Thursday, August 24, 2017

Book Reviews 2017: More YA Book Reviews

**All reviews on Randomness With Rachel are done on a five star rating system. The reviews are solely my opinion and no one else's. Randomness With Rachel does not receive any incentives or compensations for reviews.**

Lock and Mori by Heather W. Petty

Despite only a three star rating, I felt this book was an entertaining read, it just didn't have what it needed to bump it to four stars. I believe it could have been so much more. 

The book is a modern version of Sherlock Holmes where he and James "Mori" Moriarty are teenagers and friends. I feel there are more Sherlock themed books nowadays. Probably thanks to the popularity of the TV show. Anyways, Mori is a girl in this book, by the way- she goes by Mori because she doesn't like her birth name of James. 

The writing isn't bad, but there were parts that seemed a little slow and unnecessary, but it didn't totally ruin the book for me. The mystery part was interesting, but even in a YA novel, I feel it could have gone deeper. It seemed too simple and almost an insult to any young adult reading it, they could handle more depth in their mystery. I did like the main characters though and will try out the next book in the series. I look forward to their next adventure (and most likely, mystery).

Even When You Lie To Me by Jessica Alcott

I didn't love this book, but I also didn't hate it. It was an easy read, I pretty much read it in two days. It seems the whole teacher/student taboo attraction/love/lust is a popular story line in YA fiction these days. I don't know where all these good looking teachers were when I as in high school, but they definitely were not at my school. 

I feel this story had a lot of potential, but then it got too cliche. The main character lacks self-esteem and feels she is ugly. Side note: I know teenagers can be over-dramatic and I get that when reading YA, but OMG- this girl was "woe is me" every time she opened her mouth. Her BFF is beautiful and gets all the guys (because of course). Her mother, who was the beautiful, popular Homecoming Queen when she was younger, is unsympathetic and constantly trying to change her daughter (instead of accepting her individuality). And the father just seems to be walked over by his whole family (grow a pair, dude).

As you can imagine, there are "adult themes" talked about in this book, but the descriptions don't get too graphic.

I know this is the author's first book. I feel her writing potential is there so I would try another book if she publishes a new one.

I finished these books July 10 and July 20, respectively, so they go towards my 40 by 40 challenge.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

What I'm Loving!

I'm loving...

That I can still find little things to make me happy. There is too much hate and sadness in the world right now. You can't log onto social media without it being the main thing you see. I know there are HORRIBLE things going on, and it makes me sad (and yes, angry), but instead of letting it fill me with anger and hatred, I choose to focus on things that are positive and that bring me joy. I'm not trying to ignore what's going on, just because I don't go on a rant on social media doesn't mean that I approve of it or that it doesn't make me mad. But constantly posting angry rants isn't going to help anything. I'm not saying that I can change the heart of the world by being positive and uplifting, but I'm not going to let the negative world change my heart. Okay, so with that being said, here are the things I'm loving this week....

I'm loving...

That I was able to meet everyone's favorite principal, Mr. Belding! Saved by the Bell was one of my favorite shows as a kid and such a big part of my childhood. Dennis Haskins is one of the nicest people I have ever met. And he said he doesn't mind being called Mr. Belding (I honestly couldn't bring myself to call him anything else). He was at the Roughriders game on Saturday signing autographs and taking pictures. It was so nice to have met him! 

He even did some SnapChat photos!
The group photo my friends and I took (and tweeted to him) was a little dark, so he was nice enough to edit it and tweet it back to us!
My friend Andrew couldn't make the game, but wanted an autograph, so he tweeted Mr. Belding that I was supposed to get an autograph for him. When I introduced myself, Mr. Belding asked, "Are you Rachel from Twitter? You need to get an autograph for Andrew." So, here is Mr. B signing something for Andrew. :)
I'm loving...

That my friends and I FINALLY had our Girls Night Out last Saturday. We had been planning it since May. We went to the RoughRider game (wearing our Bayside Tigers shirts for our photo with Mr. Belding). We also stayed for the post game 90s themed concert. It was a lot of fun, I love these ladies!! 

I'm loving...

My coworkers. Over the last few months, it has been crazy around my office, and there are still changes and challenges going on. It does help when you have some awesome coworkers to keep you sane on those challenging days!

We were told not to take a selfie during the solar eclipse because the reflection off the phone would hurt our eyes, so we closed them. Lol 

Speaking of loving coworkers....

I'm loving...

