemed to coincide with anything that would cause problems. My doctor recommended a lactose intolerance test. This test is comprised of drinking something with lactose at the office and then blowing in to a reader that tells whether you’re processing lactose or not. Well, I sat there for 3 full hours – all the other kids had already left because they were positive on the test much earlier. I however, didn’t pop positive until the very last test. They called me a late bloomer, which is why I wasn’t able to narrow it down to dairy – my problems wouldn’t start until 2 meals later. I cut out the dairy (very sad because I love milk and ice cream!), and I was fine. When I at cheese, I had to have a lactaid pill with me. But after 2 years it went away. We did some research and found out that severe food poisoning will attack the lining of your stomach and cause the villi to die. The villi in the small intestine are responsible for producing the lactase enzyme which breaks down lactose. When lactose isn’t broken down, it ferments in the large intestine and causes problems seen with lactose intolerance (gas, bloating, and diarrhea). But overtime, your stomach lining can heal. Which I assume is what happened for me. But now that I’m pregnant, I believe it’s come back. Sigh.
  7. When I was in fourth grade, I played softball and was on a really good team. We made it to the final tournament and going in to the weekend, my coach told us all to not do anything stupid and injure ourselves. So what did I do? I did something stupid. I was bored and decided to do a cartwheel inside my house – I’ve done them thousands of times, so I shouldn’t have had any trouble. But somehow, I didn’t get my hand down in the correct position and all my weight landed on my thumb. It swelled up like a balloon. I was rushed to the doctor and they did x-rays. They found that I fractured the bone. They had to put it in a splint. It was my glove hand. So I wasn’t able to use my glove for a few weeks. My coach was furious! BUT, good news is that the doctors didn’t think I’d get full motion back in that thumb, but I’m happy to report it bends just as far as my other thumb!
  8. I love all things Disney. From Disney movies, to Disneyland, to Disney channel, I love it all. Some of my favorite movies are Disney movies (think Beauty and the Beast and Tangled – but I don’t get all the hype about Frozen…). I went to either Disneyland or Disney world every 2 years when I was younger, and I hope I am able to give my children many Disney memories as well. For our honeymoon, my husband and I actually went to Disneyland first, because it’s been a dream of mine to buy those mickey ears with a veil!
  9. My favorite band growing up was ‘N SYNC. Feel free to laugh. I’m not ashamed. They were easily the best band at the time. I first saw them on (gasp) Disney channel, in- concert (they don’t seem to do this anymore). I fell in love. Naturally, Justin Timberlake was my favorite. I guess I have good taste because he’s gone on to have quite a successful solo career also. My cousin and I actually went to all 3 concerts that they had here in Phoenix also…and I may still have the tickets saved in my hope chest…
  10. I have loved to read all my life. The first book I ever read from front to back by myself was Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss, when I was 4 or 5. Since then, I’ve always been a book worm. I always was reading above my grade level and would exceed standards on the reading portions of standardized exams in school. Once I hit high school and I had to read books for that, I lost my interest in reading for a while. I didn’t read much for fun throughout high school and college. But I did read the first 4 books of Harry Potter during my one week Spring Break my sophomore year of college! I’ve found my love of reading again, and I’m hoping to pass it on to our little girl. Actually, for my baby shower, I’ve requested guests to bring a book instead of a card in order to start her library. I’m so excited!!
  11. After quite a horrible year of loss last year, we finally have something to be hopeful about. Last year, I experienced 3 deaths, all within about 2 months of each other: a co-worker died in a motorcycle accident, we lost our baby boy in a late miscarriage at 13.5 weeks, and my husband’s aunt passed away in another motorcycle accident. It was a really hard end of the year for us. But in January, we found out we were pregnant again. We took things really easy this time around and called the doc all the time. But we’re now 26.5 weeks along with our little girl, and couldn’t be more excited to welcome her to the world! Just about 13 more weeks until we get to meet her!

