Summer Reading 2016: August

The Selection, The Elite, and The One
by Kiera Cass

This trio of books can essentially be described as The Bachelor in a post-war time period. Following a war between Asia and North America, new countries were formed including the setting of these novels, Illéa. Illéa was named after its creator, Gregory Illéa, with an eight-tiered caste system, which is explored more deeply in the third book, The One. America Singer and her family are considered fives in the caste system, making them artists. Her family is better off than some, but they often still struggle to afford food and other basic necessities. Since women take on the caste of the person they marry, they rarely marry down; however, America is fully ready to marry Aspen, a six, who she's been secretly dating for several years. America is the only child in the Singer family eligible to enter the selection, a competition between 35 girls from across Illéa to win Prince Maxon's heart and become the future queen. Her whole family, especially her mom, pressure her to enter the competition, but she refuses until after Aspen encourages her to, thinking that she won't be chosen, but still not wanting to hold her back. Alas, the day comes and much to America's dismay (and her mother's excitement) she is chosen for the selection and is soon shipped off to the castle. America and her fiery red hair quickly make her a fan favorite, but this shifts often throughout each novel. Similarly, her relationship with Prince Maxon changes frequently, and often quickly, throughout all the books. The girls quickly realize that living in the castle isn't all it's cracked up to be when they find themselves under rebel attacks several times in each book. The motive behind the attacks is explored more when the attacks become more frequent and more deadly. In the end, can America learn to love Maxon, letting go of her long-time lover Aspen? Will Prince Maxon choose America to be his bride? And will they both live to tell about it? Well, you'll just have to read them to find out. Series rating 6/10. Buy The Selection here on Amazon. Buy The Elite here on Amazon. Buy The One here on Amazon. Buy the box set here from Amazon.

Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby

Jo is a sixteen-year-old high school student living in Los Angeles who just so happens to be a paparazzo. Her small frame and height give her an advantage in the field and she can easily make a few hundred dollars a night, all of which she's saving to go to a photography school to make her dreams of becoming a portrait photographer come true. Her favorite star to shoot is teenage heartthrob Ned Hartnett, so when she's offered sixty thousand dollars to go undercover and take pictures of Ned at a retreat facility, she finds it way too hard to say no. Next thing she knows, she's face to face with Ned and the more she gets to know him the harder it is to sell his pictures. Faced with a huge moral decision, deciding whether or not to sell the pictures and make her dreams come true, or respect Ned's privacy, Jo's job just got harder when she finds out where the sixty thousand is coming from and why. Rating 5/10. Buy it here on Amazon.

If you read any of these books or have read them tweet me here!


Summer Reading 2016: July

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

After her mom dies, Lina gets sent to Italy to live with a man she's never met (who just so happens to live in a World War II memorial aka a cemetery. Oh, and he's her dad, too!) to fulfill her mother's dying wish. Howard and Lina's relationship is awkward, to say the least, as they attempt to bond over food and her mom. However, Lina's trip to Italy takes a turn for the better when she's given her mom's old journal from her time spent in Italy as an art student. Lina finds herself visiting the same statues, fountains, bridges, churches, and places as her mom did, alongside her new Italian-American friend, Ren, all while trying to find out more about her mom's mysterious lover and why she left a place she loved so dearly. Rating 10/10 (Warning: This book may cause gelato cravings and inspire a trip to Italy). Buy it here on Amazon.

Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

Meet Erin, Isabel, Apple, and our hilarious narrator, who are all totally obsessed with the 4-piece boyband, The Ruperts. When tickets for the boy's NYC Thanksgiving Special sell out before any of the girls can get their hands on one (let alone four), they plot to stay at the same hotel as their beloved band members. The p is that at some point they'll meet them and get tickets to the show; however meeting one of the band members and holding him hostage was definitely not part of that plan! Now that they have access to his phone and hotel room, these four girls have the power to ruin his life. But when he ends up dead, who's to blame, and will they end up meeting the rest of the boyband? Rating 8/10. Buy it here on Amazon.

