The Night Circus: A Review

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel like I was late to this party, but I’m so glad I read this book!
If by some craziness you haven’t read this book, I highly, highly, recommend. It has definitely become one of my favorite fantasy books to date.
The story surrounds this circus that only comes out at night (hence, the title). It’s a cover for this competition between two magicians (not in the sense that we know magicians, but actual people who can use magic). But the story is bigger than this competition. It’s about every person who is a part of this circus. It includes the performers and the patrons and how they are all connected by choices.
I liked the theme of choice in the story. Some of the choices are brought onto the characters through no control of their own, but the choices they do get to make are what really define them as people.
It’s a beautiful story. The writing, itself, is beautiful and descriptive without being overbearing. The story is not necessarily told in chronological order or from the same perspective. They build on each other, though, which I really liked. I could tell pretty quickly that no character was inconsequential. Every performer, every visitor played a part in the machine of the story.
As far as profanity, sex, and violence. There is one curse word at the beginning of the book, maybe in the first or second chapter. I thought it was foreshadowing more, but I didn’t come across any more in the future chapters. There is one love scene, and there are a few death/violent scenes, but none of them were detailed or graphic. Would recommend to older teen and up (I think it is actually categorized as adult fiction).

I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!

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The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding: A Review

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding (The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding #1)The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this would be the best book to delve into around Halloween, but because of my current energy levels, I read it throughout the month of November.

The basic story is about a boy named Prosper Redding. He comes from a very successful family in a small town. But he doesn’t quite share the successful gene. Come to find out, he has a demon (or malefactor) hiding inside of him, ready to break free on his upcoming 13th birthday. All of their success stems from a contract that their ancestor made with this malefactor around the Salem Witch Trials. And the ancestor tricked the malefactor, causing him to become trapped until now.

This is all revealed during a ritual and the family begins to attack Prosper. He escapes and finds refuge with his estranged Uncle Barnabas and his daughter, Nell. Nell is a witch, and they plan to use a spell to take care of the malefactor once and for all, but the demon grows stronger every day.

There are a lot of moving parts to this story. I think the author did well keeping the balance, though it did get a little chaotic at times. There is a major cliffhanger at the end of the book for an obvious sequel, if not series. And I liked the overall themes of power and how it can corrupt as well as being a good, authentic friend.

There were a few action-packed scenes of escape, plus the whole “my family is trying to kill me” kind of violence at the beginning. It’s meant to be a little spooky and scary. I liked the malefactor’s reaction to the modern world during Halloween. It was a cute scene.

I don’t know when the next book will come out. I might get it from the library. This is definitely geared towards middle school age kids. It’s pretty clean despite the spooky and creepy. Nothing too scary. I would definitely recommend it to that age group.

I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!

Murder On The Orient Express: A Review

When my parents came to visit, one of the things we did was see this movie.  My mom is an avid mystery reader.  I think she has read everything from Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie.  So, when I saw the trailer for this movie earlier this year, I knew it was something we would do when they visited.

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This movie is based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name.  Poirot is one of the characters she writes about in her detective stories.  I remember growing up watching the PBS Poirot series about the French detective.  The plot, basically, is that on the way back to London, there is a murder on the train and Poirot must find out who the murderer is before they get to their destination.

The movie was just cinematically beautiful.  There were these gorgeous, sweeping landscapes of the countryside as the train traveled to its destination.  The characters were dressed beautifully in their 1930s fashion.  The acting was so well done.  Of course, that’s expected with a cast that includes Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad, Daisy Ridley, and Kenneth Branagh. And the plot gave enough twists and turns and clues to make the entire story enjoyable.

As far as violence, sex, and profanity.  There was a stabbing victim who is briefly shown, but only once.  Also, there is another connected murder mystery that includes the deaths of a child, a pregnant woman, and a suicide, but none of those scenes were graphic.  In fact, though you do see the stabbing victim on the train, you don’t see any other dead bodies throughout the movie.  There is no sex, even though there is a hint of romance, but not even kissing.  And I don’t remember any profanity at all.  The dialogue was smart and stayed true to Christie’s writing.

The theme that stood out most to me was the portrayal of good and evil.  Poirot, at the beginning, makes a statement about how everything should be a certain way, very black and white.  But as he digs into the clues on this train and secrets are revealed, things start to gray.  He has to decide whether to stay true to his beliefs or embrace the bigger and grayer picture for what it is.

It’s a beautiful movie.  Even though my mom had read this story and knew the ending, she still enjoyed this film.  I don’t know if it will be in theaters much longer, but if you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend!

Our Thanksgiving 2017

If you watched my video last Friday, then you would know that our Thanksgiving holiday was quite a bit different this year.  Since it was just going to be Michael and me, we decided to try a new restaurant here in the DFW area.  There are so many fine dining restaurants here, even though we have lived here for almost 10 years, I still don’t feel like we have scratched the surface.  Mostly because when we find one we like, we tend to go back over and over again.

