Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Jury Duty Psychosis

I got called for jury duty today. It ended up being 5 hours sitting in the jury pool room, running on 4 hours sleep, and it was extremely boring. To entertain myself, I narrated the experience on Facebook. Thought I'd share here, more for my own future reminiscing than for your enjoyment, but that would be a happy side effect. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Best Work Call EVER.

Tonight I answered the phone at work and was unprepared for the conversation that would follow. 

Me: Hello, this is Ashley, can I help you?

Sir: Yeah, hi, I'm hoping I don't come off sounding crazy.

Me: Okay?

Sir: I live at [apartments a few doors down]. Were you working last Wednesday?

Me: No, but I might be able to answer your question anyways [thinking he's going to ask about the concert series].

Sir: So you saw it too?!

Me: Saw what?

Sir: Oh, I thought you said you knew what I was talking about. I don't want to sound crazy. I'm as sober as a judge, ya know, but I saw something in the sky Wednesday night and it looked like it was coming from near you guys.

Me: Oh. No, I don't know anything about it.

Sir: Yeah, it was so strange so I grabbed my neighbors and we were all trying to figure out what it was. It wasn't a helicopter or something. It was strange.

Me: [intrigued from watching too much Ancient Aliens lately] Oh?

Sir: I'm not drunk or anything, I'm sober as a judge. And I know what helicopters look like. This thing had three white lights, and two red ones. And it would move to the side, then stop suddenly and just...hover. Then it would shoot straight up or to the side, real quick, and then go back to hovering. Maybe it was a drone, but I don't think they're as big as this thing was. It was out there for about 15 minutes just hovering with the lights. I know I probably sound crazy.

Me: No, that's okay.

Sir: I...I hate to say it, looked like...It looked like a UFO, you know? I've never seen anything like it in my life! A few of my neighbors were out there with me and they haven't either. One girl tried to take a picture with her phone but couldn't get it. It was just so strange.

Me: Wow.

Sir: I've been debating calling to ask someone about it because I didn't want to sound crazy, but I just had to ask. I thought maybe you do airlifts or something that that's what I saw.

Me: No, we don't do that here. They do at the hospital [down the road a little bit] though.

Sir: Yeah, but I don't really think it was a helicopter anyways. It looked totally different. Ah, well, thanks for trying to help.

Me: No problem! Wish I knew something about it.
[conversation ends politely]

Best. Phone call. Ever. Made my night.

Of course, I turned to Google when I got home, and he's not the only one to have noticed it. It's recorded on the National UFO Reporting Center's registry with the same details he gave me (except he gave a little extra- like the number of lights). 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"Own Your Life"

I wanted to like this book. I really did. That title? AWESOME. But the content? Not so much.

Well, I take that back. The content was okay, but it didn't match the title. Ignoring the abundance of imagery and flowery language (not my style, but it works for some people), the book title and chapter titles didn't fit with what was discussed. I feel a better title would be "Own Your Faith". The author's answer to pretty much every problem mentioned in the book was "pray, read your Bible, and have more faith", nothing tactile, no practical steps to even improve those areas. I was also put off by the number of times the author mentioned all the books and conferences her ministry had produced, bringing up the same stories over and over.

I know a lot of women are loving this book, but it missed the mark for me. It wasn't what I expected, and not in the good way. It also frustrated me that like many other Christian books for women, it's assumed that all women are mothers and wives. I skipped the last two chapters because they were solely about marriage and motherhood. Truthfully, the only reason I finished this one was because I had requested it to review. There were just odd little moments in this book that didn't do it for me.

The reason it gets two stars from me is because it is a decent book...for someone else. For a different purpose. There were a few statements early in the book that I enjoyed and underlined, but then it fell flat.

2/5 Stars

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dublin's Best Kept Secret Museum

This last trip to Dublin I discovered the best little museum! I hadn't seen it advertised anywhere, not even on the grounds. How did I find it? Checking the hours of the main museum on the grounds.

Okay, that is a little vague, I'm just going to tell you what this amazing little place is: the Zoology Museum at Trinity College! I have never seen it mentioned in a guidebook, visitor center, or even at the college. When I went online to see when the Book of Kells and Library opened on the bank holiday, they listed the hours for the Zoology museum, so we decided to check it out. We stopped at one of the information booths outside the library to ask where it was, and they were so happy and surprised that we asked! Apparently no one knows about this museum, and that is a real shame, because it was one of my favorite things of the trip.

Located WAY at the back of the campus, the building is beautiful, like most on the grounds. The only acknowledgment that the museum exists is the small chalkboard sign out front.

Follow the signs to the second floor and you find the museum. It's two fairly small rooms, but they're packed with really cool things. The student guide was so nice and helpful! Instead of just answering questions, he helped us figure out the answers and was a fount of knowledge on all things animal.

The first thing I noticed was a giant horn on the table. I immediately knew what it was: A narwhal horn! One of the coolest things about this place: anything on the table you can touch and pick up. INCLUDING THE NARWHAL HORN! 

