Book Review: Emily Posts

Emily Posts is about a middle school girl named Emily who looks up to Emily Post and tries to use her life lessons in her own life.  To be honest, I’m not really sure what made me choose this book to review, and while it is geared towards kids it took me a bit to get through because Emily and her friends can be absolutely insufferable at times.  Yet, somehow, representation matters and I was pleased to see that her younger soon to be step brother’s best friend was a wheelchair user that had cerebral palsy (and was also super sneaky!)

Emily works on a podcast at school, but when a partnership comes from a large company with the school it seems that the climate march Emily is concerned about and wants to publicize gets shut down by her principal.  In order to distract her, they change the visit of a famous actress who was coming to the school so Emily won’t try and get her friends to skip school and attend the march.

Meanwhile, there’s also a new girl in school and Emily is quite a bit jealous and not so great to her.

Overall, brought me right back to middle school and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.  But it does have some good lessons about working together, standing up for what you believe in and perhaps how to go about getting what you want in the right ways so you won’t get in a lot of trouble with, well, everyone.

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review, I was not otherwise compensated.

 

Middle school podcast advice columnist + social media influencer wannabe Emily Laurence takes on the principal at her school to stand up for a climate march, in this fun, school-based drama for ages 10 and up. For fans of Gordon Korman and Susin Nielsen.

Emily is the ringleader for her school podcast, Cedarview Speaks — Sponsored by CoastFresh! But her plans for middle-school fame and social media influence are derailed when Amelie joins her eighth-grade class. The new arrival has a seemingly endless supply of confidence and a gift for leading people. Or leading them astray, as far as Emily’s concerned.

Emily puts her old-fashioned sense of etiquette into practice. Rather than confronting Amelie, she focuses her energy on creating a podcast story about an upcoming climate march. But her story is censored by the school principal. When she protests, Emily gets cut from the podcast crew . . . and Amelie takes her place!

Can Emily use her influence to spread the news of the climate march, reclaim her place on the podcast team and expose the flaws of CoastFresh? Can she balance her impeccable manners with twenty-first century activism? And how will she ever manage to work alongside Amelie?

With a light touch and plenty of humor, Emily Posts explores issues of social media, influence, corporate sponsorship . . . and the fraught waters of middle-school friendship.

Jewel Paradise Cove Drink Challenge 2024

For our mission to drink every resort drink we used the 2 menus that seemed to be at most of the bars.  We did end up finding a variation menu on the resort website so we did add a couple drinks from that throughout the trip.  We also came up with a scoring system for each drink – which we only needed to take 2 sips from to count as trying.  I had started out keeping notes about what I liked or didn’t like, but that got old fast so please see the drinks, ingredients and my rating.  After a weeks worth of research we found out that the drink we had been drinking all last year (Jamaica Smile) was indeed our favorite, but we also learned that we also liked the Blue Hawaiian. Any drinks that were mostly just juice and liquor were not a favorite and we liked the frozen drinks more – even if there were no straws.

🌟– gross
🌟🌟– ok but wouldn’t get again
🌟🌟🌟– ok and would get again
🌟🌟🌟🌟– like and would recommend
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟– ok drinking only this

Jewel Delight – Tuesday Gem of the Day
Appleton gold, apricot brandy, lime juice, syrup and pineapple juice.