But we wanted to try something new, so Michael got reservations for a restaurant called Table 13 in Addison, TX.  Addison, to me, is kind of hipstery and the restaurants are always interesting.  Plus, this particular restaurant was suggested on lists with other restaurants we have enjoyed and it had good reviews.

Thanksgiving morning was spent in our PJs, watching the Macy’s Day Parade with the pups.  Teddy loves Jerzee.  Jerzee tolerates Teddy.  So, when the two dogs start snuggling, pictures are taken a lot.

After the parade ended, we got ready and headed down to the restaurant for our reservation.  It was packed, which is always a good sign.  But there was some mix-up with seating (people were taking longer than anticipated), so it took close to 30-40 minutes for us to be seated.  Also, quick note, the decor was….interesting.  It was mostly decorated with pin-up drawings of girls without clothes who were strategically situated.  So, not a place I would take kids.  Definitely had an adult vibe which I didn’t really pick up on with the reviews (plus, they had a special price that day for kids).

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They had their Thanksgiving special, which both of us got, but they also had other choices a la carte.  I feel like the a la carte menu was more their regular food, judging from how the meal went.

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So, the first course was a choice between their salads or lobster bisque (which were also starter choices on the a la carte menu).  I chose the lobster bisque which is good.  It was creamy, perfect temperature, and had bits of lobster in it that added to the flavor.

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The second course was a traditional Thanksgiving dinner – turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green beans, and cranberry sauce.  All of it was pork-free, which was important to me because I have a pork allergy.  But after we finished the first course and our plates were taken, it took 30-40 minutes for the second course to arrive.  This was surprising to me because it was the special of the day, and that’s usually easier to get out than something else off the menu.  But maybe I’m wrong about that.  As far as taste, it was okay.  The one thing that really stood out was the cranberry sauce.  They added some kind of mint ingredient to the cranberries which complemented it very well.  But the rest of the meal was…just okay.

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The third course came out much more quickly.  It was a traditional raisin bread pudding with a pumpkin sauce and a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top.  The center of the pudding was soft and absorbed the vanilla ice cream pretty well.  But the outside was a little crispy and I didn’t really taste the pumpkin sauce.  Again, it was okay.

Overall, I don’t think we will go back anytime soon, not because it was necessarily bad.  It’s just that there are so many other options in the DFW area to eat for the same price point that are better in my opinion.  Still, I’m glad I didn’t have to cook or clean on Thanksgiving day, which really made it worth it.

The rest of the evening, we just spent at home, hanging out.  I had a wonderful day with my husband and my pups.  I was truly thankful for the time we shared together!

November Favorites

Now that I’m in my second trimester, I feel like I have a little more energy to get some things checked off of my to-do list.  So, I actually have a couple things to share with you this month!First, the most favorite thing from this month is the Heartbeat Baby Monitor by Bambeego.  I think I ordered it on the way home from my 12-week ultrasound.  I liked the fact that it had dual headphone jacks so both Michael and I could hear it at the same time.  Of course, I knew that not everyone hears the heartbeat on these monitors that early, so I made a pact with myself that I would only check once a week.  Then, as I shared in this video, at the beginning of my 14th week, I heard the heartbeat.  And now, I do it every night.  I love that it’s one of the last things I do before going to sleep!Also, this monitor does not come with gel, so I purchased this Parker Laboratories Spectra 360 Electrode Gel.  I got the Heartbeat Monitor before getting the gel and tried it without the gel first.  It was much easier with the gel.  My therapist also suggested that hair gel also works pretty well, though I have tried that.  This is a 2 oz tube and I’ve been using it for two weeks straight and I’m maybe halfway through it.With the addition of our puppy last February, we have accumulated a lot of dog hair.  We were sweeping pretty much daily and felt like we could have created a whole other dog with all of the hair we swept up!  Michael wanted an easier way to pick up all of the hair, so he purchased the Bissell PowerEdge Pet Hard Floor Vacuum.  It’s much easier to run this than it is to sweep it up every day.  This is one of those vacuums without bristles on the bottom, so it just sucks up all of the hair with getting tangled in the vacuum.  It’s perfect for our tiled floors.

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The last thing I wanted to share was my latest Starbucks obsession.  Peppermint Hot Chocolate, tall, no whipped cream.  Really, anything mint would probably be my favorite, but it just feels like the holiday season when I have one of these treats.  Especially when the weather dips down pretty quickly (as it has done a couple times this month in Texas).  I really ready for the weather to stay cold more consistently so I can break out the scarves.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and a great start to the holiday season!

Do you have anything that you do, eat, or drink that signifies the real beginning of this season?

I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!

Justice League: A Review

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This will be an attempt at a spoiler-free review.  The only references I will make will be things that are found in the trailers.  I think I can review this movie without even talking about the major plot points.

The short answer is I didn’t hate it.

