Books and Reading

Book Review: January 2018

As a kid, my parents used to joke that for punishment they should take my books away because that would have been one of the few things that really would have made an impact. But they didn’t thank goodness, and books became the first thing that really fueled my love for words, stories and their impact, which eventually influenced my career path.

But then college happened and I almost stopped reading altogether outside of textbooks, articles and what not.

In the almost 5 years since I graduated (say what?!), I’ve struggled to bring reading back into my regular routine, so when I do read its usually when I’m traveling or a random binge, where I start and finish a book in one day. However this hasn’t stopped me from bringing in a few hauls from local bargain sales and adding to my endless list of popular books that everyone else is suggesting.

So my goal in 2018 is to read at LEAST one book a month (baby steps), but to aim toward more like 2 to 3 books. Since book reviews are some of my favorite posts to read, I figured that making this a monthly post is the best way to keep myself accountable.

In January, I read two books and I am ALMOST done with “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, but just couldn’t quite get it finished in time, so that will go on next month’s review.

My list is already pretty long, but please let me know what you recommend!


The Castaways
By Elin Hilderbrand


“Greg and Tess MacAvoy are one of four prominent Nantucket couples who count each other as best friends. As pillars of their close-knit community, the MacAvoys, Kapenashes, Drakes, and Wheelers are important to their friends and neighbors, and especially to each other. But just before the beginning of another idyllic summer, Greg and Tess are killed when their boat capsizes during an anniversary sail. As the warm weather approaches and the island mourns their loss, nothing can prepare the MacAvoy’s closest friends for what will be revealed.
Once again, Hilderbrand masterfully weaves an intense tale of love and loyalty set against the backdrop of endless summer island life.”
  (via GoodReads)

My Review

I love Elin Hilderbrand, and to anyone who asks, I usually describe her as the Sarah Dessen for adults (though for the record, as an adult I still LOVE Sarah Dessen.) Hilderbrand’s books always make me both laugh and cry, and while yes, you can describe them as a mindless, fun vacation read, I would argue that they often stay with me for a while and make me think a bit. Anyway, The Castaways had a little bit of everything — humor, romance, drama, mystery, etc. — and was probably one of Hilderbrand’s more complex stories. It flowed really well, considering it changed narrators with each chapter and kept me interested until the very end. This story was bittersweet and interesting look at how six different people react and work through the same tragedy. Plus, as always, Hilderbrand makes me want to visit Nantucket someday since that is the setting for all of her books.

Favorite Quote(s)

“Women clearly felt things more deeply: they read sub-text where men saw only white space.” 


4 out of 5 stars… so yes! Definitely recommend if these kind of books are your jam.


Good as Gone
By Amy Gentry


“Thirteen-year-old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night, witnessed only by her younger sister. Her family was shattered, but managed to stick together, hoping against hope that Julie is still alive. And then one night: the doorbell rings. A young woman who appears to be Julie is finally, miraculously, home safe. The family is ecstatic—but Anna, Julie’s mother, has whispers of doubts.  She hates to face them. She cannot avoid them. When she is contacted by a former detective turned private eye, she begins a torturous search for the truth about the woman she desperately hopes is her daughter.” (via Good Reads)

My Review

I love crime shows and mysteries, so I was really looking forward to this book after reading a few good reviews — some that even said that it was equal to “Gone Girl” (which I LOVED.) But I was ultimately left disappointed. The first half of the book was pretty good and had me pulled in, but after a while the narrative switches started to get too confusing and I actually guessed the ending maybe around 3/4’s of the way through. While I realize that religion was a key piece of the story, but I think that the story could have been shortened and simplified a bit. There was just too many things going on that never quite connected for me.

Favorite Quote(s)

“My whole life, ever since I could remember, I’d always hated the thought that no one could ever know what anyone else was feeling or thinking. The fact that no one could ever be inside my head with me seemed like the loneliest thing in the world. I wanted so bad for there to be something that could make those boundaries just disappear. Something so big it was like air, a magic flowing across the planet, connecting everyone and everything.” 


