Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Club Friday-- The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

Barnes and Noble Synopsis:  Noa P. Singleton never spoke a word in her own defense throughout a brief trial that ended with a jury finding her guilty of first-degree murder. Ten years later, having accepted her fate, she sits on death row in a maximum-security penitentiary, just six months away from her execution date. Seemingly out of the blue, she is visited by Marlene Dixon, a high-powered Philadelphia attorney who is also the mother of the woman Noa was imprisoned for killing. Marlene tells Noa that she has changed her mind about the death penalty and Noa’s sentence, and will do everything in her considerable power to convince the governor to commute the sentence to life in prison, in return for the one thing Noa is unwilling to trade: her story. Marlene desperately wants Noa to reveal the events that led to her daughter’s death – events that Noa has never shared with a soul. With death looming, Marlene believes that Noa may finally give her the answers she needs, though Noa is far from convinced that Marlene deserves the salvation she alone can deliver. Inextricably linked by murder but with very different goals, Noa and Marlene wrestle with the sentences life itself can impose while they confront the best and worst of what makes us human in this haunting tale of love, anguish, and deception.

My Thoughts:  The first 90% of this book was fantastic.  There were twists and turns and mysteriousness that kept me turning pages because I had to know what happened.  Then when I found out what happened, I was annoyed because it was ridiculous.  A description I read claimed this book was a cross between Before I Go to Sleep and Defending Jacob.  I definitely see the similarities to Defending Jacob, so if you enjoyed that book, you'll enjoy this one too.  But I don't get the comparison to Before I Go to Sleep other than you don't know who you can trust in this story.  I'd still recommend it if you enjoy legal thrillers because this was definitely one, and I did not see the ending coming at all.  Absolutely worth the read.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

To Read or Not to Read.

Last week's topic on The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday that I'm posting a week late was Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want To Read.  I deal with this issue all the time-- I have a ton of books on my list that I can't decide if I want to read or not!  These are just a few...

1. The Innocent Man-- Donny and my mom have both told me I should read this book.  And I've wanted to read it for a while.  But Grisham's The Confession made me so angry when I read it even though it was just fiction.  I can't imagine the emotional toll this one will take since it's a true story.  I've been putting it off because I don't want to deal with the trauma.  But I just need to bite the bullet and read it.
2. Bossypants-- I've really enjoyed some of the celebrity memoirs I've read recently, and everyone who has read this book seems to have loved it.  But I don't really care much for Tina Fey, so I've been hesitant to pick it up.
3. The Man From Primrose Lane-- This one has been on my to-read list FOREVER.  But from several reviews I've read, it gets kind of weird around the middle (from a crime novel to sci-fi with time travel).  It'll probably end up on my list indefinitely.
4. Orange is the New Black-- I like memoirs from people who have unique stories.  And working in criminal law, I was particularly drawn to this one so I can read about life in prison.  However, I HATED the show, so this book got taken off my to-read list.  But I picked it up from the library on a whim last week, and I think I might actually read it this time. 
5. Sweet Jiminy-- I have read and loved the other two books by Kristin Gore-- Sammy's Hill and Sammy's House.  I bought this one immediately when it came out a few years ago hoping it would be the same.  But after reading the synopsis, it's very different.  So it's been on the back burner for a while, and I may or may not get around to it.
6. Mr. Mercedes-- If you've been reading for a while, you know that I loooooove Stephen King's 11/22/63.  But none of his other books are even remotely like that one.  This book though is a crime novel, which is my favorite genre.  I'm both excited and apprehensive to read this one.  I'm nervous that it will be very creepy like his other stories.
7. The Goldfinch-- This book has gotten so many great reviews, and I've even gotten it from the library once before.  But there's just something about it that doesn't seem enticing.
8. Other John Green books-- I don't LOVE the young adult genre.  And while I did really enjoy The Fault in Our Stars, I don't feel particularly like I need to read any more. 
9. Anything by Jodi Picoult--  I've never read any Jodi Picoult books despite them being raved about by so many, including my own mom.  I'm sure she's a wonderful author, but my gosh her books are so sad and heavy.  And I don't particularly want to spend my relaxation time being sad.  
10. Where She Went-- I really loved the first of these books, If I Stay.  But I also really liked how it ended.  I'm not very anxious to ruin the ending of that story by continuing on with Mia.