🌟🌟🌟

Paradise mule 
Vodka, ginger beer, strawberry, lime juice
🌟🌟
Jamaica smile 
Gold rum, rum cream, strawberry daiquiri, pina colada
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Hurricane 
Gold rum, white rum, passion, orange juice, lime juice, grenadine
🌟🌟🌟
Emerald Wednesday Gem of the Day
White rum, blue curacao, pineapple juice and lime juice
🌟🌟🌟🌟
Blue Hawaiian (add on)
Vodka, blue curacao, pina colada
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Mai tai
Gold rum, Coruba, triple sec, pineapple juice, lime juice, clear syrup
🌟🌟🌟
Coco loco
Coconut Rum, Gin, Lime Juice, White Rum, Pineapple Juice, Simple Syrup, Tequila Silver
🌟🌟🌟
Cosmopolitan
Vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, a dash of lime juice
🌟
Bob Marley
White rum, blue curacao, mango daiquiri, strawberry daiquiri
🌟🌟🌟🌟
Golden lady – Thursday Gem of the Day
Coconut Rum, Creme De Banana, OJ, apple juice and ginger ale
🌟🌟🌟
Jamaica kiss 
Coffee liquer, dark rum, milk
🌟🌟🌟
Madras
Vokda, orange juice, cranberry juice
🌟
Amaretto sour
Amaretto, orange juice, lime juice
🌟🌟
Mango tango
Rum, mango daiquiri, strawberry daiquiri
🌟🌟🌟
Red ruby Friday Gem of the Day
Gold Rum, OK, Pineapple Juice, Grenadine and Ginger Ale
🌟🌟🌟🌟
Electric lemonade
Vodka, Melon Liqueur, Lime Juice, Simple Syrup
🌟🌟🌟
Purple rain
Vodka, Blue Curacao, sweet and sour, grenadine
🌟🌟🌟🌟
Jamaica gem – Saturday Gem of the Day
White Rum, Blue Curacao, Sweet and Sour, Cranberry Juice
🌟🌟
Bahama mama
Coffee liqueur, dark rum, coconut liqueur, white rum, lemon juice, pineapple juice, grenadine
🌟🌟
Breeze 
Vodka, cranberry juice, grapefruit juice
🌟
Harvey Wallbanger 
Vodka, galliano, orange juice
🌟🌟
Dirty banana (add on)
Rum, Coffee liqueur, creme de banana
🌟🌟🌟🌟
Jade Samurai – Sunday Gem of the Day
Coconut rum, peach schnapps, oj, lime and grenadine
🌟🌟🌟
Sapphire – Monday Gem of the Day
Vodka, triple sex, blue curacao, sweet and sour and soda
🌟🌟

Back to the Island 2024

Last week was my 11th Back to the Island and my 10th trip to Jamaica. (One of the airport employees told me I am now officially Jamerican.)   I started by taking notes on my flights down and then promptly stopped doing that once I actually arrived and the activities started.  I don’t know why I always seem to think I am going to become a different person on these trips, but it hasn’t happened yet. We’ll see how good my memory is…

There

The Hartford airport was absolute CHAOS when I arrived, lines for Jet Blue and Delta were ridiculously long but I was able to sneak up to the kiosk for Southwest, scan my passport, and get my boarding passes really quickly.  Pre-Check was longer than usual and at 4am everyone was a little bit out of it and the women behind me were laughing at a woman who said she did have a shirt on under her sweatshirt only to take it off and reveal only a bralette, asking if security has gotten stricter since she last traveled. The TSA Agent just shook his head and said, “I don’t know what’s going on, its 4am. I asked her if she had a t-shirt on.”   The captain and flight attendants came by just as we were preparing to board and the captain was complaining that they went through luggage ‘with a fine tooth comb’ (isn’t that their job?) as a result, he said he was going to take as long as it needed for the security check which ended up with him yelling at a gate agent because the gate agent was concerned about how long it was delaying our boarding. He scolded him saying that safety checks were important and however long it took, it took.  Which is fair. But also, security lines are insane so maybe show up to work a little bit earlier?  Once we got ready to take off he said he was going to “fly it like he stole it from Delta” and we made up most of the delay time in the air.  My second flight was delayed 10-15 minutes because I guess Montego Bay was getting backed up and asked us to wait and then there was an issue with baggage, but we still got there about 30 minutes after we were supposed to.  I ended up finding a friend who arrived shortly after me and then we hung around watching the chaos that was baggage claim waiting for a 3rd friend to arrive before we boarded our shuttle to the resort – which took way longer than it was supposed to because a husband going to Ocho Rios went missing before we departed.

