Monday, December 10, 2018

27 Things I've Learned in 27 Years

Today marks 27 laps around the sun, so I wanted to share with you 27 lessons I have learned along the way...

1. Cut loose the toxic relationships in your life

This was a lesson I learned pretty early in life.  While watching friends deal with crummy friend situations or burdened with significant others who were not deserving of them, I had no problem cutting the cord and saying "Bye, Felicia."  I've always known that if people didn't value my presence in their lives, or were treating me as a back up plan, that they weren’t worth my time.

2. Learn from your losses

Whether it be a relationship, a job, or anything else. You’ve got two choices- to mope around and be sad, or to learn from it and move on. Quite frankly, its really not a choice for me.  Being mopey makes me even more miserable, so I just move on.

3. Do whatever you need to do to be happy

At the end of the day, the only person who is ALWAYS going to be there for you, is you. Of course you need to take into consideration other people’s thoughts and feelings when you make decisions that impact them (especially when you’re in a guardian position like a parent, etc.), but you are ultimately responsible for you and your own happiness and that HAS to be a priority.

4. Take time for yourself 

I am one of those people who has no problem doing things in by myself. If i want to go to dinner, or hiking, or a movie, and everyone else is busy, I’ll go anyway. Heck, even if friends would be willing and available to go, I still go alone sometimes. Part of this is because I am introverted and I need time to myself to refocus and re-energize, but I also think it’s so important to be aware of yourself and your needs and just take care of you. This may mean doing activities solo, but it also means taking time to breathe and relax, to unwind and de-stress, and to put your needs first. 

5. Talk to people

You don’t have to suffer through things alone. This is something I’m still learning. I’ve never been good at talking to other people about my struggles or problems. My whole life I’ve had such a strong sense of independence that I’ve never been one to ask for help, even when I really needed it.  Your people are there for you; be careful who you confide it, but confide in someone.

6. Don’t let people make you feel bad about who you are 

This also goes for what you do (or don’t do), what you like (or dislike), etc. For example, I’m a fairly picky eater; seafood creeps me out, mostly because of the texture. Believe me, I would love it if I could enjoy seafood. As a lover of food in general, I want to eat all the things! Unfortunately, my stomach/tongue/taste buds just will not cooperate in that aspect, and it’s dumb that people try to make me feel bad about that. Another thing I’ve run into often is people who talk down on teaching, saying, “why don’t you get a real job?” Whenever I hear that I just roll my eyes, because anyone who says that clearly doesn’t understand the teaching profession.  If you like Starbucks, drink your lattes, if you enjoy always owning the latest technology, budget for it and buy it. If you like the Green Bay Packers....well, then you need to re-evaluate because some things are just inexcusable. 😜

7. “Don’t Yuck Someone Else’s Yum!”

This was a saying used in a program I worked in one summer, and I’ve tried to abide by it ever since. It was a food program and it was meant to teach kids not to yell out “yuck!” when trying new things, because even if they don’t like it, others around them might. I’ve tried to be conscious of not using words like “yuck,” and instead just saying “I don’t care for that,” or something along those lines. But this doesn’t just go for food. Building off my last point, if you don’t want people to tear you down for the things you love, don’t put them down for their lifestyle either. 

8. Don’t feel bad about sharing the things you’re excited about

If people don't want to hear/read about your passions, they can choose to keep scrolling or change the conversation.  I've gotten to do a lot of really cool things that I'm really excited about, and a lot of those opportunities I found through other people who did them first.  Had these people not shared, I wouldn't have gotten to partake.  After Costa Rica, I continued this blog in hopes that I can inspire others to do and see and share things that excite them, because of the inspiration I found in those who shared their experiences.

9. Always say yes!

This was a habit I worked on developing when I first moved to Tennessee 3.5 years ago. There were a lot of reasons behind my move, but the main motivator was that I was ready for a new adventure, an adventure that wasn’t going to happen if I sat in my apartment every night and weekend. I never experience FOMO (fear of missing out for all you non-millennials reading this) because I’m always out there DOING the things I want to do. Sometimes this means attending something where I don't know anyone, but it has been worth it every single time.

10. Make the most of every moment

Life is so short, y’all. Yes, it’s the longest damn thing we do, but the thing about time is that you can never get more of it, and you can never get it back, you just get what you get. People always say not to compare your life to what you see on others’ social media, but I think you can use it as a great motivator. When crappy things happen, you can either dwell on them, or realize there is nothing you can do to change it and move on with your life. This is one thing that really helps me when I fall into a depressive state- it’s amazing what the mind can do.

11. Being open-minded is a great quality to have

In fact, it’s one of my favorite things about myself. I’ll try just about anything once (even if I’m hesitant and need a little push first!). It makes being a teacher that much easier, because I don’t judge my kids and their families based on their life circumstances - circumstances in which I will never know the whole story.  Quite frankly, it makes me a much less bitter person than people who hate everything and everyone. That’s not to say I never judge, because I do, I am human after all, but I’m also aware of when I make unfair judgments and know that I have to be open to evidence proving me wrong.

12. Allow yourself to process the tough stuff

This is also something I'm still working on.  I struggle with finding the happy medium between processing the tough stuff and just moving on with life when crappy things happen.  For example, this past summer I had a pretty big life change, the fourth in about three years, and instead of deal with it I just decided I was going to be fine and BAM had the next step of life all planned out faster than I could snap my fingers.  Everyone kept telling me, "Gretchen, you need to step back and process this," because my people know me.  They know when I say I'm fine that it means I've pushed the bad stuff aside and am not dealing with it, but am just moving on. Shout out to you, my friends.  You know who you are, and thank you for making me deal. It's okay to move on, but its also important to learn from tough stuff before you do.