2.5 out of 5 stars. If suspense is a genre you are really into I’d say, ‘sure why not.’ But otherwise I’d say skip it.


What books do you recommend?

Books and Reading

Bookworm Wednesday: Summer 2015


Linking up with Molly @ Colors of Life and Katie @ Better Off Benedict for their first Bookworm Wednesday Link Up!

I was really excited to see this link up get started! I am in Guatemala right now, but a little bit of planning ahead still allowed me to participate. I have been traveling a lot this summer for work so a lot of my reading has been on the plane and not as much as I would like. I went ahead and included all of my reading from this summer, not just August. (I also read two books for work, but I’m pretty sure no one wants me to review those.)

Also, speaking of Guatemala, you can read Day 1 and 2 from my travel journal HERE. I am a bit behind, so my post for Day 3 and 4 will be posted later today.


The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand

This story follows Dabney, a native to Nantucket who has a knack for playing matchmaker, resulting in dozens of long-lasting relationships, and also knowing when a relationship is not meant to be. She has a complicated family and love story of her own, and when some of those things come back into her present-day life, everything about her well-ordered, simple life is turned on its side.

I am new to Elin Hilderbrand. The only other book of hers that I have read is The Island. I will definitely be reading more though! She’s a romance author, but her stories are warm, light-hearted and filled with characters that I think readers can really relate to at some point in the story. I’m really picky about romance novels, because I find most over the top, but I really like the other relationship perspectives, such as sisters, friends, mothers and daughters. I also love that she anchors all of her books around Nantucket, which represents something that is very important to her personal life and that show in her storytelling. I didn’t rate it quite as high though, because I felt that it was a little to long-winded, especially in the last few chapters.


Maze Runner Series by James Dashner (The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure; Prequel: The Kill Order)

Thomas is thrown into a new world with no memories except for his name. Every month for a few years, a new teenage boy has arrived in the same way to “The Maze” with supplies that allow the group to live, and grow or raise their own food. Where they live is enclosed by a wall that opens up during the day into a stone maze, and despite organized efforts, they can’t find a way out. When Thomas arrives though, things start to change. The second and third continue to follow Thomas and his friends, as they realize that their time in the Maze was part of a much bigger purpose and that the danger and adventure has just begun.

Early this past spring I randomly rented The Maze Runner movie and really enjoyed it. Like music, I like a large variety of genres in movies and books. I had always hear this series grouped to together with the Hunger Games and Divergent series, but never given the same attention. A friend told me that the books were worth reading, but recommended getting all of the books at once because I wasn’t going to want to take a break even if I already knew what was happening in the first book. Yeah, that was an understatement. For a lack of better words, the rest of the series blew my mind. (Hunger Games SPOILER reference): you know in the second Hunger Games book when they announce that Katniss is going back in the area, and you kind of wanted to throw the book across the room? I felt that way at the end of about every three chapters throughout books 2 and 3. The entire story is really complex, action-filled and makes you think. I kept wondering when I would stop adding more questions to my list, which meant I was hooked but I also had what one of my friends calls a “book hangover” when I was finished. One major thought I had though was that it was a refreshing change, because unlike Hunger Games and Divergent, both the author and the main character are male, and that meant that everything had a different tone and pace. Overall I don’t know that I could pick a favorite of the three and the prequel is necessary to read (last), but stands on its own. Comparing it to the other series, I like it quite a bit better than the Divergent series, but Hunger Games is still my favorite.


Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

A memoir/observational-essay collection from one of TV’s favorite funny gals, Mindy Kaling. She shares about her youth and her rise to become a staff writer and actress on “The Office,” and eventually her own, current show, “The Mindy Project.” It’s incredibly sassy, smart, sarcastic and hilarious. One review I read of it said, “It’s an autobiography crossed with witty observations with a twist of a shopping guide, and a pinch of Oprah-esque Your Best Life Now inspiration, told in Kaling’s singularly endearing voice.”

