Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sunday Synopsis

Happy New Year!

Instead of a synopsis of one book, I'm going to break down my year in reading.

In 2016, I read 37 books +; I didn't log each children's book I read in class this year.

Of those 37 books,
29 were fiction
5 were historical fiction
and only 3 were nonfiction (looks like I need to improve in this genre)
Of my 37, 11 were young adult novels

I abandoned one novel:  Still Alice
I may go back to it, but it's a difficult read for me, depressing, about early onset Alzheimer's.  I haven't seen the movie and likely won't.

My least favorite book this year, the much anticipated and most disappointing, was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
I should have listened to the warnings not to ruin my memory of Harry Potter by reading this script, which was not actually written by J. K. Rowling.  Too late.  It wasn't true to the characterization and history of the series.  I know some people liked it, but I'm entitled to my opinion.

My favorite series was The Selection by Kiera Cass, a young adult series that I usually describe as being a cross between the Hunger Games and The Bachelor.
It's definitely not as violent as the Hunger Games, but it's a very similar dystopian society.  And there is plenty of PG-rated romance and "girl drama."

I am currently reading Me Before You.

I have not seen the movie, and I'm not sure I will.  I am enjoying the book more than I thought I would.  I put off reading it because I thought it would be too sad or too mushy, but I'm finding it to be a study in human nature, and I'm liking it so far.

I've been sifting through the 105 books I have in my "to read" list on Goodreads.  There are books on there I had totally forgotten about such as Wake by Lisa McMann, A Truth Worth Tellin' by Toni Teepell, and The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom.

My favorite book of the year was The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory, a historical fiction piece centered around Katherine of Aragon and her relationships with Prince Arthur, Henry VIII, and Our Lady the King's Mother.

The Constant Princess (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels, #6)The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Philippa Gregory does it again! I adored this book! The characters just come to life, and the one you don't like from a previous book is the one you root for in whichever book you are currently reading. Gregory has a way of doing that. She uses rich, historical details, not just events, but culture, allowing the reader to vividly picture the scenes and actions in the book. The only thing I did not like about this book is that it ended with her in court without the result, likely because it's an event in a different book, but I literally gasped at the end of this amazing novel.

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If you have suggestions about books I should read or a review you'd like to see, please let me know in the comments.  Thank you for visiting, and Happy New Year!

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Sights and Sounds

I'm linking up with Thursday Thirteen for the fist time in a long while.

Christmas is such a magical time of year.  I love the sights and sounds, the activities, the meaning, the cherished memories of Christmases past, so I am sharing parts of my Christmas that were and are special to me this year.

1.  Shopping - I love trying to find the perfect gift for family and friends.  Here I am outside of the mall near my home.

2.  Wrapping Presents - I found this cute Elf paper!

3.  And speaking of Elf, my favorite Christmas movie, I watched it again as well as a few other holiday classics and a lot of new holiday movies on Freeform, Hallmark, and Lifetime.  For example, this one:
Image Credit

4.  Looking at Christmas lights was so much fun this year.

5.  Having lunch with friends I don't see often.  Here I am with "Three Sides of Crazy" from the blog Savory Kitchen Table.

6.  And look at these homemade goodies she brought me!

7.  And speaking of goodies, seeing my children creating their own Christmas goodies was pure fun.  My son made a baked cheesecake from scratch, and my daughter made her "famous" cake balls.  Wish I had pictures of them!  They were gone fast!

[insert mental image here]

8.  I love attending Christmas Eve service at church.  This year we went to Gateway Community Church at 4:PM.

9.  Spending time with family is so important at Christmas.

10.  Decorating the tree.

11.  Hiding the pickle ornament.  Are you familiar with the Legend of the Pickle?

12.  Christmas music!  This is my favorite song.

 13.And the best thing to happen this year, our Christmas miracle, began as what seemed like a tragedy.  My father-in-law was taken to the hospital on Christmas Day, and family was told to say their goodbyes.  Four days later, after surgery and lots of prayers, he was moved from ICU to a regular room and is expected to go home, perhaps by the new year.  That's what I call a Christmas miracle!

I hope all of you had the merriest Christmas!  Wishing you happiness and health in the coming year.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

So Random

Some of my favorite bloggers are still taking breaks, but I haven't posted much since my surgery 5 1/2 weeks ago, so here I go.

Christmas morning was great!  My 20 year old son was the first one awake, showered, and dressed, which is totally the opposite of a normal day.  He even woke up before his sister, and she's usually a morning person in comparison.  Our alarms hadn't even gone off yet.  After opening our gifts, we were getting ready to go to my husband's parents' home when he got a phone call.

Christmas breakfast, a tradition for I-don't-know-how-long, like forever, was canceled.  My father-in-law was on his way to the hospital.  He was dizzy and disoriented.  The bad news was there was bleeding on the brain.  DH went straight to the hospital, but I was hosting my family for Christmas at our house this year.  I probably could have called them and told them to turn around and go home, but DH and I agreed that we didn't want to put a damper on anyone's day, so I would host by myself.