13. Be aware of your mental health 

The older I get, the more aware of this aspect of my life I am.  The bad days have gotten easier (usually!) because I've figured out how to cope and deal, and moreso I've figured out how to prevent and deter the darkness. I remember when I first started understanding my anxiety and depression in college; I confided in a friend about it, only to overhear her talking trash about me dealing with it to another friend later that evening. Needless to say that was pretty much the end of our friendship for me. A big part of being aware of your mental heath, is also having people in your tribe who are aware of your mental health. Its not an easy battle to deal with alone. 

14. Never stop learning

Learn about new concepts or new places. Learn about new people and new lifestyles. The more you know, the better person you are, I truly believe this. It doesn't have to be book stuff. Learn about the world around you!

15. Make a budget

Look, I'm still working on this one. But I know its important! For now my bills are paid, my tummy is fed, my heart is happy. I'll get there!

16. It’s okay not to have a 5-year plan

At any stage or season of my life, if I think back five years, I absolutely know I would not have seen myself where I am in that moment. Heck, even a year ago I would not have put myself here, but honestly I’m more satisfied than I’ve ever been with where I’m at. I was once listening to a podcast that discussed the pointlessness of a 5-year plan and I felt every word they said deep in my soul. Things can change in the blink of an eye, a drop of a hat, etc. and sometimes that can totally derail your plan. The world we live in today is constantly changing and the opportunities available today are going to be drastically different than the opportunities available five years from now. Obviously 5-year, 10-year, whatever year plans are great for some people, and more realistic for some careers, but it’s not worth worrying about if you don’t have one. As a very Type A person, planning soothes me, but I’ve never been able to predict what I will want five years from now (Let's be honest, I can’t even figure out what I want for dinner tomorrow!) so this realization was really stress-relieving for me.

17. Surround yourself with people who bring out the good in you

I guess this is like #1 but that’s how important this is. When I scan through the various seasons of my life, I realize I was happiest when I was surrounded by good people. Like now, for example.  There is not a single person in any of my circles who stresses me out, or makes my life more difficult.  Thank you, my people, for inspiring me and keeping my heart and head happy and hopeful!

18. Trust your gut

I have always relied on my intuition, and it has never let me down. Because of this, I’ve learned to trust my reaction to the energy from people. Human beings aren’t as complicated as they seem. If they seem full of negative energy, they probably are. My best friends have always known to introduce me to guys they are seeing sooner rather than later, because I’ve always been able to spot a bad apple from the very first second I’ve met them. This goes for friendships as well. I’ve always known which friendships were for a season rather than a lifetime before they even began. (Ask my mother, she will tell you!) My mom always told me I shouldn’t judge people until I get to know them, and while I understand that, I’ve always been able to circle back and say “I told you they were (insert adjective here)!”  Conversely, some of my very favorite people I became friends with because I could tell they radiated positive energy the first time we met. 

19. There is no better water than Sonic water.

Don’t judge me, just try it and you will understand. Large Sonic water, 44¢ in Tennessee, 55¢ in Alabama. Apparently you can get a Sonic ice machine, which I would definitely accept as a birthday/Christmas present!

20. Everything happens for a reason

Year 24 took me down one path, year 25 another, and again year 26 took me down a third. Though I may not have understood each of these paths at the time, I can tell you everything has played out exactly how it was meant to. I am so certain that things happen for a reason, even if the things suck, or the reason is hard to determine right away. I would not be me here and now if I had not taken the first job that I had in Tennessee. I would not be me here and now if I had not endured the craziness of my year in Alabama. I was uncertain of a lot of things in these few years, but now I am finally certain of my place in this world, and while it took awhile to get here, and it took a lot of twists and turns that I may not have enjoyed so much, it all makes sense now and I can honestly say it was worth it.

21. You can't have a bad day with a good attitude

And you can't have a good day with a bad attitude. Your mindset can 100% determine how your day will go. Perhaps this is why I always eat chocolate for breakfast...Start your day on a good note, do something that is going to put you in a good mood.  Even the tough days can be good if you've got a good attitude about it.

22. Worrying is a waste of time

Wow, yes, this is me saying that. The queen of worrying about things that don't matter. My time spend worrying has decreased a drastic amount this year, and its about darn time. If you're worrying about something that you have control over, then use that control to do whatever you need to do so you no longer have to worry about it.  If you're worrying about something that is out of your control, then there is nothing you can do anyway so just let it go. Easier said than done, I know, but life is so much better when you spend your time enjoying the things that are good rather than worrying about the inevitable.

23. Enjoy the journey

You know say saying, life/happiness is a journey, not a destination. BELIEVE IT. It is great to have goals and plans, but don't miss out on the journey, because that is where all the best things happen.

24. Always say thank you

You will never regret thanking someone, so just do it.

25. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.

26. Your energy radiates - good or bad

Whether you’ve got a good or bad attitude, it’s going to show, and you’re going to attract people with the same energy. If you want to surround yourself with positive people, you have to be a positive person.

27. Don't live in your comfort zone

Step outside of it. I use to love my bubble, but honestly life has never been better since I popped that bubble and started to do more things that scared me, more things that I was apprehensive about. My best experiences, my best memories, those all came from just doing it anyway, despite the nerves and butterflies.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

#gretchensbooks2018 - October/November

October and November FLEW by, hence why the books from both months are combined into one post. I hadn't read enough in either month to require each month have its own post, and quite frankly I didn't have time to write and publish an October one. I know they say time flies when you're having fun, so maybe I need to stop having fun because before I know it 2018 will be over, and I am not yet prepared for a new year.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

70. Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (5/5 ★)

In his fifth year at Hogwart's, Harry faces challenges at every turn, from the dark threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and the unreliability of the government of the magical world to the rise of Ron Weasley as the keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. Along the way he learns about the strength of his friends, the fierceness of his enemies, and the meaning of sacrifice.