That one of my awesome coworkers bought a bunch of special glasses so we could look at the solar eclipse on Monday. I kept meaning to get a pair and then by the time I remembered, I couldn't find any, so I figured I just wasn't gonna see it. She bought a bunch to share so we took turns using them. I'm glad it was something I got to see. In 2024 Texas is supposed to experience a full solar eclipse, I'll be sure to get eclipse glasses for that one!

Photo taken through the eclipse glasses
I'm loving...

Baseball games with friends. Friends, baseball, and hugs always make for a good time! Yes, I'm a hugger. Thankfully (most) of my friends are too. And the ones who aren't humor me and hug me anyway. Lol.

I'm loving...

An unexpected Chick Fil-A milkshake. Those always make me happy. :)

What are YOU loving today? I would love to hear about it. Even if you think it's minor, hey, if it makes you happy, then that is awesome!


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What I'm Loving Wednesday!

In the midst of these times with horrible people doing such despicable things and there being so much ugliness and hate, I still strive to look for positive things and things that I love. 

I'm loving...

That my folks came to visit me last Friday. I loved that they and my sister Mary were able to come up for at least one day. We went to the Rangers game (you can pretend to be shocked). It was Military Appreciation Night and the branch of the military the Rangers were honoring was the Coast Guard. If you bought a special ticket (which I did), you got a Coast Guard Texas Rangers cap. My grandfather (my dad's dad) served in the Coast Guard in World War II, so receiving this cap meant a lot to my dad. :) I'm posting a video of the Coast Guard marching song below. 

Of course we ate lunch at Norma's Cafe. My folks didn't even get out of their car, they called me from the parking lot of my apartment complex and said "let's go to Norma's". Coming to visit me is just their cover, they are really in Dallas for Norma's. :)
Looking adorable in our new caps!

My folks just celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary last week

I'm loving...

That my mom gets so passionate during Rangers games. Gee, sounds like someone else I know. At one point it looked like they were going to blow a six-run lead and my mom was threatening to go down on to the field and give them a talking to (joking, of course). The usher teased the police officer in our section that he needed to keep an eye on her. She was so excited when the Rangers finally won the game. Just look how happy they made her.

I'm loving...

That we got to see my cousin Debbie on Friday night. She moved to Texas last year and we hadn't had a chance to meet up. She was at the game with some of my other cousin's kids, so she came over and surprised my folks. I hope to get to hang out with her again soon. 

I'm loving...

That I got to meet this precious little angel. She is the daughter of my friends Amber and Nash. I tried to sneak off with her (so I could change that hideous onesie), but they caught me. Lol.

Free baby night at the Ballpark!
 I'm loving...

That I spent the weekend at the Ballpark with some of my awesome friends!

Corina hugs make any day better!
I risked my salvation by skipping church on Sunday to get in line at the Ballpark for a giveaway item. Lol. It was a talking Rangers alarm clock. I now wake up to "Wake up, it's baseball time in Texas!". :)
Love these peeps!
I'm loving...

That some of the friends I got to see last week were friends I hadn't seen in a while!

Amber and Nash were in town for the Astros/Rangers series (they live in a house divided. Lol). So glad I got to meet their precious little baby!!
It was good to see my friend Britton again. We met up at a Rangers game in Washington D.C. earlier this season. He was in town for Pudge's retirement ceremony
I finally saw my sweet friend Keva again! She actually lives in the same town as my folks, but the last few times I've been there, I haven't been able to see her. She was at the game with her husband and kiddos.
I'm so excited my friend Laura and her lovely family have moved to Dallas. This was the first time I've been able to see her since then (I saw her hubby and son at a game a few weeks ago)
 I'm loving...

That I met up with some Twitter peeps at the game last Saturday. I love meeting my fellow Twitter addicts! Junior had an extra giveaway item from a game that I missed, so he gave me his extra one. :) And I'm glad I finally met Michael. He's a fellow blogger. Check out his blog here. :)

I hope everyone else can find something to love right now!!


Friday, August 11, 2017

Atlanta Adventures

Just when y'all thought I had done all my summer traveling this year, I sneak in another quick weekend trip on y'all. Last weekend, some friends and I made a quick trip to Atlanta (and I mean real quick, we were there only 36 hours). I went with my friends Aaron and Mel. Y'all might remember them from my Mini Epic Road Trip last year. This was a VERY last minute trip (so last minute that no one really knew about it), BUT, regardless, we still found a lot to do in the short amount of time we were in Atlanta. And I should probably split this recap up into two posts because we did SO MUCH, but I'm not going to. You just have to bear with me. So grab a drink, sit back and relax and enjoy my insanely long recap. :)

Our flight left early last Friday (once again with the early flight to start my vacation). We had to get up about 2:30am to be sure we were at the airport in plenty of time. 