1. If you had all the money in the world, where would you go?
I would travel to all the places there is a major tennis tournament. It’s a bucket list item anyway, but if I had all the money in the world, I could visit them all the same year and spend a lot more time in each place. So this would consist of New York (which I’ve actually already crossed off), Paris (would like to see the Eiffel tower and then perhaps other places in France, rather than staying in Paris), London (definitely on my list to see – I’ll have to go see Platform 9 ¾!), and Melbourne (though it is a horribly long flight, I’ve always wanted to see Australia. I would take a week in Melbourne and a week in Sydney – is anyone else excited to see a kangaroo??)
2. If you could read only one book for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
Wow, Inge, what a question! One book or can it be the entire series? If I get the whole series it would definitely be Harry Potter. But one book? Boy that’s hard. I guess I’d say The Hunger Games. It was so original, and I liked watching her survival.
3. We all suffer from the-book-is-better-than-the-movie syndrome, but are there any film adaptations that were better than the book? If so, which?
Some people might think I’m crazy, but I liked the Disney movie adaptation of Alice in Wonderlandmuch better than the book. The book was so much non-sense it was actually hard for me to read and follow. I think the only reason I was able to picture certain things was because of the Disney movie. I felt like the movie had more flow and they were able to show me certain scenes better than me picturing them in my head…it made a tad bit more sense to me – though the story itself is all non-sense.
4. Name five characters of any book, dead or alive, with whom you’d like to hang out with for a day.
Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, Will Herondale from The Infernal Devices (see next question…), Nancy Drew from the Nancy Drew series, Percy Jackson from thePercy Jackson series, and Jean Val Jean from Les Miserables.
5. Who is our ultimate literary crush?
I absolutely adore Will Herondale from The Infernal Devices series. He had this cocky, smart-alecky personality, but he was incredibly loyal and trustworthy. Once you got through his walls, he always protected you. And he had just enough nerd in him for me (remember the ducks?!).
6. Do you prefer hardcovers or paperbacks, and why?
Definitely hardcovers. They are much more durable and I don’t have to hold them open the entire time to read – makes reading while eating much easier! While they are heavier to carry around, they are more durable for portability. I bring books everywhere, and they need to stand up to being thrown in a bag somewhere. However, I’ve started buying paperbacks just because they are so much cheaper. Especially if I haven’t read the book before, I will only buy the paperback – and I’m usually going to the library for those instead– unless I’m at one of the huge book sales where I get books super cheap. But for the books I love and want in my collection, I almost always buy it in hardback.
7. Do you let yourself be influenced by the cover of a book when you decide to read something? In other words, do you judge a book by its cover?
I’m sorry to say it, but yes I do. There are SO many books in the world, that if I’m scanning around trying to determine what I should read next, I have to let the cover grab me first, otherwise I would spend HOURS upon HOURS reading blurbs on books and deciding what to read. So once a cover catches me, I’ll read the blurb and see if it’s something I’d like to read. Unless I see raving reviews from friends about a book with an ugly cover, I won’t usually pick it up. Now that my husband is working on his first novel, we’ve decided that a decent cover will be worth its weight in gold – you need a good mix of enticing cover, intriguing blurb, and a good novel to, in turn, get good reviews for more readers.
8. When and where do you prefer to read?
The perfect place to read is on the patio while it’s raining and my dogs are running around the yard. I don’t know what it is, but I love reading while it’s raining – I guess it’s two of my loves in the world combined– books and rain (we don’t get much rain in AZ). But when I can’t have that, I like to curl up on the couch next to my hubby and read our books – maybe with a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning.
9. What are your favourite themes when reading fiction? What about non-fiction?
I don’t read much non-fiction, I’m sorry to say. I had to read enough of it in school, that it really burned me out. The reason I read is to get away to another world – so that is why I enjoy fiction so much more. Non-fiction just takes me to the world we’re in or the past we’ve lived in. Not much escape there. As for fiction, I enjoy paranormal stuff mostly – again for the escape – it’s so different from reality that it’s fun to go to those worlds with vampires, werewolves, witches, angels, etc. I’ve also found I like novels that take place in historical eras – this way I can pretend I lived in the 1800s, but there is enough difference and plot that you wouldn’t find in a non-fiction book about the 1800s. I like books that focus on friendship, or navigating relationships in general. I also like watching characters come of age and really learn who they are and become all that they are supposed to be. And of course the typical good vs. evil (and good must always win!)
10. Have you learned any valuable lessons when reading certain books? If so, tell me one.
I’m sure there are some – especially from when I was younger. But I can’t think of any right now that I’ve specifically learned from. I’ve recently started reading the Lemony Snicket books, and I will eventually want my children to read them (though they’ll have to be older than I originally thought – these books are pretty dark and violent!). I’ve liked the lessons in these books. Not only are there literary lessons (dramatic irony, etc.), but these poor kids have been thrown in to a terrible situation but they never give up and always work to find a solution to their problem. I really like that.
11. How do you decide which book to read next?
It depends on my mood. If there is another book available in the series I just finished, I usually go with that. If I just ended a series, I’ll usually have to take a break to pull myself from that world. Then it depends. If I got a book from the library I’ve desperately been wanting to read, I’ll read that next (stupid time limit on library books!). If I don’t have that, I’ll check reviews from friends or find something in the same realm as the book I just finished. That’s how I stumbled upon the Mortal Instrument series – I wanted something along the lines of Twilight (which I just finished), and Harry Potter. The Mortal Instruments series was recommended, and I fell in love!

