Television Review: The Blacklist

I recently got hooked on The Blacklist thanks to Netflix and my love of binge watching shows. I was recommended the show from a friend and watched the first episode, but wasn’t so much impressed. However, I gave it another try and by the third episode I was hooked. This is my usual M.O. Which is why I give most shows three episodes before deciding whether or not I like it. And I love The Blacklist!

the blacklist

Summary from IMDB:

A highly articulate, erudite and intelligent businessman and mastermind, “Red” Reddington, has allegedly been on the “10 Most Wanted List” of various U.S. law enforcement agencies for over 20 years. The legend is that Red is as elusive an Artiste as he is clever; Red built and controls a veritable labyrinth of creative enterprises coupled with uncanny ability to gather and finesse information at the drop of a hat. On the first day at FBI for a new female profiler fresh out of Quantico, Red offers to bandy wits with the FBI. Red promises to deliver various criminals and plots previously unknown to any branch of law enforcement… and all Red requests in return is to choose his muse.

James Spader is amazing. His character Red is outside the normal anti-hero on television, he’s more like a movie anti-hero. He goes around killing people, in cold blood, without emotion, because he must to get to his end game. Which I still haven’t bloody figured out yet. At the close of season 1, some of his endgame became clear and his cleverness expounded upon, but mystery yet remains. And that makes this show awesome.

I once read this article on how heroes in large stories are written rather bland and very very normal on purpose. That way whoever is watching or reading the story can easily imagine themselves in that person’s place. I love Leslie Knopes, but she is a character and I don’t easily imagine myself in her place. Elizabeth Keen (played by Megan Boone) us that every man character that the watcher/reader is supposed to easily place themselves inside of. She does get interesting as the show progressives, but at times she is tiring, and not as bad ass as I would hope. I’ve not given up hope on her becoming a little bit more of a character, because she is being set up to grow in that direct, but the first season she is very normal in her reactions and actions and character.

I have so many theories about this story line, but I’ll keep them to myself so I don’t spoil the best thing about this show, you never know where it is going. However, if you want to discuss theories, I’m opening up the comments for spoilers. So beware! Have questions? Want to discuss? Leave a comment. I’d love to swap theories.

Pinterest and the Supernatural Fandom

I finally broke down and created a Pinterest board Carry On My Wayward Son. It was inevitable. The Supernatural Fandom is one of the best. They are great. The show is really awesome as well. I think that the season five finale is one of the best season finales of any show that I’ve seen. I will admit that season six is a little wonky because the writers didn’t know they were going to get that season until the last minute, but the rest of the show is pure gold and available on Netflix for binge watching. Plus, the show has Misha Collins and Felicia Day on it as well as the two golden boys Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. What more could one want?

Dean LARPing

dean larp

Amazing fan art

salt fan art

Felicia Day as Charlie in bobble head form for the win.

felicia day bobble head

Misha Collins has the best answers ever and always!

misha collins

eBook Review: Taking the Fall by Laney Monday

Taking the Fall by Laney Monday is a free ebook I downloaded after reading about it in my BookBub daily email. If you haven’t been getting BookBub’s emails, you really should sign up for their free service! It is awesome.

taking the fall

Summary via Amazon:

Olympian Brenna Battle once had the fire. Now, she’s just burned out—and burned by love. She’s ready to retire from competitive judo and pursue a new dream in a new town, with her biggest supporter, her recently divorced little sister, Blythe. But on their first day in town, Blythe falls for local sleaze-bag reporter, Ellison Baxter, and their small-town welcome is stained by Baxter’s murder. The weapon—Blythe Battle’s hair brush.

In this fast-paced, fun cozy mystery, Brenna, the proud new owner of the building that formerly housed Bonney Bay’s lone recreational opportunity for kids, Little Swans Ballet, is ready to turn tutu-clad powder-puffs into little warriors by opening a judo school for kids in its place. But now she must clear her sister’s name and save her new dream from ending even more disastrously than her Olympic hopes. Brenna must deal with one crazy member of the local police force, who’s determined to see the sisters pay—and another cop, whose deep brown eyes just might drive Brenna crazy—in a way her battered heart just can’t take.

