Thursday, August 1, 2019

Rainy Travel: Chicago + Vegas

Hello everyone! It's been a while since I wrote something not book related. It's just been a busy month. And, as some of you may know, I went on a two-part trip recently. First 4 days in Chicago and last 4 days in Vegas. Here's my rainy thoughts on Chicago + Vegas!


Chicago

My husband and I had been to Vegas multiple times. We went this year to celebrate my grandparent's 50th anniversary. I suggested we make the trip a two-parter, we thought of places we both haven't been and that's how we came up with Chicago.

Now, I'm not going to lie, Chicago was never on the very top of my travel list. I always thought it would be neat, but it wasn't a super strong desire. It was a new place for me and for my husband, so I searched and Pinterested for months figuring out what to do, where to eat, where to go and we did maybe about 2 things out of the 40 things I saved. But it was still a good time.


Where We Went

One of the great things about Chicago is that there are so many free things to do. We ventured out to the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is a completely. It was a pretty nice sized zoo with plenty of animals to "ooo" and "ahhh" at and take pictures of. Right next the zoo is the Lincoln Park Conservatory, which is like a good sized greenhouse building. We checked out the National Museum of Mexican Art, which was pretty neat and had a traveling Instagram experience while we were there. There are also a handful of beautiful parks to walk around at, including Millennium park where they have the bean and free summer night concerts. We also found ourselves underneath the Chicago bridges at the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. And we finished our Saturday with a great fireworks display at Navy Pier that looks off onto Lake Michigan.

Of course, we did things that did cost money. We had to go to the Field Museum to see Sue a.k.a. the worlds most complete T-Rex. That was actually a pretty awesome museum that you can easily spend 3+ hours at. We also took a very relaxing boat ride with a great view of the cityscape. Walking through the miracle mile, you just cannot not want to shop! My husband and I both bought clothes from the Japanese environmentally conscience store that's so unqie, it's called Uniqlo!  

Stay and Getting Around

We took the train for mostly everywhere in Chicago. It was quick a convenient. If you're thinking of going to Chicago, we actually used the 3-day pass, which was perfect for us and we were able to use it for the train and the bus, which we did ride a few times.

We used Airbnb for Chicago and ended up finding a pretty nice place in the cute neighborhood of Berwyn. Granted, the night of the fireworks was a pain to get home, as all the buses were so filled and I just wanted to get to the room. Even though I loved the neighborhood we were in and enjoyed getting a feel for how actual Chicago people lived, I would choose to stay int he downtown area if I were to come again. Probably.(if you use this code, you can get $40 off your first Airbnb stay: https://www.airbnb.com/c/amandag3030?currency=USD)

Food

The food in Chicago was excellent! I absolutely did not eat something in Chicago that was gross. We tried Portillos, which is a chain in Chicago with some good Chicago style hotdogs. They also served tamales. Tamales were everywhere. We also tried the famous deep dish pizza at Giordano's. I never tried deep-dish pizza before and it was pretty good! Supper filling, so if you are traveling as a two sum, a small will be just find. On our last night we tried Cindy's Rooftop bar, suggested by one of my friends. The place is on top of a hotel and the menu changes pretty frequently. We had this big trout on top of pinto beans with this green salsa and I know that doesn't sound pleasant, but it was pretty freakin good.

Las Vegas

This was about my 9th or 10th time going to Vegas and we completely chilled. We walked a bit, gambled a bit, took some photos and we chilled by the pool. It was our relaxing part of vacation and it was wonderful. I'm not going to go into too deep into details, about Vegas, but I will write a whole guide to Vegas soon.

Overall

Overall, we had a pretty adventurous vacation. I'm glad we went to Chicago. It is definitely friendly on the budget and also a really good time. Lots of places to see and things to do and would definitely go again. And as for Vegas, we;ll be back in about two years. But now we plan our next big trip, Italy! Where did you go for summer vacation?


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Book Review: Iberian Ties by Quintin Vargas

IBERIAN TIES
by
Quintin Vargas
Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery / Suspense International Thriller 
Publisher: Vanguard Publishers
Date of Publication: May 13, 2019
Number of Pages: 405
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Without a motive, how do you catch a killer? A gripping thriller in the vein of Harlan Coben, Paula Hawkins, and Lee Child. A rising star psychiatrist, American Nate Shelley is in Spain’s Canary Islands, making his world debut at a convention. But after delivering his keynote address, he and his fiancĂ©e Miro are arrested for murder. Nate knows he’s not guilty, but is his future wife involved in some way in the crime? Miro’s directly implicated when the murder victim is identified as her stalker. Is Nate’s career ruined? Is he facing life imprisonment? Does the American couple stand a chance of convincing the Spanish authorities—and Interpol—that they’re innocent? Not in a post-Brexit, anti-Trump European environment. Racing to clear their names, Nate and Miro will soon be embroiled in sham investigations, powerful cartels, and family secrets finally coming to light. Full of intrigue, this gritty international crime novel is a thrilling ride.
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PRAISE FOR IBERIAN TIES:
“Brilliant thriller! I totally loved and enjoyed this book!! Interesting twists and turns, well-developed characters and suspense all along the way. Definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. Can't wait for the next book!” –Gaby M., Goodreads Review
“This was an education about cultures and history as well as an unpredictable mystery.” –Robert R., Amazon Review





Iberian Ties is a twisty thriller where our main characters, Nate and Miro, are trying to find out the mystery of Miro's crazy stalker.  All along the way, we meet characters who help unfold the truth and make us second guess who we think the real killer is. Quintin Vargas does a great job at keeping the killer a secret and giving each character their spot for the audience to further investigate.

Having the story set in the Canary Islands is something different and one that I enjoyed. I've been currently reading books that take place outside the U.S. and it's just fascinating. It really takes you out of what you're used to and gets you to look up where your characters are and envision a whole different place in the world.