I would've held it up on my head except it's surprisingly heavy (also, ceiling). But seriously cool. I'm still really excited that I held a narwhal horn.

I had to ask what this next one was and was surprised because I didn't think it'd be so small! Can you guess based on my clue?

While we're talking about bones, you can play with lots of bones here! Like, look at this bucket of vertebrae!

Or this tray of chimpanzee bones for you to reassemble:

You can pretend you're Brennan working on a special case for Booth...or is that just me?

There's a complete elephant skeleton, too, but already assembled.

These were some of the mystery objects to identify. The top right you could pick up and handle to help figure out what it is (and no, I'm not telling you).

 Now, on to the teeth! There were plenty of different kinds to touch.

How cool are humpback whale teeth???

And finally, I leave you with these teeth and my lovely face. 
Help! I've been eaten by a Great White Shark! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Announcing the Build Your Own Read-a-Thon!

I'm so excited for this announcement! This morning I was thinking about read-a-thons and how so far this summer, I had only been able to half participate in one thon because none of them fit my schedule. So I had decided to make my own when it all came to me in the shower. Thus, the Build Your Own Read-a-Thon was born. And I want you to join me! Here's how it works.

1) Choose your dates. Choose any 5 consecutive days between August 2015 and August 2016 for your BYORAT that works for your schedule. This inaugural year I'm choosing Aug 25-28. Of course, with the nature of this -thon, you could do it multiple times during the year and have different challenges each time.

2) Choose your reading challenges. These are certainly not mandatory, but they make BYORAT more interesting. Choose up to 5, based on your reading habits. You can choose your favorites or, as I'm going to do,  put them all in a hat and randomly choose 5.
  • Read an entire book without putting it down
  • Read a book that's been on your TBR for, like, forever
  • Read a banned book (here's a list or two from the ALA)
  • Read a book who's cover is your least favorite color
  • Read a book with 400+ pages
  • Read a book with your name on the cover (either actually there, like the author name, or made up from letters in the title and author's name)
  • Read 5 books during the -thon
  • Read a full trilogy or series
  • Read a book you most recently acquired
  • Read a book that everyone has read and talks about, but you haven't just read yet
3) Choose your video challenges. Again, not mandatory, but fun. If you don't have a YouTube channel you can do the challenges as photos on your blog, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. Same as above, choose five, one for each day.
  • Socialize (aka make a video with another person: family, friend, whoever)
    • The topic of this video is up to you, as long as it's bookish. Play a game, take a challenge, gush about a mutually loved book, or for the brave, debate your bookish differences (Peeta vs. Gale, anyone?). Whatever. 
  • Bookish MASH
    • Remember that game MASH you played in junior high where you and JTT ended up with 8 kids living in a shack paid for by your job as a secret agent? Well throw some bookish facts in there to make your fictional life even better! 
  • Sequel Synopsis
    • Share what you think should happen in the sequel of a book that doesn't actually have a sequel.
  • Book Art
    • Take those books off your shelf and make them into something pretty! Stack them to make a castle, lay them out in the shape of a puppy, build a book flower...Use your imagination to add a twist to the classic book tower.
  • Cover Redesign
    • That book with the cover that you HATE? Here's your chance to fix it.
  • Fictional Character Interview
    • Get creative and ask a character what you've always wanted to know. Why was Snape so horrible to Harry? Why can't America make up her mind in the Selection? Ask those tough questions and let us all know the answers.
  • Foreign Review
    • Give us a review of a book you read this week with an accent. I don't care if you can't do a recognizable accent to save your life (that's me, by the way), make something up. That will make it even better.
  • Travel Advisor
    • Give us a commercial for your favorite fictional destination letting travelers know why they should come there. Should I go to Mordor? How do I get there? What's the weather like in Forks this time of year?
  • Love an Author
    • This one might be my favorite. You're going to take a moment to really thank one of your favorite authors. Send them a nice email, or even an old school letter (bonus points!). Take the time to do something a little more than a nice tweet. 
  • Take it Outside!
    • Film your update outside in the fresh air. Bonus points for actually reading outside, too.
4) Get started! Now that you've got your dates and challenges, get to it! Let me know when and where you're participating so I can follow along. Use the hashtag #BYORAT across all social media to find others building their own read-a-thons. I'm adding all this info to a tab at the top of my blog for easy reference. We've also got a GoodReads group started here!

I'm so excited about this and hope you'll join me in building your own read-a-thon. I think it's going to be a lot of fun!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"A Noble Masquerade"

I really enjoyed this book! Such a fun and delightfully awkward debut Regency romance!

Miranda is born and raised aristocracy. Her father was a duke, a title her brother now holds, which brings certain responsibilities for Miranda's behavior. She has always chaffed at the Lady Rules laid out for her and has spilled her thoughts and emotions into letters to one of her brothers adventurous schoolmates. She never sends them, of course, but getting everything onto paper makes her feel better. One day during her fourth season in society, her brothers handsome new valet accidentally finds and mails one of the letters. Miranda's mortification is lessened slightly when she actually receives a letter in response! She sons finds herself developing feelings for both men, despite the obvious inappropriateness of both relationships. To complicate matters, a kidnapping and national traitor are linked to her home, putting more than her heart on the line.

