Sunday, December 31, 2017

101 Things to Do in 2017

I've never been much of a "New Years Resolution, #newyearnewme" person.  If there is something I want to change, or a habit I want to break, I don't like the thought of having to wait for a new year to do it.  I feel like that is basically saying, "well, if you fail you have to wait a whole 'nother year to try again!" which is stressful and puts a lot of pressure on people!  Considering that 80% of people give up on their NYR within the first month, it makes sense that I feel that way.

Since 2013, I've made a list of (roughly) 101 things I wanted to try and accomplish that year. I can't always come up with 101 things, and I've never actually accomplished them all, but that is okay! I go into the new year knowing I have a list of things I would love to do that year, with the complete understanding that I may not complete them all. For the most part, everything on my lists have been things that I can do at anytime throughout the year, rather than something that I have to be conscious of every second of every day in order to be successful at it. I guess its more of a yearly "bucket list." So with that, here is my list of the 101 things I wanted to try and check off my list in 2017. (Stay tuned for my 2018 list!)

#5 Go to a Predators game

    #18 Finish my Masters

  1. Learn the dance to Copperhead Road
  2. Have a Netflix/Hulu binge session  
  3. Try a new food
  4. Go to Mardi Gras
  5. Go to a Predators game
  6. See 25+ artists in concert

    • Adam Wakefield*
    • Runaway June (x2)
    • Russell Dickerson
    • Ryan Follese*
    • Raelynn
    • The Bellamy Brothers*
    • Chuck Wicks
    • Collin Raye*
    • Ricky Traywick*
    • Allison Krauss*
    • Jamey Johnson
    • Montgomery Gentry*
    • Ben Haggard*
    • Kane Brown*
    • Randy Travis*
    • Chris Janson*
    • Rodney Atkins
    • Joe Nichols
    • Kenny Rodgers*
    • William Michael Morgan
    • Tanya Tucker*
    • Neal McCoy
    • Phil Vassar
    • Ricky Skaggs (x2)
    • Alabama*
    • Mark Chesnutt*
    • Daryle Singletary*
    • Josh Turner*
    • Travis Tritt
    • Chip Esten*
    • Wynonna*
    • Scotty McCreery* (x2)
    • Michael Ray*
    • Chris Young
    • Paul Overstreet*
    • Garth Brooks*
    • The Brothers Osbourne (x2)
    • Kelsey Ballerini (x2)
    • Jason Aldean
    • Kelleigh Bannon*
    • Jeannie Seely
    • Joe Diffie*
    • Mike Snider
    • Connie Smith
    • Riders in the Sky*
    • Jackie Lee*
    • LoCash (x2)
    • Steve Wariner*
    • Jesse McReynolds*
    • Billy Ray Cyrus*
    • Walker Hayes*
    • Clare Dunn
    • Jamie Lynn Spears*
    • Brett Young*
    • Lady Antebellum
    • The Steel Woods*
    • Dwight Yoakam*
    • Simple Plan
  7. Go to the movies 
    • Annabelle:Creation
    • Fifty Shades Darker
    • Beauty and the Beast
    • Kong: Skull Island
    • Live by Night
    • Murder on the Orient Express
  8. Read 24 books (Read my reviews here)
    • Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham
    • Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
    • The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
    • Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
    • The Whistler by John Grisham
    • My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry
    • Took by Mary Downing Hahn
    • Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skaypuch
    • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
    • Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra
    • Camino Island by John Grisham
    • Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
    • The Mascot by Mark Kurzem
    • Columbine by Dave Cullen
    • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
    • This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl
    • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
    • Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight
    • Closure by Randall Wood
    • Lifestyle Blogging Basics by Laura Lynn
    • Unsweetined by Jodie Sweetin
    • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
    • All American Girl by Meg Cabot
    • Wonder by R. J. Palacio 
    • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
    • The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
    • The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
    • The Devil in the White City  by Eric Larson
    • A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin
    • Maybe by Brent Runyon
    • I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
    • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
    • Stained by Carol Rainfield
    • The Company of Demons by Michael Jordan
  9. Get my Alabama teaching license
  10. Move to Alabama
  11. Play in the snow
  12.  Lay on the beach
  13. Get a massage
  14. Donate to a charity
  15. Learn to play guitar
  16. Get a pet
  17. Run a 5k
  18. Finish my Masters
  19. Meet someone famous

