I read quite a few duds in 2016, not all of them even made it to my blog. I try to focus on the good though, so I’m going to say goodbye to 2016 and ring in 2017 with a list of my favorite books from this year. Not all of these books were published in 2016, but I read them this year.
Each title links to my review of the book in a new window.
Are any of these books on your Best of 2016 list? Which would you add?
The only children’s book on this list, this one was so good that after receiving a digital copy to read from NetGalley, I bought it for my own daughter for Christmas! The pictures are bright and beautiful, and the message is important.
I put off reading this one for a long time, thinking it would be too sci-fi for me. I was so wrong! Filled with dynamic characters and romance, this was a must read!
Goal for 2017: Find and read book 2!
My first win from Goodreads. This book helped me learn to let go of items I don’t need. Nothing stresses me out more than a bunch of junk cluttering my life. I’m still a work in progress, but this book was a good start for me.
I went out with a bang in 2016, finishing this with only days to spare before ringing in the new year. I never thought a book about a man stranded alone on Mars could be funny. Boy was I wrong! I can’t wait to see the movie next!
Since I didn’t start book blogging until the end of 2015, I never put together a list for that year. Below are some of my favorite reads from 2015.
A completely unique spin on Peter Pan! What if Captain Hook was a 17-year old girl and illegally captaining a space ship manned by a teenage crew? And what if they found a mysterious planet with a boy named Peter?
This book was not at all what I expected it to be. It surpassed my wildest expectations and the ending left me with my jaw on the ground. I listened to the audiobook of this one and the only reason I haven’t finished the series yet is because I have not yet found the audiobooks of the remaining books! (2017 goal!)
If you’re not a gaming nerd (past or present), you may not get this book. However, for recovering World of Warcraft addicts like myself, this book was an absolute riot!
I can’t wait to see what’s next for Dahlia!
It’s time for….. FRIDAY FAVORITES!
That time of the week (when I remember…) where I share some things that I love.
Why do I do this? So you can get to know me, and maybe discover something new.
Leave a comment so I can discover new things too!
You know you’re an adult when you get excited for a new shower head. I’m not even kidding when I tell you I was ecstatic when I bought this new Oxygenic’s shower head, hooked it up, and turned it on. It’s amazing. The shower head we’ve had for the last few years was a free “eco” one through the power company. I love the idea of going green and I try to do my best to reduce my footprint on the earth, but when my shower has virtually zero water pressure and I can’t rinse my kids hair, and on cold winter days the spray only hits a one inch section of my body so I freeze, somethings got to give.
So, despite my husbands grumbling about spending money on a new shower head when there was “nothing wrong” with our current one, I bit the bullet and spent $30 at Menards and picked up the Oxygenics Rejuvenate Fixed shower head. I bought this for a couple of reasons, 1. It has a rather large face so I had hoped that would mean a wider spray of water; and 2. The packaging says it’s an “eco” product and should reduce water use.
This beast has 10 different settings, my favorite being a “rain shower” type setting which is AMAZING. There is like, a “super” eco setting as well, but it comes out in a trickle, which is no good for me. The other setting I sometimes switch to is the massage setting, spraying the hot water on the knots in my neck or back.
So yeah, this shower head absolutely gets the job done and is well worth the $30 I paid for it! If you’re in the market for a new shower head, I would absolutely recommend the Oxygenic’s brand based on this experience.
(It’s too soon to tell, but I’ll be looking at my next water bill to see how our water usage differs with this shower head vs the free eco one from the electric company.)
Covet Fashion is a highly addictive FREE fashion game app. It became such a time suck for me in the fall of 2015 that I had to delete it from my Kindle and my phone. Of course, I was also working my seasonal job – up to 60+ hours each week. No wonder I didn’t have time for anything!
When I started working with my sister-in-law a couple months ago, she demanded I start playing again, so I did.
I’m less obsessive this time, thank goodness. It’s a lot of fun, too. I don’t have a large wardrobe at home because I don’t have excess income to splurge on that kind of thing (I’d rather save for big things I want, and you know, pay off my house!) so it’s fun to play a game where I can imagine I have the worlds largest closet full of more clothes than I could possibly dream of.