Have any of you read any of these books?  Any that I absolutely must read?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Last Few Weekends of Summer.

I can't believe we're already in the second half of August!  It really feels like summer is just beginning, but it's already starting to end.  I usually am very happy for the end of summer.  Since I'm not in school anymore, the only thing that summer usually means to me is hot weather, which I hate.  But I've actually loved this summer.  It's been incredibly mild here in North Carolina, so I haven't wanted to die when I walked outside.  And we joined a pool, which has been one of my favorite things to do.  Donny hasn't loved it nearly as much as me, but he also can't sit still on a weekend as long as I can.  This has been my view most weekends for the last few months, and I'm pretty sad to say goodbye to it.
I spent both Friday afternoon and most of the day Saturday at the pool, so I got some great reading in.  I finished two books this weekend that were fantastic:  The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver and The Final Detail by Harlan Coben.  I have read six Harlan Coben books this year, and I loooooove them!  Each and every one of them draw me in and keep me turning the pages long after I should be asleep.  SO good!
Donny and I also went to see Get on Up on Friday night.  He thought it was much better than I did.  I thought the acting was all fantastic, especially Chadwick Boseman, who was truly amazing as James Brown.  And of course, the music was great.  But the movie itself jumped around from the 80's to the 60's to the 30's and back to the 60's, etc.  This reviewer said it best-- we got snapshots of the life of James Brown, not the story.  The character himself doesn't offer much help.  James Brown is not a likeable guy.  But there have been plenty of movies about unlikeable subjects that I've loved, so I can't blame it all on him.  I felt like they were merely scratching the surface of the man, not really what a good biopic does.  For instance, there was no mention of his drug/alcohol use, and only fleeting mentions of his tax problems, domestic abuse allegations, and his involvement in the civil rights movement.  However, the scenes of his concerts lasted FOREVER.  I just felt disappointed because it could've been SO much better.
Sunday, I didn't do much at all.  Donny took a little road trip to a town he's been reading a book about, so I just chilled at home and read some more.  He got the King of Queens DVD set a while ago and has been watching them, and only recently have I started getting into it.  So we watched a few of those episodes after dinner, and they are hilarious.
How was your weekend??

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Rainy Weekend.

Despite a funeral on Friday afternoon and the rain all weekend, this weekend turned out to be a great one. Friday night, I got to spend the evening with some of my favorite gals, April and Jen!  We went to dinner at The Mad Hatter, and I was so excited because they have 100% grass fed beef for their burgers!   It was delicious, although not as delicious as Hops...
After dinner, we went to Marshall FreeHouse, which makes the best cocktail ever-- the Bramble.  Ever since we went there for my brother's rehearsal dinner more than a month ago, I have been thinking about this drink!  And I'm not a big drinker, so this should tell you something about how good it is. 
Jen got a margarita with its "cloud of sea salt."  I thought it looked like a bubble bath, but she said it was fantastic.
I had such a good night with them, but we all agreed that it was time to dissolve our small group.  It's been coming for a while-- there are many weeks that we don't meet because we don't have a quorum.  A small group should be a priority, not something you'll try to get to each week.  They're starting a bible study at their church, and so am I.  It's sad, but I can't deny that I didn't see it coming.  I love them dearly, and I look forward to seeing them more outside of the small group setting.

