Monday, December 31, 2012

Highlights: December 2012

 It's hard to believe another year has come and gone!

This month I read the following:
December 2012 (1,040 pages)
Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatshki Houston & James D. Houston
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 203           Page Goal: 18,967/15,000
Dirty Blonde by Lisa Scottoline
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 410           Page Goal: 19,377/15,000
The Murderers' Club by P.D. Martin
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 427           Page Goal: 19,804/15,000

Not only did I meet my page goal for the year, but I exceeded my page goal by 4, 804. I'm blown away by that!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post on my 2013 goals.

I did well in my International Business grad school course this semester. In December, I had 2 weeks of from classes for the holidays, which was a well-needed break. This time next year, I'm hoping to graduate with my Masters of Science in Management!!! :)

My big craft project this year was a blanket for my dad for Christmas. I didn't take a picture of it (sorry!) but it turned out lovely. I hope he enjoys it!

Since my family came to see Matt and I for the holidays, I've been able to avoid most travel! Matt and I did take a day trip this past weekend to the nearest Target/Mall/Starbucks, two hours away. Yay for after Christmas sales!!!

I'm really hoping to get to the gym more frequently soon. Matt and I get married in four months, and I feel like I'm nowhere in shape enough to fit into my dress! Wedding plans are coming along, though--slowly, but surely!

This should be a calmer time at work (fingers crossed!), so much of my focus within the next few months will be school and wedding planning.

Matt and I doing a horrible job of taking car pictures!!!
Say cheesy!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sunday Post (9)

Hi everyone,

It's the last Sunday of the month, and you know what that means...

Time for another "Sunday Post"! The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and offers us book bloggers a chance to show our readers books we recently received, and discuss any other bookish news.

I typically do these as vlogs, but this month I'm taking a break from that. Sorry, readers. Instead, here's a lovely picture and description of books received in December:


Kindle Books (pictured in the purple Kindle case!):

Simple Living: 30 Days to Less Stuff and More Life by Lorilee Lippincott
This was a free e-book available on Amazon earlier this week. It looks like a short (89 pages) read that may help me with organization, declutter, and sanity.  

One Pink Line by Dina Silver
I have been wanting to read this book forever, but never purchased it. Earlier in December it went on sale on Amazon for only 99 cents, so I snatched it immediately! Looking forward to the read!


Other Books:

Standoff by Sandra Brown
A friend brought me to a used bookstore and I was intrigued by this thriller. I've started to really love Sandra Brown, so I'm sure I'll enjoy this novel. I am surprised, though, to find it is only 261 pages; I don't know that I've ever seen a Brown novel this short!

Kisscut by Karin Slaughter
I'm still on my Karin Slaughter kick, which I'm sure you've all noticed. I'm going back and reading her Grant County series. I read the first one, which was already on my shelves, when I realized I didn't even own the second one. Paperback Swap fixed that issue for me :)

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
This is another series I'm reading out of order, darn it! Actually, I listened to Something Blue by Emily Giffin last year during the recruitment season, without even being aware it was part of this series! I enjoyed the second one, so I'm sure I'll really like the first--and it might clear up a few things for me, too!

Poor Little Bitch Girl by Jackie Collins
This novel is proof that I can't resist a good sale. I've only listened to one Jackie Collins novel before, and enjoyed it. Poor Little Bitch Girl was on sale at Amazon for just over $4, so I got it. Sometimes, I think Amazon Prime may be the worst investment I've made, simply because it's added so many books to my shelves! 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I'm sure most of you realize by now that I am anything but introverted. In fact, every time I've taken a test like the MBTI or other personality tests, I always score as extremely extroverted as possible. I've discovered through my management experiences how great of an asset introverts are to a team. I'm hoping this book will help me develop further understanding of introverts (as I obviously an so polar opposite) and how their abilities and personality can contribute to teams and our society.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
This is the second book Oprah has chosen for Oprah's Book Club 2.0. Matt got it for me for Christmas. Awww <3 

Stiletto 911 by Vivian Valtas Schmidt and Sue PublicoverI'd be surprised if any of you, my readers, have heard of this. I actually think it may be an indie novel? Anyway, I found it on Paperback Swap a while ago and was really excited to read it. I've had it on my PBS wishlist for months now, and it just became avaialble. Bottom line: not well-known, but stellar reviews. Definitely worth picking up, I think!


So, readers, what did you get this month? Anything particularly exciting, either that you received for Christmas or purchased yourself?!?!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review: The Search by John Battelle

It's no secret that I'm a bit of a nerd, especially when it comes to the business section of Barnes and Noble. For whatever reason, I find businesses and their operations completely fascinating, and enjoy applying quality concepts to my own life and organization. So when I came across the book The Search: How Google and its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed our Culture by John Battelle, I had to have it!

Here's the summary, courtesy of Goodreads:
What does the world want? According to John Battelle, a company that answers that question -- in all its shades of meaning -- can unlock the most intractable riddles of both business and culture. And for the past few years, that's exactly what Google has been doing.

Jumping into the game long after Yahoo, Alta Vista, Excite, Lycos, and other pioneers, Google offered a radical new approach to search, redefined the idea of viral marketing, survived the dotcom crash, and pulled off the largest and most talked about initial public offering in the history of Silicon Valley.

But The Search offers much more than the inside story of Google's triumph. It's also a big-picture book about the past, present, and future of search technology, and the enormous impact it is starting to have on marketing, media, pop culture, dating, job hunting, international law, civil liberties, and just about every other sphere of human interest.

More than any of its rivals, Google has become the gateway to instant knowledge. Hundreds of millions of people use it to satisfy their wants, needs, fears, and obsessions, creating an enormous artifact that Battelle calls "the Database of Intentions." Somewhere in Google's archives, for instance, you can find the agonized research of a gay man with AIDS, the silent plotting of a would-be bombmaker, and the anxiety of a woman checking out her blind date. Combined with the databases of thousands of other search-driven businesses, large and small, it all adds up to a goldmine of information that powerful organizations (including the government) will want to get their hands on.

No one is better qualified to explain this entire phenomenon than Battelle, who cofounded Wired and founded The Industry Standard. Perhaps more than any other journalist, he has devoted his career to finding the holy grail of technology -- something as transformational as the Macintosh was in the mid- 1980s. And he has finally found it in search.

Battelle draws on more than 350 interviews with major players from Silicon Valley to Seattle to Wall Street, including Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and CEO Eric Schmidt, as well as competitors like Louis Monier, who invented AltaVista, and Neil Moncrief, a soft-spoken Georgian whose business Google built, destroyed, and built again.

Battelle lucidly reveals how search technology actually works, explores the amazing power of targeted advertising, and reports on the frenzy of the Google IPO, when the company tried to rewrite the rules of Wall Street and declared "don't be evil" as its corporate motto.

For anyone who wants to understand how Google really succeeded -- and the implications of a world in which every click can be preserved forever -- THE SEARCH is an eye-opening and indispensable read.