Five-sevenths of my way through the series! (Again!) Numero five is my favorite HP book so I was most excited to read this one again!

71. Royals by Rachel Hawkins (4/5 ★)

Meet Daisy Winters. She's an offbeat sixteen-year-old Floridian with mermaid-red hair; a part time job at a bootleg Walmart, and a perfect older sister who's nearly engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. Daisy has no desire to live in the spotlight, but relentless tabloid attention forces her join Ellie at the relative seclusion of the castle across the pond. 

While the dashing young Miles has been appointed to teach Daisy the ropes of being regal, the prince's roguish younger brother kicks up scandal wherever he goes, and tries his best to take Daisy along for the ride. The crown--and the intriguing Miles--might be trying to make Daisy into a lady.. but Daisy may just rewrite the royal rulebook to suit herself. 

I am definitely too old to be the target audience of this book, but it was funny! There were a lot of really great one-liners in this that even my 26-year-old self could appreciate. I had won this book from a giveaway earlier in the year, and the only reason I read it was because the author was at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. The storyline was predictable, and from my research the cultural references (i.e. Scotland's healthcare system, traditions, etc.) weren't exactly accurate, but I related hard to the main character, and honestly I don't know enough about Scotland for that to have impacted the story for me. If you have a teen I would recommend this book for them. I definitely stayed up until 2AM one night so I could finished this. #guiltypleasure

72. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling (5/5 ★)

The war against Voldemort is not going well; even the Muggles have been affected. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses. 

And yet . . . as with all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Harry receives some extraordinary help in Potions from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince. And with Dumbledore's guidance, he seeks out the full, complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort -- and thus finds what may be his only vulnerability.

One more to go and I can check another things off of my 101 in 2018 list! I forgot how engaging these books were, and it has been so fun to see how they differ from the movies that I am all too familiar with!

73. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Random Riggs (3/5 ★)

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

This was our book club book for the month of October, and though I had heard of the movie, I honestly had no idea what it was about.  I struggled getting into the book, but then by the time I was halfway through I was intrigued enough to continue reading until the end in one sitting.  I think I would have liked it better had I read it when I was still in school.  That being said, I am curious enough about it that I would like to see the whole series in movie form, but I doubt that I will continue reading them. 

74. The Reckoning by John Grisham (3/5 )

Pete Banning was Clanton, Mississippi’s favorite son—a decorated World War II hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbor, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cool October morning he rose early, drove into town, and committed a shocking crime.  Pete's only statement about it—to the sheriff, to his lawyers, to the judge, to the jury, and to his family—was: "I have nothing to say." He was not afraid of death and was willing to take his motive to the grave.
In a major novel unlike anything he has written before, John Grisham takes us on an incredible journey, from the Jim Crow South to the jungles of the Philippines during World War II; from an insane asylum filled with secrets to the Clanton courtroom where Pete’s defense attorney tries desperately to save him.

John Grisham has been my favorite author since I was 13, and I don't forsee that changing any time soon.  For as long as I can remember, I have constantly been waiting in anticipation for his next book, which I buy immediately, read, and them start the waiting process again.  I don't care much for the few non-law related books he has released, but I have enjoyed every single one of his legal thrillers. I do have to say, however, that this wasn't one of my favorite books.  I felt like it lacked the suspense that all of his other novels have delivered.  Also, a third of the story was dedicated to describing the main character's military history in WWII, which while the topic is one I would enjoy reading about, it isn't why I read Grisham novels.

Image result for zodiac by robert graysmith

75. Zodiac by Robert Graysmith (4/5 )

A sexual sadist, the Zodiac killer took pleasure in torture and murder. His first victims were a teenage couple, stalked and shot dead in a lovers’ lane. After another slaying, he sent his first mocking note to authorities, promising he would kill more. The official tally of his victims was six. He claimed thirty-seven dead. The real toll may have reached fifty.

Robert Graysmith was on staff at the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969 when Zodiac first struck, triggering in the resolute reporter an unrelenting obsession with seeing the hooded killer brought to justice. In this gripping account of Zodiac’s eleven-month reign of terror, Graysmith reveals hundreds of facts previously unreleased, including the complete text of the killer’s letters.

I listened to Zodiac as an audiobook via audible.  If you don't know about this already, Amazon Prime users have access to Audible's various audiobook channels which means FREE AUDIOBOOKS!  You can't download them, but you can stream them at any time. I digress...I'm not a big non-fiction reader, but I've always been really into true crime stuff (tv shows, documentaries, podcasts, etc.), so I was excited to see that Audible had a true crime channel.  The zodiac killings took place before I was alive, so though I had heard of them, I didn't know much about the case, nor the suspected killer.  This book had a lot of information about the whole series of events, and was presented in an organized, yet still captivating manner.  I would definitely recommend this to any true crime fanatic! 

Reading Challenge: 75/52 books read in 2018

You can find previous book reviews here!

Thursday, October 11, 2018


From the time I was able to write, I have been journaling the many vacations my family took throughout my childhood and into adulthood.  My brothers had to be forced to write every night, but I could easily fill up page after page at the end of each day (though most of it described what we ate...some things never change!).  As an adult, the desire to write while I travel hasn't changed either.  I love to write and I love to travel and explore so it makes sense that I would put these two things together when I can (hence the original birth of this blog).

