Book Reviews: July 2015

book reviews, what i read, to kill a mockingbird review, go set a watchman review, i capture the castle review

First of all, I have to say thank you for all of your amazing comments on my last post. All of your heartfelt condolences and kind thoughts are truly helping me. As I mentioned, reading continues to be a much-needed escape for me, so I wanted to go through the books that I finished in July.

I-Capture I’d wanted to read this book for a while because I’ve heard so many people say good things about it. Cassandra is a young teenager living in a run-down castle in the countryside. Her family is rather eccentric and Cassandra wants to be a writer, so this novel is her “capturing” her daily life in her journal. I really enjoyed Cassandra as a character and narrator. She has excellent observational skills and her witty commentary made me chuckle more than once. I didn’t love the book as much as other people do, but I think it’s a good read and I’m glad I finally picked it up.

To-Kill Once I heard about Go Set a Watchman, I knew that I wanted to reread To Kill a Mockingbird. I hadn’t read it since 8th grade, so I was definitely due for a reread before picking up the new book. This was just as good as I remembered. Scout is a young girl growing up in the South in the 1930s. It’s a coming-of-tale and throughout the novel Scout begins to learn important lessons about race and humanity. Scout as a narrator is A+. I love how she refuses to conform into the mold of a typical young Southern lady. With rereads I often wonder if the book will hold up to my previous memories and this one definitely did.

Harry-Potter-6 I continued my quest to read the entire Harry Potter series from beginning to end. I finished book 6 last month and I also started book 7 (but didn’t finish until August). There’s not too much I can say about the plot, in case that there are people like me who haven’t read the series yet. I will say that I knew about the thing that happens at the end, but I was a bit surprised because I thought it happened in the final book (can I be any more cryptic?).

Go-Set Go Set a Watchman is only the second book I’ve ever preordered (the first was Yes Please). I was very curious about this one. It was written before TKAM, but takes place afterward. Scout is about 26 in this novel and goes back to visit her family in Maycomb, Alabama. Not much has changed in the town, but the characters aren’t entirely as we remember them. My feelings are pretty meh about this book. For me, it just wasn’t up to par with TKAM (granted, that’s a pretty high bar to reach). The writing wasn’t nearly as good and you could see that this was a draft. The story is rather jumbled and I wasn’t too pleased with the direction she took the characters in. Still, I’m glad I read this because I wanted to form my own opinion. It also doesn’t change my feelings about TKAM and perhaps if I hadn’t reread it right before picking up GSAM, there wouldn’t have been such a stark contrast.

If you ever want to know what I’m reading at the moment, I’m pretty good about updating my Goodreads. Do you use Goodreads too? What’s been your favorite read so far this summer?

The Unexpected

purple sunset

I thought long and hard about whether or not I should write this post, but in the end, I knew I had to let this out. Three weeks ago, my youngest brother passed away in a drowning accident.

To be honest, it still doesn’t feel real. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity as we planned services and events to commemorate his life. We also had family come to visit from all over; our house was overflowing with people. His memorial service was last weekend and the majority of our visitors have returned home, so things are finally starting to settle down.

Over the weeks, my family has received such an outpouring of love from friends and from our local community here in California, and I’m so grateful for that. People have sent me flowers, called, and sent messages. Even though I haven’t been able to respond to them all, I’ve read every single one and it does help.

People have sent their condolences and many have said, “I don’t know what to say.” I completely understand. I don’t know what to say either. I’m still home in California and I just want to spend as much time as I can with my family before I have to go back to New York.

Different emotions come and go. Planning his services kept me busy so I felt ok for a bit. Sometimes though, it feels like there’s a vice gripping my chest, squeezing until I can’t breathe anymore. Sometimes I feel an overwhelming sadness when I think about how young he was (15), and all of the life that he had yet to experience.

They say to take it one day at a time and that’s what I’m trying to do. Being here with my family helps the most- I don’t remember the last time we were able to spend this much time together. I’m also falling back on the little things that make me happy: escaping into a book, painting my nails, and continuing my Friends marathon.

Who know what’s going to happen on this space in the future, but thank you for letting me pour out a little bit of my heart here today. This is going to sound cliché, but maybe you can do me this one little favor- hold your loved ones tight every chance you get.

(image via)

Home Refresh 01.

home ideas, bedroom refresh, bedroom ideas, home refresh, bedroom ideas for women

So I got some good news a couple weeks ago- I don’t have to move! Oh man, what a relief. As soon as we received that happy news, my brain went into full-on redecoration mode. A little while ago, I wrote a post about how I wanted to refresh my bedroom. I’ve made a bit of progress on that list, so I thought I’d start a mini series here on the blog to keep you updated with my redecorating process (I’ve also been snapchatting [username: starcrossedsmil] the process and using the tag #scshome on Instagram).

