Erin Condren Life Planner 2015 Review

This review is long past due. I’ve referred hundreds of people to Erin Condren, but never wrote a review on my Life Planner (I did write one about my old planner, a Plum Paper, if you wanted to check that out). Well, it’s time to change that!

 

Cover

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State of the Union Reaction and Afterthoughts

I cannot even imagine what State of the Unions were like before social media. Last night, I spent the duration of the SOTU on Twitter, following along with the hashtag, of course, to keep up with the public’s reaction throughout the live broadcast.

 

Although I’m definitely not Obama’s biggest fan, I will admit that he’s a top-notch public speaker. However, despite the level of confidence he displays while speaking, I always struggle to believe the promises he makes. This is because of his lack of support and rationality behind his promises.

 

It was suggested by the Twitter community that the theme of the 2015 SOTU was supposed to be helping rebuild the stability of the middle class. I quickly realized that rumor was false. I say this because President Obama delivered a lot of promises to make things “free” for Americans, such as two years of community college, childcare and more.

Now let’s take a step back and think. When was the last time anything was ever truly free? Probably never. Basic necessities we need to survive, such as water, aren’t even free — hell, at movie theaters, they charge about $4.50 for a bottle of water — so how can our president promise to provide a two-year community college education for free? Here’s the answer, he can’t.

Let’s rationalize this by looking at one of the biggest issues here: who is going to pay the professors if tuition is free? Hmm… maybe tax-paying citizens? Ding, ding, ding! How is giving people even more free handouts helping the middle class? It isn’t. Raising our taxes is building even more debt and putting more stress on our economy.

I wasn’t the only person who thought this way and tried to rationalize.

Senator of the United States Rand Paul, in his video response to the State of the Union, stated, “As a physician, I was taught to, first, do no harm. To think before you act. To analyze the unintended consequences of your actions. I think America would be better off if all politicians took the same approach.” Rand also Tweeted throughout the SOTU:

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Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, put out a news release three hours prior to the president’s address. In the release, Huckabee stated, “There are two things certain about the Obama administration—debt and taxes. I’m not surprised that in this State of the Union address, President Obama will introduce another plan for more taxes. After growing our national debt by $7.5 trillion dollars since taking office, it’s ridiculous for the president to propose $320 billion dollars in new taxes.”

Mr. Huckabee, your predictions were true.

 

Now, I’m no politician. I’m simply a college-aged American citizen hoping to share some of my thoughts. However, I believe we, as a nation, need to take a step back and rationalize before believing these promises our president made will be beneficial to our country as a whole.

 

I also want to leave you with a few Tweets I found particularly enjoyable:

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A Year of Reading – 2014 Edition Book Reviews

L ast year, I did a review of all the books I read in 2013. I got a lot of good feedback, so I figured I would do a review of all the books I read in 2014. I was seriously slacking this past year when it came to reading because I can only remember 12 books I read. So either I only read 12 books, which is depressing, or I have an awful memory.

Anyway, if you’re like me and you love to read, check out my list below of all the books I read this year and what I thought of them. I hope you’ll discover a new favorite book after you check these ones out. These are all fiction novels, ranging from romance to mystery (I was on a mystery kick this year), and are great books for a young adult or college-aged reader.

Click on the book title for more information and reviews via GoodReads.

The Best:

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Dark Places – Gillian Flynn – Mystery, Thriller (10/10)

Libby Day was seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, behind bars. Since then, she had been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back? She begins to realize that everyone in her family had something to hide that day. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find. 

I read both Gone Girl and Sharp Objects in 2013 and decided I needed to read the third and final book by Gillian Flynn. I’m so glad I did because I enjoyed this one the most! In case you can’t guess based on its name, the book is a little dark so be aware there are some parts that are difficult to read. However, the storyline is brilliant and keeps you hooked all the way through to the last page. Seriously, add this to your to-read list right now!

The Quickie – James Patterson – Mystery, Suspense (9/10)

Lauren Stillwell is not your average damsel in distress. When the NYPD cop discovers her husband leaving a hotel with another woman, she decides to beat him at his own game. But her revenge goes dangerously awry, and she finds her world spiraling into a hell that becomes more terrifying by the hour. In a further twist of fate, Lauren must take on a job that threatens everything she stands for. Now, she’s paralyzed by a deadly secret that could tear her life apart. With her job and marriage on the line, Lauren’s desire for retribution becomes a lethal inferno as she fights to save her livelihood–and her life. 