I have owned this book for over a year and continued to forget that it was on my shelf. That was my mistake. Seriously I want Mindy to be my best friend. I read this straight through on a coast to coast flight, and was definitely that obnoxious person cracking up as I read. Mindy is hilarious, sarcastic and very honest. I haven’t gotten a chance to watch much of her current show, The Mindy Project, but I loved her on The Office, so it was fun to hear her anecdotes from behind the scenes and how her personal and professional life has ebbed and flowed.


dark places
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Libby Day was 7 when her mother and sisters were murdered in the middle of the night, on their failing Kansas farm. Based on her testimony, her teenage brother Ben was convicted on the murders. Years later, a “Kill Club,” made up of crime enthusiasts convince Libby to question everything about what really happened the night and the events leading up to it. Each chapter jumps back and forth between flashbacks and present-day, as well as between character perspectives.

This is the same author who brought us Gone Girl. Overall, I really enjoyed it, and if you like her other material or this genre then I would definitely recommend it. Like Gone Girl it was twisted, with well-crafted scenes and characters that you never really decide whether you sympathize with or dislike. It was a bit raw and crude at times, and it is also very hard to review without giving too much away. I will say that this one was just a tad bit predictable before I would have liked (still a good shock though) and I felt like after so much detail, the ending was kind of misplaced and hasty. On the other hand, this book makes you think A LOT, which I particularly like.



Happy reading!

So There's That Series

What’s Up Wednesday: August 2015

Oh hey, what’s up? I’m excited to finally jump in on this fun link up! It happens the last Wednesday of every month with the same list of questions and is hosted by The Larson Lingo, Mix & Match Family and Pinterest Told Me To.


What I’m Eating This Week…
Normally I would not really have anything interesting to share here. I don’t really enjoy cooking, so I usually keep it pretty basic. But I know that I eat better when I plan a little ahead of time and with a busy week ahead I knew that I was not going to want to come home after work each night and put any thought into it. So aside from a few of my easy go-to staples, that I bought or prepared ahead of time I also made these two recipes: Parmesan and Spinach Orzo (I substituted bleu cheese crumbles) and Baked Chicken. I have some pork and other chicken that I am trading off mixing into the orzo (although it would be good by itself,) and the baked chicken I will pair with some steamed veggies and maybe a sweet potato! I have enough for about 6 meals this week, and I am actually pretty proud of myself for how well they turned out!

What I’m Reminiscing About…
Back-to-school memories at K-State. I always LOVED the week before classes started back up. Lot of traditions, moving in to new places, buying new supplies and getting organized, and catching up with friends you haven’t seen all summer before the busy semester starts. Yepp, I officially “Miss Manhattan.” Here are a few of my favorite back-to-school college photos.

What I’m Loving…

Making my own cold brew coffee. I’m obsessed.

What I’ve Been Up To…
This summer has been REALLY busy. Over the last eight weeks my best friend visited me here in D.C., I had work trips in San Diego and Phoenix, and I took two quick vacations home to Oregon and to Vegas. To be honest, the little bit of downtime on weeknights and weekends that I have had have been pretty laid back.

What I’m Dreading…
Flying on my upcoming trip (see below)? I don’t know, life is pretty good right now, so that would have to be it. I don’t get sick when I fly, but I never feel all that great. And honestly airports and the whole process of flying just pushes all of my buttons. I get it, you just have to practice a bit more patience then a normal day, but people who are rude or have no common sense, nope, the struggle for me is very real. Although packing is right up there with flying…

I promise, I really do love traveling.

What I’m Working On…
That’s a good question. During the day I am a communications specialist for the U.S. Wheat Associates. It’s a busy job, but I love it. I always have multiple projects going on at once, but something that is a bit different than the norm is a set of writing and editing courses that I am taking online through Poytner’s News University. Continuing education is an important part of just about any career!

