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!

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The Castaways
By Elin Hilderbrand

Synopsis

“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.” 

Recommend?

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

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Good as Gone
By Amy Gentry

Synopsis

“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.” 

Recommend?

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.

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What books do you recommend?

So There's That Series

What’s Up Wednesday: November 2015

Oh hey, what’s up? Is it SERIOUSLY the end of another month?!

This link up happens the last Wednesday of every month with the same list of questions and is hosted by The Larson Lingo, Mix & Match Family andPinterest Told Me To.

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What I’m Eating This Month…

This month went by quick and though I kept up with cooking more and more original things, I didn’t really take pictures. It is the start of the holidays and I love to share with people so I when a made a few things ahead of time for Thanksgiving I also made a few things to share at work and give away to a few people including my great grandma’s nutty sour cream cinnamon rolls and Dad’s smoked salmon dip.
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What I’m Reminiscing About…

Last year I surprised my whole family by coming home for Thanksgiving for the first time since I was in high school. It was great fun, but I’m not sure I could ever go that long without spilling the beans. I was super proud of myself.

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My suprise trip home for Thanksgiving 2014.
My suprise trip home for Thanksgiving 2014.

What I’m Loving…

All of the social media Thanksgiving posts throughout the month.
Listen, I know lots of people think it can be superficial (or annoying) and that “we should be thankful everyday of the year,” but that attitude makes me so mad. Quit trying to find a way to be a gloomy hipster. So what if its really cheesy? I think the world needs a little bit more of that, especially lately, and I enjoy reading those tweets and statuses much more than your well-crafted, bandwagon political opinion. 

NARS Lip Pencils.
http://www.sporcle.com/… long story, but my co-workers and I addicted.
The Bloggess’ Awkwarding Brings Us Together series.
The Timehop App. It’s a brilliant idea, and it never fails to make me smile every day.
My new flannel sheets.
The Prairie Californian’s “Thirty Days of Food” blog series
The Total Wine store.
This quote.

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Joseph Gordon Levitt’s mad lip syncing skills

What I’ve Been Up To…
I started out the month at Lake Tahoe for my job’s Fall Board Meeting. It was a beautiful location and I managed to sneak away for a few minutes for some great picture taking…

My Spoo grandparents, who I haven’t been able to see in a few years, live a few hours north of Lake Tahoe. Because of the time difference my flight got in mid-morning, so they made the trip to spend the afternoon with me. Being back in Nevada and visiting with them brought back so many childhood memories of the summer I would spend there with my sister and our cousins. These two are such an important part of who I am and I just love them so much.

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What I’m Dreading…
I’m pretty sure I’ve said winter for the last 3 months…

 So, ummm holiday travel? That’s different, right?

What I’m Working On…
Finishing buying and making Christmas gifts… DUH. I am DETERMINED to be done when I leave to go home for my week off.

What I’m Excited About…
2016.
Really though, 2015 was incredibly unexpected, exciting, challenging and rewarding… and all in ways that I couldn’t have imagined when I rang in the New Year. But looking ahead as I start to fill in my calendar, set some goals and continue to explore my new home (which will probably always feel new to me), I am so incredibly excited for 2016.

What I’m Watching…
As I expected, shows are starting to lose my interest. I LOVED the first season of How to Get Away With Murder, but there is just way too much going on this season and some of the characters are really starting to annoy me. I just don’t see where the show can continue to go from here and not have those problems. I am about 3 episodes behind, and at some point I will probably binge watch and catch up to the Fall Finale because I “HAVE TO” know a few things in the plot, but after that, who knows. I also dropped Blood and Oil. I really liked the idea of it and the acting is pretty good but its too slow and considering I watch way too much TV, it was easy for me to forget about it.

I’m still kind of keeping up with the Voice but that’s primarily because I just turn the TV up really loud so I can go off and do other things around the house. I still regularly watch Gotham, Criminal Minds and Scandal, though sometimes its later on my computer. The two new shows that I am loving are Blindspot and Quantico.

What I’m Reading…
Except for re-reading Mockingjay before the movie came out (which I haven’t seen yet) I haven’t found the time or haven’t as interested in reading the last two months. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve been indecisive and picky, so I’ve legitimately started 5 different books in the last month and a half and haven’t finished one. I typically don’t have this problem and I’m sure with the cold weather that it will go away soon.