The point of the game is to style your model (clothes, hair, makeup, and even skin tone) to complete different challenges. Some require specific items be worn (a blue beaded purse, or a particular pair of shoes by Rachel Zoe), while others leave it completely up to you to choose whatever you want. Each challenge pays either $100 or $200 just for entering, except the daily which pays $500. You also get a daily “allowance” of tickets and diamonds just for logging in. (It’s always 24 hours from the last time you grabbed your “allowance”.)
Diamonds can be purchased, or you can earn them. They’re used to buy prize items or items that are out of season.
Once your look is styled and you submit, you receive your money, and your look goes into voting. You need to vote to get tickets (aside from the ones you get from your allowance) and that helps rate the looks. If you get a 4 star rating you get the first prize. 4.5 stars gets the prize plus 25 diamonds. 5 stars gets you the former, plus another prize. And if you get the elusive 5.8 stars you receive a whopping 5,000 diamonds! I honestly didn’t really think it was possible to do, but my sis-in-law managed to get a 5.8 a couple weeks ago! (She’s already blown through them all!)
The only downside to this game is that it glitches from time to time and their customer service… well… they’re not very bright. Let’s just say, I entered a challenge and it gave me my entry money, but took away all my other money, and their customer service insisted that the game did not cheat me out of money. After 3 times back and forth they finally realized I was correct and gave me my money. So, if you start playing, keep an eye on your money!
(And shoot me a message if you start playing so we can be in-game-friends! You can borrow from your in-game-friends closets too!)
I recently, out of the blue, decided I want to be a tea drinker. Coffee literally makes me sick to the stomach, so I thought tea might be better.
Turns out, spiced herbal tea is amazing! I can’t drink black or green tea (at least none of the varieties I’ve tried so far!) but the Yogi spiced teas are amazing.Throat Comfort, Bedtime, and Cinnamon Vanilla Healthy Skin are my favorites so far. They’re also the only Yogi’s I’ve tried. I need to get my hands on the India Spice, they don’t sell it at my local Target or Cub Grocery.
A few years back I bought a bunch of teacups and saucers from Goodwill for a Fairy Princess Tea Party we had for my oldest daughter and I’d boxed the tea cups away. I pulled a few out and my new obsession is stalking the Goodwill shelves for new, pretty, and unique tea cups/saucers.
My most recent purchase was a little blue/white single serve tea pot for about $2.99.
My current favorite tea cup and saucer. A Goodwill find. Google tells me it’s from the 1930’s. The bottom tells me it’s English Bone China.
So readers, what kind of lame “grown up” things make you happy?
What apps are you obsessed with?
Are you a tea drinker? Share your favorites in the comments!
I haven’t done a Friday Favorites in ages. I swear, I started this feature, then a month in I started working. I’ve since changed jobs (I’m a bit of a nomad when it comes to my career choices, but I really like where I am now) and as with my previous job, I’m working every Friday. And if I’m not working Friday it’s because I requested the day off for some other engagement. I actually should be sleeping right now as I type this because it’s 3:20 am and I need to be at work in just under 11 hours.
HEALTH & BEAUTY PRODUCTS
Winter is coming friends, and for those living in a frozen tundra like myself, so are chapped lips. My sis-in-law recently introduced me to the new e.l.f. Lip Exfoliator and I’m in LOVE. It’s like a lipstick, but it’s gritty, so when you smack your lips together it exfoliates and leaves your lips feeling silky smooth. I have the Cherry Tart flavor/color (because that’s what my local Target had available) and it leaves a VERY pale pink shimmer on the lips and tastes delicious. If you suffer from chapped lips, I highly recommend this product. It’s only $3.
Have you guys checked out the new show Timeless on NBC yet? It mixes some of my favorite things – time travel, history, and mystery. A group of government agents pair up a history professor with a military hottie to travel through time chasing the bad guy who stole the other time travel machine, and stop him from changing history and destroying the world as we know it. It’s really well done and I’m excited to see how this plays out.
