11 June 2018

Book Review: WHEN ELEPHANTS FLY by Nancy Richardson Fischer

A heartwarming coming-of-age tale about mental illness, tolerance, and the beautiful bonds that can form between animal and human. WHEN ELEPHANTS FLY at its heart is about the importance of fighting for what you believe in, living in the moment, and never giving up hope. 

Lily Decker has spent most of her life fearing the day she becomes her schizophrenic mother. The same schizophrenic mother who attempted to kill her by throwing her off an apartment building when she was 11-years-old.

Because schizophrenia is largely genetic and is deeply ingrained in her family's lineage, Lily lives her life by a specific code of conduct. It's what she refers to as "the 12-year Plan". The code consists of living her life by logic rather than emotion and adhering to clean living to avoid the well-known contributing factors of schizophrenia -- stress, a lack of sleep, hormonal changes, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, alcohol, and drugs. She runs three miles everyday, meditates, and avoids parties and high-stress situations. There's just one problem with Lily's "12-year Plan". It's BORING.

Lily is nothing, if not apathetic. That is, until an internship at the local newspaper brings her to the zoo, where she watches an elephant attempt to kill her three-week-old calf, Swifty. Lily cannot bear to turn her back on the story or the baby calf, but she knows she'll have to abandon her safe plans in order to help. After learning Swifty is dying from grief, Lily is faced with a life-changing decision that could break not only her sanity, but also her heart. Life may not be a fairy tale, but there are many different forms of happily-ever-after.

I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!


*A big thanks to both Netgalley and the publisher for granting me the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book. The thoughts expressed in this review are my own personal opinions and have been written in my own words.

Publish Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

17 May 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Our House by Louise Candlish

Our HouseOur House by Louise Candlish
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I’VE READ ALL YEAR.


OUR HOUSE is a spellbinding story that will surprise you over and over again. I honestly can’t remember the last time a book surprised me as much as this one did.

Fiona (known as Fi) lives in a darling suburb outside of London that is known for its beautiful landscape and skyrocketing property values. Despite the strained relationship she has with her estranged husband Bram, Fi has been coping well with their separation and trial run custody agreement. That all changes when she arrives home early from a trip and finds a family in her driveway with a moving truck. Not only does this family claim to now legally own her home, but her possessions, estranged husband, and children are also missing.

The narrative of OUR HOUSE is told from the alternating perspectives of Fi and Bram. However, these perspectives are told in very unique and differing formats. Fi’s story is told in the form of a guest interview on a crime podcast called The Victim, while Bram tells his version of events in the form of a suicide letter. (This isn’t a spoiler, as this information is given to the reader in the first few chapters.) The unreliability of these narrators adds to the suspense and mystery of the story, and Candlish does an amazing job of tying it together with a few chapters told from the perspective of a third, neutral narrator.

As the story begins to unravel, one nightmare after another is revealed. Fraud, blackmail, secrets, lies, infidelity, betrayal. They all twist and turn until you get lost inside a labyrinth. It’s a cautionary and terrifying story about how one hidden truth can turn into a tsunami of lies and destroy everything in its wake.




*A big thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion written in my own words.


View all my reviews

14 May 2018

Book Review: I Flipping Love You by Helena Hunting

I FLIPPING LOVE YOU is a super cute story about flipping houses in the Hamptons, moving on from past hurts, and being brave enough to take a chance on love. 


Rian (like Ryan but with an i instead of a y) and Pierce seem like an unlikely couple on the surface, but sparks fly when an case of mistaken identity leads to a chance encounter at a grocery store. Despite the couple's obvious chemistry, Rian is hesitant to get involved with a man who isn't a safe bet and Pierce is anything but safe. Regardless, Rian's reluctance is no match against Pierce's charm and good looks, and the two quickly find themselves swept up in a whirlwind romance. 

I FLIPPING LOVE YOU is a feel good love story that makes you laugh. It's the perfect beach read! It's also the third novel in the SHACKING UP series but can easily be read as a standalone. In fact, I didn't initially realize this book was a series standalone, but I absolutely loved both SHACKING UP and HOOKING UP and this fact is an unexpected and added bonus for me!

*A big thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book. The thoughts expressed in this review are my own personal opinions and have been written in my own words.

10 May 2018

Book Review: Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

OUR KIND OF CRUELTY is told from the POV of an obsessed and delusional stalker named Mike. Mike believes he is playing a game of cat and mouse with the love of his life and ex-girlfriend named Verity. In reality, Verity (or V) has moved on from their relationship, fallen in love with "the most eligible bachelor in London," and plans to marry him. When V sends Mike an invitation to the wedding, he is convinced this was a calculated move in their twisted little game of Crave. Now, it's his move.


"They say that hate is the closest emotion to love. And passion certainly exists in two forms. The passion of sex and the passion of arguments. For V and I, one would merge into the other all the time."