    • Raelynn
    • Maddie & Tae
    • Cowboy Troy
    • Brandy Clark
    • Ryan Follese
    • Russell Dickerson
    • #28 Go on a hike
    • Easton Corbin
    • Simple Plan
  20. Go camping
  21. Have a bonfire
  22. Make s’mores
  23. Sleep under the stars
  24. Ride a motorcycle
  25. Go ice skating
  26. Watch the sunrise
  27. Ride a rollercoaster
  28. Go on a hike

    • Starved Rock State Park (Oglesby, IL)
    • Cloudland Canyon State Park (Rising Fawn, GA)
    • Dismals Canyon (Phil Campbell, AL)
  29. Finish all my paper scrapbooks
  30. See a play
  31. #30 See a play

    • Grease
    • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  32. Drive a tractor
  33. Mow the lawn (for the first time ever!)
  34. Celebrate a random holiday
  35. #33 Celebrate a random holiday

    • National Cheeseburger Day
    • National Taco Day
  36. Go to a major or minor league baseball game
    • Chattanooga Lookouts
  37. Visit a waterfall

    • #35 Visit a waterfall

    • Cloudland Canyon State Park
    • Dismals Canyon
    • Minnehaha Falls
  38. Fly in an airplane
  39. Watch the sunset
  40. Win something. Anything.
    • 8 Goodreads book giveaways
    • Together Live tickets
    • Free Blogging Class
  41. Go to a yoga class
  42. Cook something new
    • homemade chili
    • honey lime tacos
    • buffalo chicken pasta bake
    • million dollar baked penne
    • peach cobbler
    • buffalo chicken ring
    • Nutella wreath
  43. Run a mile
  44. Have a picnic
  45. Go to CMA Fest
  46. Watch a parade
    • Steamboat Days
  47. Learn how to waterfall braid
  48. Finish a SMASH book
  49. Sing karaoke
  50. Go on a road trip
    • New Orleans, LA
    • Ames, IA
    • Minnesota (x4)
  51. Visit 10 random Roadside Attractions
    • Pink Elephant (Guthrie, KY)
    • Jesse Owens Park and Museum (Danville, AL)
    • Eggbeater Jesus (Huntsville, AL)
    • Saturn 1B Rocket (Elkmont, AL)
    • Ruby Falls (Chattanooga, TN)
    • Nuts and Bolts Pizza Man (Chattanooga, TN)
    • Adolf Hitler's Typewriter (Bessemer, AL)
    • One-Millionth Pullman-Standard Freight Car (Bessemer, AL)
    • National Corvette Museum (Bowling Green, KY)
    • Extruded Heads of 1930s Sports Stars (Russellville, KY)
    • America's Largest Cross (Effingham, IL)
    • U.S. Space & Rocket Center (Huntsville, AL)
    • World's Largest Motorcycle Museum (Birmingham, AL)
  52. Send Christmas cards
  53. Go sailing
  54. Collect sea shells
  55. Buy flowers from a Farmer's Market
  56. Start selling on Poshmark
  57. Be an extra in a movie/TV show
  58. Leave coupons I'm not going to use next to their products at the store
  59. Get a manicure
  60. Write a children's book
    #62 Attend a Halloween party
  61. Go to an apple orchard
  62. Go to a pumpkin patch
  63. Get scared at a haunted house
  64. Attend a Halloween party
  65. Attend a Christmas/Holiday party
  66. Visit my favorite 4th grader
  67. Try all the taco places in Nashville 
  68. Try all the taco places in Huntsville
  69. Make Christmas cookies
  70. Decorate a gingerbread house
  71. Carve a pumpkin
  72. Find a cure for my headaches...finally
  73. Learn to swing dance
  74. Finally finish watching The OC
  75. Watch seasons 1-5 of Nashville
  76. Get my craft room put together
  77. Surprise someone
  78. Go to a fashion show
  79. Take a picture of all of the murals in Nashville
  80. Eat rolled ice cream
  81. Get a library card in Alabama
  82. Attend a concert at the Opry
  83. Attend a concert at the Ryman
  84. Make my own bath bombs
  85. Visit a distillery
  86. See the total solar eclipse
  87. Visit Opryland at Christmastime 
  88. See an artist get inducted into the oprty
  89. See an artist get inducted into the Country Music Walk of Fame
  90. Make the drive from AL to MN (or back) without any caffeine
  91. Learn to knit
  92. Learn to crochet 
  93. Be comfortable driving a manual vehicle
  94. Use up my stash of samples
  95. Publish a short story via Amazon ebooks
  96. Do my own taxes
  97. See a show at the Bluebird Cafe
  98. Go to a Predators vs. Wild game
  99. Finish all of my Flashback Friday posts
  100. Go to a Huntsville Havoc hockey game
  101. Go to a University of Alabama- Huntsville hockey game
  102. Pin all the places I want to go onto my Google maps
  103. Learn to make my own essential oil blends