It fascinates me to think of the dawn of the search engine. Battelle recollects how search engines began and have evolved since. Information is readily available with the click of a button--and Google is the top contender. This search engine has branched out to bring users e-mail, blogs (yes, Blogger is Google's blog platform), shopping, and a wealth of other information and resources.

The only preface I have going into reading this novel is to recognize that it was written in 2005. In the world of literature, a seven-year-old book is still pretty young, but in the world of technology, this book was dead six years ago. In spite of outdated technology, it was a smooth read and maintained the interest of this nerd.

This was another November read. Here's where it got me in 2012:
The Search: How Google and its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed our Culture by John Battelle
Rating: 3/5
Pages: 306
2012 Reading Goal: 18,764/15,000

Questions for my readers:
  1. Do you have an inner nerd? If so, what kinds of books is your inner nerd attracted to?
  2. How old is "too old" for a book on technology?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James

Hello Readers, and Merry Christmas! Hope yours was wonderful!

Some of you who haven't yet read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy may have received it for Christmas. If you have and aren't yet on the third book, ignore this review for now and come back to it later.

Fifty Shades Freed is the third and final book in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Here is the summary, courtesy of Goodreads:
When unworldly student Anastasia Steele first encountered the driven and dazzling young entrepreneur Christian Grey it sparked a sensual affair that changed both of their lives irrevocably. Shocked, intrigued, and, ultimately, repelled by Christian’s singular erotic tastes, Ana demands a deeper commitment. Determined to keep her, Christian agrees.

Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Ana must somehow learn to share Christian’s opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own identity. And Christian must overcome his compulsion to control as he wrestles with the demons of a tormented past.

Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to make Ana’s deepest fears turn to reality.

You all know from past reviews I've posted that this is certainly not my favorite trilogy. And yet, I continue to read it. I have the strong need to know what the hype is about with this trilogy, and like to be able to converse with others who have read it. It also isn't such a horrible series that I have to motivate myself to pick up the book every time.

To be honest, I felt as though the third book, Fifty Shades Freed, was the worst of the three. There was action, excitement, stalkers, etc. in the first two. This one was extremely predictable and there wasn't much action. In fact, it probably made me dislike the main characters, Ana and Christian, more than I already had.

Bottom line? If you're into this trilogy, I guess it's worth the read. If you didn't care for the first two much, I wouldn't bother reading this one.

This was a November read. Here's where it got me in my page goal progress:
Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James
Rating: 2/5
Pages: 448
2012 Reading Goal: 18,458/15,000

Other books in this trilogy:
Fifty Shades of Grey
Fifty Shades Darker

Happy New Year, readers! :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book Review: Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson

Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson was just as riveting as the first one in her Montana/"To Die" series, Left to Die. The second book in the series picks up right where the first one left off. Here's the summary of Chosen to Die, courtesy of Goodreads:

He'll Choose Them. . .
Detective Regan Pescoli has worked the -Star Crossed Killer- case for months, never imagining she'd be captured by the madman she's been hunting. Regan knows exactly what he's capable of--and avoiding the same fate will take every drop of her courage and cunning.
Abduct Them. . .
Regan Pescoli is unlike any woman Nate Santana has met before. But now she's missing, and Nate knows something is dangerously wrong. The only person who can help him find her is Detective Selena Alvarez, Regan's partner. As Nate and Selena dig deeper into the Star-Crossed Killer case and the body count rises, the truth about Regan's disappearance becomes chillingly clear.
And Kill Them. . .
In the desolate Montana woods, evil is lurking. And with time running out, the only way to save Regan will be to get inside a killer's twisted mind and unravel a shocking message that is being revealed, one body at a time. . .
The first novel in this series had me on the edge of my seat. I read this one in a day; it was that exciting. There's much more that goes on in the novel than just the serial killer, but everything connects in the end. This is a fabulous, thrilling read, but I wouldn't recommend reading it out of series order.

I highly recommend this novel for anyone looking for a good thriller!

Here's where this book got me:
Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson
Rating: 5/5
Pages: 460
2012 Reading Goal: 18,010/15,000

Books in this series include:
  1. Left to Die
  2. Chosen to Die
  3. Born to Die
  4. Afraid to Die
Questions for my readers:
  1. What riveting read are you tangled up in this holiday season?
  2. Is there any series with which you think order does not matter?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book Review: Left to Die by Lisa Jackson

You know that excitement you get when you discover a series you hadn't heard of before and it rocks your world? I FOUND ONE!!!

The series is Lisa Jackson's Montana series, aka To Die series. Here is the Goodreads summary for the first one in the series, Left to Die:

Nothing's More Terrifying. . .
One by one, the victims are carefully captured, toyed with, then subjected to a slow and agonizing death. Piece by piece, his exquisite plan takes shape. The police can't yet see the beauty in his work--but soon, very soon, they will. . .
Than Being Left Alone. . .
In the lonely woods around Grizzly Point, Montana, four bodies have been discovered. Detectives Selena Alvarez and Regan Pescoli have been hoping for a career-making case, but this is a nightmare. Even with the FBI involved, Selena and Regan have nothing to go on but a killer's cryptic notes, and the unsettling knowledge that there is much worse to come. . .
To Die. . .
When Jillian Rivers opens her eyes, she's trapped in a mangled car. Then a stranger, claiming to be a trail guide named Zane McGregor, pries her free. Though she's grateful, something about him sets Jillian on edge. And if she knew what lay out there in the woods of Montana, she'd be truly terrified. Because someone is waiting... watching... poised to strike and make Jillian the next victim...

Earlier this year I'd read Without Mercy by Lisa Jackson and rated it only a 3/5, because I was so dissatisfied with the novel. It completely turned me off from Lisa Jackson. The only reason I picked up this series is because it takes place in Montana, my home state. In the beginning, I was reminded of why I hated Without Mercy so much--it's so SLOW! The first half of this novel was really slow, but it got much more interesting about halfway through. With 25% left, I was on the edge of my seat. This book was phenomenal!!!

SPOILER ALERT!!! If you do not want to read a spoiler, please do not read the next paragraph!!!

What made it so exciting toward the end is that detective Regan Pescoli is kidnapped by this twisted killer. Then the book ends! We're left hanging! So, I immediately picked up the second one in the series, Chosen to Die, to figure out what happened to Detective Regan Pescoli.

If you love a good thriller, definitely pick up this read. Montana is always a great setting for an exciting, action-packed thriller. It will have you on the edge of your seat!

2012 Page Goal Progress:
Left to Die by Lisa Jackson
Rating: 5/5
Pages: 496
2012 Reading Goal: 17,550/15,000

Books in this series:
  1. Left to Die
  2. Chosen to Die (watch for my review soon!)
  3. Born to Die
  4. Afraid to Die
Questions for my readers:
  1. Have you read any Lisa Jackson? Do you like her?
  2. What's your favorite location for a thriller novel?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Review: My Freshman Year by Rebekah Nathan

College isn't easy--for anyone. And it's changed a lot over the years, but I'm not sure all of the employees in higher ed (myself included) always recognize just what the students are going though.

