Monday, October 31, 2016

Pittsburgh 10 Miler Training : 1 Week to Go!

Happy Halloween!!

I can't really believe it, but race week is here again!  This is going to be my last race of the year (unless I decide to do some end-of-the-year 5k or something) and I'm happy that it's my favorite local race.  The Pittsburgh 10 Miler is always so much fun, the distance is perfect for me, and the weather has always cooperated.  Here's a look at my final week of training:


 Rest day!
I had to work all weekend, including waking up at midnight on Monday morning, working for 3 hours, then heading in to work 4 hours later.  Needless to say, I barely made it through the work day and took a nap when I got home!


Yoga / 45:00
Normal lunch time yoga class.  I'm so glad that I'm in the habit of going to yoga now, and can definitely tell a difference with my flexibility and balance! 


 3 miles
Fall weather arrived for the day!  It was below freezing when I woke up, and the temperature was perfect for running.  I ran before work, and there were surprisingly a lot of other runners out!  I wish I brought a hat (mental note for the rest of the fall and winter) but otherwise this was a perfect run.


Yoga / 45:00
My other day of lunchtime yoga.  I was having a stressful day at work, so this was a great way to disconnect and relax in the middle of the day. 


 3 miles
TGIF!  My manager graciously let me have a half day (and work from home) since I had to work during the weekend, so I was happy to sleep in and get in a run later in the morning.  Unfortunately, while I was out I got a call and had to run home and work.  I felt great and wanted to run longer, but sometimes life gets in the way!


 5 miles
 I was originally planning on taking another rest day, but since my Friday run got cut short and the weather was absolutely perfect, I decide to head out for a little run. 


9 miles
Last long run before the race!  I felt pretty awful during this run to be honest.  I went early in the morning, but it was already in the 70's and humid.  Weather seems to affect me more than anything when I run, so I just let myself take the miles slowly and caught up on some podcasts.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Top Five Friday #73

Happy Friday!  This week has flown by really fast and I'm excited for a relaxing weekend.  The past few weeks have been really busy, but this one has absolutely no plans.  I'm hoping to watch some football, baseball, and chill out.  Here's hoping that you all have a great weekend as well!


This is definitely old news, but it's too good not to share!  Last weekend, Penn State caused its biggest upset since the 60's when they beat Ohio State at home.  This is always the biggest game of the year, and for the past few years we've gotten close but were never able to finish it off.  It was such an exciting game with an incredible ending, and I could not be more proud to be a Nittany Lion right now!

Gilmore Girls Trailer

It's almost that time- time for the long awaited Gilmore Girls revival!  I am soooo excited, and the trailer that got released is giving me all the feels.  #Jess+Rory4Life

Thug Kitchen Cookbook

I love using cookbooks, especially to help plan out my meals for the week.  It was getting pretty hard to find recipes that were vegan-friendly (or that I could make substitutes) in the cookbooks that I had, so I decided to pick up a new book.  After some recommendations, I decided to order Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook, which also happens to be the #1 vegan cookbook on Amazon.  I have to say that all of the praise and rave reviews are well deserved- this cookbook is amazing!  I already have a vegan dinner planned where each person will be making a different recipe from Thug Kitchen, and I can't wait to try out EVERYTHING.

Play! by Sephora Box

Christophe Robin mask - This mask is so amazing.  It makes my hairy look smooth and moisturized, without weighing it down or making it look greasy at all.  The only thing I don't like is the smell, which reminds me of baby wipes!
Erborian creme gel - I like this moisturizer, but it's nothing life-changing.
Estee Edit gloss - I'm not really a gloss person and didn't notice any brightening effects when I used it (the gloss is tinted slightly blue to make your teeth look whiter).  I do appreciate the fact that this wasn't a sticky gloss!
Farmacy mist - I LOVE this stuff.  It smells incredible and makes me feel like I'm at a spa!  I'm thinking about buying the full size once I finish this up.
Smashbox liquid lipstick - This formula is pretty drying, but I love the color the the applicator.  It has a pointy end which makes it easy to make a crisp line around your lips. 


It's definitely feeling like fall now, which means that I'm pulling out all of my sweaters!  I actually got this outfit at the outlets last weekend, and love the pop of purple on a cool day.