Resort

I ended up at some point before we left thinking it might be fun to try every drink they have at the resort on the menu.  Last year we drank the same thing almost the whole time, so I figured it was worth seeing if there was something else I might like more.  I ended up getting a friend to join me.  More on that in a separate blog post, but we did manage to finish all of them around 1am during Taylor’s dance party.  This was our 5th time at this resort and not much had changed – except there now was a mongoose?  I heard that some others had seen one, but of course one of the times I was going back to my room alone the darn thing hid under a structure and then darted out in front of me.  All I got as a photo was a brown blur running across but trust me.  There also were the usual lizards, hermit crabs, regular crabs, bats, and an assortment of bugs. (And loud frogs?)  I was pretty happy for the return of hermit crabs because one year there was a whole ton of them, but then I hadn’t really seen them since.

Night 1 

The first night was a Hanson show, followed by and AMMM Bonfire Set.  I started by teasing that the setlist was predictable – because for the past few years they have opened and closed with Back to the Island – but they shut me right up by then going into a cover of Weezer’s Island in the Sun followed by a cover of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds and Stir It Up.  I was beginning to think that maybe this year was going to be different and maybe they’d actually put some effort into these setlists.  This show was relatively cover heavy – they also did Islands In The Stream, Kokomo by the Beach Boys for the first time ever and finished their set out with a cover of Feelin’ Alright, which while they have done it before, it hasn’t been done since 2009 so it might as well have been something new.  The Hanson originals were a bit more single heavy – but let’s just get all those out of the way early, right?

After Hanson’s set, AMMM did a bonfire set on the beach in which they wrote a three song set list and just took requests from the crowd for the rest for the most part.  Taylor ended up joining them on a cover of Whitney’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and watched most of their set from the sound booth tent.   At one point he came out to the bar to get drinks for the band and I heard him tell someone that the last night setlist was going to be “Rockin'”  – a bit of a theme, but also super vague.

Zac Solo
Zac was up first for the solo sets.  Bonus points to him for doing 2 songs off of the latest Members Only EP – The Weight of Emotion and Where You Come From.  The rest was decent, but nothing new or any real surprises and I’ll be pretty happy when Seymour Better Times is off the list as he’s done it every year since he debuted it in 2018.  I think he gets a kick out of the kazoos though, so we might be stuck with it. This year we had birthday noisemakers we used as makeshift kazoos.  Also during his set the speakers we were sitting under decided to be problematic so there were a few songs where the crew was climbing the stage and trying to fix it as it was popping in and out.  If they were such a problem that they needed to be corrected during the show, they probably should have temporarily suspended the show as to not be such a distraction but, I’m not in charge.

Night 2

We weren’t entirely sure what to expect when it was time for Night 2 – but they pulled out major rare deep cut “Dream Girl” to start the show, and it became a Members song heavy set.  Trembling from White Rabbit was done for the first time ever, Working was done for just the second time (aside from Isaac doing it at his side project), So Lovely was full band for the first time since 2005, Grace Unknown full band for the 2nd time ever.  This was 63% Members Only which I didn’t do major research into but I think may be one of the biggest members setlists since the 2014 Members Only set. (81%)  They also had AMMM’s Zack Mack join them on harmonica for Dressed in Brown Eyes.  [Note: I have since done research: 2017 BTTI Members Only was 65% and 2017 MOE in Tulsa was 68%, BTTI Members Only was 84% beating out even the 2014 set and 2018 MOE in Tulsa was 71%, MOE Tulsa 2019 was 79%,  yet somehow that 2014 set is more memorable. ]
Isaac Solo 

Isaac loses so points for doing “River” but gains them for the 2nd time ever for Ordinary Words and live debuts (excluding his side project) of Mother of Exiles and The Gift Of Tears.  He also loses for not doing my request of Greener Pastures and also for doing Hand in Hand which ended up being repeated in the Night 3 set as well. Overall, he did a lot better with his set than he has in the past, even if he did bumble his way through a couple songs.

Night 3

Night 3 was AMMM’s set – which had Isaac joining them for a cover of One More Last Chance – which Isaac had been doing with Mother Road Sons and Taylor and Zac joined them for a cover of Forever and Ever Amen.  This set needed more Ingram Hill and less she who shall not be named.