Despite being out until almost 1am on Friday night and the impending rain, Donny and I were up at the crack of dawn on Saturday because he ran his first 5k!  I was a volunteer along the course, so I was able to get some good snapshots of him.  I'm so proud of him!  He finished his first race in under 32 minutes.  And unlike most people that ran past me, he still had a smile on his face.  :)
We spent the rest of the rainy Saturday recovering relaxing.  Sunday was pretty much the same-- church in the morning then lunch with my parents.  The rainy, gloomy afternoon made us stay inside the rest of the day and even lulled me into a nap in the afternoon.  I did manage to finish two books this weekend!  I love these Myron Bolitar books by Harlan Coben.  I was up well past my bedtime with both of these books because I couldn't put them down!

How was your weekend?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Birthday Weekend.

Friday, I read The Giver, which pushed me over the finish line for my reading goal for 2014!  I can't believe I've read 50 books this year!

Friday night, I had a 20% off coupon for Ulta with limited exclusions plus $3 worth of rewards on my Ulta card, and I knew I wanted to try the new Urban Decay mascara!  I've used it for three days now, and the jury's still out.  I doesn't flake at all, which is my #1 mascara pet peeve, so that's a good sign!  What I absolutely DO love is Subversion, the last primer that came with it.  It's fantastic.
I also picked up my favorite NYX Butter Gloss in a new shade-- Angel Food Cake.  It goes perfectly with my MAC Staunchly Stylish lip pencil.
With all my new goodies here...

While I love fall the best, I must admit that summer has the best food.  There's nothing better than fresh peaches and fresh strawberries with my paleo pancakes and bacon for breakfast.  

Saturday was Donny's birthday, so he got to choose the agenda.  That meant watching a million movies (including the fantastic Mr. Holland's Opus!) and relaxing at home since it was a rainy, dreary day.  For dinner, my whole family got together to celebrate Donny's big day.  Then we had birthday cake (made by my mom) at our house along with presents! 
A new, fancy shower head was one of the favorites of the night.
I gave him some fancy bottles of wine along with these Texas Rangers Oakley sunglasses.  He was pretty stoked about them-- far more than I anticipated, which is always means I've done my job as a gift-giver.
Sunday, we had church and lunch at my grandma's like usual.  Then I spent the afternoon organizing some paperwork that I realized needed attention while I was cleaning for company on Saturday.  What an exciting life adulthood is...  I tried several times to get into Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger, but it is very slow going.  I'm not really in the mood to read anything, but I hate not being in the middle of a book.
Has anyone read anything fantastic recently that I absolutely must read??

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Birthdays are the Greatest Days.

Today is Donny's birthday! I won't share how old he is except to say that he's still younger than me...
He drives me crazy sometimes, but I love him. No one makes me smile bigger.
He puts up with me and my crazy and even loves it sometimes.
He washes my dishes and gets me breakfast. He has more baseball caps and knows more random facts about baseball than than any human being ever. 
His brain is constantly going, and he's always imagining new things to create and build.  He can barely sit still ever unless he's engrossed in a book.
We make each other giggle all the time.  Sometimes only with just a look because we just know without speaking what the other is thinking.
He's committed to Jesus and therefore to me, and I feel completely safe putting my heart and my life in his hands. 
Happy birthday, Donny!  Hope it's the best one yet.  :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Book Club Friday-- July Reads.