What are your plans this weekend?
Favorite cookbook?

linking up with Heather and Erika

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Belize Part 3 : Hidden Valley Inn

Happy Thursday everyone!  Today I'm so excited to be sharing the next part of my trip to Belize.  So far I've talked about our weddingSan Pedro, and the caves, so now it's time to talk about the rest of our trip.  After spending the first three days in San Pedro, we spent the next six days at the Hidden Valley Inn in the Cayo District.  I'll be talking about my experience there (which was incredible) and some things that we did.  In my final post, I'll talk about the other excursions that we went on while we were staying at the HVI!

After we left San Pedro, we flew back to Belize City, then took a three hour drive to the Hidden Valley Inn.  The roads were paved for the first hour, then it was all dirt roads the rest of the way.  Our drivers the entire trip kept saying that this is our "free back massage" because the roads were so bumpy!

The Hidden Valley Inn is located in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, and is very isolated.  There are only six cottages on the property, each of which has two rooms.  Also on the property is a large common area, which has a gift shop, sitting area with games and a fireplace, bar, and dining area.  There's also a pool with dining tables set up, which is where we ate by candle light every night!

The Inn sits on 7200 acres of private land with nearly 100 miles of trails.  There is a full staff that maintains these trails, and Dan and I spent a lot of our free time exploring!

We got recommendations from the staff about some of the best hikes, and were sent off with a walkie-talkie in case we needed to be picked up.  There were even a few trails that had picnic areas where you could request a lunch to be set up.  We never did this, but it seems like a great idea.  Our favorite trail was the Cascade Trail, which was so beautiful and a lot of fun (as long as you're not afraid of heights or shaky bridges!)

For some reason I feel like this wouldn't pass safety inspections in the US:

Every day had pretty much the same structure:  Dan and I would wake up and head to the common area for breakfast (they had a buffet every morning along with a full menu you could order from).  While we were eating, one of the employees would stop by to go over our itinerary with us for the day, and get our lunch order in case we needed something packed.

Then, we would head out for our trip of the day.  We would get back in the afternoon, and grab something small to eat during tea time (or sometimes a drink at the bar) and chat with the other guests and employees.  Everyone that was there was so nice and friendly, and it was always nice to hear their stories and about their adventures from the day.

After going on a hike or relaxing, we would get cleaned up and dressed for dinner.  Walking out to the pool area always took my breath away, because there were millions of stars visible since the nearest city lights were no where in sight.  We would sit outdoors by the pool and eat by candlelight, where we had a five course meal every night.  There was always something different and amazing to eat!

The rooms themselves were beautiful!  Dan and I usually stay at the cheapest hotels or hostels when we travel, but since this was our wedding/honeymoon, we decided to splurge.  For the first three nights, we stayed in the regular rooms which were pretty standard:


Then, for the final three nights (which happened to be the days after we got married) we upgraded to the suite.  They decorated everything with fresh flowers (seriously everything..they were even in the toilet) and wrote out Happy Honeymoon in the claw-foot tub!

There were also two very special features of the suite- an outdoor rock shower:

And a room full of hammocks.  I spent a lot of time here, and even surprised Dan with massages in this room on our last full day at the Inn!

Honestly, I can't say enough about how amazing this trip was.  The employees at the Hidden Valley Inn went way beyond my expectations to make sure we were always taken care of and felt special during the most important week of our lives.  The Inn and Reserve were both incredibly gorgeous, and we had such an amazing and relaxing experience.  If you're looking to go to Belize, you have got to stay here!  (By the way- this post and our trip isn't sponsored or paid for in any way!  Dan found this place after doing research, and we fell in love with it!)

Married people - where did you have your honeymoon?
Did anyone else have a destination wedding or want one?

linking up with Amanda

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tasty Tuesdays : Recipes from Reddit

Welcome to another Tasty Tuesday!  Today I'm coming at you from my kitchen, where I'm testing out some recipes.  One of my favorite resources for all kinds of vegan information and inspiration comes from reddit, so today's recipes are all from the website!

There was a thread that I found a while ago where people shared their craziest, most delicious vegan recipes and I wanted to try them out.  Some of them just sounded insane, but ended up being insanely amazing.  I'm here today to share the good (and not so good) results, along with a link to the recipe and some ratings.  Bon appetite!

Crunch Wrap Supreme

This has quickly become my go-to meal at home!  I have to admit that I used to love Crunch Wraps from Taco Bell, and got them all the time in college.  I had not idea they would be so easy to make (the trick is to get really large, soft tortillas that will fold easily without tearing).  From there, you can really customize it with whatever your favorite fillings are!