Two Summers by Aimee Friedman

"What if..." are Summer Everett's two favorite words. She's about to board a plane to France where she'll meet cute boys, visit art museums, and help her father in his painting studio. But what if she'd taken that one phone call before boarding? Instead, her summer would be spent taking a photography course and growing closer to her long-time crush, Hugh Tyson. In both summers, Summer experiences ups and downs, including the heartbreak of find out her family secret, all while growing more confident in herself. Rating 6/10. Buy it here on Amazon.

Just One Wish by Janette Rallison

A hilarious story centered around a six-year-old with cancer? (I never thought I'd be typing that before) Annika Truman's little brother, Jeremy, has cancer. Annika Truman's little brother is also obsessed with the TV show Teen Robin Hood. So, in a last-ditch effort to get her brother to think positively about his upcoming brain surgery, Annika pulls out all the stops. She tells her brother that she has a genie with two wishes left. The last wish they'll use for his surgery, but he can use the second wish to ask for whatever he wants. Annika thinks he'll use it to ask for the Teen Robin Hood action figure that he's been wanting; instead, he asks for the Real Teen Robin Hood to teach him how to shoot arrows. Now, Annika must travel to Hollywood to track down Steve Raleigh, the actor who plays Robin Hood, and bring him to her hometown to meet Jeremy before his surgery. What could go wrong? Rating 10/10. Buy it here on Amazon.

If you read any of these books or have read any of these books tweet me here!


Adventures with Arabella

Seeing as both of my parents work throughout the entire year, my sister, Arabella, attends camp during her summer break, just as I did when I was her age. However, last week my family was going up to Gladwin for an extended weekend (Friday- Sunday). On Thursday, my sister wasn't scheduled to go to camp, so I stepped in and took her out for the day. 


First, I drove her to Grand Blanc to go see The Secret Life of Pets, which had just been released in theatres the week prior. She loved it (!!) and her favorite character was Duke, a fun-loving, bed-hogging Newfoundland (voiced by Eric Stonestreet), while mine was Chloe, a sarcastic tabby cat that loves food (voiced by Lake Bell). Afterward, we ate lunch at the nearby Buffalo Wild Wings, followed by a short trip to a playground before we headed back to our home. After playing inside for a few hours, we headed back out, this time to the Linden Library and Mill pond to return some books and take some pictures.

Afterwards, we headed to the wooden park in town where she played for a short time (monkey bars are her favorite) before we headed back home for dinner.


Summer Reading 2016: June

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Would recommend if you want to read about the prestigious Sinclair family's dramatic summer breaks while helping the main character and narrator fill in the blanks on what really happened during summer fifteen after she suffers a traumatic brain injury that leaves her with amnesia. What really happened will shock you all and the ending is something you'd never expect. Rating 10/10 (and possibly my new favorite book). Buy it on Amazon here.

Now and Forever by Susane Colasanti

What happens to a teenage girl after her boyfriend skyrockets to
the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and every other girl's heart? How will fame and stardom affect the inseparable teen's relationship? Read all about it in Now and Forever. Rating 7/10. Buy it on Amazon here.

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

Crime fighting Russian/Ukranian spy story meets teenage romance novel? Eight years ago, Natasha Romanoff (AKA Black Widow) saved her mini- me, Ava Orlova, from Ivan Somodorov, their harsh and remorseless Red Room instructor. Now, after many years without contact, Natasha must seek out a less than enthused Ava after she gets intel that Ivan (who was previously thought dead) is now on his way to America to retrieve his prized red heads. She runs into a little trouble after abducting Ava at a fencing tournament when she's first followed by Alex Manor, a boy Ava vividly dreams about, then pursued by Ivan's personal gunmen. What happens when they find out what Ivan is really up to and how are Ava and Natasha truly connected, you'll have to read it to find out. Rating 8/10. Buy it on Amazon here.

If you read any of these books or have read any of these books tweet me here!


BC9: Part 2

The following day was another 'Fun Day at Sea'.  Again, I started my morning by reading on the Lido deck while eating some breakfast.

Carnival is really great about having age-appropriate activities for kids and teens. When I was young enough to participate, I always had a blast.  They divide the kids into categories based on age: Camp Ocean (2-11), which is divided into three subgroups: Penguins, Stingrays, and Sharks; Circle "C" (12-14), and Club O2 (15-17). Arabella was in the Stingray (6-8) category of Camp Ocean. In the past, my shy sister didn't really attend camp; however, she attended quite a few times on this cruise, including this morning. After going to Camp for a few activities, it was time for me to pick her up.