Taylor Solo 

Taylor loses alllll the points for playing With You In You Dreams (even though we kind of expected it) and THEN doing 2 never before heard live songs that I couldn’t enjoy to its fullest because I was still recovering from crying.  He had been saying that Semi Hollow would never be played live – yet somehow managed to pull it off followed by the debut of We Belong Together.  Next time, Taylor, end on the sad one. (Even though I’d still be mad about it)  We now have all of Red having been played live – it’ll be interesting to see if We Belong Together makes it into the rotation more now or not.  I feel like Semi Hollow may end up back in the vault though.

Events

I am kind of over the events.  I did like that we got to sign up on paper to play video games with Zac and didn’t have to stand in line (which I always skip doing) but we sat there watching him play with groups of 3 through 4 Mario Kart races and never got called up to play.  Watching it is boring if you’re not playing and he probably should have done 2 races instead to get in more people.  Family Feud is old, yet Isaac still doesn’t understand the rules, and throwing Taylor in as a co-host wasn’t anywhere near as amusing as I had hoped.  Plus having the events at the same time meant we couldn’t linger in the back to watch the other Family feud session to see if it was any more amusing or not because we were waiting to play games with Zac.  If they’re going to stick to Family Feud they need to theme it more Hanson and maybe a bit more “raunchy” as half the answers seemed to be going that way anyway, but it’s a premade family version of the game.  I also don’t like staying up so late after the shows – but FOMO keeps me from going to sleep before things are over.  I’m also not big into the Pool Party – especially with it back to being on the last night because it went until 1:30 and I needed to be up at 6:45 to finish packing and catch my shuttle. (Which I knew when I booked the flight, but I wanted the buffer of there being a second flight out of Jamaica to Baltimore after being screwed last year by taking the last flight out)

Night 4

While we knew Night 3 was going to be “Rockin'”, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  Would they continue the awesome momentum of the first 2 sets? Or would they fall back on the usuals for this last one since so much rehearsal seemingly went into the other two?  They started with Dancing in the Wind – which really could go either way – but once they busted out Speechless – that had never been played at BTTI before – I had a feeling they did their research. (Is that why hansonstage is broken?) They also followed it with Cried – although I feel like they made this setlist a little top heavy and went back into the regulars at the end – where I’d rather they start with that and then build up for the end.  They ended up throwing in A Song To Sing as the first encore – saying that it was probably the complete opposite of Rocking but we’d grin and bear it as it was a request. (Though I do wonder WHO requested it) and then finished out with Zach Myers on I Believe in a Thing Called Love and all of AMMM for “AMMMBop” and the finale of Back to the Island.

Year 11 was one of the best – but I am hoping for some tweaks for next year and looking forward to getting my post-event survey.  The gift for year 11s was a blanket – which took up nearly half of my suitcase.  As someone who tries to do carry on only, they really need to give us a heads up about the size of these items they are giving us so I can figure out how to pack!

Back Again

I ended up asking to be put on a shuttle 1 hour earlier than when we were departing because it can take quite some time to find someone to push the wheelchair at the airport.  My name wasn’t on the list, but the driver took me anyway (he was the same driver I had on the way in) but then we stopped at 3 or 4 other resorts on the way there – stopping at one for 15-20 minutes for no apparent reason as no one boarded.  While waiting in the wheelchair for a pusher, I saw the people on the bus an hour behind us show up – 15 minutes later than we did!  The kiosk also said my flight was delayed, but it apparently was not delayed enough to show up as delayed on the screens.  I made it to Baltimore without incident and used Global Entry for the first time – there was pretty much no one in front of me, it took a photo of me and didn’t even ask for my passport – then I went to the booth and he told me I was all good and could enter.  I was so fast that they hadn’t even opened baggage claim for those who had to transfer their checked luggage.  Fortunately carry on only I just kept on my way to the security check point which was forever away.  They had no cane to help me out so I managed to get them to let me use my own but how ridiculous.  1.5 miles later, I made it to the gate, and the flight kept fluctuating between on time, 15 minutes late and 30 minutes late.  In the end, the crew was late and we did end up taking off and getting in late, but I can take a 30 minute delay over being stuck in Jamaica overnight alone.  If you’re on the fence about Global Entry, I can’t recommend it enough, I heard of  a lot of people missing their connecting flights from customs being so long this year. It took me like 5 minutes, if that.  Here’s my blog post on how I got Global Entry last year after returning from Jamaica: https://blog.concertkatie.com/2023/02/global-entry-in-10-days.html

Year In Review – 2023

Fun concert fact: in 2023 I sat in the rain at 3 concerts – all 3 happened to be to see 3 brother bands. 3 different 3 brother bands in 3 different states. (GA, CT, NY – Hanson, AJR, Jonas)

Most expensive show:
Other than Back To The Island which doesn’t quite count, Jonas Brothers at Yankee Stadium clocked in at $320, plus we already had another ticket on top of that before we got there.