Don’t judge the book by the title, this is definitely not a romance novel. James Patterson’s books are so enjoyable to read. The chapters are super short and you fly through the book. I read this entire book in just a few hours, then raved about it to my mom until she decided to read it. My roommate was the one who recommended this book to me. She doesn’t read books often but said she loved this one, so I figured it couldn’t be too bad.

 

Honeymoon – James Patterson – Mystery, Suspense (8/10)

How does it feel to be desired by every man and envied by every woman? Wonderful. This is the life Nora Sinclair has dreamed about, the life she’s worked hard for, the life she will never give up. She doesn’t just attract men, she enthralls them. So why is FBI agent John O’Hara interested in Nora Sinclair? Mysterious things happen to people around her, especially the men. And there is something dangerous about Nora, something that lures O’Hara at the same time that it fills him with fear. Is something dark hidden in the gaps of her past? As O’Hara spends more and more time getting to know her, is he pursuing justice? Or his own fatal obsession? 

Another James Patterson book I flew through. This one was a fun read and I’d recommend it as a spring break or summer read. And once again, not a romance (despite the title).

 

Dangerous Girls – Abigail Haas -Mystery, Crime (9/10)

It’s Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations. As Anna sets out to find her friend’s killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love. As she awaits the judge’s decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine…  

“Wouldn’t we all look guilty, if someone searched hard enough?” This book was incredible. It is very similar to the Amanda Knox trial. A group of friends go on vacation together, one friend is murdered and her best friend is accused of the crime. Mind-blowing book. Even more mind-blowing ending. I was literally sitting in my room speechless and in shock after I finished. Read this one.

 

Ugly Love – Colleen Hoover – Drama, Romance (8.5/10)

 When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she knows it isn’t love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her. Never ask about the past. Don’t expect a future. They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all. Hearts get infiltrated. Promises get broken. Rules get shattered. Love gets ugly. 

Another great book by Colleen Hoover, author of Hopeless (my favorite book). Like always, Hoover throws in a bunch of twists you don’t see coming. This book shows that love isn’t always pretty. It can be complicated, confusing, difficult. I cried a few times while reading this book, but when a book makes you cry then you know it’s good!

 

Where I Belong (Alabama Summer, #1) – J. Daniels – Romance, definitely (8/10)

When Mia Corelli returns to Alabama for a summer of fun with her childhood best friend, Tessa, there’s only one thing keeping her on edge. One person that she’d do anything to avoid. Benjamin Kelly. World’s biggest dickhead. Mia hates him with a fury and has no desire to ever see him again. When she decides to start her summer off with a bang and finally give away her v-card, she unknowingly hands it over to the one guy that excelled at making her life miserable, learning a valuable lesson in the process. Always get the name of the guy you’re going home with. Ben can’t get the girl he spent one night with out of his head. When she leaves him the next morning, he thinks he’ll never see her again. Until he sees her lounging by the pool with his sister. Mia is determined to hate Ben, even though she can’t forget him. Ben is determined to prove he’s not the same guy he used to be. What happens when the one person you wish never existed becomes the one person you can’t imagine being without? 

Over the summer, my friend Alzira was reading this one and told me about it. Usually I don’t read too many romance books, but I’m glad I did because immediately after beginning the book, I fell in love. She and I read it at the same time and discussed it as we went along. The characters are very dynamic and easy to relate to, which is what distinguishes a good book from a great book. This is definitely a good beach/poolside read.

 

 

Enjoyable to Read

———

Sleep Tight – Rachel Abbott – Mystery, Thriller (7.5/10)

When Olivia Brookes calls the police to report that her husband and children are missing, she believes she will never see them again. She has reason to fear the worst; this isn’t the first tragedy that Olivia has experienced. Now, two years later, Detective Chief Inspector Tom Douglas is called in to investigate this family again, but this time it’s Olivia who has disappeared. All the evidence suggests that she was here, in the family home, that morning. But her car is in the garage, and her purse is in her handbag – on the kitchen table. The police want to issue a national appeal, but for some reason every single picture of this family has been removed from albums, from phones, from computers. And then they find the blood… Has the past caught up with Olivia? Sleep Tight – if you can. You never know who’s watching. 

When my sister moved into school, we had to drive all her stuff down. It was an eight hour car ride so, naturally, I read. I chose this one for the ride back. So imagine me, in the back seat of a truck with my eyes glued to this book for eight hours. Actually, you don’t need to imagine it because my mom took a picture:

SleepTight

Considering I read it all in one sitting and never got bored of the story, I would say that’s a good sign I enjoyed it!

