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


Just popping in to say . . .


(my brain can't even right now)

02 January 2015

A 2014 Review

Here's a brief summary of what 2014 was like for me.
I have high hopes for 2015! (It HAS to be more exciting than last year.)


I went to my first Duke Basketball game.
It was all very exciting. Cameron Indoor really IS as crazy and loud as it looks on TV. And, guess who made an appearance?
President George H. Bush.

The video footage below is pretty horrible. I scrambled to grab my phone when the announcers mentioned he was there, but he stood up and waved so quickly I didn't have 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 had an extremely rare ice storm. 
(There were two storms, actually. The first and larger storm hit during the last week of January, and a smaller one showed up like two weeks later.)

I found myself stuck in the house for DAYS. It was a total disaster... A DISASTER, I tell you!

I sympathize with those of you who deal with that kind of weather, year in and year out. I honestly don't know how you do it. It was gloomy for days on end and depressing as hell.

Trees fell down all over the place. There were 902735847 car accidents. It was really crazy stuff. 

Icy trees falling down over the road

February - May

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

I watched marathons on Netflix and spent much of my time doing one of my favorite things in the world... coloring! (I'm such a 5 year-old.)

The Tattoo Coloring Book

I also spent a number of days organizing (and reorganizing) my house. One day, I even dumped out all of the change in this jar and counted it. 

$272.02 in Change Jar
Save money!

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

Quarters for all 50 States

It was a really exciting time.


I got new bangs. (See: wedding photos from my last post)



Birthday Cake for 33rd Birthday

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


Here's a basket I put together for Baby Emery and Nikki's baby shower:

Baby Shower Gift Basket


Braces were attached to my teeth. I never wanted to leave the house again.  


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

River Street in Savannah GA


I saw Jason Derulo at the House of Blues. Tara works for a local radio station and gets free tickets fairly often. She's kind enough to invite me sometimes.

It was my first time experiencing fancy light shows and backup dancers at the HOB (& I've been to quite a few shows there). It was mesmerizing.

Jason Derulo in Concert

Ashley and I attended a party at a friend's house for Halloween. I dressed up as a Voodoo Doll and he dressed up as Freddy Krueger (again, sigh!)

Halloween Makeup: Voo Doo Doll

SC Gamecock Voo Doo Doll


(The Voo Doo Doll I made to accompany my costume must have worked its magic because Clemson finally beat South Carolina. All was right with the world again.)

I quit my job after the school district offered me a new one.

Leaving was bittersweet. My coworkers gave me an awesome sketch journal when it was time to say goodbye. I'm still getting to know my new family, and I miss my old one terribly. Change can be hard sometimes. I know I made the right decision though. AND... I LOVE my new job!

Sketch Journal


I attempted a project I found on Pinterest and it turned out beautifully, for once! I was really impressed with myself.

deer silhouette on black and white striped canvas

that's all folks!

04 November 2014

Playing Catch Up

I thought I'd post about everything going on in my life over the past few months since its been nearly a quarter of a century since the last time I did.

My summer was crazy busy with weddings. I think there was a total of five consecutive weddings. I was a bridesmaid in my friend Tara's wedding (& I'm sure I need not remind you of the many obligations that go along with that--the bridal showers, bachelorette party, hair, makeup, etc.), and my boyfriend Ashley was a groomsman in another. It was exhausting but a lot of fun too.

The first wedding was for James and Wendi. James is a good friend of Ashley's and he was a groomsman. The festivities were held at DeBordieu--a swanky golf community near Pawleys Island. It was an outdoor wedding and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. EVERYTHING about the wedding (and the weekend as a whole) was phenomenal. 

The view from our hotel room in Litchfield Beach

James & Wendi

Can you tell that Wendi is a news anchor?
She looks so polished and perfect! :)

A few weeks later, I was a bridesmaid in Tara's wedding. She got married the Saturday (which was also one day) before the 4th of July. The traffic was kinda nuts in Myrtle Beach, but everything was great other than that. 

Tara's coworkers hosted a "Beach Themed" & this is the caddy I put together. 

 Bachelorette Fun
(We kept it low-key and rented a room at a local hotel for a "stay-cation" bachelorette!)

Me & Mrs. Harder

Another wedding we attended this summer was for one of Ashley's coworkers, Jake. He and Andrea were married at North Beach Planation in North Myrtle Beach. It's wild because I live here and I didn't know this monstrosity of a hotel even existed because it's so secluded. 

CRAZY! It looks like it belongs in Dubai or something. I must say... it is every bit as nice as it looks. If you are debating about a wedding location here at the beach, you should check it out. The appetizers that were served during the cocktail hour were freaking delicious. Some of the best food I've ever tasted. NO JOKE. Mini crab cakes. Chicken Cordon bleu. Coconut shrimp. All of it. Exceptional

This is Jake from State Farm.

& this is his beautiful bride, Andrea.

In addition to the thousands of weddings over the summer., something else pretty awesome happened. My brother hosted an orphan from Latvia for six weeks. It was such an awesome experience for both my brother and his family and "Fly Girl" (which is the nickname my brother gave her because she's into hip hop dance).

I'm unable to post her real name or any pictures of her (for legal reasons and whatnot), but she was really great. She's an older orphan (although, I hate using that word to refer to her) at 15. She was the perfect age in my opinion though. She helped my sister-in-law out with my younger nephew (3) and niece (6) a lot, and I think that really made her feel needed. She fit right in with them, and I know my brother was really sad when she had to leave. 

In other news, I made the decision to get braces again and had them put on in August. It's been quite the adjustment... to say the least. They were extremely painful for the first week or two and I hated them so much. I felt like my teeth stuck out like a beaver. The braces felt so foreign and strange in my mouth. My gums and the inside of my cheeks were cut up like a turkey. I literally wanted to rip the braces off my teeth during that time. 

Even though I spent a year with braces on my teeth in the fifth grade, and again when I was 19 (third time's a charm, I promise), I don't remember my teeth being as sore as they have been this time around. Maybe they are more painful because I'm older now or maybe it's all in my head? I'm not sure.

I lost close to 15 pounds in two weeks because I couldn't eat anything but soup or mashed potatoes or apple sauce. I'm used to them and they feel like any other part of me now... but I've only gained five pounds back and I still don't eat anything I can't eat with a fork. Initially, the orthodontist told me I would need to wear them for a full year. But then at my appointment last week, he said my teeth are shifting back into place so quickly that he doubts I'll have to wear them that long. Three months down and counting! YES.