I loved this book. Such an enjoyable summer read! Miranda and her awkwardness are so relatable my stomach was in knots for most of the book. I felt her embarrassment through so many moments. Like when one of the men she finds attractive accidentally punches her in the face. Or when she flings a plate of food around the entire dining room.

Ryland is just the SWEETEST. While also being the most frustrating. All the secrets and misdirections the first few times they met had me so anxious! But the way he cared so much for Miranda just as she was, even in her least ladylike moments, was just so sweet. It wasn't so much that he looked past her flaws and still loved her, as he saw her flaws and loved her because of them.

I can't wait to read more of this series! I had so much fun with this one.
A Noble Masquerade is available in September through Bethany House.

4/5 Stars

I received this book form the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 10, 2015


Where do I even start with this book?? 

First: It was amazing. Second: No, seriously, this book is SO. GOOD. Bold capitalized italics good. I read the entire book (600 pages) in a day. The more I think about it, the more I love it. The easiest 5-star book of the year for me.

I'm going to do this with as few spoilers as possible, but not sure I can contain the gushing, so you'll just have to deal. I'll put headings if you want to just read my opinions on certain parts. This review might be a bit long. But you should read it so you can get excited for this book.

PLOT: In the briefest, least spoilery terms, Illuminae is the first book in a new YA sci-fi trilogy that follows a group of intergalactic refugees fleeing their planet after it has been attacked by the largest mining conglomerate in the 'verse. While on board their rescue ships, they face constant threat from enemy ships, a lethal plague from bioweapons, malfunctioning AI, and forced military service. Oh, and there's some sappy awkward romance. 

DESIGN: I knew nothing going into this book. I had snagged copy at BookCon, and the amazing cover and design of the whole book (even as an ARC) made me want to read it, even knowing nothing. You can see a glimpse of the cover(s) here. Essentially, the hard cover is a white background covered with text: some scribbled, some highlighted, some blacked out. Most lines are pulled straight from the book, while some on the back are actually regular back copy blurb (I didn't realize this until I sat down to read it, and even then there was so much random text I just dove into the book instead). Over this hard cover there's an acetate slipcover that blocks most of those words while highlighting others. And the book is praised by Marie Lu and Laini Taylor on the slipcover! 

A quick flip through the book shows that this isn't your average book. There are white pages and black pages. Pages with photos made completely of words, diagrams of spaceships, and all different fonts and typography tricks. And all cursing is blacked out because "sure, the story kicks off with the deaths of thousands of people, but god forbid there be cussing in it, right?" (pg 1). 

This book is a visual playground in black and white.

WRITING: You hold in your hands a 600 page file containing all the pertinent investigational documents for the Kerenza incident: medical records, pilot reports, security footage transcripts, hacked IMs and emails, AI "thought" records, diagrams, etc. The story is pieced together with these mostly official documents, woven together by the Illuminae group, who were kind enough to clip in a few notes. They all work together to complete an intriguing story that twists and turns the whole way until you, the reader, are left at the end breathless, talking to the story, wondering how two humans invented this brilliant book.

CHARACTERS: I love the characters in this book. Kady is such a regular, amazing, kick ass girl. She is terrified most of the book- breaking down in corners, crying in spacesuits- but she pulls herself up, uses her unique skills, and does what needs to be done, willing to sacrifice herself for the others on the ship. Her transformation throughout the book is so inspiring, and I can't wait to see her continue to grow in the rest of the series.

Ezra is such a geeky poet and I love him. I hope we get more from him in the rest of the series. And his friends, they added some great humor and realness to the book. Then we have AIDEN. I can't begin to tell you my feelings about AIDEN. No, seriously, I can't tell you without spoiling everything. "Am I not merciful?"

I really appreciated the strong female characters throughout the book with leadership roles. Its a shame that its a surprise, but most of the leadership positions in the book were held by women and it was great.

SUMMARY: Basically, I loved this book. The plot, the style, the characters, the world- I love it all! It was just so well done and so interesting. I liked going into this one not knowing anything. And if you read my plot heading and thought it wasn't your thing, you should still give this book a chance. Had I read the blurb, I may not have read it, either. But the way it's written is unlike anything else I've read and totally worth the ride. This book is going to be big. And I would be shocked if it doesn't become the next big YA book to movie adaptation franchise. It would play out so well on screen.

Unfortunately, this book doesn't come out until October 20th. Sorry. But the pre-sale price on Amazon can't be beat! Less than $10 for the hardcover, and TRUST ME, you want the hardcover, not the ebook. There's also a pretty awesome website that you should check out. New content is posted on the 20th of each month leading up to the release. Also, keep an eye on my YouTube channel where I'll post a book talk video about this book closer to it's release.

5/5 stars
HIGHLY recommended. 

I received this book from the publisher at BookCon under no obligation.

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