  1. What is your favorite hobby and why?
  2. What is the book that spurred your love of reading? What was it about that book that drew you in?
  3. Why did you decide to start blogging? How do you network your blog?
  4. What is your favorite childhood memory?
  5. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?
  6. Do you prefer to buy books or movies or check them out from the library/rental store?
  7. What is the most important piece of advice you’ve learned or received that you would pass on to someone else?
  8. What is one event in your life that you believe has changed you (for better or worse)?
  9. Do you collect anything? If so, what?
  10. What is your favorite holiday and why?
  11. Who in your life has influenced who you’ve become the most and why?

Ok, I have to confess that I don't know that many other bloggers out there (especially ones with less than 300 followers), so I will slowly add to my 9 nominee list. But for starters, here they are:
  1. Brandon @ Muertos Coffee
  2. Susan @ Go Betti Go
  3. Maura @ More O' Maura
If you've made it this far, thank you so much for reading this entire blog post! You're awesome! I hope you follow me and we can network our blogs!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review: The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events #2)

The Reptile Room (#2)
by Lemony Snicket
Date Read: 6/15/14
Rating: ★ ★ ★

I think I actually liked this book.  While it was still sad and had more death and violence in it, I like that the kids are the ones who find their way out of their current predicament.  It shows kids how to problem solve and to never give up.

I also liked in this book all the teachings that were in there.  For instance when the author explains certain feelings like losing someone you care about – and he compares it to walking up the stairs in the dark and believing there was one more step that wasn’t there.  Or in this book the lesson on dramatic irony – he explains it at the beginning of the book, and then when the irony actually happens, he brings it full circle so that kids can really understand and connect the two scenes.

I only found myself laughing once when it was suggested that a snake opened a cage, killed someone, and then locked itself back in a cage.  Otherwise, again, these books are actually not funny at all. But they are somehow intriguing. I find that instead of wondering what will happen to the kids, I’m more looking forward to what he plans to teach the readers in the next book.

I do find myself wondering if this is going to be like Harry Potter, and they will end up living with someone else in every single book – and like most kids stories (for some reason I think of Inspector Gadget…I’m not sure why), the bad guy always gets away at the end, to wreak more havoc in the next book.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Book Review: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1)

The Bad Beginning (#1)
by  Lemony Snicket
Date Read: 6/13/14
Rating: ★ ★ ★

I came in to this with very different expectations.  I was expecting a funny, light hearted book in which children had unfortunate events happen to them (like getting splashed with water from a car, losing a pet, etc).  I was not prepared for how depressing this book actually was.