You can find my previous travel posts here, including some flashback posts that include my childhood journal entries (still working on getting a lot of these posted). Continue reading for a look into our quick little fall break trip!

Day 1 - Friday, October 5, 2018 - Johnson City, Tennessee

I called home right after school on Friday to let my mom know they finally caught the crazy murderer that had been hiding out in the woods nearby for the last week.  My dad answered the phone and asked me if I was on my way to Johnson City yet. "No," I told him, "I'm going home to pack right now." His response was, "you haven't packed yet? that doesn't sound like you..." (#TypeAProblems) "Yeah, I know," I told him. "I haven't been home a single night for the past week, I haven't had time to pack." "Yeah, that sounds more like you." he replied. He knows me.

Our intention was to leave right after school on Friday, but my aforementioned inability to spend a night at home slightly delayed these plans. Luckily, my school gets out earlier than Caitlin's, so I was able to be semi-packed up before she arrived.  By the time we had everything ready to go (including our necessary road trip Sonic waters!) it was 5PM before we hit the road.  After crawling through Nashville traffic on I-40, and having to slow down in Knoxville due to traffic, we finally made it to Johnson City around 11PM.

Day 2 - Saturday, October 6, 2018 - Asheville, North Carolina

Between the time change and the slight altitude shift, I could already tell it was going to be a headache day, so I began implementing my headache prevention strategies before I even got out of bed. We took our time getting up and getting ready (or in my case, reading Harry Potter for an hour), grabbed cheesy potato poofs from Pals for breakfast *insert heart eyes emoji x5 here*, and didn't leave for Asheville until around noon.

We had a hard time finding new things to do that we hadn't already all done.  If you haven't yet been to Asheville, I highly recommend touring Biltmore Estates!  The home and the grounds are beautiful, though the ticket is pricey.  We'd all toured the house before and only wanted to tour the gardens this go-round, but unfortunately there is no partial ticket, so we ended up going mural hunting instead.

The River Arts District of Asheville isn't the cleanest part of town, but it has been overtaken with art, both internally and externally.  Some are intentional murals, others are just strategically placed (and probably intentional) graffiti which was still really cool!


We stopped by The Montford Rooftop Bar for late afternoon beverages and food.  Tori had a flatbread pizza that looked delicious, Caitlin got the local cheese plate, and I had apple pie and ice cream. (Not the most conventional dinner, but headaches limit the things my stomach can tolerate. Its weird, I am aware.)

I struggle to get more than 5-6 hours of sleep as it is, but after spending the day in the mountains, I barely managed four.  I love the mountains, but they do not like me! Altitude change has a crazy effect on my body, and I never know if/how I'm going to react until it hits.

Day 3 - Sunday, October 7, 2018 - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dollywood!! Despite all the traveling I've done in this area, both as a child and now as an adult, I had never been to Dollywood until this day. I'm really glad we went, but honestly it was kind of a let down. There were only like seven roller coasters to go on, and once you've been to Disney, Six Flags, Cedar Point, etc. its hard to be excited about the minimal attractions (yes, I recognize my privilege).  Lucky for me, I can (and do!) get excited over just about anything, and it turned out seven rides turned out to be kind of perfect for the day.

We got there around 11AM and started on the rides right away.  One coaster in and I was already in need of some Tylenol! Somehow I managed to only have a headache while we were actually ON a ride, and was fine once we were off of them.  Being a Sunday, the lines were pretty short and we didn't wait more than 25 minutes for any ride.  The only one we didn't go on was the water ride, because even though it was pushing 90 degrees, there is nothing enjoyable about walking around all afternoon in wet clothes. The park was covered in pumpkins and other Halloween decor in celebration of fall and their Great Pumpkin LumiNights experience. My favorite roller coaster was the Eagle because your feet dangle and you never know if you're upside down or right side up! The only down side is the uber-tight chest strap that is comforting when you're twirling in circles, but panic-inducing once you've stopped and realized its cutting off the air circulation to you lungs.


Prior to leaving at the end of the afternoon, we stopped at a shop within the grounds to get some sugary sweet cinnamon bread as a snack for the ride home.  Our car also just happened to pull into the Russell Stover parking lot, where we had no choice but to get caramel apples. What can you do?! 

Day 4 - Monday, October 8, 2018 - Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia

Tori had to work today, so Caitlin and I set off for Bristol, the city where some of the first recordings of country music came from. Bristol is on the state line of Tennessee and Virginia; in fact, you can stand in the middle of main street and be in both states at once.

There isn't a ton to do in Bristol, but it was a neat little area.  According to a local, the nightlife is semi-enjoyable, but otherwise the town lacks in things to do. We wandered down main street, Tennessee on one side, Virginia on the other, and browsed the little shops before stopping in Burger Bar for lunch.  The legend is that Burger Bar was the last place that Hank Williams was seen alive prior his to pronounced death in West Virginia. We definitely stood out as outsiders, and after getting hit on by a man in his 60s, we knew it was time to leave!

If you're in the area, a few attractions include the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, the Bristol Speedway, and the Bristol Caverns.

Day 5 - Tuesday, October 9, 2018 - Home bound

I got up Tuesday morning and finished my book/began another as I waited for Caitlin to get up.  We left Johnson City a little before 9 and made it home around which time Caitlin realized that she had left her car and house keys in Johnson City! Luckily I had a spare to her apartment and she had a spare car key there as well.

Overall, it was a good trip.  I wish I had put a little more planning time into it, but honestly I just haven't had the free time available to do that. I would have liked to do some hiking, though my reaction to altitude change makes that wish difficult.

