Friday, December 12, 2014

November Books.

November was a great month for reading. There were lots of good books this month, and several that I highly recommend!
GoodReads Synopsis: Alice Grace Ripley lives in a dream world, her nose stuck in a book. But the happily-ever-after life she's planned on suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction instead of the real one. To top it off, Alice loses her beloved library job because of cutbacks due to the Great Depression. Longing to run from small-town gossip, Alice flees to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to the tiny coal-mining town of Acorn, a place with no running water, no electricity, and where the librarians ride ornery horses up steep mountain passes to deliver books. When Alice is forced to stay in Acorn far longer than she planned, she discovers that real-life adventure, mystery--and especially romance--may be far better than her humble dreams could have imagined.

My Thoughts:  This was a very sweet story with a bit of intrigue on the side.  I really enjoyed it!

GoodReads Synopsis: 1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart. At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

My Thoughts:  This book had been on my list FOREVER, and I finally got around to reading it.  It was good but not fantastic.  There were a lot of family dynamics to navigate in this one, so at times it was a little sad.  But I really appreciated the way she tied everything together at the end.  
GoodReads SynopsisIn the LAPD's Open-Unsolved Unit, not many murder victims die almost a decade after the crime. So when a man succumbs to complications from being shot by a stray bullet nine years earlier, Bosch catches a case in which the body is still fresh, but any other evidence is virtually nonexistent. Now Bosch and his new partner, rookie Detective Lucia Soto, are tasked with solving what turns out to be a highly charged, politically sensitive case. Starting with the bullet that's been lodged for years in the victim's spine, they must pull new leads from years-old information, which soon reveals that this shooting may have been anything but random.

My Thoughts:  Another fantastic novel in the Harry Bosch series.  Harry is one of my all-time favorite book characters, and this one did not disappoint.  In fact, it was probably one of the best ones in a while.  The mystery was exciting with unexpected twists and turns.  If you want a good detective series, look no further than Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch!

GoodReads Synopsis: It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store. Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections—rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds—are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts. Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby— a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has. Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke? When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

My Thoughts:  I was unbelievably excited to get this book as an ARC from NetGalley!  I obviously love Sarah Addison Allen, and the prequel to this book, Garden Spells, is my favorite.  I loved reading more about the Waverley women, especially Bay now that she's a teenager.  It gets released in January, so make sure you pick it up!

GoodReads Synopsis: The war is over. The South has lost. Josephine Weatherly struggles to pick up the pieces of her life when her family returns to their Virginia plantation. But the realities of life after the war cannot be denied: her home and land are but a shell of their previous grandeur; death has claimed her father and brother; and her remaining brother, Daniel, has returned home bitter and broken. Her life of privilege, a long-ago dream. Josephine soon realizes that life is now a matter of daily survival--and recognizes that Lizzie, as one of the few remaining servants, is the one she must rely on to teach her all she needs to know. Josephine's mother, too, vows to rebuild White Oak--but a bitter hatred fuels her. Can hope--and a battered faith in God--survive amid the devastation?

My Thoughts:  Another Lynn Austin book for me this year.  I haven't read this many of hers since college, but I'm really enjoying them.  This one took a bit longer for me to get into, but it picked up mid-way through the story.  Romance, danger, and intrigue-- what more could you want?

GoodReads Synopsis: No sooner had supermodel Laura Ayers and Celtics star David Baskin said "I do" than tragedy struck. While honeymooning on Australia's Great Barrier Reed, David went out for a swim-and never returned. Now widowed and grieving, Laura's search for the truth will draw her into a web of lies and deception that stretches back thirty years...

My Thoughts: This was Harlan Coben's first-ever novel.  He states at the beginning that if this is your first novel of his to attempt to read, to put it down and get another one.  I would agree with that advice.  It's not his best book, but I was able to appreciate it a bit more, I think, because I already love his writing.  This one was long and windy, and I saw the two big twists at the end coming.  That said, it was a great suspenseful story, always left you wondering who you could trust and who was really the bad guy.

GoodReads Synopsis: Debbie Macomber continues her warmhearted tour of Cedar Cove, Washington, with this sixth installment in her bestselling series. This one focuses on Seth and Justine Gunderson, whose business, the Lighthouse restaurant, was destroyed by arson. While young runaway Anson Butler is the prime suspect, his stalwart girlfriend, Allison Cox, doesn't believe it for a moment. Meanwhile, the fire has caused a rift in the Gunderson marriage, and Warren Sager, who never stopped loving Justine, is all too willing to offer a shoulder to cry on. But solving the mystery of who started the fire is hardly the only plotline. There are new developments in the romance between Linnette McAfee and Cal Washburn, big changes in the lives of Jon and Maryellen Bowman, and an unexpected, whirlwind romance between hair stylist Teri Miller and a chess superstar. Rainier Drive is packed with the updates Macomber's many fans expect to get.

My Thoughts:  Another good one in the Cedar Cove series by Debbie Macomber.  This is probably one of my favorites-- a little mystery always makes a story better, in my opinion.  This one definitely had that plus a little less cheesiness than some.  These are great books to just pick up and fly through if you are looking for some easy reads.

GoodReads Synopsis: The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.