Least (not free) expensive show:
Virtual were in the $10-20 range but for actual in person shows, Eric Hutchinson was $37

Free shows:
2 days of the Cherry Blossom Festival, Hanson’s Members Only Event (we’ll ignore I had to pay for membership), Darius Rucker

# artists seen: 88
# unique artists seen: 30
# shows seen in CT: 16
# of shows out of state: 25

Show farthest away: I think Jamaica wins this year
Closest show: Fairfield CT
$$ spent on tickets: About $5k
Miles traveled: 20,296

Top 6 shows of the year? The 2nd Hanson show at Escanaba for sure. I think there was a BTTI show I was really into as well. And I saw John Mayer 3x so let’s give him 3 spots… and Ruben & Clay can round out the 6th spot.

Total number of shows in 2023? 41 (2 virtual)

First show of the year? Hanson

First show with actual tickets:  I’m not sure any have “actual” tickets anymore. 🙁  (My Ridgefield and Fairfield shows most likely had actual tickets, and then Darius I had one too because it was a comped will call ticket but they are coming fewer and farther between sadly)

Last show of the year? Darren Criss (because Aerosmith got postponed)

Most surprising show? Maybe Jonas at  Yankee Stadium

Most disappointing? Aerosmith postponement

Farthest traveled? Jamaica

States attended shows in? CT, RI, NY, NJ, TN, GA, OK, IA, AR, PA, MI [no new states this year but AR was a new Hanson state]

Venue most visited? I think Ridgefield Playhouse wins this year

Band seen the most? Hanson

Best new discovery? Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors

Bands seen this year that also broke up this year? None that I know of

Friends made at shows? I don’t think I made any, though the girls next to us at Jonas were super nice and helpful but we didn’t keep in touch.

Band members met? Hanson, Joey McIntyre, Hunter Hayes, Fresh Kids of Bel Air, O-Town, BBMak, Chris Kirkpatrick, Darren Criss

Best souvenir from a show? I’m not sure. Nothing is jumping out at me as being really cool.

Longest time in line? I don’t think any were GA that I had to wait at all for… which is impressive.

Shows seen from the barricade [front row]– Matt Nathanson, Haley Reinhart, Hanson (IA, CT, PA, MI, MI), Fresh Kids of Bel Air, Lindsey Stirling, Jonas Brothers and I had quite a few from second row as well.

Most shows in one month? 

January – 6
February – 4
March – 6
April – 1
May – 5
June – 3
July – 7
August – 3
September – 1
October – 2
November – 2
December – 1

Most shows in one week? Back to the Island and then the CT/TN/GA stretch where I did 2 concerts, flew to TN, went to a Broadway show (didn’t see the end), and then did 3 more shows 1 in TN and 2 in GA.

Biggest crowd? Sound on Sound was maybe like 15-20k? Not totally sure but probably the biggest as it was a festival 

Any drunk encounters? There were 2 separate occasions in which drunk people were standing *on top of me* at concerts.  How drunk do you need to be to not realize you are standing on another human?

Missed shows:

Had to sell my tix to David Cook to get some sleep for an early flight
Aerosmith postponed and no new date has been announced yet

Book Review: The Haunted Mansion: Storm & Shade

The Haunted Mansion: Storm & Shade is from Disney and based loosely on their Haunted Mansion attraction.  This book is set in New Orleans, where Audrey has just moved to town and is trying to fit in and make friends.  She ends up finding 2 blocks away a mansion that is supposedly haunted and ends up visiting it with some friends.  A Category 3 Hurricane is also supposed to hit and her friends families as well as hers have to decide if they are going to evacuate or ride it out.  Audrey ends up making friends with someone at the Mansion named Stirling, and ends up realizing that it may be a ghost and a lot of the ghosts there can see and hear everything she and her friends have been doing and saying, even if they couldn’t see them at the time.  Some strange things start happening and Audrey and her friends are worried that if they can’t stop it, soon they too will end up as a happy haunt at the mansion.