What I’m Excited About…
Aside from my answers to some of the questions below? (!!!) Considering almost every blogger I follow also has a deep love for fall, I feel a bit cliché saying it, but seriously though, I’m SO EXCITED FOR FALL.

It’s my favorite season with out a doubt. I think a “Good Stuff” list about fall in the near future, not to mention increased time on Pinterest…

What I’m Watching…

My list of shows to eventually binge watch on Netflix is never-ending, but for some reason I kept putting off Friends. I had seen enough random episodes over the years to know some of the references and storylines, and know that I would like it. I finally gave in and now I am wondering why the friends have not been a part of my life sooner than now, other than I might appreciate it the most right now, also being in mid-20s. I just started season 6, so I am on the downhill and I just know that I am never going to want it to end.

I remember back in 2013, when the original promos for Graceland came out and wanting to pick up, and for whatever reason, didn’t. My sister brought it back to my attention this summer, and I am definitely hooked. I love Aaron Tveit from Les Miserables and his guest spots on Gossip Girl (no shame), but I honestly expected him to be awkward in this somewhat gritty show. And he is at times…but it surprising fits into the story pretty well. Crime/cop shows are my favorite genre, and this one separates itself with an unique angle and has characters that are really easy to become invested in. I definitely recommend it!

I have no shame. I Facetime with my friend Brandi back in Kansas and it’s the best entertainment.

What I’m Reading…
My reading list is significantly longer than my Netflix list. Throughout college I would buy cheap books here and there for my library, but didn’t get to read very many of them, because, college, duh. #herestoneverhavingtoreadatextbookagain. So essentially I have a ton of unread books on my shelf, yet I have no willpower from buying books that are popular right now and reading them right away. This month I only read one book…
dark places
I read Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, the same author who brought us Gone Girl. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Like Gone Girl it was twisted, with well-crafted scenes and characters, and also very hard to review without giving too much away. I will say that this one was just a tad bit predictable before I would have liked (still a good shock though) and I felt like after so much detail, the ending was kind of misplaced and hasty. On the other hand, this book makes you think A LOT, which I particularly like. Definitely recommend it!

What I’m Listening To…
I recently started up a new version of my Friday Jam Sessions, sharing each Friday what I have been listening to throughout the week. Check it out HERE.

Friday Jam Session

What I’m Wearing…
I don’t really consider myself that fashionable, but I like to look nice. I also don’t usually take mirror pictures… so maybe next time, maybe. But I am looking forward to a change in wardrobe with the upcoming change of season, especially so I can wear my new scarf! All of fall and winter, I really wanted a blanket scarf but couldn’t make up my mind on wanted. This year I told myself that I was going to make a decision and stick to it. This is what is on its way in the mail right now…

What I’m Doing This Weekend…
I’m going to Guatemala!!
I will be spending six day in Antigua, Guatemala at a World Staff Conference for my job. In addition to our East and West Coast U.S. offices, we also have 15 Foreign Offices around the world, so every other year this conference happens. Yes, a lot of my time will be spent in meetings at the resort, but I will still get to enjoy quite a few things. We have a day-long hike up the Pacaya volcano and weather permitting, I am going to be going zip lining! This is my first big international trip aside from a vacation in Mexico so I am extremely excited! I will be taking my camera, so be prepared for lots of pictures!

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month…
I’ve said many times that my perfect last day on earth includes a K-State Gameday and I know that I am going to be incredibly homesick for Kansas this fall. But I am very excited to join some of the watch parties here in D.C. and meet some new friends here that also bleed purple.


This Month’s Bonus Question: What’s Your Favorite Back to School Tradition…

 So I definitely wrote the above answers before I read what the bonus question was. Oh well. We didn’t really have an consistent traditions growing up and I already mentioned that the week before school started at K-State was always my favorite. I will say my favorite thing at the end of the first week of school was sitting down with all of my syllabi and extra curricular schedules and organizing it all in my planner. I even had erasable colored pencils… #nerdalert

Well, that’s what’s up this Wednesday!