I won't delve into the plot specifics because it would ruin the story for you, but the book is divided into three parts.

Part One: consists of inner dialogue that provides the backstory -- details about Mike's traumatic childhood, how he and V came to meet, the highs and lows of their 8 year relationship, the dynamics of their silly games, etc. It sets the stage for what will come later and helps the reader understand his actions, beliefs, and motivations.

Part Two: the story begins to pick up and the main event begins to unfold

Part Three: everything comes full circle as it all plays out in a courtroom

I had a hard time putting this book down but also have a few issues with it. My biggest issue is with Mike. To put simply, the man is certifiable. He has very little social intelligence and misinterprets everyday social cues on a near constant basis. Yet, we are to believe he's a very successful banker who rakes in million dollar bonuses, despite this social ineptitude. My other issue is with Verity. If the author intended readers to sympathize with V, she did a poor job. We don't know enough about her character (her personality, or head space, or what motivates her) to know if she's being genuine. Thus, we are left to wonder if Verity ever cared about Mike at all or if the only person she ever truly cared about was herself.

I've seen this book touted as a work "that puts man's depravity on display". I actually believe the opposite may be true. In my opinion, Verity appears to be just as depraved as Mike in this story (maybe even more so... she is a master in the art of social skills, after all). I was left with too many questions. Did V take advantage of Mike's vulnerability and lack of social skills to mold him into the man that she wanted? Into a man she could easily manipulate? Is it fair to deem someone's behavior as "depraved" if that behavior is motivated by a distorted reality? I'm not sure that it is. 

In the end, OUR KIND OF CRUELTY felt more depressing to me than it did disturbing. I also would have preferred a much more resolute ending. Regardless, I feel confident this novel will be popular among book clubs (as there is much to discuss!) and a hit with the fans of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins.

*A big thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

28 December 2015

2015 Reading Challenge

I wanted to read more in 2015, so I challenged myself to read 25 books by the end of the year. (50 seemed too lofty of a number because I would need to read at least a book every week.) After reading 25 books in less than six months, I upped the ante to 50. By October, I reached my goal and kept right on reading.
I’ve learned a lot this year. In fact, I’ve probably learned more this year than I have in any other year of my life. I don’t have plans to read a specific number of books in 2016, but I do plan to read with the same intensity that I have this year. It’s almost as if I’ve found a long lost love, and you’d be crazy to think I’d let that love go now.
Here is a list of the 72.
bold = favorite
  1. She’s Not There by P.J. Parrish
  2. The Big Bloody Book of Violence: The Smart Person’s Guide for Surviving Dangerous Times: What Every Person Must Know About Self-Defense by Kris Wilder & Lawrence Kane
  3. A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
  4. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  5. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
  6. The Trials of White Boy Rick by Evan Hughes
  7. You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney
  8. The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us by James W. Pennebaker
  9. Liespotting by Pamela Meyer
  10. Columbine by Dave Cullen
  11. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
  12. Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
  13. Losing Hope by Colleen Hoover
  14. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
  15. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
  16. Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
  17. The Murder House by James Patterson
  18. The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman
  19. I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends: Confessions of a Reality Show Villain by Courtney Robertson
  20. The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy The Shocking Inside Story by Ann Rule
  21. The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm
  22. My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni
  23. After the First Death by Robert Cormier
  24. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
  25. Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
  26. The Hand That Feeds You by A.J. Rich
  27. You Can’t Lie to Me by Janine Driver
  28. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
  29. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
  30. You Can Read Anyone by David J. Lieberman
  31. That Night by Chevy Stevens
  32. Breathing Black by Piper Payne
  33. Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff
  34. The Stranger by Harlan Coben
  35. Never, Never: Part Two by Collen Hoover
  36. The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker
  37. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  38. The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us by Martha Stout
  39. Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline
  40. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
  41. Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony by Jeff Ashton
  42. Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon
  43. The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
  44. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
  45. Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill
  46. You by Caroline Kepnes
  47. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  48. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh
  49. The Devil You Know by Elisabeth de Mariaffi
  50. Paper Towns by John Green
  51. Champion by Marie Lu
  52. Prodigy by Marie Lu
  53. Legend by Marie Lu
  54. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  55. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  56. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
  57. Spy the Lie by Philip Houston
  58. Always Watching by Chevy Stevens
  59. Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly
  60. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
  61. Eden Close by Anita Shreve
  62. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
  63. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  64. Defending Jacob by William Landay
  65. Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger
  66. Dirty Rush by Taylor Bell
  67. The Substitute by Denise Grover Swank
  68. Never, Never by Colleen Hoover
  69. American Sniper by Chris Kyle
  70. Requiem by Lauren Oliver
  71. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
  72. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
A few notes about some of my favorites...
You by Caroline Kepnes
This was my absolute favorite of the 72. It’s written from a second person point of view---which sounds incredibly strange but worked well for this particular storyline. A word of caution: This book will NOT be for everyone. The language is vile and the protagonist is a creepy, unsettling, and disturbing human being. In other words, it’s dark and twisty. If you don’t like dark and twisty, you definitely won’t like this book.
“Before you, there was Candace. She was stubborn too, so I’m gonna be patient with you, same way I was patient with her. I am not gonna hold it against you that in that old, bulky laptop computer of yours you write about every thing in the world except me. I am no idiot, Beck. I know how to search a hard drive and I know I’m not in there and I know you don’t even own anything resembling a notebook or a diary. One possible theory: You write about me in the notepad on your phone. Hope remains.”
The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
I read all 352 pages in one day; I couldn’t put it down.
The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
This book gave me alllll the feels..... loved it!
The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker
I strongly believe that every person on this planet should read this book... but especially women. It’s packed with insightful and life-saving information about predicting violent behavior, trusting your intuition, recognizing the warning signs, reading body language, and the methods that criminals use to make us vulnerable and/or easier to attack.
Other Notes:
I recommend every book written by Liane Moriarty or John Green.
Columbine was truly eye-opening. I’ve read a lot about (& thus, know a lot about) the details surrounding a number of mass murders. I was surprised to learn that much of what (I thought) I knew about Columbine was actually inaccurate information misreported by the media.
Beyond Belief will make you lose any respect you might still have for Tom Cruise. How anyone on this planet with half a brain can believe one iota of that Scientology crap is beyond my comprehension. SERIOUSLY.
You may have noticed that several books on my list are about lie detection (4, to be exact---it’s incredibly fascinating to me). So, don’t even think about pulling a fast one over on me, buddy... I’ll see right through you.