We decided to play mini golf, followed by some soccer in the SportSquare. Afterwards, we meet our parents for lunch on the Lido deck.

Later, Bella and I met with Anna, a family friend who's the same age as me whose family usually cruises with ours, and went to the ship's library to play a few card games. We all love the game garbage, so we played that for a while, followed by a game of war. The library is a floor below all the shops, so we looked around in each of them and bought some candy in the onboard candy store, Cherry on Top. Next, we headed to the Arcade for air hockey and Bella's favorite claw games.

That evening I went for a walk as the sun was setting, which I captured (above), followed by a night relaxing in the hot tub with Anna.

The following morning we docked in Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras. Mahogany Bay is part of a small island off the coast of Honduras and our first destination! Whenever we stop in Honduras, we always go to Little French Key, a private island. They have beautiful waterfronts and lots of activities. While we were there I relaxed and read a book in one of their many hammocks, paddle boarded, and kayaked. LFK also has their own mini zoo with big and small animals alike. Overall, the experience was great and I love going to LFK.

Our next stop on BC9 was Belize City, Belize. Cruise ships cannot dock in Belize because of the coral reefs. Instead, they throw anchor and passengers take a ferry from the boat to the mainland. In Belize we did an Altun Ha Mayan site and a River Wallace tour. After getting off the ferry, we did a little shopping before meeting our tour guides. There was two different buses doing this tour. One bus did the river tour first and the other did the Mayan site first. The bus doing the river part filled up first and there wasn't room for our entire group, so we went on the second bus that went to the Mayan site first. The drive to the site was long, but our tour guides, Jenny and Ken, enlightened us with history facts about the country along the way. They also shared with us how the site was found and the site's name in English, Rockstone Pond, which I found very interesting.

Upon arrival, our tour guides told us about the landscape and natural vegetation, along with information on how the site was found. Then, we moved farther into the site. 

Anna and me before entering the site

The first ruins they showed us was the Temple of the Green Tomb, followed by the Temple of the Water God. Finally, they showed us the Temple of the Sun God. This was the only one we were able to climb on and it was huge, the pictures honestly don't do it justice. It's also a good time to mention that this particular day it was very, very hot. Regardless, my family and I climbed to the top of this temple (stairs on the side) to take some photos. It was even hotter on top of the temple, but so worth it.

After climbing back down, there was two young boys holding crocodiles and they allowed us to hold them and take pictures. We also got to look in a few shops that were outside the shop before leaving. Then, we went to The Orchid Hotel for lunch where they served burgers and fries. Following lunch, we were driven to River Wallace part of the excursion. While on this part we got to see a variety of species including crocodiles, lizards, and bats. Since it was so hot, we didn't get to see any monkeys. Near the end of the tour, we did get to see a few manatees, which was very cool. We returned back to the port with about an hour to spare for shopping, then we took the tender back to the ship.

A view of our ship from the tendor

The last port on BC 9 was Cozumel, Mexico! We had planned to go the Passion Island, but it was extremely windy that day so all excursions with boats had to be cancelled. As a backup, we planned to go to a nearby beach that we've visited before, but after getting off the ship and walking around we thought it was too cold to go in the water anyways. We briefly shopped at the stores that are right off the ship's dock. After we decided that it was too cold to go swimming we headed back to the ship to change out of our bathing suits. For a while, the ships gangway (what's used to get off the ship) had to be closed because another ship was docking, but when it reopened my parents and sister got off the ship to do more shopping in the market area and I choose to stay on the ship and read.

After finishing my book, I realized that I had left my sail & sign (room key) card in my room and had no way of getting into my room to get another book to read, so I wandered around the ship until I found a game of trivia in the lobby that I participated in, followed by a game of charades. Eventually, I went back to the room and knocked on the door, hoping that my family was back and they would open, and they were.

That night, we packed all of our belongs and the following morning we got on a plane to take us first to Nashville, TN, then, back to Detroit, MI.