It worked out well with help from my kids.  Kids.  They're 20.  They'll always be kids to me.  My daughter is an excellent planner and hostess, so she helped a lot.  My son took over the duty of getting turkey and ham ready for dinner. We only had 7 people, but we had enough food for 30, probably!

My macaroni and cheese was a big hit!  No, it wasn't Kraft!  I tried following my mother-in-law's recipe but it wasn't written down, so I did a lot of guessing.  It turned out great, though.  In fact, the entire batch was all gone less than 24 hours later!  My son made a cheesecake from scratch (no idea why he wanted to make cheesecake).  It was fabulous!  It, too, is all gone.  And my daughter made her famous cream cheese cake balls which are better than anyone else's that I've ever tried.  There might be one left, if I'm lucky.

After my family left, I went straight to the hospital.  The doctor hadn't given them any hope of recovery and said he was too old (87) for surgery.  He encouraged the family to come say their goodbyes.  He was blunt, pessimistic, and impersonable.  We were praying something would change.  My step-son who is nursing director of the emergency department at a different hospital urged them to get a second opinion and to ask questions they wouldn't have known to ask since they are not in the medical field.

The second opinion came through, and the new doctor did surgery right away to drain some of the bleeding.  Too old? My foot!  This doctor is very optimistic, unlike the other one.  Prayers were answered!  He is not out of the woods completely of course, but now he has hope, and we have hope.  Keep the prayers coming!  Some of you know that I'm the lucky girl who has in-laws she loves!

Christmas was not kind to the shoulder on which I had surgery 5 1/2 weeks ago.  Lots of pain from overdoing it, but I'm sure some rest and relaxation, as well as physical therapy tomorrow, will have me feeling better soon.

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

I love the Christmas season!

Decorating the tree and house.

Buying presents for my family and friends.

Cooking, baking, visiting relatives.

Remembering we're celebrating the birth of our savior.

Christmas movies, Christmas music, Christmas lights, traditions.

Wrapping presents and pretending they came from Santa
(even though my kids are grown and know better!)

So, from my family to yours (my tree below)

A Christmas blessing...

I wish you a very merry

including all the joys of the season
and best wishes for the coming year.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

So Random

Some of my favorite bloggers are on breaks, but I'm not. 😏

First, my surgery was a success.  I've been out of my sling and doing physical therapy for a couple of weeks.  I still have some pain every now and then.  Okay, I lie a little.  I have pain every day, but it's bearable, and it's getting better every day.  I can't do everything I could do before, but I'm making progress, and that's what counts.

The Christmas break is going by quickly.  I think I've finally got my shopping done, most of it online, and I'm waiting for two more packages that are due to be delivered tomorrow.  Luckily, the youngest daughter has been here to decorate and wrap presents.  The middle daughter graduated from college last weekend and her internship starts in January.  In the meantime, she's got some planning to do for her wedding next summer.  It's so much fun to look at decorations, invitations, favors, and things like that.  Here's a peek at an engagement photo:

I'm hosting Christmas at my house this year which is no easy feat considering the dysfunction bold personalities on my side of the family.   Friction.  There will be friction.  I'm going to spend some time on my knees before everyone gets here.  Ever since my dad passed away, holidays aren't as joyful as they used to be.  On my husband's side of the family, we'll have a peaceful celebration.   One out of two ain't bad, right?

So, what does your Christmas celebration look like?  Any traditions?  Any unusual family dynamics?  I doubt I'm the only one!  I'll let you know how it goes!  Have a great week! 🎄🎅

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Forever, For Your Memories

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Sunday Synopsis

Cross Justice (Alex Cross, #23)Cross Justice by James Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having read all of Patterson's Alex Cross books, I knew I couldn't skip this one, but this one is different.

There are secrets in Starksville, North Carolina, and they involve Alex's past and his family. Alex's nephew is on trial for the rape and murder of one of his students, and all signs indicate he is guilty. He claims he is being framed, but by whom? Will Alex and Bree get to the bottom of it without getting themselves killed?

In the midst of this trial, another mystery is revealed from Alex's past that takes him to Florida where a psychopathic cross-dresser has been at work. Paths collide in new and interesting ways.

Way to go Patterson!

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Sunday, December 04, 2016

Sunday Synopsis

The City of Ember (Book of Ember, #1)The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After the barrage of dystopian novels that have been the rage for the last few years, this seemed like just another attempt to capitalize on the success of The Hunger Games and Divergent. Little did I know that it was published in 2003, many years before those books. Several of my students insisted that it was "so good!!!!" and encouraged me to read it, so I did. It's a fairly short, easy read.

The City of Ember is set in the future, what has been described as post-apocalyptic. The main characters are Doon and Lina who have been assigned their first jobs. The city was supposed to be a refuge, or perhaps an experiment, but the Builders never returned to Ember. Years and years have passed so that the people no longer remember any life before Ember, which is always dark and requires electricity. Things have run smoothly for who knows how long - until now. Stores of food and supplies are running low, the government is corrupt, and the electricity is beginning to fail. Doon and Lina must solve a mystery, initiated by Lina's grandmother, if they are to save the people of their city.