 

All Around The Town – Mary Higgins Clark – Mystery, Crime (7.5/10)

When Laurie Kenyon, a twenty-one-year-old student, is accused of murdering her English professor, she has no memory of the crime. Her fingerprints, however, are everywhere. When she asks her sister, attorney Sarah, to mount her defense, Sarah brings in psychiatrist Justin Donnelly. Kidnapped at the age of four and victimized for two years, Laurie has developed astounding coping skills. Only when the unbearable memories of those lost years are released can the truth of the crime come out—and only then can the final sadistic plan of her abductor, whose obsession is stronger than ever, be revealed. 

I’ve read this book many times in the past and have seen the movie as well. However, I decided I wanted to read it again. This is my ultimate favorite mystery novel. There’s a reason Mary Higgins Clark is the “queen of suspense.”

 

The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty – Mystery, (6.5/10)

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret. 

My mom read this first and loved it. However, I had a hard time getting through it. The storyline was very slow and I kept starting another book and coming back to this one. Once I finally got into it (about half way through the book), I enjoyed it. So if you’re one of the few people who have the motivation to get through a few boring chapters, try this book out because in the end, I’m glad I read it.

 

Before I Fall – Lauren Oliver – YA, Drama (6/10)

 

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night. However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined. 

This is a young-adult book, but had a gripping plot. My sister read it a few years ago and suggested it to me and I finally got around to reading it in 2014 while away for a few days in North Carolina. It was an enjoyable read, but I wouldn’t say it’s anything special. If the plot sounds interesting, then I suggest reading it. Otherwise, you’re not really missing out on anything.

 

Not The Greatest

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Ashes to Ashes – Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian – YA, Fantasy, Drama (4/10)

 

New Year’s Eve ended with a bang and Mary, Kat and Lillia may not be prepared for what is to come. After Rennie’s death, Kat and Lillia try to put the pieces together of what happened to her. They both blame themselves. If Lillia hadn’t left with Reeve… If Kat had only stayed with Rennie… Things could have been different. Now they will never be the same. Only Mary knows the truth about that night. About what she is. She also knows the truth about Lillia and Reeve falling in love, about Reeve being happy when all he deserves is misery, just like the misery he caused her. Now their childish attempts at revenge are a thing of the past and Mary is out for blood. Will she leave anything in her wake or will all that remain be ashes? 

This was the final book in the Burn for Burn trilogy. I loved the first book and liked the second book, but the third one didn’t do the series justice. It was a little corny.

 

Maybe Someday – Colleen Hoover – Romance, Drama (3/10)

At twenty-two years old, Sydney has a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her best friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers Hunter’s cheating on her–and she is left trying to decide what to do next. Sydney becomes captivated by Ridge, her mysterious neighbor. She can’t take her eyes off him or stop listening to the passionate way he plays his guitar every evening out on his balcony. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either. When their inevitable encounter happens, they soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one. 

This is the first Colleen Hoover book I disliked. The plot was kind of dull. I kept waiting for something big to happen, which motivated me to keep reading, but then the book ended without anything interesting happening. I know a few people who enjoyed this one, so maybe it was just me. But since this is my review, I’m only giving it a three out of ten.

 

 

Now it’s your turn to recommend a book to me. Let me know if you have any books in mind that you think I’d enjoy. I’m always open to new book recommendations!

Thanks everyone, and have another year of happy reading 🙂

This Illusion – A Short Story

Prologue:

Becca and Danielle Taylor hated the way people looked at them, but after four years, they had grown used to it. Becca dragged her feet down the hallway on the last day before winter break of her senior year would officially begin. Students grew chatty, all impatient and excited for the final bell to ring, except Becca. Winter breaks weren’t the same at her house without her parents. Dread evoked every time she had to help Danielle decorate their house, in Edgewater, NJ, which was much too big for the two of them alone. Decorating meant hanging only two stockings, not four anymore. Memories that blossomed from that time of year made it impossible for her to forget what had happened. It was the beginning of December when the officer knocked on their front door, bearing the bad news that James and Adriana Taylor were heading north over the bridge that crossed the Hudson River, when the car skid on a patch of ice, plunging the car into the water. Becca was fourteen years old, while Danielle was merely ten.

Danielle entered their house on Wickery Lane, with Becca trailing behind after locking her car.

“I’m so glad we have two weeks off from school! Do you want a snack? I’m going to make popcorn then watch a movie,” Danielle called while heading toward the kitchen, flipping her silky long blonde hair over her shoulder.

“Yeah, make me a bag, I’ll join you.” Becca replied, then plopped herself onto the dark burgundy couch. Danielle strolled in, hopped onto the couch beside her sister, then shoved her hand into the large bowl in her lap.