# complete 56 / 101 (55%)

Completed over half of my "to do" list- now I know what to add to 2018's list!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Year in Travel - 2017

As I scrolled through my BlogLovin' feed, I came across Leigh's post about her year in travel and I LOVED the idea.  When I began this blog (and again when I continued it), I asked myself what my purpose was, and one of the bullet points on that list was to encourage people to get out and explore the world around them, whether it is their own hometown, a neighboring state, or a foreign country on another continent.  With that, I wanted to share a quick recap of 2017's travel excursions in hopes of sparking the travel bug in y'all!


Lynchburg, TN
  • Jack Daniel's Distillery

Birmingham, AL
  • Barber Motorsports Museum
  • SAWs Juke Joint
  • Railroad Park
  • Trim Tab Brewing
  • Babalu Tacos and Tapas
  • Mountain Brook Creamery

MARCH 2017

Bowling Green, KY
  • Corvette Museum and Factory
  • Chainey's Dairy Barn

Chattanooga, TN
  • Tennessee Aquarium
  • The Hair of the Dog Pub

APRIL 2017

  • WWII Museum
  • The French Quarters
  • The Spud Spot
  • Blue Oak BBQ
  • crawfish broil
  • Jean Lafitte Historical Park and Preserve

JUNE 2017

  • This is a harder detination to bulletpoint because I went up there twice this month.  Once for my brothers wedding, and once just for fun.  Instead I have linked my post about all the awesome things to do there!


Chattanooga, TN
  • Ruby Falls
  • Chattanooga Lookouts game

Rising Fawn, GA
  • Cloudland Canyon State Park


  • The Dixie Fish Co.
  • Ft. Myers Beach
  • Capone's
  • Bowman's Beach
  • Captiva Cruise
  • Love Boat Ice Cream
  • sailing
  • Island Hoppers Singer Songwriter Festival
  • Doc Ford's


Winona, MN
  • Headed back up to MN for the third time this year to go bridesmaids' dress shopping for my best friends wedding!


  • Headed up to MN for Christmas festivities with friends and family
  • Minnehaha Falls

I didn't realize how much exploring 2017 held until I just went back and made this post.  I didn't even share all the new activities (and food!) I got to experience in both Nashville and Huntsville, nor all the random stops I made throughout the length of Illinois!! As of now I only have one trip planned in 2018, but I'm crossing my fingers that others will come up as we enter the new year. I'm hoping to explore a lot more of my new state of residency this coming year, so if you have any recommendations in Alabama (especially in Birmingham), please shoot me an email or comment below!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

DIY Dreamsicle Bath Bombs

My favorite way to relax is by taking a soothing bath with either a bath bomb, Epsom salts, bubble bath, or some combination of the three. Unfortunately, a trip to Lush is at least an hour and a half drive to either Birmingham or Nashville, and more money than I should be spending on something that is just going to get washed down the drain after an hour of use.

I decided to problem solve by browsing various bath bomb recipes on Pinterest, and experimented with the common ingredients to find a recipe that worked for me. Dreamsicle has been a favorite scent/flavor of mine since I was in middle school, so I wanted to make a recipe that incorporated that.  The same recipe can be used with any essential oils- just switch out the orange/vanilla for your favorite scent!

The following recipe makes approx. 8-10 medium sized bath bombs.

You will need:


Step 1: In each bowl, whisk together the following dry ingredients:
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup epsom salts
  • 1/2 cup citric acid

Step 2: In bowl #1, add 2 tbsp of liquid coconut oil and 1/4 tsp vanilla essential oil and mix thoroughly

Step 3: In bowl #2, add 2 tbsp of liquid coconut oil, 1/4 tsp orange essential oil, and red and yellow gel food coloring (amount depends on shade of orange that you want to use) and mix thoroughly

Step 4: Scoop mix into bath bomb molds using one of the designs mentioned below, or create your own.
  • Design 1: Use a spoon to scoop one scoop of the white mixture into the bath bomb mold, followed by one scoop of the orange mixture.  Make sure to pack the mixture in, and repeat until both halves of the mold are packed overflowing. Put the mold halves together and twist lightly over the bowl of orange mix until packed tightly, releasing extra mix back into the bowl.
  • Design 2: Pack one half of the bath bomb mold with white mix, and the other half with orange mix.  Make sure to pack the mixture into both halves as much as possible until they are overflowing.  Put the mold halves together and twist lightly over the bowl of orange mix until packed tightly, releasing extra mix back into the bowl.