What I’m Listening To…
As always, check out my Friday Jam Session series for what I’m listening to every week (or so). Lately I’ve been enjoying albums from Adele, Eric Church, Sia and Ellie Goulding. There are always a number of new singles that I’m into, and I’ve joined the bandwagon and am STILL obsessing over Chris Stapleton’s (check out his whole album) and Justin Timberlake’s performances at the CMA’s

What I’m Wearing…

ALL THE WARM THINGS
…and November here is not nearly as bad as January and February.
(I also failed at taking pictures.)

I’ve had to refrain from buying every flannel I see because they don’t really fit into my work wardrobe, so I just got one new one that is seen in the picture above with my grandparents.  My tall/skinny jean boots are also at their two-year mark and probably wouldn’t make it through another winter just on their own, so I recently got these Steve Madden boots from Off Broadway (I LOVE THAT STORE!) I’m so picky about shoes so I was happy when I finally a pair that worked for me.

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What I’m Doing This Weekend…
Friendsgiving!!!

I am headed down to Raleigh, NC, which will be a little over a 4 hour drive, to spend Thanksgiving with my friends Jake and Nicole. These are two Oregon kids that I helped recruit to K-State and became good friends with along the way. They are now out in North Carolina and I am so excited to see some famiilar faces from home (Oregon AND Kansas!) Based on the chatter from the past few days I think we are going to have plenty to eat (and drink) over the next few days! It should be a fabulous time!

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What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month…
 One word.

HOME.

This Month’s Bonus Question: What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?

– I’m not sure how early it started, but my sister and I have always had this rule or understanding that we DO NOT under any circumstances go look at or go through our stockings until the other one is awake. When we were younger that meant one of us shaking the other awake at 6 am. Last year at ages 20 and 24, I got a mean text message from my sister at 9:28 am (as I could also hear her all the way up the stairs) that she was starting without me at 9:30 and that in the future, if I wasn’t out of bed by that time, she was taking my stuff.

– Pancakes for dinner on Christmas Eve.

– My family is usually pretty tired from our store being busy during the holidays, so Christmas Day is pretty laid back. Someone always gets a movie of some kind so we usually end up watching it and pulled out a board or card game.

– Uncle Jay’s unique gift wrapping. Trashbags are the most repeated, but past years have included newspapers.

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Well, that’s what’s up this Wednesday!
Cheers, and Happy Thanksgiving Friends!

So There's That Series

What’s Up Wednesday: October 2015

Oh hey, what’s up? This link up 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.

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What I’m Eating This Month…

October is National Pasta Month and the 25th was World Pasta Day. In addition to some editorial and social media coverage at work, I organized two “Pasta Day” potluck lunches at my office. I made my Grammy’s stack salad and modified it to go better with a pasta base. Everyone in the office seemed to enjoy the lunches and there were so many yummy dishes!

world pasta 1 world pasta 2 

What I’m Reminiscing About…

Turning 25 is, as the hipsters say, “giving me all the feels.”
For the most part, everything in my life can be addressed with “How did I get here?”
Not funny? Hmm inside jokes are complicated.
Anyways, I thought this Buzzfeed article, 19 Signs You’re Finally Becoming An Adult, pretty much sums up life right now.

strange kind of grown up

What I’m Loving…
Kansas City Royals!!!! #TakeTheCrown
Trader Joe’s Almond Nut Butter
The wonderful reception and feedback I am getting on my new “The Road I Traveled Series”
My new discovery… dirty chai!!!
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15 Jokes Only Extreme ‘Gilmore Girls’ Fans Understand
Updates from two of my best girls who are both due with their first babies next spring!
This 3 year old who was devastated when she found out Adam Levine was married…
Fall colors, because #basic
My family’s loving dysfunctional group text messages
The “SWORKIT lite” phone app
And this meme… Holla!
big hair

What I’ve Been Up To…
 Each month that I live here seems to go by faster! This month I turned 25, and had a pretty low-key birthday weekend because the weekend before I took advantage of having Columbus Day off and made a quick trip back to Kansas for a K-State football game and to visit with friends.