I'm so far behind on my book reviews, so I decided to combine all of July's books into one post in an effort to catch up.  July was definitely the month of Harry Potter.  After really enjoying the first couple, I got totally wrapped up in them from about book #3 until the end.  What a fantastic series!  I only wish that they had found better actors for Harry and the Weasley boys in the movies...
July has also been a month of working on my summer reading challenge (see here).  For the challenge, I read The After Wife and Serena
GoodReads Synopsis:  L.A. is no place for widows. This is what forty-four-year-old Hannah Bernal quickly discovers after the tragic death of her handsome and loving husband, John. Misery and red-rimmed eyes are little tolerated in the land of the beautiful. But life stumbles on: Hannah’s sweet three-year-old daughter, Ellie, needs to be dropped off at her overpriced preschool, while Hannah herself must get back to work in order to pay the bills on “Casa Sugar,” the charming Spanish-styled bungalow they call home.  Fortunately, Hannah has her “Grief Team” for emotional support: earth mother and fanatical animal lover Chloe, who finds a potential blog post in every moment; aspiring actress Aimee, who has her cosmetic surgeon on speed dial; and Jay, Hannah’s TV producing partner, who has a penchant for Mr. Wrong. But after a series of mishaps and bizarre occurrences, one of which finds Hannah in a posh Santa Monica jail cell, her friends start to fear for her sanity. To make matters worse, John left their financial affairs in a disastrous state. And when Hannah is dramatically fired from her latest producing gig, she finds herself in danger of losing her house, her daughter, and her mind.  One night, standing in her backyard under a majestic avocado tree, in the throes of grief, Hannah breaks down and asks, “Why?” The answer that comes back—Why not?—begins an astounding journey of discovery and transformation that leads Hannah to her own truly extraordinary life after death.

My Thoughts:  I have mixed feelings about this one.  On one hand, it was a little weird with all the talking to dead people.  But on the other, it was a great story about a woman learning how to live after an unexpected tragedy.  It was a really sweet and cute story despite the ghosts.

GoodReads Synopsis:  The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains—but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband's life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.

My Thoughts:  This one was very slow in the beginning.  I read a little over a hundred pages a few weeks ago but put it down.  I decided to toss it in my bag when we went to the beach since I'd have a good opportunity to read.  And man, was I glad I did!  The second two-thirds of this book were SO much better than the first third.  The slow burn of the beginning definitely paid off to a not-so-shocking but still page-turning end.  I can't wait for the movie to come out!

I also managed to read two guilty pleasure books, both of which I started and finished in a day-- I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends and Slammed.  
GoodReads Synopsis: Courtney Robertson joined season 16 of The Bachelor looking for love. A working model and newly single, Courtney fit the casting call: She was young, beautiful, and a natural in front of the cameras. Although she may have been there for all the right reasons, as the season unfolded and sparks began to fly something else was clear: She was not there to make friends.  Courtney quickly became one of the biggest villains in Bachelor franchise history. She unapologetically pursued her man, steamrolled her competition, and broke the rules—including partaking in an illicit skinny-dip that sealed her proposal. Now, after a very public breakup with her Bachelor, Ben Flajnik, Courtney opens up and tells her own story—from her first loves to her first moments in the limo. She dishes on life before, during, and after the Bachelor, including Ben's romantic proposal to her on a Swiss mountaintop and the tabloid frenzy that continued after the cameras stopped rolling.For the first time ever, a former Bachelor contestant takes us along on her journey to find love and reveals that “happily ever after” isn't always what it seems. Complete with stories, tips, tricks, and advice from your favorite Bachelor alumni, and filled with all the juicy details Courtney fans and foes alike want to know, I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends is a must-read for every member of Bachelor nation.

My Thoughts:  This is a must-read for any Bachelor(ette) fan!  If nothing else, it was a fun behind-the-scenes look at the production of the show.  I'm not naive enough to believe everything in this book, but it didn't matter.  It does make clear that what we see on TV is not reality (as if we didn't already know this...).  Be warned that there are some risqué details that you may or may not want to know.  But there's also plenty of dirt that you'll find very interesting!

GoodReads Synopsis:  Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she's losing hope.  Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope.  Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.

My Thoughts:  I know I'm in the minority on this one, but I did not love this story at all.  It just all seemed so contrived and unrealistic.  The part I did enjoy was watching Layken's relationship with her mother as it evolved throughout the story.  But Layken herself was so incredibly immature, which I guess isn't all that unusual for an eighteen year old.  But it got very frustrating after a while.  I was glad to get to the end of this one.

Overall, it was a pretty good month of reading for me!  Only one real dud out of eight isn't too shabby!