I read a pretty stellar novel in October called My Freshman Year by Rebekah Nathan. Here's the Goodreads summary:
After fifteen years of teaching anthropology at a large university, Rebekah Nathan had become baffled by her own students. Their strange behavior—eating meals at their desks, not completing reading assignments, remaining silent through class discussions—made her feel as if she were dealing with a completely foreign culture. So Nathan decided to do what anthropologists do when confused by a different culture: Go live with them. She enrolled as a freshman, moved into the dorm, ate in the dining hall, and took a full load of courses. And she came to understand that being a student is a pretty difficult job, too. Her discoveries about contemporary undergraduate culture are surprising and her observations are invaluable, making My Freshman Year essential reading for students, parents, faculty, and anyone interested in educational policy.

Rebekah Nathan (which is a pen name, by the way--it was important to the author to keep her anonymity) enrolls as a freshman at the University where she is an anthropology instructor. The name of the University is never revealed, but rather referred to as AnyU. Nathan examines her experiences as middle-aged, first time college freshman. Specific areas of "research" include the residence hall, community and diversity, perception of others, academic performance, and time management in college. In the end, Nathan reviews what lessons she learned in her freshman year of college.

The text is very well-written, but definitely written by an anthropologist, not a professional writer. Research Nathan gathers has been proven true in my college experience (this book was written one year before I went to college), and much of it likely holds true today.

I highly recommend this novel for anyone in academia--staff and faculty alike. It's important we are able to connect to our students and understand what their experiences may be like. Parents may also find this novel interesting. Students? While it would be interesting, it would probably feel too much like an anthropology lecture.
Annual page goal progress:
My Freshman Year by Rebekah Nathan
Rating: 5/5         
Pages: 168          
Page Goal: 17,054/15,000

Questions for my readers:
1. What is one of your fondest college memories?
2. Would you ever pick up a book about college from an anthropological viewpoint?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: The Fiction Class by Susan Breen

A few months ago, I read The Fiction Class by Susan Breen. Never heard of it? Neither had I. Here's the Goodreads summary:

On paper, Arabella Hicks seems more than qualified to teach her fiction class on the Upper West Side: she's a writer herself; she's passionate about books; she's even named after the heroine in a Georgette Heyer novel.

On the other hand, she's thirty-eight, single, and has been writing the same book for the last seven years. And she has been distracted recently: on the same day that Arabella teaches her class she also visits her mother in a nursing home outside the city. And every time they argue. Arabella wants the fighting to stop, but, as her mother puts it, "Just because we're family, doesn't mean we have to like each other." When her class takes a surprising turn and her lessons start to spill over into her weekly visits, she suddenly finds she might be holding the key to her mother's love and, dare she say it, her own inspiration. After all, as a lifelong lover of books, she knows the power of a good story.

I think most readers want to be writers. Not all, but certainly the majority of them.You can tell this novel was written by a reader who wants to be a writer--but the book was really nothing more than mediocre. The setting is predominately in a classroom where Arabella is teaching a writing class. It's ironic to me that Arabella discusses character development--and yet, the author does a really poor job of character development.

The story moved along relatively quickly, but there was nothing really remarkable about the characters or the storyline. It was all pretty tame, with virtually no climax in the storyline. It's there, but it's more like a hiccup than an actual heart rate peak. My recommendation? Leave this one on the bookstore's bookshelf.

Annual Page Goal Progress:
The Fiction Class by Susan Breen
Rating: 3/5        
Pages: 296         
Page Goal: 16,886/15,000

Questions for Readers:
1. Have any of you ever heard of this author before?
2. What do you do when you realize the climax of a novel is practically nonexistent? Do you finish the book?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Book Review: Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter

Hello again, readers!

I'm just trying to get caught up on some of my book reviews before the New Year starts. I'm so far behind! Maybe I've just been reading faster than I can catch up... ;)

There are some authors out there that aren't very well known, but produce amazing quality work. Karin Slaughter is one of them. She's not too certainly won't see hype about her book like you do each release of a James Patterson. But seriously...she's awesome.

I read one of her books in the Grant County series, unaware:
1) the book was part of a series
2) how much I would end up loving Karin Slaughter's books
3) I would shortly become a Karin Slaughter book junkie. Seriously, I have 5 waiting to be read on my bookshelf.

Blindsighted was the perfect kickoff to the Grant County series. Here's the summary, courtesy of Goodreads:
A small Georgia town erupts in panic when a young college professor is found brutally mutilated in the local diner. But it's only when town pediatrician and coroner Sara Linton does the autopsy that the full extent of the killer's twisted work becomes clear.

Sara's ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, leads the investigation--a trail of terror that grows increasingly macabre when another local woman is found crucified a few days later. But he's got more than a sadistic serial killer on his hands, for the county's sole female detective, Lena Adams--the first victim's sister--wants to serve her own justice.

But it is Sara who holds the key to finding the killer. A secret from her past could unmask the brilliantly malevolent psychopath...or mean her death.

This was such a thrilling, exciting read. I was hooked in at the beginning, mostly by the drama that occurs within the first few pages. From the moment the body is discovered to the moment the killer was revealed, I was on the edge of my seat. Top that with a dramatic love story, and Karin Slaughter created the perfect thriller sundae.

I don't regret that I started this series out of order, but I will be reading the rest of the series in order. It's that good. I recommend this for anyone who loves thrillers--and doesn't mind a tad bit of gore.

Yearly Page Goal results:
Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter
Rating: 5/5
Pages: 376
2012 Reading Goal: 16,590/15,000

The books in this series include:
  1. Blindsighted
  2. Kisscut
  3. A Faint Cold Fear
  4. Indelible
  5. Faithless
  6. Beyond Reach
Questions for my readers:
1. Have you ever read any Karin Slaughter? What do you think?
2. Is there an author you've discovered who isn't exactly "mainstream" but probably should be?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I'm sure all my readers know by now just how big of an Oprah fan I am. Remember this post? To put it lightly, I'm a little obsessed.

You may also remember that after I tweeted my excitement about Oprah's Book Club 2.0, they sent me an autographed, hardcover copy of Cheryl Strayed's Wild. I'm trying not to go too fan-girl thinking about it, but my heart rate is definitely up.

Have you heard about Wild yet? Here's the summary, courtesy of Goodreads:
A powerful, blazingly honest, inspiring memoir: the story of a 1,100 mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-six, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's devastating death, her family scattered, and her own marriage was soon destroyed. With nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than "an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise." But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. Gorgeously told, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild is the vivid story of a young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
As usual, Oprah did not disappoint me with this Book Club pick. I will admit that Cheryl Strayed was not my favorite person throughout the novel--I found her to be selfish, immature, and in desperate need of a reality check. What I did like about her, though, is that she's a real person who makes real mistakes. Like the rest of us, she is just looking to find herself, in spite of adversity she's faced.

The novel itself was a quick enough read. In spite of Cheryl taking this trip alone, there are a lot of different characters we're introduced to. As with life, everything cycles back and we meet most of these characters again.

For anyone who enjoys soul-searching novels, this one won't let you down. By the end of the novel, you'll want to lace up your hiking boots and start your own adventure.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Rating: 5/5
Pages: 311
2012 Reading Goal: 16,214/15,000

For more information about Oprah's Book Club 2.0, visit the website here.