All smiles at 4:30am
Our flight landed in Atlanta a little before 9am EST. My sweet friend Paul (who lives in Atlanta) picked us up at the airport and was our chauffeur the rest of the day. I'm so glad he joined us, it was great to hang out with him. Our first stop was breakfast at the CNN center. We didn't do a tour, but we did pose for a quick photo by the CNN sign. 

After breakfast we headed to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. As you know, I'm trying to see all of them (and at least three that I haven't seen by the time I turn 40- see 40 By 40 list). The landscape of the library is beautiful. I bet in the springtime it's really beautiful with a lot of flowers (seeing that it's the heat of summer, there weren't many out, but the grass was very green despite the heat). There was a great 15 minute video at the start of the museum that I found very informative. I'll be honest, I didn't know much about him or his presidency (I was only alive for 18 months during his term in office). Lol. I know him mostly for his work with Habitat for Humanity. Fun fact. Mel has actually met Carter and has a picture with him- she met him while on a trip in college. Like most presidential libraries that I've visited, there are artifacts from his childhood all the way up until he was in office. I liked hearing about his relationship with his wife- they have been together for so long. And, like all the other presidential libraries and museums I've visited, regardless of your political views, it's a great museum to visit.

Not gonna lie, I literally laughed out loud at the "pardon me Mr. Ford" bumper sticker. To the far top right is the final copy of his inaugural address- one of the shortest in American history
Replica Oval Office. They won't let you pose for a photo in this one. So far the Bush libraries are the only ones that let you take a picture at the Oval Office desk
There is a path out back of the library that goes around a pond

After our library visit, we went to Peachtree Dr. to find the home of Margaret Mitchell (author of Gone With the Wind). It's called the Margaret Mitchell House when in honesty, it had been converted into apartments by the time she and her husband lived there. Our tour guide was a sweet woman named Margaret (she swore that was her real name and she wasn't just saying that). She was a great guide- she knew so much information and she had a great story-telling voice (sometimes you get a tour guide who is very monotone and that makes for a boring tour- but she was outstanding). I learned a lot of things I didn't know. I didn't know Ms. Mitchell had been a journalist. I also didn't know that Gone With the Wind was the only novel she had published, I thought she had written something else. She tragically died at the age of 48 after being hit by a car. It was written in her will that all her papers, journals, letters, and manuscripts be destroyed after her death. Her husband honored her wishes, so we have none of her writings except the published articles from her journalism days and Gone With the Wind. As much as I respect her husband for honoring her wishes, the history nerd in me is like, WHY?? She might have been working on another novel or at least had an outline of a future novel. We will never know. I also learned that she didn't like the fame that Gone With the Wind gave her. She was ahead of her time- being a female author and writing a book where the protagonist is a female. Her book sold over a million copies in the first six months. For the longest time it was the second most published book (only second to the Bible). The upstairs was dedicated to the premiere of the movie. I saw the movie when I was a kid (so many, MANY years ago). I was finally inspired to read the book, so I bought a copy there. I plan to read it before I watch the movie again.

The typewriter on the bottom left was actually hers when she was a journalist. The furniture in the apartment didn't belong to Ms. Mitchell but it's from the same time period as when she was living there. It was still cool to stand in the apartment and know at one time, she stood in that exact spot. The lady sitting down is our tour guide, Margaret. And yes, I touched the wall. Stop judging me.

Seats from the Atlanta theater where the movie premiered

This is how the original house looked when it was first built. It has been added on to in the back
A southern belle relaxing on the front porch
This is the actual painting from the movie
Be honest- who wore the dress better? Lol
We headed from the Margaret Mitchell House to SunTrust Park, the new ballpark of the Atlanta Braves. I went to a Braves game when they were at Turner Field, but since they have a new ballpark, I had to go back to cross that ballpark off my list. If teams keep building new ballparks and stadiums, I'm never gonna get through my list. Lol. Last weekend was Braves Alumni Weekend. Sadly Steve Avery was unable to make it (insert super sad face here), but I was able to get autographs and meet several Braves alumni, thanks to my buddy Paul. Paul was a bat boy for the Braves in the 90s, so he knew a lot of the guys there. He said all of the players were always so nice to him and were genuinely nice guys.