I’ve read a lot of cozy tea novel mysteries, so I think I have a fair idea of what to expect when I read them. I found this book to be a bit aggravating. For a fairly intelligent woman and written character, Brenna does some crazy stupid things. Once something that did not even make sense with her character. Other than this flaw, the story is lively and interesting with some fun quirky characters. I liked Blythe as a character and I wish her background had been worked into the story a little more. I get that she is a side character, but a pretty big one. If she and Brenna have a great relationship this should be shown with back story, and it was a little lacking in the first book. I get that it is the first book in a series and the author doesn’t want to reveal everything, but a little more background of their relationship would have flushed out the story and filled in some gaps.

Riggens is the romantic interest in the story, and he is surprise! a cop. One of my favorite tea cozy novel series is the Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris.  What was so unique about the series was the intelligence and ingenuity of Aurora while throwing away a lot of the cliches of the genre, for example her romantic interest was not a cop/FBI/badboywhoworksforthegoodguys type of person. While the character Riggens was different his insertion and place in the plot line was predictable. I would also have liked a little more background on him as he is another important secondary character. Hopefully that part of the story is also expounded upon in future books. In the mean time, can he at least make a decent move on Brenna? A kiss? A kiss! Not even a date. Bah. One of the reasons people read cozy tea novels is for the romantic interest, and his interest was a little low and a little lame. Get it together Riggens!

A decently written tea cozy novel, Taking the Fall by Laney Monday fits nicely into its category and gives the reader what they expect from the genre. Interesting and fairly strong female characters with a dose of danger and mystery.

You can read another review here.

I Mustache You Some Questions

I was tagged by Picture Us Reading last month to answer some questions. Yes, it takes me a month to get to things some times. Spring break brought several visitors to my doorstep, which was awesome but took away from blogging time. I thought this post would be a good catch up and fun! Thanks for tagging me Alisa!

*It took me three days to write this and then I didn’t feel like editing it. I had company, interviews, and started a job within the last two weeks. Plus, I found out about this game called SimCity Build It and I’m totally addicted and my little city needs my attention. So, yes, that is more important to me than editing right now. Sorry.

mustache-questions-300x300

Four Names People Call Me Other Than My Real Name

1. Jamers

2. J.Z.

3. Pajamas

4. Honey Bumpkins (OK, just my husband calls me this and still lives, but I think it counts)

Honestly, nicknames don’t really last for me (except for Jamers). I had to dig into my memory bank for a few of these.

Four Jobs I’ve Had

1. Like Alisa I worked as a circulation student assistant at my law library and shelving books is tedious. But it can also me very meditative. I also was able to get a lot of homework done at the front desk because I worked nights in a law school library where other overachievers would hole up in their nooks and study all night and not bother the circulation desk.

2. I’ve worked as a bookseller at two different book stores. This is not as glamorous as it sounds. It is also a lot of book shelving and in one store dealing with screaming idiots every single day. Unfortunately not everyone who comes into a bookstore knows how to read, especially not signage.

3. Barista/Server/Grill Cook. I’ve worked in the food service industry for almost ten years. Never again. Never again.

4. I worked as an attorney for the City of Chicago. This also was not all that glamorous. While I have my “fun to tell at parties” stories, it was mostly just a lot of paper work, filing, and making phone calls. No Perry Mason moments and no one dressed half as nice as in The Good Wife.

Four Movies I’ve Watched More Than Once

Goodness. I rewatch movies alllll the time. In no certain order or importance:

1. 50 First Dates

2. Serenity

3. Fargo

4. Boondock Saints

Four Books I’d Recommend

1. Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane (and the entire Chess Putnam series)

2. Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson (and the entire Queen Betsy series)

3. Storm Front by Jim Butcher (and the entire Dresden Files Series)

4. Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning (and the entire Fever series and don’t be misled by the covers this is not just some steamy romance series, though it is also that. It has one of the best character arcs that I have ever read.)