I was hoping that this would be a series that I could read to our little girl when she got older...but now I'm second guessing it.  She might need to be a lot older than I had planned before reading this to her.  These children (age 14, 12, and 1), have experienced something that no child should ever have to experience. Then they are thrown in to more horrible situations.  I did not laugh once at the book.

Actually, that's not true. I laughed once when the writer was talking about the child needing to reread the same sentence again, and then that sentence was repeated 3 times in a row.  I thought it was unique.  That is about the only thing I can really give this book.  The writing and voice was fun.  It is written more towards children, especially with all the definitions, but the events that happen in the book are much more adult.  Although, I did find myself wondering why he explained some words, but then I saw the word "nefarious", and that was not defined. I'm not entirely sure how the author decided which words to define and which ones not to.  This would be a great book for older kids to read to start building their vocabulary...but I definitely do not recommend it for younger children.

This book was very short at only 162 pages, and it's a small book with larger writing. I was able to read the book in one day.  I plan to read the first 3 and then watch the movie and see how I feel.

This book has a semi happy ending.  While the children do not end up in a happy forever home, at least they are able to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I was happy there were at least some people in the book who WERE nice to them...it's just a shame they couldn't live with them.  This series is 13 books long, and I'm not entirely sure there will ever be a happy ending for these children...which depresses me.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Save your baby's life by banking their newborn stem cells!

UPDATE 7/3/16: Beginning now through the end of 2017, in addition to free storage credit for referrals, you can also earn giftcards! So sign up using my link below (to get your own free storage credit as well) and then start referring your friends!!

When I was in high school, my Chemistry AP teacher was expecting a baby.  I have never heard of stem cells or the potential life saving benefit they have until she was close to giving birth.  This was about 12 years ago.  The technology and process was fairly new back then, but being in science, she had done a lot of research.  She and her husband decided that it was worth the cost to potentially save their child's life.

After that, I decided when I was ready to have kids, I would definitely look in to cord blood banking to see how far it has come in that time.  In 12 years, they have discovered treatments for over 80 diseases from cancer to immune disorders.  And those are the ones they've successfully proven.  There are hundreds of clinical trials going on right now to treat even more conditions like cerebral palsy, autism and brain injuries!

When I found this information, I knew there was no question that I wanted to save our baby's stem cells.  But then the question was: how much is it? There are several well known places that collect and store stem cells.  But which was the best? The prices were anywhere from $1800 - $2200, and then the yearly storage fee is around $125 - $130.  I was offered a $400 discount  for CBR through Whattoexpect.com, but then CBR actually sent me an offer for $500 due to my doctor.  So their cost was $1500 for collection and processing and 1st year storage. That seemed like a pretty good risk of money for me.  Think about it, over 18 years of my child's life, saving these stem cells will cost a total of $3705, which is $205/year or just over $17/month.  How can you say no to that? 

See the picture below about the process of cord blood collection, processing, and storage.

In addition to the discount, the other major factor in why we chose CBR over the other companies is that their storage location is in Arizona, where there are basically no natural disasters (a major reason I live in Arizona also!) - therefore, the cord blood has less chance of being destroyed.  Other locations such as ViaCord or StemCyte, are stored in Kentucky (high tornado risk) and California (high earthquake risk), respectively.

If my baby ever got sick and there was proven uses or clinical trials using stem cells, and I HAD NOT saved her stem cells, I would not be able to live with myself.  The overwhelming guilt would kill me.  We actually know someone who's baby has suffered some brain damage (I will not go in to details about this), but there are trials and studies being done to reverse this brain damage.  But unfortunately, they were not in the financial spot to save the baby's stem cells. I know everyone has their own views on what is important and what they can afford, but to me, this is priceless. I know they had to do what they had to do, but I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I was in that situation.