Have you read Wild? Did you read the electronic version with Oprah's notes, or did you purchase a paper copy?

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this novel from Oprah's Book Club 2.0 in exchange for a review. All opinions and reviews are my own.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Sunday Post (8)

Happy December, everyone!

You know what this means...time for The Sunday Post!

The Sunday Post is a feature hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. I participate in this meme once monthly to review the books I've received the previous month. I also choose to participate by posting in vlog format.

Books I received this month include:
Born to Die by Lisa Jackson
Afraid to Die by Lisa Jackson
Lethal by Sandra Brown
Fallen by Karin Slaughter
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
The New Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman
Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone

I hope everyone else got some really great books!

Questions for my readers/viewers:

1. Have you read any Kristin Hannah? If I were to start reading her books, is there one in particular I should start with?

2. Do you always read books in the series order?

3. Is birth order interesting to anyone else, or am I just that big of a nerd?

Leave your responses in the comments box. I'd love to hear from you! Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Highlights: November 2012

Sorry I've been absent from posting my monthly highlights lately, guys! It feels good to get back into the swing of things and catch up on my blog!

This month I read the following:
November 2012 (1,710 pages)
Left to Die by Lisa Jackson
Rating: 5/5          Pages: 496           Page Goal: 17,550/15,000
Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson
Rating: 5/5          Pages: 460           Page Goal: 18,010/15,000
Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James
Rating: 2/5          Pages: 448           Page Goal: 18,458/15,000
The Search by John Battelle
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 306           Page Goal: 18,764/15,000

These books total 1,710 pages for the month. Considering how busy I've been, I'm pleasantly surprised by this!

However, I am months behind in posting my reviews :(

School is going great this second half of the semester. I'm ahead on all of my assignments and have a strong grasp of the concepts and their application.

It's definitely been crocheting season for me, since Christmas is right around the corner. Perhaps I'll show the crafts after they've been gifted :)

November was my last month traveling for work. This is actually the first weekend I've spent at home this month, but technically it's December now!

My life has been pretty crazy since September between work and school. I'm hoping all the drama has passed and things will only get better and calm down from here.

December is, of course, always a busy month with Christmas and New Years, but I'm really looking forward to celebrating with Matt and perhaps my family!

This was from storm Brutus. By the end of the weekend,
my car had 16 inches on it...not fun to dig out :(

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book Review: High Five by Janet Evanovich

I haven't been able to get enough of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series! In September, I read the fifth one in the series, High Five. Here's the summary from Goodreads:

Her Uncle Fred has disappeared. A body turns up in a garbage bag. She’s got a nasty bookie following her around town. Grandma Mazur has her hands on the stun gun. Stephanie can’t keep a car for more than forty-eight hours. Two men are trying to get her into bed. She has nothing to wear to the Mafia wedding. And there’s an angry little man (don’t call him a dwarf!) who won’t leave her apartment.

Bail jumping in Trenton is down to small potatoes. Stephanie’s only open case is a small bond for a small violation, committed by a small person who raises Stephanie’s frustration level in big ways. So short of money and long on bills, Stephanie comes up with a plan-–diversify! Signing on as an intern with entrepreneurial Super Bounty Hunter Ranger, Stephanie ventures into Ranger’s mostly morally correct and marginally legal operations.

None of this makes vice cop Joe Morelli a happy man. The cop in him can’t help but wonder as to the source of Stephanie’s expensive new cars. And the rest of him, the man who’s been friend and lover to Stephanie, can’t help but wonder if there’s more to the partnership than meets the eye.

The internship is downgraded to second priority when Uncle Fred goes missing. Even though Grandma Mazur is sure he was abducted by aliens, Stephanie sets out to look for Fred. He’s a perfectly average senior citizen, and he’s disappeared without a trace while running errands. He’s left his ten-year-old Pontiac station wagon locked up nice and neat in the Grand Union parking lot, the cleaning is carefully arranged on the back seat, and his wife is at home, waiting for him to return with the bread and the milk and the olive loaf bologna. Locked in the top drawer of his desk are photos of a body, dismembered and stuffed into a garbage bag. And locked away in the computer files of a another average citizen are the clues that will lead Stephanie to Fred.

 The fourth novel in this series, Four to Score, was a little disappointing for me, but my faith in the series was reinstated with High Five. I was on the edge of my seat for at least half of this novel, and laughing the other half. The storyline and plot in High Five is very solid and exciting. I definitely recommend this book in the series!

Here's where I'm at with my page goals:
 High Five by Janet Evanovich
Rating: 4/5          

Pages: 317           
Page Goal: 15,903/15,000 

Stay tuned--I'll be posting The Sunday Post vlog this upcoming Sunday, December 2nd! :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: The Wedding Girl by Madeline Wickham

I'm now officially done with fall travel season for work and ready to jump back into my life and routine! I slacked a lot this season, so I've got a lot to catch up on. Be prepared for several reviews within the next few weeks.

Way back in August (it feels like forever ago, doesn't it?!?) I was looking for a fun, flirty, breezy read. I've had Madeline Wickham's novel The Wedding Girl on my shelf for quite a while now, and finally decided to pick it up. Here's the novel's summary, courtesy of Goodreads:

When ‘I do’ gives you déjà vu it could be a problem. . .

At the age of eighteen, in that first golden Oxford summer, Milly was up for anything. Rupert and his American lover Allan were all part of her new, exciting life, and when Rupert suggested to her that she and Allan should get married, just so that Allan could stay in the country, Milly didn't hesitate.

Ten years later, Milly is a very different person. Engaged to Simon – who is wealthy, serious, and believes her to be perfect – she is facing the biggest and most elaborate wedding imaginable. Her mother has it planned to the finest detail. Milly’s dreadful secret is locked away so securely she has almost persuaded herself that it doesn't exist – until, with only four days to go, her past catches up with her.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the theme of life's changes. When we're young, we do things without always considering the impact it will have on us in the future. In this case, 18-year-old Milly married a stranger he could stay in the country to be with his partner. Obviously, when Milly tries to marry ten years later, she realizes she needs a divorce and must track down her estranged husband. What Milly goes through to track these former "friends" down was challenging and time-consuming--just days before the wedding. 

I recommend this novel for anyone who enjoys pondering past decisions and their influence on the present--or anyone looking for a fun, flirty, breezy read :)

Here's where this book put me:

The Wedding Girl by Madeline Wickham
Rating: 3/5
Pages: 327
2012 Reading Goal: 15,586/15,000

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book Review: Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

I should be ashamed to admit this, but I just recently got around to reading James Patterson's Along Came a Spider. For those of you who weren't aware, this is the first book of the Alex Cross series, which has been going on for the past twenty years. This novel, originally published in 1992, started the nation's love affair with our hero, Alex Cross.

Here's the Goodreads summary for Along Came a Spider:

A missing little girl named Maggie Rose . . . a family of three brutally murdered in the projects of Washington, D.C. . . . the thrill-killing of a beautiful elementary school teacher . . . a psychopathic serial kidnapper/murderer who is so terrifying that the FBI, the Secret Service, and the police cannot outsmart him - even after he's been captured.