It might be awhile before I make it back there again, so I crammed as much in as I possible could and left with a full heart.

What I’m Dreading…
My always long, and always random to-do list. That’s the problem with being an obsessive list maker. I also finally got around to applying for TSA pre-check (not in time for my next trip) and got my appointment scheduled.

And as ALWAYS, I’m dreading winter. 

What I’m Working On…
I finally finished my fall burlap wreath (L) for my new office at work (which I wrote about here) and then my co-worker loved it so much that he asked me to make another one (R) for his entry way at home. I was pretty happy with how they turned out!

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What I’m Excited About…
As much as I hate winter, it does mean the holidays. Ever since I left for college, my birthday has always roughly marked two months before I go home for the holidays and when I officially start my countdown — and that had remained the same in post grad. During those two months I tend to get homesick a bit more often than usual. So… today marks 50 days until home sweet home again!

What I’m Watching…
As I mentioned in last month’s “What’s Up Wednesday” post, I was watching Friends for the first time from start to finish on Netflix and had been avoiding the last few episodes of the series because I didn’t want it to end. Well, I finally accepted it and faced the end. I sent a SnapChat of the scene where Rachel is individually saying goodbye to each of the friends to my bestie Megan in Kansas because she just finished the series as well and the scene hit a little too close to home for me…aka I cried. Seriously, every 20-something needs the friends in their lives.

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As I’m writing this I am also mastering my multi-channel TV watching skills with the Republican debate, Game 2 of the World Series (GO ROYALS) and the Trailblazers NBA season opener.
I couldn’t decide on just one.

What I’m Reading…
I skipped out last month, but I’ll recap my September and August reading list next week during Molly and Katie’s Bookworm Wednesday link-up.

This week, I also enjoyed this blog post that has been floating around titled, “Screw Finding Your Passion.” It’s a little blunt and definitely has some unnecessary language, but it really breaks down a topic that I have talked in circles about with different people and gives it a refreshing (minus the language) message that really resonated with me.

What I’m Listening To…

I haven’t posted a Friday Jam Session in a few weeks. I just haven’t been all that motivated to work on them throughout the week and when I would get to Thursday, they just didn’t happen at all. But my lists and comments are getting a bit long, so I’ll definitely be back at it this week.
In the meantime, like the rest of the world, I can’t stop listening to Adele’s new single “Hello”

And I’m loving this stripped down version “Out of the Woods” from T-Swift. I think I like it better than the original.

What I’m Wearing…

Like always, I never remember to take pictures of the (very) few outfits that I deem shareable. I did throw on my new blanket scarf this morning that I AM OBSESSED with. I mentioned last month that I spent all of last winter not being able to decide what print  and colors I wanted so I never got one. Back in August, I decided that it was a must-have item this season and finally chose this one. It is so warm and soft, and mixes and matches well with quite a bit of my wardrobe. I wore it once over dress as a shawl with a thin belt over the top… and the jury is still out on that style. But I am completely convinced that everyone needs a blanket scarf in their life.

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What I’m Doing This Weekend…
Watching the World Series and packing for my next work trip…

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month…
 Early next week I head out to Lake Tahoe for a fall board meeting for my job. Since my Spoo grandparents live nearby, they are going to pick me up from the airport and spend the rest of the day with me. I haven’t seen them in over 3 years, so I’m REALLY excited!

And of course, Thanksgiving!! This year I’m headed down to Raleigh, NC for a little Friendsgiving action with some fellow Oregonian/K-State/East Coast transplants.

This Month’s Bonus Question: What’s your favorite Thanksgiving recipe…

Ugh. Talking holiday food traditions makes me homesick.
Dad’s tri-tip and pork loin. Grammy’s mashed potatoes. Cousin Lisa’s pretzel salad. The Jorgensen family’s sweet rolls and more… Good thing all of those things are usually at the Christmas dinner table as well.

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

Books and Reading

Bookworm Wednesday: Summer 2015

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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.

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Matchmaker
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.

(3.5/5)

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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.

(4/5)

mindy
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.

(5/5)

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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.

(4/5)

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Happy reading!