My favorite combination is refried beans and beefless crumbles on the bottom, followed by a tostada, spinach, guacamole, Tofutti sour cream, and salsa.  Amazing!  There are so many different recipes out there for making your own crunchwrap, but here is the one I found on reddit.

Ease of recipe : 8/10
Taste of recipe : 10/10 

Pulled BBQ Carrots

This recipe definitely verged on the weird side of vegan, and I was really skeptical about trying it.  Pulled pork was one of my favorite types of sandwiches, so there was no way this would live up to that!  Even though this doesn't taste like pork, it's still amazing.

When you roast the carrots (I just used a peeler to get long strips of carrots and it worked perfectly) and onions, then simmer them in BBQ sauce, it gives them a really savory and smoky flavor.  Top it off with some cole slaw and you have a satisfying sandwich!  It might not be a complete dupe for pulled pork, but I almost prefer it this way.  This is the recipe I followed, but I was lazy and used store-bought BBQ sauce instead of making my own.

Ease of recipe : 9/10
Taste of recipe : 8/10

Puff Pastry Lentil Loaf

I was really excited to try out this recipe, because it looked challenging and time consuming.  This might seem weird, but at the end of a long day at work, all I want to do is spend hours in the kitchen making dinner.  So, I waited to make this recipe until after a particularly stressful day and making it was really therapeutic!

There were a lot of steps involved in making this, but it wasn't a particularly challenging recipe.  It did take a lot of patience though, which is why I gave it such a low "ease of recipe" score.  As far as taste, it was really good and filling, but you could definitely tell it was a vegan recipe so it lost a few points there.  I think this would be a great recipe to serve for a vegan Thanksgiving or dinner party, because it makes a ton and looks gorgeous!  Here is the recipe!

Ease of recipe : 3/10
Taste of recipe : 7/10

Baked Potato Deviled "Egg"

Finally, I tried out these vegan deviled "eggs" (aka potatoes) as an appetizer at one of my monthly vegan dinners.  The recipe was simple enough, and the only time-consuming and semi-difficult part was scooping out the middle of the potatoes.  It was really tedious, but worth it!

I was really surprised at how closely these tasted like deviled eggs.  The filling was spot on and really delicious!  I could eat this entire tray, because they tasted so good.  Plus, they were really cute which is a bonus.  I followed this recipe, but added extra mustard.

Ease of recipe : 7/10
Taste of recipe : 9/10

Monday, October 24, 2016

Pittsburgh 10 Miler Training : 2 Weeks to Go!

Another week- another training cycle!  After having a semi-rest week last week, I'm back in training for the Pittsburgh 10 Miler.  There are only two weeks until race day, so I'm hoping my fitness from the half marathon will carry over.  

This is one of my favorite races every year, and I'm really excited to run it again this year.  Here's a look at how my training went this week:


Rest Day!


4 miles
We've been having such nice, cool weather lately, so when it was over 80 degrees on this run I was really struggling.  I wish I went running in the morning, but I waited until after work and paid the price.

Yoga / 45:00
Normal Tuesday lunch time yoga session!  It's been a while since I went to this class so I was struggling a bit.


Rest Day!


3.03 miles / 27:15 / 8:59 pace
For this run, I actually did run before work, and it's amazing how great I felt!  I didn't feel like I was pushing myself at all, so I was shocked to see my time when I finished.  I'll have to keep this in mind when I want to skip another early morning workout!


Cardio DVD / 30:00
I wanted to go for a run, but it was pouring rain all day and my driveway got flooded!  Instead, I stayed inside and did an exercise tape.


4 miles
It was still a little rainy in the morning, but luckily the roads were clear.  Nice and easy run around the neighborhood!


9 miles / 1:27:16 / 9:41 pace
I had to work Saturday night and Sunday morning, then did some work on the house, so I ended up running pretty late in the day.  It was warm out and I was really sore, so I kept my pace slow and comfortable.  Caught up on some podcasts and generally had a fun run!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Top Five Friday #72

TGIF!  This has been a busy week month at work, and I'll actually be working all weekend as well.  Even though it's a busy time, I'm loving the project and I keep telling myself these 12 hour work days won't last forever!