Gary Soneji wants to commit the crime of the century. Alex Cross is the brilliant homicide detective pitted against him. Jezzie Flanagan is the first female supervisor of the Secret Service who completes one of the most unusual suspense triangles in any thriller you have ever read.

Alex Cross and Jezzie Flanagan are about to have a forbidden love affair--at the worst possible time for both of them. Because Gary Soneji is playing at the top of his game. The latest of the unspeakable crimes happens in Alex Cross's precinct. It happens under the noses of Jezzie Flanagan's men. Now Alex Cross must face the ultimate test: How do you outmaneuver a brilliant psychopath?

I am also ashamed to admit that this book...just didn't really do it for me. It lacks the excitement I've come to know and love in Patterson's novels. It doesn't examine Alex as a person as much as his modern day novels do. Also, I really didn't like Jezzie from the get-go. I even struggled with the case, because it wasn't all that exciting to me.

This book was made into a movie, too, in 2001. Morgan Freeman plays Alex Cross. This is definitely a movie I would like to watch!

Bottom line, this is a good read, but certainly not my favorite Alex Cross novel so far (actually, my favorite so far is Kiss the Girls).

This book did put me over my page goal for 2012, though! Here are my stats:
Along Came a Spider by James Patterson
Rating: 3/5
Pages: 449
2012 Reading Goal: 15,259/15,000

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Book Review: Play Dirty by Sandra Brown

Back in August, I read a stellar book by Sandra Brown (although, let's be honest--does she ever write anything that isn't stellar?!?!) I devoured it in one day, it was that good!

Here's a glimpse of what this novel is about, summary courtesy of Goodreads:

After five long years in federal prison, Griff Burkett is a free man. But the disgraced Cowboys quarterback can never return to life as he knew it before he was caught cheating. In a place where football is practically a religion, Griff committed a cardinal sin, and no one is forgiving.
Foster Speakman, owner and CEO of SunSouth Airlines, and his wife, Laura, are a golden couple. Successful and wealthy, they lived a charmed life before fate cruelly intervened and denied them the one thing they wanted most -- a child. It's said that money can't buy everything. But it can buy a disgraced football player fresh out of prison and out of prospects.
The job Griff agrees to do for the Speakmans demands secrecy. But he soon finds himself once again in the spotlight of suspicion. An unsolved murder comes back to haunt him in the form of his nemesis, Stanley Rodarte, who has made Griff's destruction his life's mission. While safeguarding his new enterprise, Griff must also protect those around him, especially Laura Speakman, from Rodarte's ruthlessness. Griff stands to gain the highest payoff he could ever imagine, but cashing in on it will require him to forfeit his only chance for redemption...and love.
Griff is now playing a high-stakes game, and at the final whistle, one player will be dead.
Play Dirty is Sandra Brown's wildest ride yet, with hairpin turns of plot all along the way. The clock is ticking down on a fallen football star, who lost everything because of the way he played the game. Now his future -- his life -- hinges on one last play.
This story line is certainly a unique one. I'd really like to give away some details, but I won't. What I will mention is that a certain unforeseen event occurs which puts Griff in danger of taking the blame. We as the readers follow as Griff runs from the law and solves the crime. It's a wonderful whirlwind of activity. Again, Sandra Brown knocks one out of the park.

For any of you who enjoy a good thriller, put this on your TBR list!

Here's my stats for this book:
Play Dirty by Sandra Brown
Rating: 4/5
Pages: 404
2012 Reading Goal: 14,810

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Couponing Queen!

I can't even begin to describe what I'm thankful for. To be honest, sometimes I don't realize just how thankful I am for life's blessings until I am forced to turn to them. I've talked on this blog a bit about couponing before. It's a fun activity, yes, but I'm so blessed to be able to coupon and have the stockpile I do.

Earlier this semester, I tried playing keep-up, but failed. Miserably. My work and grad school class consumed so much of my life that I had no extra time. Sometimes those two obligations would interfere with my sleep, and often Matt and I were unable to spend any time together. For eight weeks, we hardly saw each other at all. In this time, we were both too busy to go grocery shopping. We were too busy to clip coupons, scour sale ads, and make lists. We were just trying to stay above water.

I never realized before just how fortunate we are to have a 3 month supply of food and other household products around. If anything were to happen to either of us, we would be okay. That kind of insurance policy is why I started couponing in the first place--in addition to the desire to save money.

Anyway, my grad school class is over. I've been trying to catch up on everything in my life, including couponing. I know it doesn't sound like it should be a priority, especially with a stockpile like mine, but I realized the value of couponing when I was unable to do so. If not for couponing, Matt and I would have either only gotten take-out (unhealthy and expensive) or just not eaten much at all.

This was my second week back into "the swing of things," and I had a really great couponing haul I'd like to share with everyone.

This was my haul, which totaled $79.13.

Here's what I got:
5 boxes of General Mills cereal
Cottonelle TP
4 bags Hershey's chocolate chips
6 cans of Green Giant veggies
4 cans Dole Pineapple
2 loaves Sweetheart bread (not pictured)
1 Softsoap hand soap (this ended up being free after coupons)
2 bags Green Giant frozen veggies
2.08 lbs Serloin Steak
3.88 lbs pork loins
3.21 lbs stew meat
spaghetti squash

I saved 46% on this shopping trip, so I'm happy! I know these numbers are not what you see in Extreme Couponing, but this is a realistic shopping trip, not one staged for TV.

If you and your family would like to have an insurance policy or be able to feed yourselves through tough times, I recommend you research if couponing is the right path for you.

And now I'll stop bragging. Have a great day, everyone! :)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Sunday Post (7)

Happy Sunday, readers!

Today is the first Sunday of November. I'm shocked at how quickly 2012 has gone by! But you know what the first Sunday of every month means...

As promised, I'm working to update my blog little by little. Sorry for putting this on the backburner for so long. I did film my 7th Sunday Post, though. So enjoy!

In case you missed any titles/authors, here's a list of the books I received this month:

Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
On the Run by Iris Johansen*
Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
Kill Me if you Can by James Patterson
The 11th Hour by James Patterson

*this audiobook was part of a giveaway hosted by Kristen at Always with a Book. Check out her blog here!

Have a great Sunday, readers! :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Taking a Break...

Hi Readers,

As you all know, I've been absent lately. I hate to deliver this news, but I'm going to be absent from my blog for a bit longer. I'm still working to find balance, and am hoping to get my life in order soon. In the meantime, I will be taking a break from blogging.

Thank you in advance for your loyalty and patience. I hope to be back soon! :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sanity-Saving Saturday: Prioritize

Hello, readers!

I'm sorry that for two weeks, I kind of dropped off the face of the Earth. It was a pretty hectic two weeks.

I know that I promised to do the "Sanity-Saving Saturday" series every Saturday until travel season was over, but I missed last week's. This ties into my Sanity-Saving tip for today:


This seems like a pretty obvious tip, but when you're super stressed and at the brink of losing your sanity, this becomes more important than anything else.