It was great to get away for a few days, but I'm happy to be home and actually do some relaxing (HA!) and others things around here before schools starts again on Monday.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

#gretchensbooks2018 - September

Squeezed in some last minute pool reads before the pool closed for the "winter." Slowly making my way through books that I’ve been meaning to read for ages and giveaway wins. Somehow I still never seem to make a dent in my reading list...

*This post contains affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

66. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (3/5 ★)

Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life—which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job—Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does.  That’s when things start to get crazy.

At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn't brilliant compared to the other kids; he’s just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig stops eating and sleeping—until, one night, he nearly kills himself. 
Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio.  There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness. For a novel about depression, it’s definitely a funny story.

I've been wanting to read this one since it first came out, back when I was in high school or maybe late middle school I believe. I have the DVD and thought it was alright, but when I saw the book at the bookstore for a quarter I had to get it. It was a little slow getting into, and also pretty unrealistic. I was disappointed in it, but it is a YA book, and I think if I would have read it when I originally added it to my list I would have liked it a lot better. An interesting fact is that the author of this story wrote it immediately following his own five-day stint in a psychiatric hospital.

67. Sold by Patricia McCormick (3/5 ★)

Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family's crops, Lakshmi's stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at "Happiness House" full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution

Picked this book up from McKay's for a quarter, because I had liked another book by the same author. It was a story written for a middle grade audience that gave a good intro to a very mature topic. It was a sad story, but had a happy ending. I had hoped it was intended for an older audience when I got it. If you're looking for a true story on a similar topic, I recommend The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam.

68. The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry (4/5 ★)

Katy Thatcher was the bright and curious daughter of the town doctor. She was fascinated by her father’s work, and even as a child she knew that she too wanted to be a doctor. She wanted to know about people. Perhaps it was this, her insatiable curiosity, or simply the charm of Jacob’s gentle intimacy with animals large and small, that fueled their friendship. Although Jacob never spoke to her or even looked at her directly, Katy grew to understand him from the moments they spent together quietly singing to the horses. She knew there was meaning in the sounds he made and purpose behind his movements. So when events took an unexpected and tragic turn, it was Katy alone who could unravel the mystery of what had occurred and why.

Another book by Lois Lowry that I hadn't read yet, but I am glad I cam across it at McKay's. It was a very sweet, but sad story, and ended rather abruptly.  I liked it, but the quick ending through me off.  I definitely would have enjoyed this story in middle school.

69. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (5/5 ★)

"There will be three tasks, spaced throughout the school year, and they will test the champions in many different ways … their magical prowess - their daring - their powers of deduction - and, of course, their ability to cope with danger." The Triwizard Tournament is to be held at Hogwarts. Only wizards who are over seventeen are allowed to enter - but that doesn't stop Harry dreaming that he will win the competition. Then at Hallowe'en, when the Goblet of Fire makes its selection, Harry is amazed to find his name is one of those that the magical cup picks out. He will face death-defying tasks, dragons and Dark wizards, but with the help of his best friends, Ron and Hermione, he might just make it through - alive!

My goal is to re-read the whole HP series this year.  I read books 1-3 in March because I had the illustrated editions, but since the fourth doesn't come out until 2019, I'm finishing the series off in my worn-in original editions.  I'm not going to leave an actual review because everyone is familiar with the HP stories, and if you're not you should get on it!

Reading Challenge: 69/52 books read in 2018

You can find previous book reviews here!

Monday, September 3, 2018

#gretchensbooks2018 - August

Gosh, I feel like I spent so much of the first half of the year reading, and now I’ve totally fallen off that wagon. Between school starting again and time spent with friends, I really haven’t had much “me time” for reading. I can’t complain though, my mood has been exponentially better this last month than it’s been all year, so I’m thankful for the change. Here ya go- August’s books!

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog (and my reading habit) at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

62. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (4/5 ★)

In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

This book has been on my “to read” list for ages, so when I won it in a giveaway I knew I had to read it right away! Suspense novels are my favorite, so I figured I would love it. Even though it is set in Europe, they’re on a cruise ship so there wasn’t a lot of geography to sort through like some of the previous books I’ve read this year. I did however hear from a Norwegian girl that some of the geography was off- so if you are from that area then it may make a difference!  The also gave me a lot of flashbacks to the cruise I went on earlier this year, which I had mixed feelings about. But I thing I liked about this book that is different than most is that it gives you small flashes forwards of how the story ends- just enough to keep you wanting more and keep reading to find out HOW it ended that way. There was a lot of suspense throughout, though I felt like it ended abruptly, like there should have been more detail. However, just when I was getting upset about the end, there was one last twist that left me feeling satisfied!

63. Gossamer by Lois Lowry (3.5/5 )

Where do dreams come from? What stealthy nighttime messengers are the guardians of our most deeply hidden hopes and our half-forgotten fears? Drawing on her rich imagination, two-time Newbery winner Lois Lowry confronts these questions and explores the conflicts between the gentle bits and pieces of the past that come to life in dream, and the darker horrors that find their form in nightmare. In a haunting story that tiptoes between reality and imagination, two people—a lonely, sensitive woman and a damaged, angry boy—face their own histories and discover what they can be to one another, renewed by the strength that comes from a tiny, caring creature they will never see.

I have loved Lois Lowry's stories since I was ten years old.  Gathering Blue is still one of my all-time favorite books.  I was at the bookstore picking up a copy of Gathering Blue for a student when I saw this one on the shelf and realized I hadn't read it. A little boy, a foster child, was introduced a third of the way into the story, and without saying what happened to him, I knew his background based on his behavior and responses.  It tugged my heart string hard because so many faces of kiddos I know flashed through my head because they're the reason I understood this boy's story.  That being said, though it wasn't one of my favorite's of hers, it is a really sweet little story!