Four Places I Have Lived

1. Copenhagen, NY (a place that got 21 feet of snow this year)

2. Goshen, IN (where I spent most of my childhood)

3. Chicago, IL (where I went to live near my mom and ended up going to law school)

4. Mt. Crawford, VA (where I lived during my tweens and teenage years also where one of my favorite authors currently lives)

Four Places I Have Been

I haven’t been out of the country much. I did visit 1) Israel and I have been to 2) Canada. I’ve traveled the US a bit. I’ve been coast to coast. I’ve visited 3) San Francisco, CA and I got married in 4) Virginia Beach, VA.

Four Places I’d Rather Be Right Now

1. Hogwarts

2. Rivendell

3. Aboard the Farscape or Serenity

4. Narnia

I am really happy with where I am right now. I would like to travel in the future, but if I could be transported somewhere right this second, I would go to one of my top fantasy/magical worlds. You can check out the Top 10 Fantasy Worlds here.

Four Things I Don’t Eat

1. Spicy foods. I don’t have a sense of smell so I can’t taste except for the five areas on my tongue. This means spicy foods just set my mouth on fire and don’t add flavor to foods.

2. Dairy foods. I am lactose intolerant. If I take dairy aid pills I can handle small doses, but that’s about it.

3. Curry. I’m allergic to some curries and therefore avoid all of them.

4. Avocado. Again, it doesn’t taste like anything and it is really really slimy. Gugh. I don’t even eat guacamole. Blech.

Four of My Favorite Foods

1. Snicker Ice Cream Bars

2. Toasterstrudels

3. Chocolate (FOR THE WIN!)

4. Skittles

TV Shows That I Watch

1. The Vampire Diaries

2. Supernatural

3. The Office (my husband and I watch this at night. It is hilarious.)

4. The Blacklist (SOOOOOO good!!!)

Four Things I Am Looking Forward To This Year

1. I started a new job! I’m looking forward to a new place of employment and greater career opportunities. I’m working at an insurance group, which doesn’t sound glamorous, But I do think it is the right fit for me.

2. Trips to King Spa and Sauna a wonderful place for a staycation.

3. A possible real vacation to Virginia Beach for our anniversary.

4. Celebrating our first date anniversary by going to the Medieval Castle here in Dallas. This time we will go prepared with an Uber driver and extra money for booze.

Four Things I’m Always Saying

1. I know, right?

2. Insinuendo (insinuate and innuendos)

3. Flay-g instead of Flah-g. One place where my northern upbringing shines through is when i say, bag, wagon, flag, or dragon.

4. Holy Cats (I picked this up from my father, so you can blame him!)

Four People I Tag

*Please don’t feel you have to, but I’m tagging you in case you want to.*

Meet TrendyTracy who is traveling the world now with her husband. She has a fashion blog and is someone I know IRL. She is just as sweet and amazing in person as she is in her photos. Check out her website.

The ladies at The Book Wars. If you aren’t following them you should. They do some amazing collaborative posts that are just awesome reads. Luckily there are four of them and each could answer the question once. I mean I had to come up with four nicknames going back to when I was in high school!

I’ve just recently started following The Book Stop. She also does book reviews so you guys should check her out as well!

And I’m not sure she even does these sort of tagging blog pieces, but you guys should really head on over to Deidra Alexander’s Blog. She writes these amazing pieces of art that are at times laugh out loud funny, but sometimes more reflective and they always feel true and honest.

Geeky Gadgets Galore on Pinterest

I found some really awesome Geeky Gadgets while whittling away the insomnia hours at bed time and decided to create a board reflecting such gadgetry. Clink on the link above or here to see all of them that I’ve found so far and follow if you are so inclined! Below are a few faves.