CBR actually offers a registry program also.  So you can share your link with friends and family and they can donate money towards your collection and storage of the stem cells. I feel like more people should be aware of it - if more people knew about the registry, more people might sign up.  Also, if you really cannot afford to bank your baby's stem cells, you can donate them.  When you donate the stem cells, they can be used in a general bank or in trials for new uses.  Again, no one knows about this.

So I'm writing this blog to inform everyone about the power newborn stem cells have to save lives.   And not only their life, but they could potentially save siblings or other first or second degree relatives. If you are expecting a baby, I encourage you to research cord blood banking.  If you have read enough and are ready to sign up, please use my referral link below.  If you sign up through me, you and I both will receive a free year of storage.


Book Review: Tiger's Promise

Tiger's Promise
by  Colleen Houck
Date Read: 6/13/14
Rating: ★ ★ ★

This short novella was a nice addition to the Tiger’s Curse series.  Of course we all knew how it was going to end, but it was very interesting to see the story for Yesubai’s POV. 

I felt that the relationship between she and Kishan was a little insta-lovey in this book though.  He wasn’t in it enough with her for me to really believe they didn’t fall in love based on looks.  But the relationship with his mom, Deschen was done very well.

Speaking of Deschen. I loved that we finally got to meet her.  We have only heard stories about the type of woman she was, so I loved really getting to see her in action.

Ren was barely in this book – and even when he was, he barely actually spoke.  But this story isn’t really about Ren. It is about Yesubai and Kishan and how they were tricked in to betraying Ren.  But Ren is my favorite character, so I was a bit disappointed he wasn’t in it more.  But that’s okay.

I felt like Yesubai could have been a bit stronger of a character.  She always tried to hide from her abusive father, Lokesh. I know he had powers, which made it hard to stand up against him, but come on. Even when he wanted her to kill the brothers, she went right along and let him walk them in to a trap. What the heck?? After all that family did for her? I was glad when she did finally stand up to him – or at least fight for what she loved, even though it ultimately ended in her demise.

I thought the ending was done beautifully. Though I was prepared for the ending, that last paragraph took my breath away.  I can only imagine. It was heartbreakingly beautiful.

We also got a couple of bonus chapters: one from Yuvakshi’s POV (Yesubai’s mom) and one from Ren’s POV.  While short, they were a neat little addition to the story.

 But what had me so excited to finally finish this novella???  The sneak peak at Tiger’s Dream!!  We are treated with what I assume is a snippet of the Prologue and not the entire thing – prologues are usually longer than 5 pages…  but if you’ve been dying to know what Tiger’s Dream is going to be about, this is a teaser.  Do not read on if you do not want to know what happens in the Sneak Peak!

I was a little confused – it hasn’t cleared up a whole lot. However, the Prologue was from Kishan’s POV – so perhaps the entire story will be from his POV?  I did like seeing the dynamic between Kishan and Anamika, but the sneak peak didn’t do much to curb my curiosity about what our final book will eventually be about.  But I’m hoping she will decide whether she’s just going to self-pub it soon.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Name Reveal!!

A few weeks ago, while we were on vacation, we finally decided on a name for our baby girl.  I’ve been slacking, and haven’t posted an announcement for it on my blog!  We had been struggling to decide between Addison Rose and Brooklyn Denise.  See this this post to read reasons why we liked each name.

After much deliberation, we both decided that we liked one name better than the other.  We said the name out loud many times. I signed all 3 of our names to see which I liked signing along with our for Christmas cards, etc. We evaluated the overall feel of the names. So now the big reveal of what our daughter will be named…..…drum roll please……….

Brooklyn Denise!
We are so excited to have a name for her!  It’s much better to be able to call her something when she’s kicking like crazy, when Brandon says goodnight to her, and just in general when everyone talks about her.  I can now start planning her nursery also because I want to put her name or initials up somewhere in the nursery also.  However, we’re still in the process of buying a house…so it’s still difficult to plan out the nursery not knowing what the walls will be like.  But I can come up with a general plan now.