The first room I wanted to tackle in the apartment is my bedroom. I spend a lot of time in here and I was really itching for a change. I should show you what my room looked like before…

home ideas, bedroom refresh, bedroom ideas, home refresh, bedroom ideas for women

home ideas, bedroom refresh, bedroom ideas, home refresh, bedroom ideas for women, nail polish organization

A few weeks ago, I took down all of the pictures and stuff hanging on my wall, moved most of my furniture out into the living room, and painted my walls white. I have a little tradition where I ask my friends to help me paint and reward them with wine and treats, so a couple friends came by that Saturday to help me.

I picked up my paint a few days before, and boy was it hard to narrow down the shade of white that I wanted! I actually went to the hardware store three times that week: once to look at all 50 gajillion shades of white, a second time to actually buy painting supplies, and a third time between coats when I was afraid I was going to run out of paint.

home ideas, bedroom refresh, bedroom ideas, home refresh, bedroom ideas for women

home ideas, bedroom refresh, bedroom ideas, home refresh, bedroom ideas for women

home ideas, bedroom refresh, bedroom ideas, home refresh, bedroom ideas for women

I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I feel good about the color I chose (Simply White from Benjamin Moore) and it makes my room feel brand new. Since I had to move most of my stuff to paint, I also wanted to take that opportunity to have a major clear out. I got rid of some junk, started a Goodwill donation pile, and set aside a few things that I’d like to send home to California. I also took a trip to The Container Store (a.k.a. the best place ever) to pick up a few things to help me get more organized. Since a lot of things are tucked under my bed or in my closet, you wouldn’t notice a difference at first glance, but I feel much more organized.

home ideas, bedroom refresh, bedroom ideas, home refresh, bedroom ideas for women

I think that’s about it for this first installment (above is a blurry peek at what it looks like now)! My walls are looking rather blank at the moment, so I’m on the hunt for pictures/artwork to put up. I’m also working on a few more things from my list. I bought a new bookshelf, which I’ll try to feature in an upcoming post, and I’ve got some marble contact paper working it’s way to my mailbox now.

Long Weekend

fourth of july weekend, fourth of july, j crew, dough doughnut, donut, fourth of july nail polish

Long weekends are the best weekends, don’t you think?

FRIDAY

My roommate and I met a couple of my friends for lunch at Barn Joo. I’d been there for drinks before and liked the ambience, so I was looking forward to sampling more of their food. I ordered the Bulgogi Burger which was quite tasty and came with seasoned fries and house made lemonade. The restaurant was rather empty while we were there and our waitress was great. All of the dishes we ordered were good, so I’d definitely eat there again.

After lunch, my sweet tooth insisted that we pop over to Dough, which is close by. My friends and I then walked back to our apartment, where we played Cards Against Originality on our phones (it’s just like Cards Against Humanity). I’d never played before, but it was good fun.

I’d planned to make a pie over the weekend and earlier in the day I’d made the crust and left it to chill in the fridge. Later in the evening, I decided to bake the pie (strawberry and raspberry) with the help of my friend. We were overtaken by the baking bug, so when my friend suggested we also make a three-layer cake, I said yes! This meant a couple more trips to the store for ingredients and we were baking well into the night. By then we were rather tired, so once the cakes came out of the oven, I decided I’d let them cool and assemble the cake the next day.

SATURDAY

The Fourth started off rather gloomy and drizzly. We had no set plans for the day, so I started watching Season 2 of The Fall, which is such a great show. I finally got my lazy butt out of bed and went to work on the cake. It took a little finangling with the layers, and at one point I was running out of frosting and had to improvise, but in the end I’m happy with the way the cake turned out.

It was nice having such a chill day. My roommate and I watched several episodes of Gilmore Girls. We’re now about midway through the final season. We’re on a bit of a time crunch because we’ve been rewatching the series together and my roommate is moving away in a few weeks. When the fireworks started around 9:30pm, we were able to see them from his window, so we oooohed and ahhhhed over them for a bit (well, I  was doing all of the oooohing and ahhhhing because I love fireworks). Also, by this point I was nearing sweetness overload because that day I had a donut for breakfast, ice-cream in the early evening, iced coffee, a slice of pie, and a huge slice of cake. Cue the sugar coma!

SUNDAY

Sundays for me are always for taking care of business and preparing for the week ahead. I worked on the next video for my youtube channel, tidied up my room a bit, and ran a couple errands. Then a few of us met up with our friend who was visiting from Boston at La Colombe. It was great to catch up and see her before she moves away from the East Coast for business school.

What did you get up to this past weekend?

fourth of july weekend, fourth of july, 4th of july recipe, patriotic pie, creative pie crusts