As usual I’m late to the party. I used to be absolutely obsessed with Subway in college, to the point where when we had to budget our money for an assignment, I realized I was spending an average of $70 per week at Subway. Ridiculous! Anyway, with my new job, sometimes I don’t have a lunch/dinner packed and there are only a few places that deliver. I’m trying not to eat pizza ALL the time, so I tried Jimmy Johns. YUM. So much better than Subway! (And they ARE ‘freaky fast’! The delivery guys also don’t like you to tell them that…)
It’s been a mostly rainy and cold week and I just have been off every day.
So, I’ve got nothing prepared for Friday Favorites, so I’m just going to show off a very spoilery music video from my favorite TV show with the worst ending ever.
“Demons” by Brian McFadden. From the TV show LOST.
I was addicted to this song from the moment I saw this music video promoting the show. So hauntingly beautiful. I had it on my old iPod click, but alas, after about 8 years of use, that beast bit the dust. (Back in 2008!) I have an iPod Classic now, but no access to my old music. 🙁
Confession: I’m really afraid I’m going to run out of favorites to share!
I finished binging Supernatural on Netflix and I needed something new. I tried watching One Tree Hill, since I never really got into it when it was on TV, but despite the amazing soundtrack, it didn’t hold my attention. So then I started The Vampire Diaires for the third time through, but really thought I should try something new, so I paused that binge and found When Calls The Heart in my queue.
So, apparently this is a Hallmark show, which is a channel I don’t have because my TV has rabbit ears and pretty much stays on PBS for the kids. I binge watched the first 2 seasons in under a week. Seriously, you guys, if you love a sweet romance, check out this show. A privileged woman (Elizabeth) takes a job as a school teacher in the ol’ wild west in the early 1900’s in a coal mining town. There’s romance and drama galore, and because it’s the early 1900’s and Hallmark, it’s all pretty tame and sweet. Oh yeah, and Aunt Becky from Full House (Lori Loughlin) co-stars!
Check out their Thursday Confessions. Anyone can make an anonymous confession and it will be posted on the Facebook page, allowing readers, authors and bloggers to comment. Sometimes good things are confessed, other times bad. I think it’s a lot of fun and a great distraction from real life.
I used to be a total Hanson fanatic. From 1997 until 2008. Say what you will, but those boys could write a catchy song! I don’t enjoy their new music very much, so my last concert was in 2008 at First Ave in St. Paul, MN. Opening for them were The Veronica’s and a band I’d never heard of called Everybody Else. And both opening acts blew me away. Below is one of my favorite songs by Everybody Else, but let me tell you, every song on their self-titled album rocks.
Today I bring you…. another edition of Friday Favorites!
Get to know me with a few of my favorite things.
I loooove designing book covers. I went to school for photography, but I quickly learned that what I love most about photography is photo manipulation in Photoshop. Life happened and I haven’t really done much with my photography degree, but I’m quite fortunate to have had the opportunity to design literally hundreds of book covers for authors. I love the work that I do and I know my best covers are yet to come.
If you’re an author in need of a book cover (or promo design work) I’m always looking for new clients. You can view more samples of my work on my website – www.carolineandrus.com
Just a handful of some of the covers I’ve designed. The top three designs are for the YA house Fire & Ice YA Books and the bottom are for the romance house Satin Romance.
Heat. Swimming pools. Fans. Sunglasses. Driving with the windows down. Grilling. Camp fires. S’mores. Summer vacation. Fourth of July fireworks. Fishing. Fresh veggies from the garden. Not having to spend 15 minutes getting dressed in jackets, mittens, hats, etc.
I could go on.
I love summer. It’s snowing outside my window right now and I’m longing for summer.
I like a lot of music and I’m not ashamed of any of it. I love T-Swift, and Wildest Dreams is one of my favorite music videos of hers. Her 1989 album lives in the CD player in my car for those terrible moments when the radio has nothing but commercials or songs I don’t like on any of the five stations I listen to.
Netflix became a little sadder a place a couple weeks ago. They removed all episodes of the hit BBC show ‘Doctor Who’, leaving fans like myself unable to get our Doctor fix whenever we want.
In honor of The Doctor, I bring you a special edition of Friday Favorites: DOCTOR WHO EDITION.