I have some fun things to share with you all today, so let's get to the Friday Favorites!

Beer Museum!

In case you don't know, beer is my favorite beverage.  I'm not sure if it's the German in me or what, but any time I want to relax at the end of a long day, go out with friends, or watch any sports- I love to have a nice beer to sip on.  So, I was really excited when I heard that a beer museum is being planned for Pittsburgh!  There aren't a lot of specific details out yet, but I love looking through the artist's images (like the one above) and I can not WAIT to hear more.


Even though the weather has been a little warmer this week, I'm in such a fall loving mood lately.  There are so many trees in our back yard that are turning beautiful colors, pumpkins and other decorations are all over, and most mornings and evenings are perfectly crisp.  Besides drinking lots of pumpkin beer, I'm also sipping tons of apple cider and basking in the fall wonderland!

Reed's Extra Ginger Brew

I love ginger flavored anything, especially mixing up my own Moscow Mules!  Reed's is one of my favorite flavors of ginger beer to get, because it tastes great, is easy to find, and is affordable.  I was really excited when I saw the "extra" ginger flavor, which gives even more of a kick!  I mix this with apple cider and bourbon for a little fall mule, or drink it alone for a yummy afternoon pick-me-up (note- this isn't alcoholic!)

Leslie's List on Cupcakes and Cashmere

I've been following the Cupcakes and Cashmere blog for years (in fact, I'm pretty sure that's the first blog that I ever read!).  While I've been a loyal reader, I have to admit that most of the posts didn't seem to relate to me (we don't really have the same style, she lives in LA and is a mom, plus she's a cat lady while I'm all about dogs!).  Emily recently added some new staff to her team, and I can relate so much to Leslie- a 20 something who recently moved from the East Coast.  I have a lot in common with her and love her writing style, so I was really excited to see her new weekly feature called Leslie's List.  Each week she shares recipes, books, podcasts, shows, crafts, and more!  Here is a link to her most recent one (I added her book suggestion to my Overdrive wait list!).

90s Music

Sometimes I go through weird phases of music (country, 80s rock, classical, and Latin are a few that come up pretty regularly), and this week was 90s pop!  I grew up in the 90s, so all of these songs brought up tons of good memories of elementary school and middle school.  It's so funny to watch the videos now (especially B*Witched...what the what).  Here are some of my favorites:

B*Witched - C'est la vie - the video has it all: cheesy choreography, an Irish stepping dance break, butterfly clips..what more could you ask for?

Mariah Carey - Fantasy - Anyone else immediately think of the opening of Rush Hour when you hear this song?

La Bouche - Sweet Dreams - Ahhh yesssss just fist pump the night away while you blast this!

Nsync - It's Gonna Be Me - I was always an NSync girl, and I made up so many dances to their songs with my friends growing up!

Have a great weekend!
What other great 90s songs am I missing?
linking up with Heather and Erika!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tasty Tuesday : Pumpkin Crazy

Hi everyone and Happy Tuesday!  I'm excited to debut a new series I'll be starting on my blog, called Tasty Tuesday.  As you can probably guess by the title, every Tuesday I'll be talking about something food-related.  This could be a recipe, food review, or trying out a crazy Pinterest recipe.  I love food and cooking, so I can't wait for Tuesdays to come by every week!  I even made this cute little graphic with some of my ideas:

Today we're going to get things started by talking about all things pumpkin- namely at Trader Joe's.  If you're lucky enough to live by a Trader Joe's, you know that every fall, pumpkin madness takes over.  There are so many crazy products to try out, but not enough time (or money).  So, I'm here today to share a few reviews of pumpkin goodies that I've tried.  Bonus- all of these items are vegan!  Keep reading to find out what I LOVED and what you can pass on.

Pumpkin Spice Almond Beverage

Cost - $1.79 for 32 oz
Rating - 9/10
I thought this would be a really sweet, fake tasting almond milk but was pleasantly surprised when I actually tried it.  This comes out pretty thick (about the consistency of yogurt), and just has a hint of pumpkin and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.  I prefer to add this to my coffee in the morning, and it's amazing!  If you like the idea of a pumpkin spice latte but want it to be stronger and less sweet, try this out!

Pumpkin Spice K-Cups

Cost - $5.59 for 12 cups
Rating - 10/10
To be honest, I already knew that I loved this coffee so I had to include it!  I get these K-cups every fall to enjoy at work, and they're probably my favorite flavor of all time.  The pumpkin is subtle but strong enough to taste, and the coffee itself is amazing!  These are super cheap too, so you can't lose.