12 November 2015

#1

Just popping in to say . . .


CLEMSON IS THE #1 RANKED TEAM IN THE COUNTRY.

(my brain can't even right now)



02 January 2015

MY 2014

Here's a brief summary of my year in 2014.
I have high hopes for 2015! (because it HAS to be more exciting than last year.)

January  

I attended my first Duke Basketball game, and it was all very exciting. Cameron Indoor really IS as loud and crazy as it appears on TV. Guess who also made an appearance at the game? President George H. Bush. (WHAT!!)

The video footage below is pretty terrible. I tried to scramble for my phone when the announcers directed our attention to his presence, but he stood up and waved so quickly that I didn't have much time to prepare. 


President Bush attended the Duke VS. NC State Basketball game

Coach K has the most wins of any coach in college basketball

Myrtle Beach was hit with a bit of unusual and severe winter weather in the form of an ice storm. (We had two ice storms this year, actually. The first -- and much larger -- ice storm immobilized us during the last week of January. A much less severe ice storm quickly came and went two weeks after the first storm.) 

I was stuck in the house for DAYS. It was a nightmare... A NIGHTMARE, I tell you!

I truly sympathize with anyone who has to deal with that kind of weather on a yearly basis. I don't know how you do it. It was gloomy for days on end, which was depressing as hell. Trees fell and blocked roadways all over the place. There were roughly a gazillion car accidents. Crazy, crazy stuff.  

Icy trees falling down over the road


February thru May

Life was pretty uneventful for the first few months of 2014, to be honest. It rained. A LOT. So I stayed  home. A LOT.

I spent my time mostly binge watching TV shows on Netflix and coloring (...because I'm such a 5 year-old!)

The Tattoo Coloring Book
Isn't she beautiful?


I also spent a lot of time organizing (and re-organizing) my house. One day, I got so bored that I dumped out every coin in this change jar and counted it. 


$272.02 in Change Jar
  
Save money!

I also found a state quarter for all 50 states!
+ a bunch of national monuments and Puerto Rico.

Quarters for all 50 States

I was a little excited.  


May 

I got new bangs.
(See: wedding photos)

June

My 33rd Birthday.
YIKESABEE!

Birthday Cake for 33rd Birthday

June also kicked off the very busy wedding season I mentioned in my last post.

July 

I attended my friend Nikki's baby shower and put together a cute little basket of goodies. 

Baby Shower Gift Basket

August 

My year of braces (for the 3rd time! wear that retainer!) officially began. My jaw hurt so bad and thought I looked so ridiculous. I never wanted to leave my house again.  

September

I spent Labor Day in Savannah,GA with James and Wendi. We spent most of that time shopping and walking around downtown Savannah. We also went on a walking ghost tour / bar hop that was FUN, FUN, FUN! (I can't wait to go back and visit.)

River Street in Savannah GA

October

My friend Tara invited me to go see Jason Derulo at the House of Blues. She works for the radio station and gets free tickets to a lot of shows, and she's kind enough to invite me to tag along on occasion.