I also really enjoyed the plot of this story. It felt very much like a CSI episode and any mystery thriller buff would enjoy. I do think, however, there were times when the plot kind of slowed down. By this I mean there were some points where the dialogue felt longer than it should have been. It doesn't take away from the book overall and it's not too frequent not to enjoy this story. 

"He smiled widely with a practiced smirk, but it was a smile nonetheless."

There's also this ongoing mention of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. I'm not sure if it was necessary and I was hoping it would tie in the end, but I just did not see the connection. It could have flown over my head though, so if you read it, maybe you could find the connection better than I did. 

Overall, I give this book 4 stars out of 5. It's a great murder mystery story and even though there are some slow parts, it's not long before the book has you hooked in once again. Read below on how you could win your free copy today! Until next time, Happy Reading!






Iberian Ties is the first work of fiction published by Quintin Vargas. In addition to being an author, he combined a career as professor and dean in various American universities with becoming owner of a firm that prepared new immigrants to enter the marketplace and international workforce. His work impacted leadership development for various domestic and international private industries, non-profit organizations, and higher education.

As an academic, he served as dean and provost at various universities, including DePaul University in Chicago, the University of Texas, San Antonio, and St. Edward’s University. His academic writings have been highlighted in various publications, including the Journal of Research and Development in Education, the National Commission on Testing and Public Policy, and the Journal of Thought
He and his wife, Marty, have five children and thirteen grandchildren. They reside in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Rainy Books: When The Men Were Gone

WHEN THE MEN WERE GONE
by
MARJORIE HERRERA LEWIS
  Genre: Historical / Biographical / Sports Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow 
Date of Publication: October 2, 2018
Number of Pages: 240
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A cross between Friday Night Lights and The Atomic City Girls, When The Men Were Gone is a debut historical novel based on the true story of Tylene Wilson, a woman in 1940s Texas who, in spite of extreme opposition, became a female football coach in order to keep her students from heading off to war.
Football is the heartbeat of Brownwood, Texas. Every Friday night for as long as assistant principal Tylene Wilson can remember, the entire town has gathered in the stands, cheering their boys on. Each September brings with it the hope of a good season and a sense of unity and optimism. Now, the war has changed everything. Most of the Brownwood men over eighteen and under forty-five are off fighting, and in a small town the possibilities are limited. Could this mean a season without football? But no one counted on Tylene, who learned the game at her daddy’s knee. She knows more about it than most men, so she does the unthinkable, convincing the school to let her take on the job of coach. Faced with extreme opposition by the press, the community, rival coaches, and referees -- and even the players themselves -- Tylene remains resolute. And when her boys rally around her, she leads the team -- and the town -- to a Friday night and a subsequent season they will never forget. Based on a true story, When the Men Were Gone is a powerful and vibrant novel of perseverance and personal courage.

PRAISE FOR WHEN THE MEN WERE GONE:
"Sublimely ties together the drama of high school football, gender politics, and the impact of war on a small town in Texas.” – Best of Books, 2018, Sports Illustrated
“A beautiful story that stays in your heart long after you finish reading.” - Jodi Thomas, New York Times bestselling author “Based on a true story that most people probably don’t know, readers will find plenty to love in Herrera Lewis’ debut.” -- Kirkus Review











Marjorie Herrera Lewis is an award-winning sportswriter, named the first female Dallas Cowboys beat writer when she was with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She later joined the SportsDay staff of The Dallas Morning News, where she continued to cover the NFL and professional tennis. She is currently a contributing sportswriter for PressBoxDFW.com. 
While writing When the Men Were Gone, she became inspired to try her hand at coaching football herself and was added to the Texas Wesleyan University football coaching staff in December 2016. Marjorie has degrees from Arizona State University, The University of Texas in Arlington, Southern New Hampshire University, and certificates from Southern Methodist University, and Cornell University. She is married and has two grown daughters and one son-in-law.
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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Rainy Books: Max...Attacks by Kathi Appelt

MAX ... ATTACKS
by
KATHI APPELT
illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan
Children's Picture Book / Humor / Stories in Verse Publisher: Atheneum / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Date of Publication: June 11, 2019
Number of Pages: 40 Scroll down for the giveaway!




Fish and birds and lizards and socks…is there anything Max won’t attack? 
Watch your ankles and find out in this clever, rhyming picture book about a very naughty kitty cat. Max is a cat. He attacks. From socks to strings to many a fish, attacking, for Max, is most de-lish. But how many of these things can he actually catch? Well, let’s just say it’s no even match.
Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, PEN USA Literary Award–winning, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows and Max ... Attacks
She has two grown children and lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and their six cats. She serves as a faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.


Penelope Dullaghan is an award-winning illustrator whose work includes illustrations for ad campaigns, book publishers, magazines, newspapers, products, videos and most recently, children. Max ... Attacks is her debut picture book.
Penelope works from her home studio in Indianapolis, Indiana where she also home schools her daughter, plays in the river behind her house, and tends to her front-yard garden.
She is especially interested in collaborating with brands that support sustainability, simplicity, and wellness. Connect with Penelope on her Website.

The real Max was neither blue, nor did he have a switchy tail. In fact, he didn’t have a tail at all. He was an American Bobtail, almost fire red, and in his prime he weighed in at over twenty pounds. For seventeen years, he served as best friend and roommate to the author’s oldest son Jacob Appelt, who adopted Max from the local animal shelter. Together they wrote music, traveled, entertained friends and family, and kept an eye on the neighborhood parrots. Even though Max was famous for attacking anything that moved, he was, and always will be, the biggest, sweetest cat ever! 
And many thanks to Jacob for the line: “a mighty nap attacked our Max.” Best line in the book!
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