Fall Harvest Salsa

Cost - $2.99 for 12 oz
Rating - 4/10
I'm a huge pumpkin lover (as we've established) and an even bigger salsa lover, so I thought this would be a slam dunk!  Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations.  It was pretty spicy, and didn't have any distinguishable flavors.  All of the fall harvest ingredients were way too subtle for me!

Pumpkin Tortilla Chips

Cost - $1.99 for 7 oz
Rating - 6/10
I feel so conflicted about these chips, because they're really good but I don't get any pumpkin flavor out of them!  They're really crispy and delicious, but they just taste like a salted tortilla chip.  As far as a pumpkin chip these are a miss, but if you're just looking for something to dip into hummus or salsa these are great!

Pumpkin Joe Joe's

Cost - $2.99 for 10.5 oz
Rating - 8/10
I've never tried regular Joe-Joe's (TJ's version of Oreo's) before, but I'm going to have to!  The pumpkin version is really good and sweet- perfect when you have a craving for some pumpkin goodness.  I especially love these paired with some of my pumpkin spice coffee!

What pumpkin foods are you loving?
What else do you want to see during Tasty Tuesday??

linking up with Amanda

Monday, October 17, 2016

Weekend Update

Happy Monday everyone!  I had a really fun and busy weekend, so today I'm going to recap it with you all.  I usually share my week of workouts on Monday, but this was a mostly rest week after my half marathon.  Instead of a bunch of days that just say "REST DAY!!" I thought it would be more fun to share what I did this weekend when Dan's family was in town!

Here are some highlights:

On Friday, I went on my first run after the race.  I usually take a full week off, but I have another race coming up in a few weeks and I felt fine by Wednesday.  I just went on a nice and easy run around the neighborhood.

Dan's family got to our house just in time for dinner, and we went up to Pig Iron Public House.  I've been wanting to go here for dinner because they have a lot of local beers and source a lot of their ingredients from local businesses.  All of their burgers can be substituted for a black bean burger, so I ended up getting one with English cucumber, arugula, pickled red onion, pear, cranberry balsamic, along with a beer flight and a side of Brussels sprouts (best part of the meal).

On Saturday morning, we woke up early to take a tour of North Park, which was packed full of bikers, runners and walkers.  As you can tell, it was a gorgeous day!

Afterwards, we headed to Schenley Park for their Citiparks Game Day. There was a live band playing, food vendors, and tons of games.  My mom met up with us, and we played corn hole, Jenga, Connect Four, and more!

We headed across to the street to go to Phipps.

We checked out all of the beautiful flower arrangements, and I loved the fall scenes with pumpkins and apples.  Every time I stop back here there's a new theme (you can check out some pictures of the Winter lights display here!)

On our way back, we had to stop at Mount Washington to get the stereotypical Pittsburgh photos.

For dinner we went to Mad Mex, and I got the best tacos ever- crispy marinated tofu, cilantro, bean sprouts, sliced avocado, Pico de gallo, and vegan sour cream.  Seriously amazing!  After dinner, we headed home and ended up watching The Imitation Game.

On Sunday morning, I woke up early to go on a "long" run of 5 miles around the neighborhood.   There was a beautiful sunrise, along with lots of wild life! (I saw four turkeys, three deer, and lots of squirrels and bunnies).

We all went to the National Aviary!  Even though I've lived by it my entire life, I've only been there once during a field trip in elementary school.  It was so amazing and I'll definitely be back!  We got to feed a few different types of birds (including these Lorikeets!) and see the baby sloth up close and personal.  He's not even a year old and already famous- last week he was on the Ellen Show!

We hung out there for a while, then went to IHOP for lunch before everyone headed home.

How was your weekend?
Are you a bird lover?
What wild life lives around you?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Top Five Friday #71

Happy Friday everyone!  This week flew by thanks to the Monday holiday, and I'm excited for the weekend.  Dan's family is coming to visit, and they're the first guests staying with us at our new house.  I can't wait to show them around the city and have a few fun plans already.  I also have lots of fun things to share today for Top Five Friday, so let's get right to it.