Proudly wearing my Steve Avery shirtsey
Paul is also a Rangers fan (which is how we became friends). It was great to finally see a game with him!
Just a few former Braves I received autographs from- including former pitching coach Leo Mazzone
Yes, I posted this yesterday, I'm posting it again. 1995 World Champion Ryan Klesko
Former pitcher Pete Smith
SunTrust Park is nice. I like that you can see the field from the concourse (that's a big plus with me for ballparks). I was sad that the Braves museum that they had at Turner Field isn't at the new stadium. I don't know if they are going to add it on or relocate it someplace else. I was also VERY disappointed in the lack of Steve Avery memorabilia. I'm not saying there needs to be a statue of him (although that would be nice), but they could have had a plaque or banner or SOMETHING. And the number 33 jersey they had in the alumni area wasn't even for him. Rude. They didn't even have a Steve Avery bobblehead in the gift shop. Super rude. Speaking of the gift shop, THEY WERE OUT OF MAGNETS. HOW DO YOU RUN OUT OF MAGNETS!!?? Paul said next time he's there he will look for one for me. I have to add it to my collection. Although I don't know where I'll put it. My fridge is totally covered with magnets. Our seats were lower level in the outfield. We were under a covered area but could see the jumbotron. Braves fans are great, despite the attempt to start the wave- come on people. I'm going to assume those starting the wave were Marlin fans. 

Mel and I continuing the tradition of attending a baseball game together but NOT in Texas. Lol
Yet another ballpark that provides lids and straws with their drinks. RANGERS- WHY CAN'T YOU DO THIS???
I noticed while going through pictures for my blog that they put Dodgers instead of Marlins on the scoreboard. Lol
After the game, Paul dropped us off at our hotel. We couldn't thank him enough for driving us around all day. By the time we got settled into our room, we had been up for close to 21 hours. Needless to say, we were tired but the next morning we didn't want to waste too much time by sleeping in, so we were up early for breakfast at the hotel and then we headed out to the World of Coca-Cola Museum (which was just a few blocks from our hotel). It was a pleasant morning so we made the 15 minute walk. 
I found Captain Planet. Lol
We walked through Centennial Olympic Park on our way to the Coca Cola museum
My nephew Jacob and his beautiful fiancee Amber just happened  to be in Atlanta, so they decided to meet us on Saturday and spend the day with us (again, we lucked out and had someone willing to drive us around). Like I said yesterday, I proudly wore my Dr Pepper shirt at the Coca-Cola museum. I show my soda allegiance wherever I go. Lol. The museum was bigger than I expected, it took us almost three hours to tour the whole thing. Towards the end right before you get to the gift shop, there is a room with hundreds of different Coca-Cola products from around the world. You are able to taste as many as you want. I tasted a small sample of a few. There was one from India that wasn't too bad, but there was one from Italy that was positively disgusting. Blek. It's called Beverly. I don't recommend. Ever. You've been warned.

You can't take me anywhere

I find it funny they had a section about impostors and imitators when they have Mr. Pibb- A POOR IMITATION OF DR PEPPER. Hmph. The picture on the top right is me by the vault that contains the only written copy of the Coke formula. I guess they trusted me enough to stand that close. An alarm sounded if you crossed over the line. I won't mention any names, but someone in my group stepped on the line and set off the alarm (and it wasn't me). Lol
I enjoyed the different Coke bottle artwork around the museum
Our souvenir photo highlighted any red in the picture. It makes my Dr Pepper shirt stand out even more. :)
The room with the different Coca-Cola products. This is about a third of the room, it was pretty big

By the time we were done there, we were starving, so we decided to check out a place called The Vortex because we read that they had good burgers. Word of warning: If you are easily offended, do not go there. EVER. The burger was good, I will admit that, but let's just say the atmosphere isn't a place I would want to take my folks to. I would say it's not kid friendly (because it's not) but you have to be 21 to get in, so kids aren't allowed. Also some of the decorations (for lack of a better word) are a little on the odd and slightly inappropriate side. But again, two big thumbs up on the burger. Oh, and they served Dr Pepper. REAL DR PEPPER. Not this Mr. Pibb crap posing as Dr Pepper. 

Some of the more "appropriate" decorations
Nothing like eating a burger named coronary bypass. For the record, I did NOT get the burger that was 9606 calories
After lunch we had just enough time to head to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. This is part of the U.S. National Park Service. Sadly by the time we got there, all the tours for his childhood home were full, but we were able to go by and see it from the outside. We were able to go to the visitors center which chronicles the American Civil Rights Movement and the path of Dr. King. That exhibit isn't terribly big, it took us about forty minutes to get through it. It was well done though. 