64. Slam by Nick Hornby (2/5 )

For 16-year-old Sam, life is about to get extremely complicated. He and his girlfriend—make that ex-girlfriend— Alicia have gotten themselves into a bit of trouble. Sam is suddenly forced to grow up and struggle with the familiar fears and inclinations that haunt us all.

This book was in perfect, hardcover condition at the bookstore for $0.05, so I couldn’t pass it up. I had read another book by Hornby earlier this tear and enjoyed it, so I was excited to read another. I regretted that decision. It drug on and on, and it’s probably geared toward late middle/early high schoolers, but honestly I think I would have been bored with it even then. I contemplated putting it down about halfway through, but I AM NOT A QUITTER, so I persevered, but I wouldn’t recommend.

65. Orphan Train by William Morrow (5/5 )

Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?
As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.
Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.
This book has also been on my “to read” list for ages! (Gretchen, why have you had so many books on your to read list for so long? Why haven’t you just read them already?? Because my “to read” list is 300 titles long, that’s why!) Again, I won this book in a giveaway, which meant it was finally time to read it. After suspense/mystery, historical fiction is one of my favorite genres- but it has to be the right point in history. This one wasn’t in my usual time period (WWII era), but I LOVED it! I loved that half the story was set in my home state of Minnesota because it gave me some insight as to what life was like there in the Great Depression era. For example, I didn’t know that Minnesota had been the biggest producer of turkeys in the country, or even that the state’s name came from the Dakota Indian word for “cloudy water.” I love fiction stories that teach you things! It was fun to recognize places like the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, Fort Snelling, and St.Olaf college- places that existed in 1939 and still today. I’ve always appreciated the history in the South, it’s nice to learn about the history from home. This ended up being a book I stayed up way too late reading on many nights because I could not put it down!

Reading Challenge: 65/52 books read in 2018

You can find previous book reviews here!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

10 Best And Worst Things About Living in the South

Even though they're in the same country, the north and the south are two totally different worlds in a lot of ways. (And by north I mean midwest and by south I mean southeast US). The following are some comparisons that have really stuck with me over the past three years since I first became a resident of the south. (How has it only been three years??)

1. There are monograms EVERYWHERE.  If you like monograms, that is a definite plus, but y'all, I can't stand monograms. They don't make sense to me.  I'm a very logical thinker, and it just does not make sense to write your initials first-last-middle.  But also it would be dumb to put them in order first-middle-last and make your middle initial the biggest. Therefore, no sense.

2. The weather, obviously. Hello, mild winters! (And also hello a week's worth of snow days when it snows >1".) Tornadoes, however, am I much less of a fan of... But I do love having a pool that I can swim in six months out of the year!

3. The drivers.  Growing up, we made fun of Wisconsin drivers, but I would take Wisconsin drivers any day.  Originally I thought it was just where I had moved to, because both places I have lived in the south have a pretty transient population, but after enough road-tripping, I've learned its definitely just a southern thing in general. It is rare that I make an hour long drive without seeing at least one small wreck. (Looking at the stats from 2016, I found the following info for Deaths per 100,000 Population- Minnesota: 7.1, Wisconsin: 10.5, Illinois: 8.5, Tennessee: 15.7, Alabama: 21.3.) It's no wonder car insurance costs so much down here!

4. This is specific to Tennessee, but NO STATE INCOME TAX. The downside- sales taxes are twice as much and there is sales tax on food.

5. Recycling is virtually non-existent. There is no roadside recycling like there is for garbage and very few public places offer recycling receptacles.  I've been here for three years now and it still makes me cringe every time I have to throw a soda can in the garbage.

6. Cracker Barrels err-where! I will pass on the over-hyped Chick-fil-a for Cracker Barrel pancakes and cornbread any day! Also add the fact that I can get a Sonic water (or slushie or popcorn chicken) 17 hours a day.

7. The sense of style. My absolute favorite fashionistas to follow are my Nashville blogger girls! On the other hand, I do not understand the southern obsession with Matilda Jane and Vera Wang.  The first time I saw a Vera Wang bag, I assumed it was a like a $5 bag from Wal-Mart.  Then I saw them EVERYWHERE and I thought it was so bizarre that people here were so obsessed with these Wal-Mart bags.  I soon found out they did not come from Wal-Mart... Cue the exact same thoughts for Matilda Jane.  And don't even get me started on adults wearing those ruffly pants... Some things I just don't understand.

8. Smoking.  First off, smoking in bars is still legal down here.  The first time I was in one it really threw me off considering it has been illegal in Minnesota for over a decade, well before I was even able to get into a bar.  Also, there are more smokers in the south in general (and I've found they typically aren't very respectful in regards to where they are smoking), which unfortunately means more interactions with secondhand smoke and the stench that comes with it. (Curious, I looked up the stats from 2016 and found that the national average of adults who smoked was roughly 16%.  In Minnesota it was 12% and Tennessee was 25%.)

9. There is so much history in the south! I am a self-declared dork (though a lot of other people have declared it to), and I love visiting the places that have helped to shape our world today.

10. Nobody in the south knows what duck, duck, grey duck is. When I showed my friend a duck, duck, grey duck t-shirt from Target (shout out to my favorite MN based corporation!) she asked me if it was a FRIENDS reference... *facepalm*

There ya have it! Though there are tons of differences, these are definitely the ones that have stood out the most to me!

Monday, August 6, 2018

#gretchensbooks2018 - July

July was another fun and busy month, but I tried to squeeze as much reading in (at the pool!) as I could before school started! My head was in a crazy spot this month, so reading physical books was tough to do.  The great thing about audiobooks however, is that you can listen to them while keeping busy and working on your "to do" list, so this was definitely an audiobook-heavy month. Also, all the books I read this month were awesome!