The movie was okay.  But it was really too convoluted.  The major overarching plot felt drowned out by all of the very quick attempts at character development for those characters we had yet to see in a DC movie.  Some of the development was done better than others, so because the characters basically drove this movie, I want to review it by how well I felt like they were developed and represented.  I will only be reviewing those shown on movie posters and portrayed in the trailers.

Batman – I didn’t watch Batman vs. Superman.  I think I was sick or something when my husband went to go see it.  When he came back unimpressed, I decided to remove it from my to-watch list.  I did watch a YouTube video that recapped all of the movies leading up to the Justice League, and it looks like I didn’t miss much.  In fact, it looked like BVS was pretty convoluted, itself.  I’m pretty familiar with the Batman story, so I felt pretty good on that front.

In this movie, he was….weird.  Maybe it’s because Christian Bale will always be Batman for me, but he didn’t really convince me.  It just fell flat, especially any of his comedic lines.  I know he was at the pivotal points throughout this movie, but he just wasn’t really memorable or even felt necessary.

Wonder Woman – This is why I watched Justice League.  Wonder Woman’s standalone summer film was phenomenal.  And I was excited to see her in action once again.  But some of her emotional moments felt stunted.  I just think they could have taken more time to develop her transition from being a loner for basically the last century to being part of this team.  Still, she kicked butt, but I hope they take time in the future to let her character really breathe into the scenes.

Aquaman – Jason Momoa was amazing in this character.  When I heard that Aquaman was going to join the Justice League, all I could think of was the Aquaman from the Big Bang Theory.

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But this Aquaman was much more fascinating.  I know that his standalone movie is coming out next year, but I think it might have been better to come out before Justice League (but I can see why they didn’t, considering my above assumption).  His story was drowned out by the other characters (pun definitely intended).  I didn’t know why he did the things he did, why he was angry, why he was a loner.  I know these questions will probably be answered next year, but I think it would have strengthened this story’s plot.

The Flash – Ah, the comic relief.  That was pretty much apparent in the trailers, and Barry Allen’s lines did not disappoint.  I think they tried too hard to get parts of his story into this movie when they really didn’t need to.  They could have done what Marvel did with Spiderman in Civil War, just introduce his character.  And then they could have done his standalone easily afterward.  His origin parts just over saturated a lot of the plot, when other things needed to be deepened and explained more.

Cyborg – By far the best character development of the three new characters.  It helped that his story arch coincided with the main plot of the movie, but I actually enjoyed watching his character grow from a loner to a team player.  I think they could have spent time on his origin story, which I heard that they shot but didn’t use.  But still, his introduction was done the best.  Of course, I can’t go into details because it is so tightly wrapped into the main plot.

I think DC is rushing things way too much, and I don’t really see why.  They don’t need to catch up to Marvel.  They can take this at a much slower pace than they are.  They have a great structure in a lot of the characters (except for Batman, that is just a confusing, deadpan mess), and I really think this could be something great.  I also heard that they had a two-hour cap on this movie which is why a lot of things were cut.  I don’t think that helped at all.

As far as profanity, violence and sexual content, it’s pretty clean.  And the ideas of teamwork and believing in yourself are throughout the movie (although, again, better character development would have made these themes stronger).  Also, the actors were phenomenal (though the jury is still out on Batman – not sure if it’s a writers thing or an actor thing).  I think this movie would be a great RedBox night, but not really worth seeing in the theaters.  There are so many great movies coming out this year that I would save your money on this one.  I would give it three out of five stars.

 

Recent Happenings

Originally, I was going to write just about the Family Retreat we went on this weekend with our church group.  I had planned to take so many pictures.  We had a campfire both nights, and I was excited to capture those moments, especially since I got a new phone.  But I forgot to pull out my phone both times.  I guess that’s a good thing, right?  That I stayed in the moment and didn’t take many pics.

I did manage to get a picture of Michael and me in the common room while we were waiting for the next event to start.  Excuse our crazy hair.20171111_172435.jpg

We had fun with everyone.  Our church group is divided into two house churches – one that meets in Dallas and the other that meets in North Dallas.  So, we don’t spend a lot of time together considering we live all over the metroplex.  It was nice to catch up and chit chat with those who I don’t see often.

But this month has also been a month of renovations.  We are right in the middle of it, but yesterday we had our roof replaced (which is step one).  20171114_100350.jpg

This meant that the dogs and I stayed inside for most of the day (and they were so good the whole day too!).  It sounded like our house was being beaten by hammers (which technically is true), but it was crazy.  The dogs, at first were concerned, but eventually managed to sleep through most of it (we had a lot of nap time to pass the day).

And the renovations aren’t complete, yet.  We still are getting part of our fence stained and our gutters replaced (I will try to remember to take an after picture).  This is all from the hail damaged we had earlier this year.  But I’m glad it’s being done.

Of course, my nesting instincts are already starting to take over, and I have a bunch of things I want to get done in the coming months.  Hopefully, we will get some other things checked off our list!