From there we headed to Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King was baptized and where he and his father served as pastors. Ebenezer Baptist Church is still in existence today- but in 1999 they moved to a modern building across the street. The original church still stands but it is solely for people to come and visit as a landmark. Honestly seeing this church meant more to me than seeing the inside of his house. Since we only got to see one, I'm personally glad it was this one. There was something very moving about standing in the same church where Martin Luther King Jr. had worshiped. Just thinking about all the messages he had given, all the prayers he said- it was very moving to me. Maybe it has something to do with me being a Baptist preacher's kid, I don't know. But I'm glad we went. There was a sweet older park ranger and his name tag said Bruce Lee. We asked him how many times a day was he asked about his name. He said more than he could count. There was another park ranger inside who knew so much information (I guess they have to if they work there). I didn't know that Dr. King's mother was killed in that church in 1974. How did I miss that in history class? So much tragedy in his family. A year after he was killed, his brother drowned. The park ranger said his sister Christine still attends church there. She is about to turn 90 and they are having a big celebration for her. After paying our respects at his grave site, we also went by the King Center which had a large display of personal items of Dr. and Mrs. King. I highly recommend going to this national site if you are ever in Atlanta. Words can't describe it. Even my photos can't really describe it. Just go see it for yourself. It's all so moving.

We swung by our hotel to pick up our bags (that way we weren't carrying them around all day). We made two quick stops- one at the Georgia state capitol and one at Hard Rock. If you remember the road trip Aaron, Mel, and I made last year, we made it a point to see the state capitol in each state we visited. We decided we couldn't be in Atlanta and NOT go by to get a picture.

We stopped by Hard Rock so Mel could buy a charm (she buys one at each Hard Rock whenever we travel). We didn't eat there so I can't comment on the food or wait staff, but the gals working in the gift shop were SO NICE. We told them how rude the staff in the Seattle Hard Rock store had been. Funny story, I said something like, "we were fixin' to go back home" or something like that, and one of the staff members freaked out. She said her manager didn't believe that anyone ever said "fixin' to" so she asked if I would say it to him. It was an odd request, but I said sure, so they paged him. They even gave me a free souvenir and some water. BTW, the manager laughed when I said it. 

This motorcycle and jacket once belonged to Elvis. :)
Tammie- the sweet lady in the gift shop who loved that I said fixin to. Lol
We made one last stop before the airport at The Dwarf House, which is the original location of the first Chick Fil-A (of COURSE we would stop here). :) Y'all- part of it is a diner. The original Dwarf House was a 24 hour diner (except it was closed on Sundays) so half of this location is a diner, where you are waited on and can order your Chick Fil-A favorites plus a lot of other items (including burgers- the CFA Cows are probably so disappointed). Lol. The diner is still 24 hours so you could technically get Chick Fil-A at 2am on a Tuesday if you wanted. Our waitress said they close at 10pm on Saturdays and reopen on Monday mornings. 

I'm just a girl, standing outside a Chick Fil-A, wanting a chocolate milkshake

Y'all- Chick Fil-A opened on May 23. MY BIRTHDAY!! :) Just 32 years before I was born. Lol
God bless Mr. Cathy

Yes, I went through the little door
My nephew dropped us off at the airport two hours before our flight was supposed to take off. Once we got there, we found out our flight had been delayed by 30 minutes. No big deal, we just were now going to leave at 11pm instead of 10:30. Once we were on the plane, we seemed to taxi a long time to the runway (a good 15 minutes). I then realized that we were back at the gate. And we could see emergency lights. After a few minutes the door opened and a police officer walked on. Someone in first class stood up and walked out. It was maybe 15 minutes before the captain finally came on to say there had been a medical emergency, but we would still be going to Dallas. At one point, the whole crew was off the plane (it's a little weird seeing the cockpit door open and no one in there). We found out they were having to give statements. I'm sure there is so much more to that story and my curious self wants to know it. But alas, they didn't share. We FINALLY took off about 12:30am EST and got back to Dallas a little before 2am Texas time. 

Aunt Rachel's sweet boy

Waiting for our shuttle at the DFW airport at 2am
I know, that was lengthy- MAJOR PROPS if you made it all the way to the end!! I THINK I'm done traveling for a while, but who knows, I might get the urge to take another weekend trip someplace! :)


40 by 40 Update: 
-Visit three presidential libraries on my Presidential Libraries to Visit list (1)
-See a game at four different ballparks on my MLB Ballparks to Visit list (3)
-Visit five national parks (1)