Step 5: Carefully remove one half of the bath bomb mold from the bath bomb, and lightly release the bath bomb out of the mold onto the wax paper. Let the bath bombs sit and dry for 24 hours before completing the last step.

Step 6: After 24-hours of drying, you can use your new bath bombs, or wrap tightly in shrink wrap (or airtight container).

Orange essential oil has many great benefits including helping with body spasms and inflammation, preventing infections, and being a a natural sedative.  Vanilla essential oil has antioxidant properties, fights infection and depression, and is also a calming natural sedative.  As soothing as the dreamsicle bath bomb is, there is one more thing I love to add to bath time to make it the ultimate relaxation experience- music.

Now, when I take a bath its usually at the end of a long day and my phone battery (and music source) is nearly dead. Luckily, products like AncordWorks Bluetooth shower speaker exist. I can plug my phone into its charger in the bedroom, put on whatever music I want to hear in the tub, and it connects to the speaker via Bluetooth.  Its waterproof feature allows you to have the speaker attached to the wall of the tub/shower via a suction cup. Another bonus- when connected to your phone via bluetooth, you can answer phone calls (just in case you're waiting on a call put can't put relaxation on hold)..

The speaker is so versatile, that it can go anywhere you go.  It is heavy duty, sand/dust proof, and comes with a caribeaner so it can accompany you on camping trips, hikes, boat rides, or to the beach.  Don't want to burn your phone battery by using the bluetooth function when you are on the go? There is an included memory card that holds approx. 1,000 songs, or a USB port that you can utilize to play your music.  The speaker comes in three colors: orange, green, and black. If you're looking for any last minute Christmas gifts, this speaker is the way to go! 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

7 Water Infusions You Have To Try (Plus the Perfect Water Bottle to Try Them In)

As a kid, the only thing I would drink was water. I hated milk, lemonade, and anything with the word "juice" in it. As an adult, I'm still not a fan of juice or milk, but I no longer naturally drink enough water in a day. I knew I needed to drink more water, but I had such a difficult time trying to force myself to. I decided to try infusing fruit into my water to give it a little flavor in hopes that I would naturally drink more of it, and I wanted to share some of my favorite infusion combinations!

The only downside to infusing my water was the fruit bits floating around. I especially love citrusy fruits in my water, but I am not a fan of the floating seeds or pulp that come with it. Lucky for me, the Mami Wata Fruit Infuser Water Bottle was invented! This water bottle was a game changer for me because it has a specific space for storing the fruit so that you don't get all the little floaties, but still get all of the flavor! As another bonus floatie blocker, there is a strainer at the top of the water bottle too, so if you wanted to let your fruit just free float, instead of putting it in the designated space you could, and you still wouldn't have to worry about swallowing seeds! The water bottle locks when you're not using it so that it won't spill or leak if it tips over, and it comes with a fitting sleeve to help keep your water cold longer.

Do you have any favorite infusions? I would love it if you would share them with me in the comments!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


I have been a total book nerd since I was first able to read.  I was the kid who would read under my blankets with a flashlight after my parents went to bed. My childhood summer mornings were often spent at the public library; I would come home in the afternoon with a paper bag full of books, only to read and return them all the next week and repeat the process all over again. (Okay, you get the picture).

My Goodreads goal for 2017 was to read 24 books, audiobooks included. (Do you have a Goodreads account? Friend me!) I met my goal, and even beat it by 6! Whoo!

Anyway, to the point...I've been documenting my reads on instagram for the last three years which you can find by searching the following hashtags:


That being said, I am often asked for reading recommendations, but I have such a hard time recommending books because everyone differs in their reading preferences.   So, here is my reading list (with reviews) from the past year; if you're looking for something to read and want to know what I would recommend, browse the list and find one that is fitting to your style! (Included are affiliate links that will take you straight to Amazon so you can buy the book!) I know that 2017 isn't over yet, but with the holidays ahead of us, I wanted to get this out in time for people to add books to their Christmas lists, or treat their family/friends. Because this post is freakin' LONG and it was hard to  remember books from the beginning of the year when I began this post, next year I am going to put out monthly book posts!

1. Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham (5/5 ★)

Growing up, I remember coming home from middle school just in time for Gilmore Girls to come on ABC Family at 4PM.  I loved sitting down to watch the bond between Rory and Lorelei develop through witty banter and coffee at Luke's.

Fast forward ten years down the road, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was released, and I had just finished binge-watching Parenthood when I saw that Lauren Graham had released an autobiography. I hopped on and had the book in my hands two days later.  Less than 24 hours after it arrived, I gently closed the back cover, feeling disappointed that it was over.  Lauren Graham was just as funny in Talking As Fast As I Can as I remembered her being in Gilmore Girls years before.  I highly recommend this book to any Gilmore Girls fan!

2. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight (5/5 ★)

Reconstructing Amelia had been on my "to read" list for some time, so when I received the book as a Christmas gift I knew I would have to read it ASAP.  RA is the first novel by Kimberly McCreight, released in 2013.  It is about a single mother trying to put her daughter's life back together after her death.  The mom, who is a lawyer,  searches through her teen's emails, texts, etc. in an attempt to figure out the events that led up to her death. There were a lot of twists and turns throughout the book, so many that up until the very end I was STILL questioning what happened!  

3. The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand (3/5 ★)

The Last Time We Say Goodbye was another Christmas gift that I put on my list because of the teen characters.  (I LOVE a good teenage angst story).  The main character Lex's brother died prior to the story beginning, and throughout the book Lex struggles with dealing with his death because of the last text he sent.  The story-line was a bit predictable, but it was still an entertaining read.

4. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (5/5 ★)

I love reading autobiographies of people who I feel like I know, even though I've never met them- actors, actresses, authors, musicians, etc.  Its just bizarre to me that people can have such an impact on our daily lives, yet they don't even know our names.  Now maybe its a little ambitious to say that an actress in a movie impacts your life THAT much, but do you ever watch a movie while you're feeling 'blegh' and come out of it feeling completely different? Or do you ever read a book because you're bored or lonely or whatever and feel so much more motivated to do something about your life when you put it down? No? That's just me? Well then..

Anna Kendrick became a favorite of mine after Pitch Perfect (of course).  I saw she had released a book about her life, and based on her hilarious tweets, I knew it had to be humorous.  Anna Kendrick is just as funny IRL as she is on Pitch Perfect (and by IRL, I mean in her writing...I wish I knew her in real life!).  Anna writes about her life growing up as a loud-but-tiny child, and how she discovered acting as a passion.  This was one of those books that I came out of feeling motivated to follow my own dreams.  Thanks for the inspiration, Anna!

5. The Whistler by John Grisham (5/5 ★)

I have been a fan of John Grisham since I read his book The Runaway Jury in the 8th grade.  After finishing that book, I was quick to collect all the John Grisham novels I could find at garage sales, flea markets and book stores.  Now, whenever he releases a new title, I have it in my Amazon cart ready to purchase the day it comes out.

The Whistler  is about a lawyer investigating a corrupt judge who is involved with the construction of a casino by The Coast Mafia, despite being on Native American land. If you like John Grisham, you'll like this book.

6. My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry
(1/5 ★)

I had stumbled across this book somewhere, likely on Goodreads but I can't say for sure, just when I had run out of books in my pile to read, so I ordered it.

The author is English I believe, and the story takes place in Europe.  Told from two different points of view, it is interesting to get the varied perspectives on everything taking place.  Lily, one of the main characters, is a lawyer who marries quickly to an artist; Carla, the other character whose point of view we hear, is a fatherless girl who spends her childhood in the same flat as Lily and her husband Ed.  Long story short, Carla and her mother move away, but her life becomes entwined with Lily and Ed's as she enters adulthood. Honestly, the story-line was fairly predictable.

It took me a LONG time to get through this book.  As in months.  I read other books as I read this book because I struggled to get into it.  I keep telling myself that if I can't get into a book in the first 100 pages to just put it away and not waste my time, but unfortunately, I AM NOT A QUITTER and I finished it anyway.  

7. Took by Mary Downing Hahn (4/5 ★)

As I was finishing my Master's Degree, I wanted some easy reading that would provide me with a break from my studies, but wouldn't take over my free time that I should be spending focused on school.  I decided to take a short hiatus from adult books and dive into some children's literature.

My students had been raving  about Took after they all got it at the fall book fair, so I figured I would give it a shot.  Took is a "ghost" story about a family that moves into a ragged old house in a small town.  The two children in the story continue to hear horrible stories about the home they moved into, and a crazy witch lady.  Legend said that a girl had been "took" many years ago by this witch.  The kids don't believe the story....until the little girl goes missing.  I would definitely recommend this book to any child that loves scary stories, or as a read aloud in an upper elementary classroom in October!

8. Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skaypuch (5/5 ★)

My favorite time period in history to read about has always been the WWII era so when I saw this book at our school book fair I had to get it.  Continuing with the children's lit trend, Making Bombs for Hitler is a historical fiction book about a young,Ukranian girl who is kidnapped by the Germans and forced into slavery.  I think its a great book for kids as it tells a story that is different from the norm.  So often, children's books about WWII focus on the holocaust aspect from the perspective of Jewish children.  Opening kids up the impact Nazi Germany had on countries other than itself is just as important for them to see.

9. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (3/5 ★)

As was mentioned before, I love autobiographies, especially those written by people who are still alive! (haha) I probably wouldn't have gone and bought this book on my own, but a friend had just finished reading it so I borrowed it from her.

I was unable to relate to Mindy Kaling in the way I was with Lauren or Anna.  Her story was interesting, and you can definitely see her sense of humor in this book, but it wasn't as great as I had hoped it to be.

10. Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra (5/5 ★)

Y'all...this book seriously pulled at my heartstrings.  Etched in Sand is a memoir that tells the story of Regina Calcaterra and her siblings as they grew up in New York to an abusive mother.  I don't want to share too much, because I think this is a story that is better read in full than summarized.  I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend this read to anyone who works with children in any capacity, but especially those who work with underprivileged or troubled youth.  Make sure you have a tissue box nearby, you WILL cry.

11. Camino Island by John Grisham    (5/5 ★)

As stated before, I LOVE John Grisham. (Almost) all of his books are law-focused, and I've been obsessed with all aspects of crime and criminal justice since I was introduced to The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley back in elementary school. Camino Island is about a clan of (very smart, sneaky) bandits who steal priceless books from the Princeton Library.  A young co-ed with a lot of student debt is talked into (with the promise of money) befriending a man who may know where the stolen loot is.  LOVED it!

12. Once and For All by Sarah Dessen (3/5 ★)

I started reading Sarah Dessen's stories back in middle school.  They're all focused on teenage love and are typically very predictable.

Once and For All is about a the daughter of a wedding planner who isn't so sure about the whole "love" thing.

I enjoyed this story, but it wasn't one of my favorites.

13. The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father's Nazi Boyhood by Mark Kurzem (3/5 ★)

Mark Kurzem wrote this novel about his father's supposed past with Nazi troops.  I say supposed because although the book is sold as a non-fiction story, there are critics who say there is no way this story ever could have taken place for one reason or another.  Anyway, it is an interesting read whether its true or not.

14. Columbine by Dave Cullen (5/5 ★)

I've had a couple people who have seen me reading this say to me, "How can you read that being a teacher?" to which I always responded with, "How can I not?"  Columbine was written by Dave Cullen after very extensive research.  Cullen was a journalist on the scene right after the attack.  He spent ten years working and researching the event known as Columbine, as well as the impact on the community around the school. Despite being only 7 years old at the time, I remember hearing about Columbine after it happened.  I realized that I never really knew what had happened, which is what drew me to the book.  It is incredibly informative as to what actually happened, rather than the myths that spread after it, and contains real excerpts from the gunmen's journals, etc.

15. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (3/5 ★)

I'd heard about The Handmaid's Tale being on Hulu, but didn't know what it was about until I read the book.  I borrowed it from a friend and began reading it at the beginning of summer.  Right before I headed north to MN, I downloaded the audio book on Audible since I had 24 hours of driving to do in the next week and very little reading time.  Anywho, this story is eerie.  I know its a fictional dystopian 'future,' but you can't miss the parallels to present day.  Honestly, I didn't love the book, but it was interesting, and I do want to read more of Margaret Atwood.

16. This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl (4/5 ★)

This book had been on my reading list for a long time, so when I saw it with a $2 price tag on it at Ollie's, I had to snag it.  TSWGO is a compilation of Esther Earl's journal and letters, post from her CaringBridge page, and letters and notes from her family and friends.  Esther Earl was 12 when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and 16 when she passed away because of it.  This book takes you through her battle with cancer and the thoughts and feelings of the people around her.

The disclaimer here is that Esther had met John Green, the author of the well known The Fault In Our Stars, while she had cancer.  He says that TFIOS is not based on Esther or her life,  but there are a lot of parallels between the stories.  This book was interesting to me because though I have read a lot of fictional stories about characters battling childhood cancer, I've never read an actual account.  

17. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (3/5 ★)

This book had been in my "to read" pile for quite some time before I actually got around to reading it. Since I knew it had become a movie, and I had heard a lot of hype about people comparing it to Gone Girl (which I loved), I expected to be thoroughly engaged and in high suspense throughout the whole book. My expectations were not met.  It was a 'good enough' story, but the characters were so dull.  The story is about a semi-recently divorced woman who rides a train past a row of houses every day, twice a day.  One day, one of the women in one of the houses goes missing, and the train rider becomes wrapped up in the investigation.  There was virtually NO character development, the ending was kind of predictable, and there was not nearly as much suspense as I was hoping.  That being said, I am interested in seeing the movie to see if they play up the characters.

18. Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight (5/5 ★)

Y'all. This book. I think it might be my favorite book I've read all year. Or at least top 5. Written by the same author as Reconstructing Amelia, it houses the same suspense that McCreight is known for.  It took me a little longer to get into, but before I was halfway through, I was hooked.  The story is about a dead baby found in the creek of a small town, and the search to find who it belonged to. I love the connections between the characters and how the author had her reader constantly guessing and wondering. 

19. Closure by Randall Wood (5/5 ★)

As much as I prefer to have a physical copy of a book to read, I bought my kindle for the sole purpose of traveling with it.  I got it right before I left for two months in Central America, and bought the most simplistic one I could find.  If you're looking for an e-reader, I would highly recommend the Kindle 4.  It is an e-reader, not a tablet, which means the battery lasts FOREVER (one month under ideal reading conditions).  The screen is not backlit, so you don't have to worry about not being able to read it in the sun (as you can see from my photo).  I love it. Anyway, back to the book.

Since I like physical copies of books, I only download the free books for my kindle.  I thought that Closure was the next book in a series I had begun reading a few years back, but it turned out it was another FBI/crime-centered novel. The book was a free kindle download, and is the first of five novels in the series.  Closure is about a dying man and his brother-in-law who want to right the wrongs in the criminal justice system.  They are determined to draw national attention to the crippled and flawed American criminal justice system by killing the big names who contribute to these shortcomings. All the while, an FBI team is trying to get ahead of the men and catch the killer before he can kill again.  The story is written in a way that has you constantly rooting on the vigilantes, while also wanting the FBI to catch up with him.  The story wraps up at the end, but leaves you wanting more.  I am definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series.

20. Lifestyle Blogging Basics by Laura Lynn (3.5/5 ★)

I came across this book while reading a blog post from a fellow blogger, and figured it was about time to start educating myself if I want to turn this project into something more.  It definitely gave me some great pointers, most of which I already knew just from browsing Pinterest. What I really liked about this book was it gave the "why" behind everything.  As in, why it's important to add certain widgets and features, which was really helpful.  I wish it gave a little more of the "how," but it is a guide, and not a manual to the blogging platform I use, so it wasn't as if my expectations were let down. I also wish it dove a little more into monetizing your blog. (Disclaimer: I feel really weird and uncomfortable writing this review. I don't read a lot of informative texts, so I don't really know how to talk about them...) If you're looking into starting a blog, this book would be really helpful. Since I've already started this blog, it's not as helpful.

21. Unsweetined by Jodie Sweetin (4/5 ★)

As previously mentioned, I love autobiographies. Especially when they're about people who aren't old, dead men.  Jodie's book came up on Amazon as one I may be interested in due to my previous searches, which of course, I was.  I had never known about her addictions to drugs and alcohol, and was shocked to see how young she was when they started.  As a lover of Full House, and now Fuller House, Jodie's story was really interesting to me.

22. We Were Liars by E. Lockhard (4/5 ★)

I realized that I had missed a few of my children's/young adult books from earlier in the year.  This story is a great suspense story for middle grades and I had originally found it because it was the Goodreads winner for best Young Adult Fiction for 2015.  It is about a troubled girl who belongs to a rich family, one who only speaks of the happy things, and never dwells on tragedy.  She spends her summers on an island with her family, including her cousins who are some of her closest friends. It has the heart tugging effect of a love story, while also entrapping you in the suspense of a mystery.

23. All American Girl by Meg Cabot (5/5 ★)

This was one of my favorite books when I was in (roughly) the fifth grade.  So much so that I've read it at least a dozen times since, and will forever keep my copy of it.  Meg Cabot is the author of The Princess Diaries series (which I haven't read).  All American Girl is about an awkward, artsy teen who saves the presidents life by taking down the man who attempted to shoot him. The story follows her as she ventures through the unwanted fame while establishing a relationship with a boy that turns out to be the president's son.