His concert is the only show I've seen at the House of Blues that had fancy lights and backup dancers (and I've been to more concerts at the HOB than I can count). It was mesmerizing.

Jason Derulo in Concert

I spent Halloween at a party at a friend's house. I went as a Voodoo Doll!

Halloween Makeup: Voo Doo Doll

SC Gamecock Voo Doo Doll
do you like my Gamecock pin doll? :)

November 

(The pin doll worked because Clemson finally beat South Carolina, and all is right with the world again.)

I was offered a new job with the school district and quickly resigned from my position at BCBS. [ANGELS REJOICED!]

Honestly, leaving BCBS was much more bittersweet than I would have ever expected. My coworkers gave me an awesome sketch journal as a departing gift when the time came to say goodbye. I am still getting to know and adjusting to my new work family, which makes me miss my old work family terribly sometimes. Change can be hard, but I know I made the right decision and I LOVE my new job!

Sketch Journal

December

I tackled a project I found on Pinterest and (surprise!) it actually turned out beautifully. For once! I was impressed with my craft skills.


deer silhouette on black and white striped canvas


THE END.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!

04 November 2014

General Update

I thought I'd give you an update about everything going on in my life over the past couple of months, since its been forever since my last one.

My summer was crazy busy with weddings. I was a guest or a bridesmaid at five consecutive weddings this summer (as in, every weekend for five straight weeks!) I was a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding on the weekend of July 4th (just think of all the obligations that go along with that - the bridal luncheon, the bachelorette party, the hair appointments, the makeup appointments, etc. and trying to get around town in the holiday traffic was a nightmare). It was an EXHAUSTING month, but it was a lot of fun too.

Wedding #1 - James and Wendi
The festivities were held in  DeBordieu - a swanky golf community located near Pawleys Island. It was an outdoor wedding and the weather could not have been more perfect! EVERYTHING about the wedding (and the entire weekend, in general) was phenomenal


The view from my hotel room on Litchfield Beach


Wendi and James

Wendi is a news anchor. Can't you tell?




Wedding #2 - Matt and Tara
I already mentioned a bit about this one. 




Tara's coworkers threw her a beach themed bridal shower and I put together this little beach caddy. 




 bachelorette fun at the hotel
(We kept things low-key and rented out a room at a nearby hotel on the beach for a "staycation" bachelorette party!)


Me and Mrs. Harder

Wedding #3 - Jake and Andrea
Jake married his long-time love, Andrea, at North Beach Plantation in North Myrtle Beach. I didn't even know this monstrosity of a hotel existed and I live here. It is pretty secluded, and apparently... it's the best kept secret in town! 



IT'S CRAZY! This hotel looks like something you might find in Dubai... NOT NORTH MYRTLE BEACH. And, it's every bit as nice as it looks. If you are considering a wedding location at the beach, you should totally check it out. The catering during their cocktail hour was provided by the hotel's event staff, and everything tasted phenomenal. Mini Crab Cakes. Chicken Cordon Bleu. Coconut Shrimp. Exceptional

This is Jake from State Farm Bank of America.

and this is Jake's beautiful bride, Andrea.

In addition to the thousands of weddings I attended this summer, something else pretty great happened. My brother hosted an orphan from Latvia for six weeks. It was a really awesome experience for both my brother and his family, as well as "Fly Girl" (which is a nickname my brother called her due to her love of hip hop dance).

I cannot share her real name or any pictures (for legal reasons), but having her come stay with my brother was really great. She's an older orphan (and, I really hate using that word to refer to her) at 15, which was the perfect age for them. She was able to help out my sister-in-law with my younger nephew (3) and niece (6), and I think she really found pleasure out of feeling needed. She fit right in with their family, and everyone was sad to see her go.

In other news, I decided to get braces (again) and the orthodontist put them on back in August. It's been an adjustment, to say the least. They were extremely painful for the first two weeks, and I hated them so much. It felt like my teeth were sticking out of my mouth like a beaver. They just felt so foreign and strange. My gums and the inside of my cheeks were cut up like a sliced turkey. I wanted to just rip them right off my teeth half the time. 

Despite having spent a year with braces in the fifth grade, and another year when I was 19 (the third time's a charm, I promise), I do not remember my teeth being this sore. I don't know if the pain is actually worse, maybe because I'm older now, or if it's just all in my head? 

I lost 15 pounds during the first two weeks of having them because I couldn't eat anything but soup, mashed potatoes, or apple sauce. I've acclimated to the braces now, and they feel like any other part of me, but I've only been able to gain back five of the 15 pounds I initially lost because I won't eat anything that I can't eat with a fork. Initially, the orthodontist said I would need to wear them for an entire year, but he changed his tune last week. He now has doubts that I'll need to wear them even that long because he said my teeth were shifting back into place rather quickly. So, I'm seriously hoping he's right about that. Three months left and counting! YES.