Now, I must first point out that I haven’t watched the original series. I tried, but they just didn’t hold my interest. My first Doctor is Nine, played by Christopher Eccleston. Any references I make refer only to New Who (2005 and on).
If you’ve never seen the show, you may not be aware that the actor who plays The Doctor changes up from time to time. As an immortal alien Time Lord (from the planet Gallifrey), instead of dying, The Doctor regenerates into a new body. Thus, we’ve had twelve incarnations of the doctor thus far, and twelve actors. They each bare some similarities to those who have come before them, but as all people are different, so are all incarnations of The Doctor.
This is a hard one, I loved Nine (Eccleston) because he was my first, and he just had such a wonderful childlike charm he brought to the role. I think Ten (David Tennant) has to be my favorite though. He was the perfect mix between goofy and serious, light and dark.
I don’t really have a least favorite doctor, but Eleven (Matt Smith) took the longest for me to warm to (though in the end I did love him), and by the time Twelve (Peter Capaldi) came around, the storylines had strayed so far from the original concept of the New Who Era, I actually stopped watching….
Ten and Donna sassing one another.
Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) is hands down my favorite companion. She’s the first to not have any romantic feelings toward the doctor at all. I honestly hated her in the first episode in which she appeared (The Runaway Bride, S3, Christmas Special) but she grew on me as soon as she appeared as The Doctor’s companion in Season 4. Not only is Donna hilarious, she’s also so full of heart. The end of her time with the doctor is downright heartbreaking. (BONUS for her being the granddaughter of recurring character Wilfred, played by Bernard Cribbins!)
Runner up goes to Amy Pond (Karen Gillan). She was feisty and spunky. She flirted to no ends with The Doctor, even in front of her fiancé Rory (Arthur Darrell – I really loved Rory, too, but he was more Amy’s companion than The Doctors). She knew what she wanted and she fought for it. (BONUS: I can’t recall a time when Amy was not wearing a miniskirt and fun colored nail polish, no matter the situation, planet or climate! And she’s a Scottish ginger.)
Third place goes to Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). She was the first companion of the series reboot. A lot of people hate her because she fell in love with The Doctor and he had feelings for her as well, but I guess I’m just a romantic at heart. I loved that story arc. Plus, when she came back for those few episodes later on, she was super badass.
LEAST FAVORITE COMPANION:
Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman).
Nothing against the actress, she was in an earlier episode of Doctor Who playing another character and I had zero problems with her. But Martha Jones? She was just… annoying. She was so clingy to The Doctor and while her time with The Doctor had some great episodes, I hated her character. (Note: I didn’t mind her later on, when she appeared again, not as The Doctor’s companion. She was more confident in herself and held her own.)
FAVORITE VILLIAN / MONSTER:
The Master (John Simm): Because he had a really cool story arc. And he’s a little crazy. Okay, a lot crazy!
The Weeping Angels: Because if you’ve seen the episode ‘Blink’ you’ll know! (I didn’t care for them so much the second time around.)
You’ll never look at angel statues the same way again…
The Lady Cassandra: She just wanted to be beautiful. But she was sneaky and underhanded. I enjoyed her episodes.
Daleks: Because…. DALEK’S!
The Face of Bo: Not a villian, but sort of a monster. I almost cried the last time he sees The Doctor. So sad and tragic. 🙁
LEAST FAVORITE VILLAIN / MONSTER:
The Silence. Seriously.
I can’t even re-watch that season because they’ll give me nightmares. They were not the fun kind of creepy for me, they were (are…) just scary. Honestly, I only made it through the first time around because my husband was watching with me! (Keep in mind, this is coming from the girl who is still afraid of E.T., okay?)
Season 6 is where things got weird, and I’m not even going to go there…. So this is seasons 1 – 5 of New Who.
In order of season:
S1 E9: The Empty Child (part 1) AND… S1 E10: The Doctor Dances (part 2)
– If you’ve ever been awoken in the middle of the night by a child staring at you blankly, you will appreciate these episodes. “Are you my mummy?” has new meaning. This is also our first introduction to Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman).
S2 E13: Doomsday (season finale)
– This was a sad episode where we had to let go of a friend. The season finale’s always pack a punch.