This gadget will show you the time, project your emails, texts, etc. It is called a Ritot: Projection Watch. I call it a bit creepy, Chris thinks it is insanely awesome. I suspect we are both right. Click on the link above or the picture below to link to the IndieGoGo site. Yes, that’s right. It’s still in development.  [via Buzzfeed]

creepy gadget

This little device lets you have flexibility in charging your phone iPhone. I think it would be cool to use in a car in order to see my directions better. Alas, I will never own one because I will never own an iPhone and my charging port sits pretty low on my car console. [via Mashable]

charger

You can customize a Whooz to look like yooz. Again only for the iDevice, gah. Geeky people like Androids too! Gasp. I know. [via Mashable]

whooz

Air Umbrella, it’s an umbrella of air. No more getting whacked in the face with a passer-by’s umbrella, no more inside out umbrellas, just air. I want this. [via Yanko Design]

air umbrella

But my favorite is this Tetris Stackable LED Desk Lamp on Think Geek which is totally cool! [via Laughing Squid]

tetris lamp

eBook Review: Dreamwalker

I recently joined NetGalley and received an eBook of Dreamwalker (The Red Dragon Academy Book 1) by Rhys Bowen and C.M. Broyles in exchange for an honest review.

dreamwalker 1

Summary from Amazon:

Seven Children, Seven Powers. One Enemy. Addy Walker is a normal California surfer girl until her mother dies and her British aunt enrolls her at a boarding school called Red Dragon Academy in Wales. At first the school seems okay, if a little weird. Which other school has a sun-day when it’s not raining? But when Addy stumbles upon a hallway that leads to a different and horrible part of the school she begins to have her doubts. Addy has always had vivid dreams but now these dreams are becoming frighteningly real and she has a hard time telling dreams from reality. Was it really only in a dream that she visited the cold palace and met the man who wants her captured? He calls her a dreamwalker and it seems that this is a special and dangerous power. Is Addy really able to move between two worlds or is she finally cracking up? Dreamwalker is the first book in the Red Dragon Academy series and in it we meet Addy, as well as snooty Pippa, brainy Raj, cheeky Sam, serious Coby, shy Gwyllum and worldly Celeste—all who may have been brought to the school because of their special powers. All of whom may be in mortal danger from a terrifying tyrant who calls himself The One, in a land that seems a lot like Wales, but isn’t.

Dreamwalker starts out with a great premise. Who doesn’t love schools full of magic and powers? The characters are all interesting and different, and I see a lot of promise in their abilities and friendships as the series grows. I was also fascinated that Addy’s power is one of dreamwalking since I have such vivid dreams myself. I easily related to how she felt when she realized that what she thought was something that really happened turned out to be her unconscious mind.

However, some of the promise I saw in the series was not realized in the story itself. I felt the pacing of the book was off, some parts moved extremely slow while the emotional aspects of some serious moments moved quickly with little development of Addy’s psyche. Addy finds out some things about her past that are quite shocking and would be devastating, especially to someone who has just lost their only support system. Yet she spends little time processing these things in anyway whatsoever, let alone in a constructive way. While I understand people have a perception of children as being resilient and teenagers as being closed mouthed when it comes to emotions, the inner turmoil is still there and that is something I did not see. Personally, I wish there had been more development of the emotional side of her character verses the adventures.

And the book is full of adventures. It has treasure hunts, haunted hallways, mysterious teachers, etc. I really did enjoy some of those scenes and moments that Addy has on her adventures. The premise and even the world building are well done. It is a decently written book except for some pacing and emotional character development. It is possible that these will be improved in the next book in a series, but I’m not sure I will read them to find out. While I felt a connection to Addy’s ability in dreamwalking, I didn’t feel a connection to Addy herself. Personally, I look for connections to the characters not just the world they live in. Overall, I think the story was interesting and it kept me reading despite some drawbacks. (This may have something to do with the fact that much of the explanation for things didn’t happen until I was ninety percent of the way through the book. Ninety percent!)

If you enjoy adventure stories about schools full of children with interesting abilities, you may find this book to your liking.

P,S. I know this is basically an ARC via NetGalley, but the formatting on my mobile device was severely lacking. I spent a goodly amount of my time trying to sus out who said what. I hope these formatting kinks are worked out for the people who pay to read the story.