Prioritizing requires sacrifices. Lots of them. So even though it sounds simple, I've got some confessions to make that will probably horrify you:
  • I haven't done laundry in over 3 weeks. I have 12 loads to do today before I leave tomorrow.
  • My carpet hasn't seen a vacuum cleaner in over two months (ewww...)
  • I have not cooked anything outside of a slow cooker in two weeks.
  • I totally missed doing September's Highlights series. Whoops!
  • Matt has been really good about doing our dishes, but I realized this morning it's been 10 days since I last did a load of dishes myself
  • Grocery shopping has not happened for 3 weeks...
  • For a full week, I survived on 4-6 hours of sleep per night, as I was either working or doing homework every minute of every day
  • Aside from reading on an airplane, I haven't opened a book in 2 weeks.
  • My apartment is a disaster, and I haven't bothered to clean anything up in an extremely long time.
This is horrifying. I've confessed to you all before that I'm no weekend warrior; but this? This is ridiculous. Why, might you ask, is my life like this?

I have a full-time job that I love. During the fall, I travel a lot and have to manage the office while on the road. This translates to 50-70 hour workweeks and extended periods of absence from home (which makes it pretty darn hard to clean at home!).

I had a grueling 8-week grad school class. When I wasn't working, I was doing homework. The class required a pretty hefty time investment. My balance got off a little when I went to a conference for work; next thing I know, a domino effect caused me to fall behind on everything--and right before finals week for my class.

Some people tell me there is no excuse to not have a hot dinner on the plate and a messy house. I don't believe them, and neither should you. Life is about balance, which sometimes requires sacrifice. I am not going to sacrifice my 4-6 hours of sleep to clean the apartment; is it really that important?!?! 
Not compared with spending time with a loved one, maintaining a positive mindset, and enjoying the blessings and relationships life has to offer.

So, for those of you on the brink of losing your sanity: you are not alone. Prioritize what is important to you, and ignore the rest of your "to-do" list. It can be done another day. You'll get around to it when your plate clears off a little bit. In the meantime, live your life :)

Happy Saturday, readers!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Sunday Post (6)

Good Morning and happy Sunday, readers!

Today is the last Sunday of know what that means? A new Sunday Post vlog!

If you weren't able to catch it in the video, here is the list of books received in September:
Still Life with Brass Pole by Craig Machen
The Office of Desire by Martha Moody
A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham

I hope you enjoy the video! Stay tuned for my Highlights post, which will give a more general overview of my blog, life, etc.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sanity-Saving Saturday: Allow for Breaks

Happy Saturday, readers!

It's been a pretty hectic week for me. Hopefully you aren't all feeling the same way too! But, if you are, you're reading the right post!

This week's "Sanity-Saving Saturday" tip is to allow for breaks.

It sounds simple, right? Common sense? And yet, this is something I hardly ever allow myself to do when things start to get crazy.

Something important to note is that there are two types of breaks: good breaks, and evil breaks.

Good breaks are those that allow you to collect your thoughts, relax, or enhance your productivity.

Evil breaks are time-suckers. They're the "breaks" you take, but don't feel any relaxation from.

Examples of some good breaks:
  • Baking: I love baking when I get stressed. Baking is something I'm good at; it makes me feel productive, and I love the smells as it's baking and I'm finishing my task(s)
  • Going to the gym
  • Taking a walk: This is a great way to clear your head. It's not intensive, doesn't require a membership, and makes you feel a little more productive, too.
  • Laundry: I find doing laundry to be a bit of a relaxing break. When I know I'll be studying all day, I love to do laundry. Every hour, I take a 10-minute break to wash, sort, and fold the clothes. It makes me feel super productive, it smells good, and cleans my apartment!
Examples of some evil breaks:
  • Facebook: Do I need to explain this one? I'll pop over to FB thinking that I'll just be five minutes. Not only do I waste time doing, really, nothing on there, but I also never feel like I had much of a break. Or I'll get distracted from my task(s). Or obsessively check it. Point is: Facebook is evil if you're trying to be productive.
  • Pinterest: I love love LOVE pinterest...but it's horrible for my productivity! All it does is add to my to-do list. Example? I'll be looking around on pinterest and see some nail polish I like. I look at my own, plain, unpolished nails with sudden urgency. This must be fixed right away! Next thing I know, I'm spending 20 minutes painting my nails instead of doing anything worthwhile--and painting nails is not a priority.
  • Cleaning: I know this looks weird, since I believe baking and laundry are good breaks. But seriously, cleaning is a horrible break for me because it's like Pinterest: my to-do list gets super long! Baking and laundry are finite tasks: once you've completed them, you're done. Even though I've tried making cleaning a finite task (ie I'm only going to clean the toilet and the shower), I then realize there's so much more that needs to be cleaned! Evil spiral!
  • Watching TV: this is such a time sucker. Does anyone really feel like just watching TV was a good "break" for them? I definitely don''s like spending time on Facebook for me.
I know this sounds like common sense, but how many of us really sit town and recognize a list of our own "good" breaks and "evil" breaks? Seriously...make a list some time. Put it in a place where you may be tempted by evil breaks. Hopefully it will stand as a reminder to you that saving your sanity is all about choosing good breaks and allowing yourself happiness.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sanity-Saving Saturday: Go to the Gym

Welcome back, readers, to the second post in my Sanity-Saving Saturday series. If you missed the first post, you can find it here.

When things get overwhelming, we'll often ignore our long-term goals and focus on short-term problems. We'll get so caught up in the stress of the moment that we forget what's truely important to us.

Of the highest importance, of course, is taking care of yourself! You need to allow for breaks, even when things get stressful. My favorite break (and most sanity-saving solution!) is to go to the gym.

I don't usually do regular workouts. In fact, I hardly ever make it to the gym. But every time I go when I'm stressed (or even not stressed), I walk out feeling 100% better. In that hour I spent at the gym, I'm aware I could have been working on my assignments, cleaning house, putting some overtime in at work on a project, or other busy projects.

Going to the gym allows me to clear my head and focus on the big picture. I'm able to prioritize my projects or, if I'd rather, just zone out and actually enjoy a TV show or some music. By the time I get back to my apartment, I know just what I need to focus on or how I what I'll be writing my next grad school paper on.

Trust me, this works. Invest a little bit of time at the gym, especially when you're overwhelmed. Every little bit of sanity-saving counts! :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Review: Are you there, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea

Hello again, readers!

In August, I read Are you there, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler. I'll be honest with you: I've never watched Chelsea's show or read any of her other works. I wanted to start with her novels to develop my full opinion of her. I know some people love her and some despise her. I may not judge a book by its cover, but I will judge a comedian by their book.