I liked that this book had a mysterious element with some suspense as it made me want to keep reading. There were some adventures along the way. And the ending is not really an ending, because, surprise, there is a sequel. I'm not sure if I care enough about the characters to invest my time in another book, though, as the book lacked character development. The friendship of Lina and Doon, their effort to solve a mystery that might save their community, and the snags that occur along the way are what kept me reading.

I would not put Ember on the same level as The Giver (which I read first although it was published two years later). Several parts reminded me of it. The Builders arranged things so the citizens would not have the memory of their previous lives. They have assigned jobs (at the tender age of 12) so that the city functions in an orderly manner. However, The Giver was deeper with more sophisticated conflicts and themes. Situations in Ember just seemed to be solved a little too easily for Lina and Doon. Oh, here are the items we need, what a coincidence.

For younger readers, this is a great starter dystopian book that does not get as violent as The Hunger Games or Divergent, nor does it require the same reading skill as The Giver, or even Matched. I would recommend this for grades 4-6. For adults, if you're needing a "bubble gum" book just to kill time, this should do the trick. And it's enjoyable.

Jeanne DuPrau beat all the others to the punch in the dystopian genre, and for that and her clever storyline, she deserves praise.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday Synopsis

Defending JacobDefending Jacob by William Landay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I purchased this book for $1.99 through one of my Book Bub daily email deals. It was definitely a bargain, and I wouldn’t have minded paying full price for it, but you never know what you’re going to get based on only a “blurb.” I was pleasantly surprised.

The blurb described Defending Jacob as a legal thriller, one of my favorite genres. The book is about Andy Barber, assistant district attorney, and his family. Andy is on the case when a 14 year old boy is murdered, but he must recuse himself when his sfon Jacob is accused murdering his classmate. The courtroom drama is expertly interwoven with family drama.

I admit that the story moved somewhat slowly in the beginning, and the chapters were rather long making it difficult to find a stopping place. But once I was about 100 pages in, I didn’t want to find a stopping point. The clues kept me interested and engaged. There were several plot twists that I didn’t see coming, and the ending surprised me.

This book reminded me of Jodi Piccoult’s House Rules, another book I thoroughly enjoyed. Both feature teenagers are accused of murdering a classmate. Both of the boys admit being at the scene at some point, and neither teen is asked point blank if he did it. The young man in House Rules is autistic. While the teenager accused in Defending Jacob is never labelled autistic in the book, many of his behaviors indicate that he is somewhere on the spectrum.

What a dilemma, to have your son prosecuted by your condescending former mentee, to be on the other side of the fence. Are Andy and his wife blind to their son’s guilt, or are they certain of their son’s innocence?

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Coffee Chat and a Little Random Anyway.

I usually link up with Stacy for some random thoughts, but she's got so much going on with her move, the holidays, etc., that she's taking a short bloggy break. However, I can't let Tuesday go by without some random nonsense. But first... Coffee Chat!

Our hostess says:
Update your challenge.  
Or in honour of American Thanksgiving, 
tell us what you're thankful for right now.

Since I didn't really set a challenge for myself, the current challenge I'm facing right now is healing from my surgery.  The pain medicine is the worst!  Once my nerve block wore off, I started using my medications.  I had to stop, though. Too many side effects!  Extreme itching (I should buy stock in Benadryl!), terrible heart burn (more stock in Tums), and a few other difficulties which are a little embarrassing to write here.  I requested a different medication, but I'm having trouble with that one, too.  And crazy muscle spasms!  The side effects of meds are as bad as the pain.
Image Credit
I'm thankful that everything went well with the surgery.  I will see my doctor tomorrow to find out when physical therapy starts and when I might be able to return to work.

I tried telling the nurse not to put the IV on the inside of my arm, but she didn't listen and ended up sticking me twice anyway leaving huge, purple bruises.  I tried telling her my veins would collapse.  Someone else had to come in and do my IV.  Needless to say, my blood pressure shot up after that.
Image Credit
And I'm thankful for the sedative they gave me before the nerve block.  If I hadn't been kind of loopy, there's no way I would have let them approach me to put that giant needle in my neck.  LOL

One of the most important things I'm thankful for, not just right now, but always, is my family.  I wish my dad were still with us, but I'm grateful for my husband, kids, mom, sister, and even my in-laws.  I love them.  How many people can say that?

I'm thankful for friends, entertainment, technology, and most of all, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Image Credit

I'm thankful for time off from work, not just to heal, but to enjoy the holidays.  One of the few perks of being a teacher is being off work when your kids are out of school.  With all of the changes in curriculum and instruction in my district right now, some days I just want to quit.  Bureaucracy has sucked the joy out of teaching, red tape, differing philosophies, disrespect from students and, in come cases, their parents, and lack of support from administration.

And now... I'm going to continue my Judge Judy marathon!  Happy Thanksgiving!

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