My Thoughts:  This is another one that has been on my list for a while that I finally got around to reading.  I didn't love it.  It was very different than my usual genres and was a bit difficult to get into. The plot was interesting, but it just wasn't my favorite.  If you like books that are just a little off-center or about secret societies, then this is the book for you.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thanksgiving Road Trip-- Part 3.

Today is the final recap of our Thanksgiving Road Trip!  It's also some of my favorite parts of our trip.  The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Donny and I headed into Dallas.  It was actually my first time back in Dallas proper in a few years.  We had quite a bit of time this day, so we weren't in a hurry.  Our first stop was the Trains at NorthPark Center!  This was such a neat exhibit with trains all over the store, throughout various cityskapes.  
After we left the mall, we drove to SMU to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.  
The Bush Library and Museum is one of the coolest museums I've ever been to.  There were so many great exhibits, tons of interactive places, and awesome artifacts.
There was also a special temporary exhibit with all the White House decorations from Christmas 2002, including an exact replica of the official Christmas tree that year. 
President Bush painted this bird himself earlier this year!
I loved it so much that I wore my admission "43" sticker the rest of the day!
After the museum we met our friends at Twisted Root Burger Co. for dinner!  I love these guys so much and wish that I could see them more often!!
Me and Rachel
Donny, me, Rachel, Monica, Mike, and Julie 
(Khrystal refused to be photographed, so she took the picture)
Wednesday, we went to Fort Worth in the morning to Sundance Square, which is one of my favorite places in Texas.  They've made some changes in the few years since I've been there, but I thought it was still fantastic.  When we got there, it was already decorated for Christmas, which I loved of course!
After Fort Worth, Donny had lunch with his BB/BS little brother while I did a bit of shopping and got a pedicure in Burleson.  It was literally the only hour that we spent apart in nine days!  Later that evening, we went to Donny's "grandparents'" house to hang out with them and for me to use her kitchen to make some dishes for Thanksgiving the next day.  I just love them so much-- they're the kindest people and have welcomed me as a part of their family.  I wish we had had more time to spend with them on this trip.

Thanksgiving morning, we were up before the crack of dawn to go to Fort Worth for Donny to run in the Turkey Trot.  His stepbrother ran too, and they both finished in under 30:00!  (While his mom, sister, and I froze our tushies off...)
We spent Thanksgiving at Donny's mom's house, where she had thirty people for dinner!  I really missed being with my parents and family, but I also had a great time with Donny's family.  And the food was amazing!!  Sadly, I didn't get any pictures of the whole crew...  

Friday morning, we left our hotel around 4:15am (yes, you read that right) and hit the road.  Our first stop was in Little Rock, Arkansas at the Clinton Library and Museum.  The architecture was unique and cool, and the inside of the building was beautiful.  But it wasn't my favorite museum.  I felt like there wasn't much information at all, and what was there was very political instead of factual.  I was disappointed because so much stuff happened during the Clinton Administration, and I felt like everything was glossed over.  
We also stopped in Memphis, TN at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel.  This museum was PACKED.  I have no idea why, since it was the day after Thanksgiving, but I guess we weren't the only people traveling through Memphis and wanted to see it.  But I was, again, disappointed.  There were a ton of different exhibits in this very large museum, and it started out well.  But the second half seemed rushed, and they didn't really give me all the information.  I felt like I didn't know what they were talking about in some of the exhibits because nothing was really explained, no story told, and lots of events jumped over.  I was, however, glad to see that it was more than just a Martin Luther King, Jr. museum.  Obviously, there was a lot about him as you got closer to the spot where he died, but there was plenty of information about other civil rights leaders as well.
Our final destination of the day was Nashville.  Before we got to the hotel, we drove through the city and down through Broadway.  I thought it was beautiful.  Lights and music were everywhere!  We rolled down the windows, and music from the street wafted in.  Granted, I don't love country music, but the atmosphere was fantastic.  I'd absolutely go back there to visit more.
We ate dinner at Darfon's, where we had a fantastic kobe beef burger.  I'd definitely go eat there again.

Saturday morning, we again woke up before the sun and hit the road.  We saw a beautiful sunrise coming through the Tennessee mountains.
And before long, we were back home! 

I've never done such a long trip in the car before, but I would definitely do it again!  Donny and I had a great time.  Now to figure out where we should go next... :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Katie's 5th Annual Sexiest Men Alive.

It's that time of year!  People Magazine has released its Sexiest Man Alive issue.  And in case you missed it, this year's "Sexiest Man Alive" is Chris Hemsworth.
He seems like a nice guy, and he's pretty, I suppose.  But he just doesn't do much for me.  I, of course, have compiled my own list of the top ten sexiest men alive of 2014.  As always, I've tried to choose men who had a significant presence in 2014, and my list is in no particular order.  Enjoy!

Jimmy Fallon

Derek Jeter

Rob James-Collier

Matthew McConaughey

Eddie Redmayne

Adam Levine 

Tom Brady

Robert Downey, Jr.

Bradley Cooper

Theo James

And finally, my list certainly would not be complete without my sexy husband!  :)

What did you think of Chris Hemsworth being this year's winner?  
And who is at the top of your list?