I loved that this book was set in New Orleans – it really lent itself to the spooky haunted and voodoo vibe.  It’s about 400 pages long so a bit of a longer read, but a lot of fun and takes you right into the action in the mansion with the friends yourself.  If you enjoy the Haunted Mansion ride and all things Disney, you’ll likely enjoy this book!

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in order to write this review, I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

Welcome, foolish mortals, to an original and eerie novel inspired by the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disney Parks!

When high school student Audrey Perez moves to a town that’s supposedly home to a haunted mansion, she and a few of her new friends decide to investigate. Audrey is quickly swept up in a macabre mystery and eerie adventure that holds the fate of the Haunted Mansion’s 999 happy haunts in the balance. A storm is coming—both literally and figuratively—and it’ll be up to Audrey and her friends to save the Mansion—and its ghosts—before it’s too late. But can Audrey do so while dealing with her own anxieties and while caught in a love triangle between her boyfriend and the enigmatic Sterling—who just might be a ghost?

Read on, foolish mortal, if you dare . . .

Book Review: The AI Metaverse Unveiled – Working, Playing, Living and the Convergence of Artificial Intelligence in the New World

 

The AI Metaverse Unveiled is a very detailed book about Working, Playing, Living and the Convergence of Artificial Intelligence in the New World.  This is a world where technology meets imagination.  You’ll learn about web3, the blockchain, NFTs, and all the industries that AI is making an impact on.  Want to learn more about how AR can be used to help athletes train? How your avatar can have some sweet Nike kicks? What the ethics involved are and what you should be aware of if you or your business starts to go down the path of including AI and the digital universe?  All of this and so, so, so much more will be answered if you read this book.

If you have any interest whatsoever in AI – then this is the book for you.  It will fill you in on all the various ways it has been utilized already – such as NFTs, with music releases and concerts, and even in the fashion world.  I knew that AI and the metaverse were growing all around me, but I didn’t realize just how many different areas of my life it was already in place and how it has been evolving since it first came out.  This book taught me a lot – I never really thought of AI in terms of retail and marketing – but the thought of not having to go to a mall but being able to see how certain clothing or accessories might fit on me without even needing to leave the house to try them on and then to purchase them seems incredibly appealing!  Since Cybersecurity is an area I have interest in I paid the most attention to those areas of the book – but there is really something for everyone no matter what your industry or interest might be!

I give this book 3.5 stars, simply because it had just SO much content it was overwhelming at times, but it was very informational and interesting.

I received a free copy of this book to read from Reedsy Discovery

About the Book

“A Short AI Metaverse Story Wrapped in a Big Book About Technology” Step into the captivating realm of “The AI Metaverse Unveiled,” where technology meets imagination, and the future unfolds through the lens of artificial intelligence and the Metaverse. This groundbreaking book, weaves a narrative that transcends traditional tech literature, offering a unique blend of storytelling and technical exploration. In this visionary work, the reader is introduced to Arthur, the AI Avatar, a digital protagonist who guides us through the intricacies of the metaverse. Each chapter unfolds with a theatrical scene, bringing complex concepts to life through vivid examples and real-world scenarios. It’s more than just a book; it’s an immersive journey and glimpse into a future where AI and humanity stand hand in hand. From the dawn of the metaverse to the convergence of artificial intelligence, blockchain, and web3, “The AI Metaverse Unveiled” meticulously charts the evolution of our digital universe. The book details the impact of AI on industries such as Retail, Marketing, Science, Gaming, Healthcare, Sports, the Workplace, Skill Acquisition, Law, Ethics, Cybersecurity, Investing, Space Exploration and culminates with a grand finale of 22 bold AI Metaverse predictions.

 

 

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