This was the book I decided to start with to form that opinion. Here's the summary, courtesy of Goodreads:

When Chelsea Handler needs to get a few things off her chest, she appeals to a higher power - vodka. You would too if you found out that your boyfriend was having an affair with a Peekapoo or if you had to pretend to be honeymooning with your father in order to upgrade to first class. Welcome to Chelsea's world - a place where absurdity reigns supreme and a quick wit is the best line of defense.
In this hilarious, deliciously skewed collection, Chelsea mines her past for stories about her family, relationships, and career that are at once singular and ridiculous. Whether she's convincing her third-grade class that she has been tapped to play Goldie Hawn's daughter in the sequel to Private Benjamin, deciding to be more egalitarian by dating a redhead, or looking out for a foulmouthed, rum-swilling little person who looks just like her... only smaller, Chelsea has a knack for getting herself into the most outrageous situations.
Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea showcases the candor and irresistible turns of phrase that have made her one of the freshest voices in comedy today.

I found this novel to be nothing more than mediocre. I rarely chuckled, and never found myself actually laughing out loud. Chelsea's past exploits were more horrifying than entertaining. My recommendation? Read only if you already love Chelsea.

My book stats:
Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
Rating: 3/5
Pages: 264
2012 Reading Goal: 14,406

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Audiobook Review: Guilty Wives by James Patterson

A good audiobook is one that you obsess over, both while you're listening to it and when you're not. As my readers know, I listen to audiobooks all the time while driving on my many trips. One of my favorite authors to listen to is James Patterson; his storylines are so addicting that I get engrossed in the book until it's over! And let's face it: one of the worst things to happen is a boring audiobook when you're driving an unscenic route. I start to get sleepy when that happens!

This audiobook was no different. Here's the summary of James Patterson's Guilty Wives, courtesy of Goodreads:
No husbands allowed
Only minutes after Abbie Elliot and her three best friends step off of a private helicopter, they enter the most luxurious, sumptuous, sensually pampering hotel they have ever been to. Their lavish presidential suite overlooks Monte Carlo, and they surrender: to the sun and pool, to the sashimi and sake, to the Bruno Paillard champagne. For four days they're free to live someone else's life. As the weekend moves into pulsating discos, high-stakes casinos, and beyond, Abbie is transported to the greatest pleasure and release she has ever known.

What happened last night?

In the morning's harsh light, Abbie awakens on a yacht, surrounded by police. Something awful has happened--something impossible, unthinkable. Abbie, Winnie, Serena, and Bryah are arrested and accused of the foulest crime imaginable. And now the vacation of a lifetime becomes the fight of a lifetime--for survival. GUILTY WIVES is the ultimate indulgence, the kind of nonstop joy-ride of excess, friendship, betrayal, and danger that only James Patterson can create.

The beginning of this book was a little hard to get into, but just a few short chapters in, I was hooked.  Unlike most of Patterson's novels, this is an international thriller, taking place in France. Abbie, the main character, and her three best friends are accused of murdering the president of France. They are thrown into jail and perceived to be terrorists--all the while, they are struggling to prove their innocence. Deals are cut and prison abuse occurs. All in all, it's an addicting, exciting thriller.

I highly recommend this book. I gave it 5/5 stars.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sanity-Saving Saturday: Maximize your Caffeinated Productivity

Hi readers!

Those of you who watched my most recent Sunday Post vlog are aware of my new meme, "Sanity-Saving Saturdays". For those of you who haven't watched the vlog, here's what this is about:

In the fall, I travel for about 11 weeks from Sunday or Monday until Thursday. Needless to say, I tend to go a little insane. I've got some tips that help to keep me a little more on the sane side, so I thought I'd share them with you, since we're all pretty busy. This meme will run every Saturday for the weeks I'm on the road. Please feel free to join in, too, if you'd like.

Today's Topic:  
Maximize your Caffeinated Productivity

It's no secret to you all that I'm obsessed with coffee. Aside from loving the taste, there's another reason: I get a productivity high. With coffee, I get a superwoman boost for five hours that I wouldn't have gotten without coffee.

The trick: Whatever caffeinated beverage you enjoy, time your consumption of it to when you're able to work. For example, if you are watching your children's soccer games until 2 pm and can't do anything on your to-do list, delay having your caffeine until closer to 2 pm. If you had your caffeinated beverage at 8 am and don't have free time for your to-do list until 2, you're going to be on a caffeine crash by the time you're able to accomplish anything. This leads to watching TV for hours on end, taking a nap, or other less-productive tasks. By strategically consuming your caffeine, you're able to accomplish more when you have the availability to do so.

I have discovered that I work best in the mornings. Once 2:00 hits, I'm practically worthless--caffeine or no caffeine. Therefore, I try to have my coffee as early as possible. At work, I schedule meetings in the afternoon if I can, since I won't get much paperwork done in the afternoons anyway. I set aside at least one hour every morning at work to work on the to-do list, bit-by-bit. This is often at the beginning of my caffeine high, which doesn't end until around 2:00. By then, much of the to-do list has been taken care of.

Even on weekends, I consume my coffee the moment I get up. I spend this time doing homework for Graduate school, blogging, or cleaning the apartment. While I would much rather spend my mornings lazily reading and lounging around, I reserve that for my afternoons, when I'm off my caffeine high.

'ello, love...

I hope this helps you, readers, in saving your sanity. It seems to get harder and harder to do so as the years go on...

What are your Sanity-Saving Saturday tips?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Book Review: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Hi everyone!

I'm sorry again about my inconsistent postings. My grad school class this first 8-weeks is extremely intensive and I'm preparing for my travel season (I leave tomorrow!), so unfortunately my blog has taken the back burner.

As you guys may remember, I did a significant amount of traveling in July. I did run into quite a few flight issues, too. On my trip to Cleveland, I was not supposed to have much layover time. Because of that, I only brought one book along (The Glass Castle), which was relatively short. My first flight ended up being delayed 20 minutes; this caused me to miss my connecting flight. I wasn't able to get on another flight until 4 hours later. Within that time period, I finished the book I had brought along, only to discover my iPad battery was dying--and I packed the charger in my checked baggage! I decided instead to purchase a book.

This book ended up being a mass-market paperback copy of Nicholas Sparks' Safe Haven. Between the layover on the way to Cleveland and the delay on the way from Cleveland, I finished the book on the flight back to North Dakota.

Here's a summary of Safe Haven, courtesy of Goodreads:
When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

Although a semi-predictable book (as with all of Nicholas Sparks' novels), I really enjoyed the storyline. I will admit that Katie did not begin as my favorite of Sparks' leading females, I found myself drawn to her and felt a significant amount of compassion and empathy for her situation. Alex was, of course, the perfect "knight in shining armor", but I loved that Sparks gave Alex children in this story.

Ultimately, I would encourage you to read this, especially for those of you who, like me, will read every Nicholas Sparks book at some point in time!

This is where this book put me in my reading goal:
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
Rating: 4/5          
Pages: 382           
Page Goal: 14,142/15,00

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Sunday Post #5

Good morning, readers!

I hope you're all enjoying your 3-day weekend! Are you ready for my 5th Sunday Post?

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and is an opportunity for bloggers to share the books they've received. I participate in The Sunday Post once a month as a vlog.
This week's Sunday Post video is a little different than normal...

...because I only got one book in all of August!

The book I received was James Patterson's The 9th Judgement, which is a part of his Women's Murder Club series.