“Hungry? Feel free to save me some, fat ass!” Becca teased, causing her sister to stick out her tongue in response. Both girls laughed together. If anyone peered into their window, they would conclude that the girls were twins. Although they were four years apart, Danielle looked like a miniature version of her older sister. Probably because, being a teenager, she mimicked her sister with everything. Blonde hair that trailed to their waists, and striking green eyes that could be seen from miles away, were two traits they had in common that made them identical.

“Why do I have to work over break? It’s not a break if I still have work,” Becca groaned.

“Yeah, cause asking people if they want a cheeseburger or chicken fingers is so difficult,” mocked Danielle, tossing another handful of popcorn into her mouth..

“You have no idea how difficult people can be. It’s terrible.”

“That’s true, I’m going to work in retail once I get a job. That seems pretty simple, right?” Becca nodded and turned her head toward the TV. When the movie finished, Becca climbed into the driver’s seat of her Mazda, waved at her sister through the window, then headed to work.

After a torturous dinner shift, she flung open the door of their house, acknowledging that it was already unlocked. She didn’t think twice about it, and then called out for Danielle. When all she heard was the echo of her own voice, she walked upstairs to see if her sister was sleeping.

“Danielle, are you home?” “Dani?” she called multiple times, repeatedly getting no response. Becca grabbed her cell phone and dialed her sister’s number, assuming one of her friends picked her up and she forgot to tell Becca. Danielle’s ringtone flooded into her ears, and she trailed toward the sound that led her back to the living room. Panic struck her once she saw her sister’s phone sitting on the couch, without her sister in sight.

“She would never go anywhere without her cell phone,” Becca said through the telephone. “She’s a teenager, she is obsessed with the thing. She couldn’t have left the house willingly! Could you please help me?” She begged, desperately, to the police officer on the line.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to help you at the moment. A person must be unaccounted for, for at least twenty-four hours before we declare a missing person search.” Dissatisfied with this reply, she slammed the phone down in anger, and paced across the room as she dialed Danielle’s friends. None of them could tell Becca of Danielle’s whereabouts. Her heart raced and tears flowed down her face. Once dizziness overwhelmed her, she forced herself to lie down, leaning her head on the small throw pillow. She cried, “I can’t lose her, she’s all I have left! She wouldn’t have left me!” She repeated these words again until she dozed into a deep sleep.

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New Year’s Resolutions – 2015

I have been working on my list of resolutions for 2015 and finally finished. Here’s a glimpse at my what my goals and resolutions are for this upcoming year:

 

1. Write/blog more often. I have the tendency to write and blog frequently, but only in the summer. When I’m at school I rarely write. I aim to change that.

2. Graduate magna cum laude. I currently have a 3.58 GPA and need a 3.6 to graduate magna cum laude. This should be relatively easy, except for the fact that I’m taking physics this semester… Uh oh.

3. Drink more water. This one is self explanatory. I’m so bad at remembering to do this, though.

4. Save my money. Before I buy anything, I need to stop and think, “Do I really need this?” The answer is typically no. Additionally, I want to create a personal budget every month. I already have a couple pages in the notes section of my planner reserved for this purpose.

5. Read 30 books. 2014 wasn’t my best year when it comes to reading a ton of books. Let’s hope 2015 is a little better.

6. Be more adventurous. Aka, go places!

7. Find a job I love.

8. Make more of an effort to hang out with Jeff. I really need to work on this. I take the fact that we live so close to each other for granted, both at home and at school.

9. Take more risks. Don’t pass down opportunities. But also, don’t over-fill my plate.

10. Don’t procrastinate. I always get my work done, no excuses. However, I need to stop waiting until the last minute to do it.

11. No more late-night snacking. I crave food late at night, every single night. I need to work on stopping this.

12. Eat more veggies. I love fruit, but rarely eat vegetables. I already bought myself carrots and ranch to motivate myself to eat more vegetables.

13. Cut back on junk food. As if late-night snacking isn’t bad enough, I eat junk food late at night. I went through multiple bags of truffles over the past few weeks and need to cut back on them. They’re just too yummy!

14. Yoga 3x/week. Oh, and take some workout classes like kickboxing and zumba.

15. Cook more often. This would also help me save money since I won’t be going out to eat as often.

16. Get at least eight hours of sleep every night. One can hope, right?

17. Stay positive. I need to look on the bright side of things from now on.

18. Better appreciate what I have. Don’t take things for granted.

19. Don’t overthink everything.

20. Don’t doubt myself as often. Be more confident in my abilities. 🙂

 

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