S3 E8: Human Nature (part 1) AND…. S3 E9: The Family Blood (part 2)
– This was just a really cool two part story arc. Two episodes where I didn’t mind Martha Jones so much, plus there are so many feels for The Doctor in this one.
S3 E10: Blink
– This was an episode featuring very little of The Doctor done right. Our first introduction to the Weeping Angels.
S3 E11: Utopia (part 1) AND… S3 E12: The Sound of Drums (part 2) AND… S3 E13: Last of the Time Lords (part 3) (season finale)
– This might be my favorite of the finales. A 3 part story arc and our introduction to The Master. Alternate time lines. Martha Jones undertaking a mission to singlehandedly save the world. It was epic.
S4 E7: The Unicorn and the Wasp
– The Doctor and Donna visit Agatha Christie. This was just such a fun “Whodunit” murder mystery episode.
S4 E8: Silence in the Library (part 1) AND… S4 E9: Forest of the Dead (part 2)
– When I think favorite episodes, the first that come to mind are this two episode story arc and Blink. An abandoned library full of shadow creatures (Vashta Nerada) that will kill you. It was creepy and terrifying and amazing. (We also meet River Song for the first time.)
S4 E10: Midnight
– This is a single episode that adds nothing to the overall season story arc, but I love it as it stands alone. It’s very psychological. The Doctor on a broken down shuttle on the planet Midnight. A mysterious creature taking over one of the passengers. Very creepy and cool.
S4 E11: Turn Left (part 1) AND… S4 E12: The Stolen Earth (part 2)AND… S4 E13: Journey’s End (part 3)
– Doctor Who knows how to do a season finale. This one was one of my favorite. The only thing I hate is that we had to say goodbye to Donna Noble. However, it would lose so much of its impact if we didn’t have to say goodbye to her at this point in time.
S5 E6: The Vampires of Venice
– The Doctor treats Amy and Rory to a trip to Venice. Except…. There are vampires??? This was a fun one. I’m a big fan of vampires, so of course I liked it.
S5 E10: Vincent and the Doctor
– If I could only choose ONE episode of Doctor Who to watch on repeat, it would probably be this one. It’s not very exciting, but the emotion is so raw. Vincent van Gogh was a tortured artist and seeing him interact with Amy and The Doctor was fun. The script was brilliant, Tony Curran as Vincent was amazing, and the bonus of Bill Nighy as the museum curator was beautiful. This episode is full of feels.
S5 E11: The Lodger
– This episode introduced me to James Corden, and I fell in love with his geeky charm. I can’t picture anyone better to be The Doctor’s roommate while he’s stranded on Earth as Amy is stuck in The Tardis.
S5 E12: The Pandorica Opens (part 1) AND…. S5 E13: The Big Bang (part 2)
– Yet another season finale that goes out with a BANG – literally! More feels. Lots of villains. Etc, etc.
As I stated above, season 6 is where things got weird, and I’m not even going to go there…. So this is seasons 1 – 5 of New Who.
In order of season:
S2 E7: The Idiot’s Lantern
– This one just didn’t hold my attention at all.
S2 E10: Love & Monsters
– This one barely featured The Doctor. I get that they were trying to show what the alien encounters on Earth are like without The Doctor around, but it just failed for me on so many levels.
S2 E11: Fear Her
– Another one from season 2. Apparently I didn’t enjoy much of that season. This episode was sort of interesting, but it just didn’t spark enough interest with me to care much to watch it again. I think, if memory serves, the little girl in this episode was just super annoying, so that might be why I don’t care for it.
S5 E4: Time of the Angels AND S5 E5: Flesh and Stone
– I did not care for the reintroduction to The Weeping Angels. They were perfect in ‘Blink’. They should have been left alone!
And now, for fun, a music video I found on YouTube, featuring a brief overview of ALL of The Doctor’s, including the ones I haven’t watched from the original series, minus the most current.
*Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the videos or images shared here. I gave credit where I knew credit belonged.
I was a very bad blogger this past week. I missed Friday Favorites, and Tidy Up Tuesday!
I’ll do better from here on out. (I hope!) You know, assuming I don’t have a ton of work pile up on me at once again!