Earlier this week, I picked up the starburst mirrors you see above at Target.  I knew that I wanted them on this wall, but couldn't decide how I wanted to hang them.  I couldn't picture how they would look, so I decided to try to use Photoshop to visualize what I was thinking.

Guys- this is life changing!  It made it so much easier to pay around and move things on the computer rather than trying it in real life and making lots of holes.  I'm still a Photoshop novice, so getting to this point was very time-consuming, but now I'll be doing this in other areas of my house!

Finished Work Space

To go along with my last point- I just finished my work station in our spare room and I love it!  I actually shared a post on this on my home blog (check it out!!), but this is one of my favorite spots in our house.  I love the view and it's so much easier to work here rather than laying down in bed (like I used to).  

Amazon Echo

I actually got an Echo a few weeks ago at work, and loved it so much that I got one for home as well.  I absolutely love this thing!  The speaker quality is amazing, and the capabilities of the program is just mind-blowing.  There are so many things that you can "teach" Alexa to do, and now I feel like I have another roommate living in my house.  If you're in the market for a new speaker system and don't want to spend a fortune, I would look into the Echo!


You all know that I started a vegan diet back in July, but I also recently started getting into cruelty-free products and vegan (AKA non-leather) clothes.  During my research I found Beautycounter, which is a company that's dedicated to making safer products.  What that means is taking out all of the chemicals and fillers that are dangerous to users and going above and beyond the FDA standards.  It's an amazing company, and luckily they just started selling a few products at Target!

I was fortunate enough to get to try out one of Beautycounter's products, the Lip Sheer in "Plum".  I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the product- the packaging is beautiful, it has a light vanilla scent that actually smells natural and not like a bunch of chemicals, the formula is creamy and hydrating, and the color is perfect for fall.  While I love deep shades when it cools down, I prefer a sheer formula.  If you do as well, this product is for you!  It's easy to build up, but it can also be worn more sheer as you can see below.

I could keep talking about Beautycounter and how inspiring the company is, but first I need to try out more of their products!  Like I said, they're available at Target now, or you can find their entire range online.  I'll be ordering some of their holiday sets that they're releasing..just look at how gorgeous they are!

(p.s. I got sent the lip sheer, but I'm not being paid for this review!)

The Voice

I've admittedly been awful about keeping up with TV this fall, but one show I've been following religiously is The Voice.  I was originally most excited to see Miley as a coach (and I think she's doing an amazing job), but I have to admit I have a huge woman crush on Alicia Keys right now.  She seems like such an incredible, caring, thoughtful person.  When she's talking with contestants, she always asks thought-provoking questions and brings out the best in her singers.  I was always a huge fan of her music, and now I'm just a fan of her as a person! 

What are your plans this weekend?
Who else is watching The Voice?
Any other natural makeup/skincare brand recommendations?

linking up with Heather and Erika

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Reading Lately

Happy Thursday everyone!  I was inspired by my blogging buddy Kristen to share some of my recent reads today.  While I am no where close to reading as much as her, I made it a goal to read more this year and have been doing great so far!  Some books I've absolutely loved, some were not so good, and others were life-changing.

Today I'm going to go through a few memorable books that I've read.  I'll give you the summary from Amazon, a few of my thoughts, a rating, and say if I would recommend it or not.  Hope you enjoy!  (p.s. links to the book are all affiliate links)

Summary : Libby Miller has always been an unwavering optimist—but when her husband drops a bomb on their marriage the same day a doctor delivers devastating news, she realizes her rose-colored glasses have actually been blinding her.

With nothing left to lose, she abandons her life in Chicago for the clear waters and bright beaches of the Caribbean for what might be her last hurrah. Despite her new sunny locale, her plans go awry when she finds that she can’t quite outrun the past or bring herself to face an unknowable future. Every day of tropical bliss may be an invitation to disaster, but with her twin brother on her trail and a new relationship on the horizon, Libby is determined to forget about fate. Will she risk it all to live—and love—a little longer?

My Thoughts : Easy read that's at some times depressing, some times aggravating, but always hilarious
Rating : 7/10

Read If... : You love reading about exotic locations and exotic men

Summary : The art of love is never a science: Meet Don Tillman, a brilliant yet socially inept professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers.

Rosie Jarman possesses all these qualities. Don easily disqualifies her as a candidate for The Wife Project (even if she is “quite intelligent for a barmaid”). But Don is intrigued by Rosie’s own quest to identify her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on The Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie―and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you. 