Hopefully I'll have more books to showcase next month. In the meantime, have a lovely weekend! :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Highlights: August 2012

Ack! I can't believe it's already September!!! Here's what I was busy with throughout August:

This month I read the following:
August 2012
Are you there, Vodka? It's me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 264           Page Goal: 14,406/15,000
Play Dirty by Sandra Brown
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 404           Page Goal: 14,810/15,000
Along Came a Spider by James Patterson
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 449           Page Goal: 15,259/15,000
The Wedding Girl by Madeline Wickham
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 327           Page Goal: 15,586/15,000

These books total 1,444 pages for the month, which surprises me, considering how busy I was in August!

However, I haven't posted reviews for any of these books. Whoops! Hoping to get around to that soon...

This first 8-week class is pretty intensive, so I'm working really hard to just keep my head above ground right now. I'm sure it will get better as it goes, and I'm lucky it's a subject I'm interested in.

Whoopsies! I haven't touched my crafts in months! I often bring my crocheting on the road with me, though, so that I have something to do at night when I (try) to relax. Now that I have schoolwork, though, I feel like I may not get around to my crafts for quite some time...

I finally had a month where I didn't travel one bit. It was lovely, but trust me--I'll be making up for it pretty soon!

Our chest freezer broke down earlier this month, and it's been such a hassle for us to get it serviced. We found out yesterday that it's "non-repairable" (literally--the inspector wrote that in Sharpie on our freezer!) So, we're struggling a lot with Sears right now to get a replacement before all our food spoils :(

I survived August, but I'm not sure I'll be as lucky with September! I will be attending College Fairs and doing High School Visits (usually visiting around 72 high schools total) throughout the next few months.


This is me being a creature from the Black Lagoon...
During my lectures for class, I like to pretend I'm at a
spa. Don't judge.

So, readers, what were your August 2012 highlights?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Met my 15,000 Page Reading Goal!!!

I met my reading goal of 15,000 pages for the 2012 year! And it's only August!

I'm super excited, in case you hadn't noticed. I've gone up and down in my page goal success throughout the years, but this is the earliest I've ever been able to meet my page goal. I'm not sure how it happened, especially with more on my plate than before, but it happened and I'm thrilled!

This doesn't mean I'll quit reading for the year, of course...but my reading will slow down because it's my travel season. Stay tuned for more audiobooks! :)

Thanks, readers, for supporting me through this. I'll post a poll at the bottom of the page for you guys to vote on my 2013 page goal.

Happy weekend! :)

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Hi followers!

I just wanted to let you know that I'll likely be absent for the next month or so. Today is move-in day at the College where I work, and that signifies the kick-off to the beginning of the year! During the next month, I will be preparing to travel for weeks on end, taking a course toward my graduate degree, working tons of overtime, and being an overall mess.

Thank you for your patience throughout this time. I'll miss my readers, but hopefully the time will go by fast.

Thanks :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Stockpile Meals: Freezer Meals

Happy Sunday, readers!

This time of year is super high anxiety for me. Beginning tomorrow, I will have a week long inservice training at work, and trying to squeeze the to-do list in every chance I can get. Saturday is move-in day for our on-campus students, which I assist with. Then on Monday, classes begin--both for students at my college and at the University where I'm getting my graduate degree.

On top of all this, I begin my travels in a mere 4 weeks. For those of you who don't know, I travel for work Mondays-Thursdays from mid-September to as late as mid-December. It's exhausting.

As my anxiety is getting worse and worse, I'm trying to ensure that I keep up on my sanity by preparing as much as possible beforehand. One of the ways I'm doing this is by making Freezer Meals. Most will be for Matt to eat while I'm on the road, but it will be nice having a homemade meal to come home to on my busy days.

When I was growing up, my mother would make freezer meals when she was leaving town for an extended period of time. None of the recipes I used were hers, but I could very easily have made those recipes. Instead, I tried to use as much from the stockpile as I could, and didn't make anything that required me to purchase more than 2 items.

I do make freezer meals from time to time, but it's usually just doubling a batch and freezing it, especially with soups and bolognese sauce. This is the first time I've ever made batches of casseroles for the sole intention of freezing and not consuming at least a portion immediately.

Freezer meals are pretty easy and, for the most, pretty cheap, too. I started by looking up recipes where I knew I had most of the ingredients. I settled on making the following (I've linked the sources and recipes--check 'em out!):

Tater-tot Casserole
Baked Pasta
Cheeseburger Pie
Easy Chicken Pot Pie

So, last night I wrote down recipes and made a shopping list of what I didn't have in my stockpile. I also have had a turkey thawing since Friday. We had found a turkey in June for $.89 a pound--not bad, especially for the off season! Well, it began to crowd our freezer, so I decided to make it into freezer meals. The Chickaroni and Easy Chicken Pot Pie I made substituted the chicken for turkey.

This morning, after several pots of coffee (surprised? me neither), I ran off to the grocery store with my pre-made shopping list from the night before. I was able to breeze through the store and was back, eager to cook, by 10:30.

My first step was to put the turkey in the oven. This allowed me to work on the ground beef meals while baking the meat for the next meals.

My second step was to get out and prepare the dry (not refrigerated or frozen) ingredients. I also got out all of my packaging for the freezer meals. Doing this allowed me to not have to run back and forth to the stockpile, looking for ingredients.

I got many different pan sizes, but my favorite are those "PANS" you see in the back. They're aluminum, and disposable. Additionally, they're 4x8 pans, which is perfect portion size for Matt to have 1 dinner and 1 lunch. Or, it's just enough for the two of us to eat one dinner with a side dish. This helps so we don't get tired of the meal (which frequently happens when this family of 2 makes 9x13 pans of the same dish) and takes up less freezer space because it's more moveable. The best part? They came in packs of 4 for just $1 at our local dollar store...

I began cooking, and was impressed how quickly these meals came out...

Tater Tot Casserole (2 4x8 pans)
Cheeseburger Pie (one pie tin)

Baked Pasta (4 4x8 pans)

I packaged and froze each meal immediately upon completion.

It took a little while for my turkey to finish, so I got a nice 2 hour break (and short nap) before beginning again:
Yum yum!
I carved up the turkey. Large slices were stored for today's lunch and dinner, and I shredded the rest. I then made two turkey dishes...

Turkey Pot Pie (2 pie tins)
Chickaroni (4 4x8 tins)
I was intending to make one more dish, but burned my hand pretty badly while draining the pasta for the Chickaroni, so I called it a day.

Here's what I was able to make in a matter of a few hours:

Freezer Meals!

I ended the day with 2 turkey pot pies, 1 cheeseburger pie, 4 baked pasta dishes, 2 tater tot casseroles, and 4 chickaroni dishes.

...and now the kitchen is a bit of a mess. Matt has volunteered to wash all the dishes from today, though, since I made so many meals for him to eat while I'm traveling (which also means fewer dishes he'll be dirtying and need to wash while I'm traveling).

Do you guys have favorite recipes or tips and tricks for freezer meals? Do share in the comments below! :)