24. Wonder by R. J. Palacio (5/5 ★)

This was another book that I read during my "children's lit" phase.  If you're an elementary school teacher, you know this book.  If you're a parent, you should know this book.  Wonder is about a young boy with facial deformations who decides to begin to attend a public school.  It is the story of his struggle to fit in not only as a new kid in school, but as a kid whose appearance differs from his peers.

25. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (4/5 ★)

I declared to myself that I wasn't allowed to buy any more books and I therefore needed to get a library card.  I had forgotten that John Green's newest book was about to come out so that didn't last very long.  Along with John Grisham, John Green is one of my favorite authors, and one who I will always buy the book from the day of its release.  Turtles All the Way Down is about a girl battling OCD, all while trying to establish a relationship with an old friend...just after his billionaire dad went missing.  It is not my favorite John Green book (Looking for Alaska is), but I did enjoy it!

 26. The Martian by Andy Weir (5/5 ★)

The Martian was the first book that I listed to via Audible (Amazon's audiobook playform).  My friend Becca had told me the audiobook was really good after we had went to the movie when it came out a couple years ago.  When I found that you could get a 30 day free trial of Audible, a long with a free audiobook, I knew exactly which book I was going to choose.  At the time, I was driving between Alabama and Tennessee nearly every weekend so I finished the book in a month pretty easily.  Becca was right, the audiobook was great! (I'm also currently working on reading the book via iBooks- I really like the story!) If you're as much of a space fanatic as I am, you'll enjoy this as an audiobook, and a movie, and an actual book!

27. Adnan's Story  by Rabia Chaudry (4/5 ★)

I listened to this story as an audiobook on one of my many long drives (probably across the whole state of Illinois) after I had listened to the Serial podcast, which if you're into true crime you should totally listed to.  Written and read by the co-host of Undisclosed, (another awesome true crime podcast), Rabia Chaudry tells about the murder of Hae Min Lee followed by the craziness that was Adnan Syed's questionable conviction.  It covers a lot of the same content that Serial covered, but more in depth.  I liked that I already knew the story from Serial prior to listening to the book because it made it that much easier to follow and pick up on new information that either wasn't shared in Serial or that I just didn't catch the first time around.

28. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor (4/5 ★)

My dad recommended this book to me told me I HAD to buy this book after he read it. I had a hard time getting into it, because I'm not a huge reader of nonfiction that doesn't really tell a story, but it was really informative.  In the last few years I've been a huge proponent of creating your own happiness and that you can literally just CHOOSE to be happy and it will make your life so much better.  The great thing about this book was that it totally confirmed all of that.  Through his own experiments and research, Shawn Achor discusses growth mindset and how intelligence, physical skills, and more can be improved solely by being happy and believing you can improve.  Achor shares that if a workplace encourages its employees to take breaks/vacations and provides opportunities for employees to joke and laugh throughout the day, productivity greatly increases.  I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone looking for personal growth, and especially if you are any sort of leader- whether you are the boss of a company, a teacher, or a parent.

29. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham (5/5 ★)

Three John Grisham books in a year makes for a great year!  Still law focused, Grisham tells a story about a group of law school students who find out they are getting seriously screwed by their law school and their student loan lenders. I love Grisham's books because I start reading and before I know it I'm halfway through and do not want to put it down!

30. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (4/5 ★)

After receiving this recommendation from a couple different people, I listened to this story via audiobook and had to restart it a couple of times because I couldn't get into it. When I was driving home from Minnesota last I decided to give it another shot, and I was hooked. The book has multiple story lines revolving around parents (mainly mothers) of kindergarten students and their kids. There were a lot of twists and turns that kept me guessing until the very end (though as the stories were all tidied up in the conclusion, I couldn't help but wonder how I didn't see the ending coming). I will definitely be watching series from HBO!

Already in my pile for the rest of this year and 2018 are:

1. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle
2. The Company of Demons by Michael Jordan
3. Willow by Julia Hoban
4. Not with the Band by Kelli Warner
5. Underground in Berlin by Marie Jalowicz Simon
6. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
7. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield

Have you read any of these? If so, do you recommend any of them to read first? (Or to not read at all!?) Do you have any book recommendations for me? If you answered yes to any of these questions, drop a comment below- I would love to add some more to my list!