My Thoughts : Cute story with a quirky main character that gave the book a different feel from most love stories
Rating : 8/10
Read If... : Your favorite genre is romantic comedy and you're looking for something fresh

Summary : At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?  In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

My Thoughts : Interesting concept to think about how different your life can be depending on the choices you make, and luckily easy to follow the two story lines
Rating : 9/10
Read If... : You love the concept of the "butterfly effect" or multiple dimensions

Summary : Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

My Thoughts : So many twists and turns up until the very last word- definitely a page turner
Rating : 9.5/10
Read If... : Creepy stories and characters are your thing and you liked Gone Girl

Summary : Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event. He is a committed cheater. She lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds. She likes to settle scores. He decides to play for keeps. She has nothing left to lose. Told in alternating voices, The Silent Wife is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept. Expertly plotted and reminiscent of Gone Girl and These Things Hidden, The Silent Wife ensnares the reader from page one and does not let go.

My Thoughts : Interesting concept with a poor execution that never really lived up to its promise
Rating : 2/10
Read If... : There's nothing else available..seriously, avoid this book

Summary : Travis Parker has everything a man could want: a good job, loyal friends, even a waterfront home in small-town North Carolina. In full pursuit of the good life - boating, swimming , and regular barbecues with his good-natured buddies -- he holds the vague conviction that a serious relationship with a woman would only cramp his style. That is, until Gabby Holland moves in next door. Spanning the eventful years of young love, marriage and family, THE CHOICE ultimately confronts us with the most heartwrenching question of all: how far would you go to keep the hope of love alive?

My Thoughts : Sweet love story with a controversial start and a heart-breaking choice that made me think- what would I do if I was in the same position?!
Rating : 8/10
Read If... : You love Nicholas Sparks's love stories

Summary : To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.  Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack's curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating--a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

My Thoughts : I'm not sure if it was the writing style or hype surrounding it, but I could not get into this book and didn't enjoy it at all.
Rating : 3/10
Read If... : You want to see what the hype is all about (I would recommend the movie over the book)

Summary : A canny young woman is struggling to survive by perpetrating various levels of mostly harmless fraud. On a rainy April morning, she is reading auras at Spiritual Palms when Susan Burke walks in. A keen observer of human behavior, our unnamed narrator immediately diagnoses beautiful, rich Susan as an unhappy woman eager to give her lovely life a drama injection. However, when the "psychic" visits the eerie Victorian home that has been the source of Susan’s terror and grief, she realizes she may not have to pretend to believe in ghosts anymore. Miles, Susan’s teenage stepson, doesn’t help matters with his disturbing manner and grisly imagination. The three are soon locked in a chilling battle to discover where the evil truly lurks and what, if anything, can be done to escape it.

“The Grownup,” which originally appeared as “What Do You Do?” in George R. R. Martin’s Rogues anthology, proves once again that Gillian Flynn is one of the world’s most original and skilled voices in fiction.

My Thoughts : I don't know how Flynn packed so much drama and suspense in such a short story, but this was fascinating, thrilling, scary, and surprising
Rating : 10/10
Read If... : You only have 30 minutes to read a book (or you're looking for anything to read!)

Summary : A chance encounter on a rain-swept road will alter the course of both Colin and Maria's lives, challenging deeply held assumptions about each other and ultimately, themselves. As love unexpectedly takes hold between them, they dare to envision what a future together could possibly look like . . . until menacing reminders of events in Maria's past begin to surface.

Rich in emotion and fueled with suspense, SEE ME reminds us that love is sometimes forged in the crises that threaten to shatter us . . . and that those who see us for who we truly are may not always be the ones easiest to recognize.

My Thoughts : Slightly creepy take on a love story with some build-up and a small twist, but overall a little too slow-paced for my liking
Rating : 6/10
Read If... : You like Nicholas Sparks but want a slightly darker love story

Summary : Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.

My Thoughts : Very interesting look at a fictional depiction of Charles Manson but a bit too explicit
Rating : 8.5/10
Read If... : You aren't easily turned away by violence and sex

Summary : Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart.

My Thoughts : SUCH an incredible story, but took a lot of time to read because of the intricate writing style and the use of multiple points of view and timelines
Rating : 9.5/10
Read If... : You don't mind spending a lot of time on a book and want a fresh, new story

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