Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Book Check

Heyyyyyyyyy guys. I know my blog has been pretty quiet. I've been busy with other stuff, and none of it is really blog-worthy, I guess!

I have been trying to fire through some new books this summer, instead of just re-reading the old ones... this is probably the first summer I haven't done a Harry Potter re-read. I'm expanding my horizons!

First of all, I finally read "The Night Circus."

This book is fantastic. It's definitely one of my favorite books, so I'm glad I bought it! I remember back when I was unemployed and listening to MuggleCast while I'd be baking, cooking, and cleaning, they kept recommending this book. I've wanted to read it, but I waited until I got a gift card to purchase it because the price hasn't gone down.

The story follows Celia and Marco, both trained magicians, who are bound together in a magical contract. The imagery is exquisite and the story is breathtaking. It's definitely worth reading! (and buying!)

So, I really like Emily Giffin's books. My favorite of hers is "Where We Belong." So I was very much looking forward to "The One and Only." I bought it at Target because I was sure it would be staying on my bookshelf. But after reading it, I felt not possessiveness of this book, had no problem lending it to a friend and will have no problem selling it to the bookshop or in a yard sale. The whole time I read this book, I was really hoping the story was going to go in another direction, but nope, it kept going into this terribly awkward storyline that I hated. In interviews, Emily said the point of the book is to explore taboo relationships, and she certainly did.

My grandma lent me "Redfield Farm" which she read in book club because it was written by a local author. It's about a Quaker family that participates in the Underground Railroad. The premise is interesting, and the story definitely got better as it progressed, but it's not one that I would probably read again.

John Green, the author of "The Fault in Our Stars," has many other books, including An Abundance of Katherines. It follows Colin, a child prodigy who has a thing for Katherines. Like, 19 of them. After #19 breaks up with him, he goes on a road trip with his friend Hassan to try to get over the break-up. It's a cute story and well written. I enjoyed it. : )

This book is a MONSTER, but it is a very well-crafted story... I mean, it is Stephen King. His horror novels have given me nightmares in the past (The Shining? Holy crap. What a terrifying book) so I was a little worried that this would do the same. However, after I got through the first chunk of the book, all I wanted to do was sit on the deck in my lounge chair and finish it! It follows the story of Jake (who changes his name to George), who has a chance to go back in the past to 1958. He can not only change the life of one of his friends, whose family was brutally murdered, but he can also prevent the assassination of JFK. However, the past keeps getting in the way of him accomplishing what he went there for. He also falls in loooooooooove with a girl named Sadie. So not only is there a fascinating thriller at the base of the book, there is also a love story, and it is all interwoven with very interesting 50s nostalgia and a realistic look at life as a teacher. This is definitely worth the read, if you have the time and endurance!

My friend C lent me a giant pile of books, including this one. It is an incredibly random amalgamation of chapters of Jane's life, and her encounters with love. There is one completely random chapter in which Jane is mentioned once, and I still have no idea how it fit in with the rest of the book. The only thing I liked about this book were the first and last chapters. So technically the book fished me in, and then made me flop around on the dock for the rest of the book wondering what happened to the story from the first chapter, and then finally the last chapter was interesting again. I dunno. I wouldn't bother.

I finally read The Giver yesterday! What a great book. It was a quick read, but I loved the story. I wanted to know more about the world Jonas lives in. I see that this is part of a series of four books. Has anyone read the other three? Are they worth it? Let me know! : )

What books have you read lately that were awesome?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Disneyland: The California Adventure

I am a big fan of the word "Adventure," and I use it frequently. Everything in life is an adventure... there are tiny ones, like cleaning the house (you never know what you'll find!) and big ones, like flying across the country for a wedding and vacation. So I was very excited to go to the California Adventure park!

As previously mentioned, A. and I went to California for my friend J's wedding. It was a beautiful wedding and I was so glad I could be a part of it! The day after the wedding we had our tickets and plans to go to the California Adventure... but unlike our trip to Disneyland park, we were not there at the rope drop! : ) It was a late night at the wedding, and we decided to sleep in and relax a little before going over to the park. We knew we would be there until it closed because of our tickets to see the World of Color show.

We started out our day by booking it to the Radiator Springs Racers fastpass kiosks. I used the Disneyland Wait Time app to keep track of the wait times for different rides on my phone, and RSR was almost always over 90 minutes... sometimes it sat at 125+ minutes for hours! We got to the kiosk at 10:30 and our fastpasses were for return between 4 and 5 pm... the fastpasses were all gone by the time we returned to that part of the park around 3:30, so I was glad we got there when we did!