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

52. Choose Wonder over Worry by Amber Rae (5/5 ★)

WONDER is what we’re born with.
WORRY is what we learn.
Why do we hold back from pursuing what matters most? Why do we listen to the voice inside our head that tells us we're not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough? How can we move beyond the fear and doubt that prevents us from creating a life that reflects who we truly are?
CHOOSE WONDER OVER WORRY is your official invitation to face your fears, navigate your discomfort, and rewrite the "worry myths” in your mind that keep you from being your best and truest self.
Journey with inspirational speaker and artist AMBER RAE as she connects you with your voice of worry and wonder, teaches you to listen to your emotions rather than silence them, and encourages you to seize your dreams. Through a thoughtful blend of vulnerability, soulfulness, and science, Amber Rae guides you in expressing the fullness of who you are and the gifts you’re here to give.
You don’t have to be held back by Worry when Wonder awaits you every moment of every day.
Worry or Wonder: which will you choose?

I had received this book months ago from Goodreads, but only just now got around to reading it. It's funny how things work out like this.  Had I read this book when I first received it in the mail, I don't think I would have cared a whole lot for it, but because I read it when I did, it hit me pretty hard.  I loved how this book really made you think about life, and the things and the people around you.  It helped me to acknowledge a lot of things that I knew, but haven't quite been ready to accept. Also, though I haven't utilized them yet, I really liked that it included journal prompts throughout.

53. Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale (4/5 ★)

A luminous debut with unexpected twists, Everything We Keep explores the devastation of loss, the euphoria of finding love again, and the pulse-racing repercussions of discovering the truth about the ones we hold dear and the lengths they will go to protect us.
Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancĂ©, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.
As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together. And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free…or shatter her forever.

I really enjoyed this story! It was mainly mystery with a bit of romance mixed in, but not so much that I didn't want to read it.  There was plenty of suspense and a lot of twists and turns and I definitely continued to wonder and guess about the details until the very end. I recommend this book if you love suspense stories!

54. Her Final Breath by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

Tracy Crosswhite returns in the second book in the page-turning series by New York Timesbestselling author Robert Dugoni.
Homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite has returned to the police force after the sensational retrial of her sister’s killer. Still scarred from that ordeal, Tracy is pulled into an investigation that threatens to end her career, if not her life.
A serial killer known as the Cowboy is killing young women in cheap motels in North Seattle. Even after a stalker leaves a menacing message for Crosswhite, suggesting the killer or a copycat could be targeting her personally, she is charged with bringing the murderer to justice. With clues scarce and more victims dying, Tracy realizes the key to solving the murders may lie in a decade-old homicide investigation that others, including her captain, Johnny Nolasco, would prefer to keep buried. With the Cowboy on the hunt, can Tracy find the evidence to stop him, or will she become his next victim?

(review of this book after  #58)

55. In the Clearing by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

Detective Tracy Crosswhite has a skill, and a soft spot, for tackling unsolved crimes. Having lost her own sister to murder at a young age, Tracy has dedicated her career to bringing justice and closure to the families and friends of victims of crime.
So when Jenny, a former police academy classmate and protĂ©gĂ©, asks Tracy to help solve a cold case that involves the suspicious suicide of a Native American high school girl forty years earlier, Tracy agrees. Following up on evidence Jenny’s detective father collected when he was the investigating deputy, Tracy probes one small town’s memory and finds dark, well-concealed secrets hidden within the community’s fabric. Can Tracy uphold the promise she’s made to the dead girl’s family and deliver the truth of what happened to their daughter? Or will she become the next victim?

(review of this book after  #58)

56. The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

When a woman’s body is discovered submerged in a crab pot in the chilly waters of Puget Sound, Detective Tracy Crosswhite finds herself with a tough case to untangle. Before they can identify the killer, Tracy and her colleagues on the Seattle PD’s Violent Crimes Section must figure out who the victim is. Her autopsy, however, reveals she may have gone to great lengths to conceal her identity. So who was she running from?
After evidence surfaces that their Jane Doe may be a woman who suspiciously disappeared months earlier, Tracy is once again haunted by the memory of her sister’s unsolved murder. Dredging up details from the woman’s past leads to conflicting clues that only seem to muddy the investigation. As Tracy begins to uncover a twisted tale of brutal betrayal and desperate greed, she’ll find herself risking everything to confront a killer who won’t go down without a deadly fight. Once again, New York Timesbestselling author Robert Dugoni delivers a taut, riveting thriller in the fourth installment of his acclaimed Tracy Crosswhite series.

(review of this book after  #58)

57. Close to Home by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

While investigating the hit-and-run death of a young boy, Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite makes a startling discovery: the suspect is an active-duty serviceman at a local naval base. After a key piece of case evidence goes missing, he is cleared of charges in a military court. But Tracy knows she can’t turn her back on this kind of injustice.
When she uncovers the driver’s ties to a rash of recent heroin overdoses in the city, she realizes that this isn’t just a case of the military protecting its own. It runs much deeper than that, and the accused wasn’t acting alone. For Tracy, it’s all hitting very close to home.
As Tracy moves closer to uncovering the truth behind this insidious conspiracy, she’s putting herself in harm’s way. And the only people she can rely on to make it out alive might be those she can no longer trust.