Pallet Project: My New Coffee Table

Pinterest is great. It makes you long for things you’ll probably never get and put on your to-do list DIY projects that will never get done. That is unless you have an awesome significant other, like myself, who has carpentry skills and tools any Pinterest pinner would die for. I saw these cool posts about pallet coffee tables (inspiration 1 and inspiration 2) and my husband assured me that he could get a few pallets really cheap and could totally build me a coffee table. Then he actually did. It was awesome. It took us over ten hours to complete and that does not include that time we let it set outside to dry and air out from the clear coat. While he doesn’t do as much of it any more, Chris’ trade was painting and carpentry so we had access to a lot of cool gadgets that aided us in getting it done in one weekend.

We used three pallets. On one, we took off the bottom boards and used the top boards as our new bottom. Then we tore up boards from two other pallets. We used pallets that were made of different wood but still the same thickness so our table would be (somewhat) even. Taking the boards off of the other two pallets to use as our new table top was the hard part. Some of them split and we had to toss those boards to the side. Chris used a sawzaw to cut through the nails between the board and the frame in order to get the boards off of their original frames. We cut the boards down to the size of our first pallet.

cutting planks off pallet

Then we sanded every board on every side.

sanding the pallet

Table turned upside down. I’m sanding the bottom.

Then we clear coated the top of the bottom boards with poly.  We knew we were designing the piece so that the top of the bottom boards would become the bottom of shelves. I wanted to set books and other items on the shelves without fear of splinters or ruining book covers. Then we stained two of the top boards and the sides of the coffee table. I wanted the finished look to be non-uniform and still look like a pallet. I purposefully spaced the board so that they would not be flush with each other, I stained only two pieces on purpose, and chose different wood with different treatments to give our table a unique look. (There is some concern that because pallets are treated wood they should not be used indoors, since we sanded and coated our boards with a clear coat we are confident our table is fine to use indoors.)

stains and poly used

This is a picture of the stain and poly we used. I did not want a heavy look to the stain so Chris painted the stain on and then wiped off some of the stain with a towel to achieve the look I wanted. We added a Japan Drier to the clear coat so that it would dry quicker. However, this makes the remaining clear coat not usable afterward, so be sure to put it into a separate pail with your estimated usage before adding the Japan Drier. Also remember to apply both the stain and the clear coat in a well ventilated area while using gloves.

I saw "we" but Chris did most of the work. I helped when I could and took pictures to post on social media sites in between.

I saw “we” but Chris did most of the work. I helped when I could and took pictures to post on social media sites in between helping.

At the end of the first day we had our design,  all the boards cut to the correct length and placed (but not nailed down), the inside of the table clear coated, and specific pieces stained. We let it sit in a well ventilated area overnight.

end of the first day

The next morning we spent an hour at a hardware store configuring our leg frame design. This ended up being the most expensive part of the project as we used piping and that cost quite a bit (see inset in picture below). As this table is something we proudly made together and is supposed to last for more than a little amount of time, we decided to go for exactly what we wanted instead of making do with re-purposing another piece of furniture (our other idea for legs).

sanded pallet

Once we got back to our work space, we clear coated the actual bottom of the table (the bottom of the bottom boards) and set that aside to dry. We cleaned up the piping with a thinner and put our frame together. We used 1/2 inch piping for the legs and sides and 3/8 inch piping for the pipe running down the middle. Once the clear coat had dried we attached the pipe frame to the bottom of the pallet project and turned it over. Then we nailed the top boards down with a nail gun.

Since we had started the project by cutting our boards down to size, the cut off ends still had the original nails in them. We re-purposed the original nails as decorative detail by drilling a small hole and pounding the original nail head into place. These nails are not actually holding the boards down to the frame. We used a pin-nailer to attach the boards to the frame. We applied a coat of poly, let it dry, sanded the first coat, and then added a second coat of to the top boards and sides.

final images of pallet project