After we took care of that, we did a lap around the park to get the lay of the land, and while we were in Paradise Pier, there was an announcement about Goofy's Instant Symphony concert starting soon. We stuck around to see that, and it was so cute! Sometimes those random entertainment things are the most memorable, and that's where Disney shines. 

Let's talk Cars Land. The theme-ing in this part of the park is pretty fantastic... assuming you've seen Cars! When I was showing my mom the pictures, she wasn't that impressed as she has never seen Cars. There are three rides in Cars Land: the aforementioned Radiator Springs Racers, Luigi's Floating Tires, and Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. We rode MJJ twice - it's a clever Scrambler-type ride and the wait was always short. Luigi's Floating Tires - a version of  bumper cars, but on hovercrafts, SERIOUSLY! - was fun too, but I didn't think it was worth waiting in line again.

We were both super glad that we got the fastpass for RSR, because it was really fun. The first part of the ride was scenic and slow, and then we got to "tip some tractors" with Mater, and then we were off to the races! It reminded me a little bit of Test Track in Florida, but it wasn't as fast. Definitely fun though! There is an on-ride photo, which we did not purchase because my face was completely covered by my hair. : )

We also went on Soarin', King Triton's Carousel, the Monsters Inc. ride, the Golden Zephyr, and we made it on Toy Story Mania twice. TSM is one you have to get fastpasses for in Florida or you have a giant wait in line ahead of you, so the fact we got on it twice was pretty awesome! It's a ride and 3-D video game combined into one. A. kicked my butt both times, but I still enjoyed myself.

If you ever make it to the California Adventure, you must - MUST - go to the Aladdin show. This was one of the things I was very excited about before the trip, and I was not disappointed. Unlike the Beauty and the Beast show in Florida, the acting and vocal performances in this show were both stellar. I loved the scenery, the actors, and the music. It followed the basic plot of the movie, only the character of Abu was written out and Jasmine got a song (which was so pretty!). The Genie, who is my favorite Disney character of them all, was outstanding. He had so many good jokes and improv moments, even including jokes about Frozen, Finding Nemo, the Kardashians, and the Lakers. This show is not one you can skip!

Another must that I was super excited about was the World of Color show. Since we had the dinner package (more about that in a moment), we had preferred seating, and we showed up an hour early to join the line. The viewing section was great, and we initially snagged some spots right at the front railing- until one of the cast members warned us we would get pretty wet in that section. Some people didn't seem to mind that, but even though the day was very hot, the evening was pretty chilly. We moved up a tier and still had a good view- and we still got soaked. (I am pretty sure that everyone at the show got wet no matter where they were standing. There is a giant water projection screen, and anytime there was a breeze, everyone got blasted.) While we were sitting there waiting for the show, there was a neat interactive game you could play on your phone with the giant Mickey Ferris Wheel - it was like Simon - the wheel would flash colors in a certain order, and you had to repeat the order on the little ferris wheel on your phone. It was a cool way to pass the time!

Was waiting that long, and getting cold and wet, worth it? ABSOLUTELY.

The show was beautiful, touching, and something I'll never forget. It was truly a spectacle. If you're never going to get out to Disneyland, check it out on YouTube sometime.

Now, the food. We went to Wine Country Trattoria for dinner, and I had high hopes. The patio, where we were seated, was beautiful. I think that any time A. and I went out for food on this trip, our table wobbled, and this place was no exception... at that point it was funny because it had happened so many times in one week. Our server seemed distracted and he was not very helpful- when it came to our passes for WOC, he gave very vague directions about where we were supposed to go, ending with "just find someone in a red vest," so that's what we did in the end. Our food was good, but it wasn't the best Disney dining we'd ever had.

I had the filet mignon and A. had the seafood pasta dish. Both were good, but there's not a whole lot more to say about them.

This dessert plate looked like it had some serious potential - but it seemed kind of clear that all of these had been sitting around for a while. The tiramisu was soggy, the panna cotta was watery, the macarons and chocolate tarts were dry. It was disappointing. 

You know what was great? Drinking SO MUCH cold water at dinner after a day of lukewarm water bottles from our bag!

I am still glad we got the dinner package, even though the food wasn't anything special, because the WOC preferred seating was totally worth it. 

Ever since we've gotten back from CA, we have been eagerly planning our next trip to WDW... what can I say, we are just Disney addicts! : )

And with that, I'll leave you with a panorama of Paradise Pier at night.