We are so excited and will continue posting as the weeks get closer.  As of today, we have hit double digits – only 99 days left until we meet our little girl, and we are only 2 weeks away from sailing in to the third trimester!  Time is flying by.  Now it’s time to start picking out a pediatrician, signing up for prenatal classes, setting up the nursery, and getting work ready for my maternity leave.  I cannot wait!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Book Review: City of Heavenly Fire

City of Heavenly Fire
by  Cassandra Clare
Date Read:  6/8/14
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

One thing I will give to Cassandra Clare is that she wraps up each of her series with a tight little bow.  I feel that was a pretty good ending to this series.  Now, do I still believe it should have ended with 3 books?  Sure.  Books 4 and 5 were definitely not my favorite.  But she did bring it all back in the final installment.

This book was incredibly long at 725 pages - granted, there was a 45 page epilogue.  But for most of the book I was entertained. I didn't find myself bored at any points, having to push my way through it.  However, one thing I didn't like, was that were about 18 different points of view.  She was able to allow the reader to know more about what was going on in the world, but I would have rather not known everything that was happening and had more "Ah ha!" moments.

The specific thing that has made me rate this book 4 stars instead of 5 is the betrayal.  In the summary on the dust jacket it stated that the biggest betrayal the Nephilim have ever seen, happens in this book and forces the gang to head to the demon world.  I think I know what this was - but it didn't feel like a big betrayal for a coupe of reasons - 1) As the reader, I knew about it much earlier than the characters. I don't think she should have had that scene towards the beginning of the book. I would have much rather discovered it when the characters discovered it.  2) It was more a betrayal to the world, rather than just the Nephilim.  And... <spoiler> if anyone was going to betray the Accords, it would have definitely been the Faerie people and the Seelie Queen.  She was terrible, only had her own agenda, and didn't like the Nephilim.  It was definitely not a shock that they would betray everyone. </spoiler>

I hated the weird obsession that Sebastian had with Clary.  What is it with Clare and incest?  Once is enough!  I would have believed more if he just wanted Clary near him, to support him, and be like a real family.  Rather than want her to kiss him and love him more romantically.  It was just weird and I didn't like it.  But if you removed that, I liked Sebastian's story, and I liked how it ended.

Not nearly as many people died in this book as I was expecting.  Most of our characters get a happy ending.  I loved all the references to Tessa, Will and Jem.  One of my favorite parts was when Clary talked with Tessa.  It was so neat - and I'm so glad she added it. 

Simon always has the most interesting things happen to him.  I absolutely loved him ending. He's such a stand up guy, and a true hero in the meaning.  I'm glad Clare gave us that epilogue so we knew how it ended for Simon.  Everything was bittersweet and I loved it.  I heard that Clare announced a super secret project she was writing about Simon. Now I know why. And I expect it will probably happen between the events of this book and the next series.

A lot of new characters were introduced in this book.  We already had a TON of characters. We had 5 core characters. Then like another 5 characters that you really care about. And then a bunch of other people who come in and out. And she added so may more! I know she was setting up the characters for her new series, which will happen a few years after the events of the Mortal Instruments. But for Emma to have a POV in this book? That threw. I think I would have rather them just be side characters in this book, rather than focused on.  But the only loose end she didn't tie up perfectly, was what I assume is setting up the plot of the next series.

While I have absolutely loved The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices, I think Clare is going to beat her world to death.  I guess she thinks she has something successful, and why mess with success?  But she's not the best writer, and eventually people are going to get bored with it.  I would rather like to if she is able to write anything else successfully.  Its not like she's not already a millionaire anyway.  And now she has her two main series, a Magnus series, a sequel series, and I believe another series is planned.   UGH. 

If you have read and loved the Mortal Instruments, you should definitely finish the series with reading this book (especially if you've read books 4 and 5..bleh). I was a nice tidy ending to a good series. I really do love the world that Clare has created.
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