Without further delay, this week’s Friday Favorites!
Supernatural on The CW. I’ll admit, when this show first aired I wasn’t a fan. It was really dark and serious. (And okay, a little scary. I’m a wuss!) I didn’t watch. Finally, after friends insisted it was absolutely amazing, I gave it another go and binge watched with my husband. After a couple of seasons, the show lightened up a little bit. Sure it’s still dark, but now it’s downright hilarious at times! I’m behind on the show, but I’m binge watching from the beginning again on Netflix (currently on season 8!)
If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what the show is about, I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version: Two brothers (hotties) follow in the path of their father and become Hunters, people who hunt the paranormal. They hang out with angels and fight demons and basically save the world.
I recently managed to rip my comforter. The cat was laying on it, I pulled, apparently on only the top layer of fabric, and rriiipppp!
Well, it was time for a change anyway. I found this bedding at Kohl’s, after hours of searching (I strive for perfection, okay?) and I fell in love. Hubby didn’t care and said to order whatever I wanted. Thankfully, this was on clearance, plus 30% off and free shipping, and I had Kohl’s Cash!
This is the stock photo from Kohls.com, but let me tell you, it’s just as gorgeous in real life (and once my room is tidied and decorated I’ll post photos!) It’s also super warm. Like, it’s winter in Minnesota and I’ve got the ceiling fan going!
I’m officially a fan of LC by Lauren Conrad home decor.
(Unfortunately, the comforter is no longer available, but there are some other amazingly beautiful items in LC’s collection.)
I love Miranda Lambert. She’s so cute and spunky and fun. This is one of her twangier songs, so if you hate country music, you probably won’t like it. I love the video though, the good girls vs the bad girls. The lyric’s are also pretty awesome.
Well I’ve been saved by the grace of Southern charm I got a mouth like a sailor and yours is more like a Hallmark card And if you wanna pick a fight Well I’m gonna have to say goodnight I don’t have to be hateful, I can just say bless your heart
You might see more of Miranda from me in the future, but I’ll try to contain myself for a while.
(FUN FACT: My youngest is named Miranda, though she hates her name and prefers to be called Mina. She wasn’t named for Miranda Lambert, though, the name just seemed “right” when she was born.)
Today I bring you the first in a new series of posts I’m going to start, where I list a few of my favorite things and why. We’re talking books, music, TV, apps, and so on.
“The Mediator” series by Meg Cabot.
The Mediator series by Meg Cabot is hands down one of my favorite in the YA genre. When people ask me for a good YA recommendation, this is one of the first ones I list.
It’s about a sixteen year old girl named Suze (short for Susanna) Simon who just happens to see dead people. When her mom remarries, she’s forced to move from NY to sunny California. Unfortunately (or maybe NOT so unfortunately?), her bedroom is haunted. By a super hot Spanish guy named Jesse, dead for roughly 150 years.
This series has a lot of info dumping, but it’s done in such a humorous way, it’s hard to find real fault with it. Suze is just such an awesome and hilarious character. She loves fashion and looking good, but she’s not afraid to kick some ghost butt when they’re asking for it.
The latest book, Proposal, was just released (review coming soon!) and is a short story taking place about five years after the events in the first six books. The next full length book is Reunion and takes place shortly after Proposal.
I recently discovered the app Duolingo. It’s language learning made fun and easy!
I’m learning Italian right now in 5 minutes a day. I already know a handful of vocab words and I’m sure if I spent more time each day I’d learn quicker.
And I must add, I don’t have a mind for languages! I took three semesters of Spanish in school and my grades progressed from B to C to D, until my last teacher told me, “I think it would be best if you didn’t continue in Spanish next year.” I had absolutely no plans to anyway!
Anyway, if you are interested in learning another language but really don’t have a lot of time to do so, I highly recommend this app.
You will soon learn that I am a nerd. Like, the kind of nerd who used to be addicted to World of Warcraft, and enjoys pop culture things like Harry Potter. And especially things like Wizard Rock, music about Harry Potter. This is my Favorite Wizard Rock Bands, Ministry of Magic, this particular song is one of their sadder ones.