(review of this book after  #58)

58. A Steep Price by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

Called in to consult after a young woman disappears, Tracy Crosswhite has the uneasy feeling that this is no ordinary missing-persons case. When the body turns up in an abandoned well, Tracy’s suspicions are confirmed. Estranged from her family, the victim had balked at an arranged marriage and had planned to attend graduate school. But someone cut her dreams short.
Solving the mystery behind the murder isn’t Tracy’s only challenge. The detective is keeping a secret of her own: she’s pregnant. And now her biggest fear seems to be coming true when a new detective arrives to replace her. Meanwhile, Tracy’s colleague Vic Fazzio is about to take a fall after his investigation into the murder of a local community activist turns violent and leaves an invaluable witness dead.
Two careers are on the line. And when more deadly secrets emerge, jobs might not be the only things at risk.

I chose these books from Kindle Unlimited because I had listened to the first book in the series a couple months back and really enjoyed it.  There is one more book but the audio version wasn't available and I wasn't in the mood to read the physical copy via kindle. The narrator is awesome and does a great job distinguishing characters with her voice.  There is continuous suspense and mystery that build throughout the stories. I also like that the novels are fairly current, so they're able to bring in current events (to an extent, not in detail, but enough to make the stories more relatable).  I highly, highly, recommend this series to any reader who likes mystery and suspense.  The only thing I didn't like about these stories was that there is a tinge of romance throughout them with some of the characters which I can absolutely do without.  It wasn't overwhelmingly much however, so it didn't distract from the overall story line.

59. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish (4/5 ★)

The ultimate “parenting bible” (The Boston Globe) with a new foreword—and available as an ebook for the first time—a timeless, beloved book on how to effectively communicate with your child from the #1 New York Times bestselling authors.
Internationally acclaimed experts on communication between parents and children, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish “are doing for parenting today what Dr. Spock did for our generation” (Parent Magazine).  Now, this bestselling classic includes fresh insights and suggestions as well as the author’s time-tested methods to solve common problems and build foundations for lasting relationships, including innovative ways to: ·Cope with your child's negative feelings, such as frustration, anger, and disappointment·Express your strong feelings without being hurtful·Engage your child's willing cooperation·Set firm limits and maintain goodwill·Use alternatives to punishment that promote self-discipline·Understand the difference between helpful and unhelpful praise·      Resolve family conflicts peacefully
Enthusiastically praised by parents and professionals around the world, the down-to-earth, respectful approach of Faber and Mazlish makes relationships with children of all ages less stressful and more rewarding. 

Though this book is technically a parenting book, I bought it after my first year teaching because I wanted to know how to more effectively communicate with my students, and only just finally got around to reading it.  It definitely hit a lot of points that I learned and knew about prior, but that are so easy to forget when you're not consistently trying to use them.  I'm not a parent, so I know I'm in no position to tell those who are how to do their job, but I loved how this book shared how to interact with your child based on their developmental age and how to effectively get your point across. It also had mini workbook parts where you could respond to a (real life) situation. I didn’t use this part yet, but it’s definitely something I may go back to once school starts and I am dealing with kids again. I highly recommend this for any teacher or parent who wants to build a relationship of respect with their child/student.

60. Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou (3/5 ★)

Sisters, like secrets, are best kept close.

Penny and Hattie, orphaned sisters in a small town, are best friends, bound together to the point of knots. But Penny, at the mercy of her brutal husband, is desperate for a fresh start. Willing to do anything for her older sister, Hattie agrees to help. A match is struck and a fire burns Penny’s marriage to the ground. With her husband gone, Penny is free, and the sisters, it seems, get away with murder. But freedom comes at a cost. 

More than a year after the fire, a charming young man comes to town. Hattie and Penny quickly bring him into the fold and into their hearts but their love for him threatens the delicate balance. Soon long-held resentments, sibling rivalry, and debts unpaid boil over, and the bonds of sisterhood begin to snap. As one little lie grows into the next, the sisters’ secrets will unravel, eroding their lives until only a single, horrible truth remains: You owe me. 

A compelling novel of suspense from a talented new voice, Sister of Mine asks us to consider the bonds of family, what it takes to commit the unthinkable, and how far you’ll go to protect the ones you love.

I received this book as an early release copy, but it is released on August 7th. I'm really torn on how I feel about it.  The story didn't seem to have a huge plot line, but at the same time there was suspense and I was drawn into the story and found myself slurping it up as fast as I could because I wanted to know what happened.. I really, truly can't decide if I enjoyed this book or if I thought it was dumb. It's just bizarre.

61. The Exes' Revenge by Jo Jakeman (4/5 ★)

A wickedly dark debut thriller about three women who've all been involved with the same man and realize the one thing they have in common is that they all want revenge against him...

Divorces are often messy, and Imogen's is no exception. Phillip Rochester is controlling, abusive, and determined to make things as difficult as possible. When he shows up without warning demanding that Imogen move out of their house by the end of the month or he'll sue for sole custody of their young son, Imogen is ready to snap. 

In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable--something that puts her in control for the first time in years. She's desperate to protect her son and to claim authority over her own life.

But she wasn't expecting both Phillip's ex-wife and new girlfriend to get tangled up in her plans. These three very different women--and unlikely allies--reluctantly team up to take revenge against a man who has wronged them all.

Apparently the theme this month was suspense, which is fine by me because that is one of my favorite genres.  This was another early release book, and it will be published and available for sale on September 11th.  It was set in England, which usually makes it harder for me to follow because I'm not super familiar with the area/culture there, but it wasn't extreme and didn't include too much geographical information, so it didn't distract from the story. There were some plot twists, and I finished reading this with my window open at 2AM which wasn't the smartest (I'm a scaredy cat), but I definitely enjoyed the story!

Reading Challenge: 61/52 books read in 2018

You can find previous book reviews here!