Wednesday, June 20, 2018

5 Summertime Must Read Thrillers

Winter forces us to stay inside and cozy up with a good book, but Summer gives us the perfect excuse to relax by the pool with all the books we never seem to get to. While I enjoy a light-hearted Summer read, there's nothing I love better than a good psychological thriller. These 5 books will draw you in and leave you unable to put them down.

The Killing Lessons by Saul Black

"When the two strangers turn up at Rowena Cooper's isolated Colorado farmhouse, she knows instantly that it's the end of everything. For the two haunted and driven men, on the other hand, it's just another stop on a long and bloody journey. But the murders at the Cooper farmhouse didn't quite go according to plan. There was a survivor, Rowena's ten-year-old daughter Nell, who now holds the key to the killings. Injured, half-frozen, terrified, Nell has only one place to go. And that place could be even more dangerous than what she's running from."
Random crimes are extra terrifying to me so this book really touched on my fears. I can't imagine what I would do in this situation or if I would have the strength Nell had. 

Shadows by John Saul

"They call it the Academy. A secluded, cliff-top mansion overlooking the rugged Pacific coast. A school for children gifted -- or cursed -- with extraordinary minds. Children soon to come under the influence of an intelligence even more brilliant than their own -- and unspeakably evil. For within this mind a dark plan is taking form. A plan so horrifying, no one will believe it. No one but the children. And for them it is already too late. Too late, unless one young student can resist the seductive invitation that will lead... into the "Shadows." 
To be honest, I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. The book was published in 1993 and is completely different than most of the books I've read. Although the story line is unusual, the story itself is brilliant, and the characters are very well developed. 

The Ghost Writer by Alessandra Torre

"Four years ago, I lied. I stood in front of the police, my friends and family, and made up a story, my best one yet. And all of them believed me. I wasn't surprised. Telling stories is what made me famous. Fifteen bestsellers. Millions of fans. Fame and fortune. Now, I have one last story to write. It'll be my best one yet, with a jaw-dropping twist that will leave them stunned and gasping for breath. They say that sticks and stones will break your bones, but this story? It will be the one that kills me."
The Ghost Writer is unique in that there is a book being written within the book. I wasn't sure how I would feel about this, but I ended up loving the way the story wove together. Throughout the book I found myself waffling between hating the main character and sympathizing with her, which I don't usually find myself doing. 

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

"On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start—he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit—a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliché. But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.” After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse. . . ."
This book came highly recommended by several friends so I knew I had to add it to my list. Besides being a page turner, I was surprised at how well the characters justified murder, almost convincing the reader it isn't really that bad. The ending was also jaw dropping and I found myself wanting more. 

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter 

"Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind. Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn's happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father, Pikeville's notorious defense attorney, devastated. Twenty-eight years later violence comes to Pikeville again and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized. Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it's a case that unleashes the terrible memories she's spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won't stay buried forever."
This was my favorite book of the bunch. It's not a quick read at 528 pages, but it is definitely worth it. The Good Daughter is everything you want in a thriller and will leave you trying to figure things out until the very end. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Memorial Day Weekend in San Diego

Happy Thursday! Today I'm recapping our trip to San Diego, California and of all the places I've visited, both in the United States and internationally, San Diego was one of my favorites. It's the perfect mix of city and beach life, and 70 degree weather almost year round is my dream!

Every year my field hosts it's big annual conference the weekend of Memorial Day. Last year I went solo to Denver and this year J got to tag along with me. I highly recommend having a spouse travel with you if you are able and your work allows it. My employer covered the hotel, my plane ticket, and conference fees so all J had to pay for was his plane ticket and our food. This particular conference structures the day so that sessions start early in the morning, go until lunch, and then there is a big break between lunch and afternoon/early evening sessions. J hung out in the hotel or explored the area while I was in sessions and then we were able to meet up when I was done.


Our plane was supposed to leave St. Louis Friday afternoon but after boarding and waiting, we learned there was a mechanical problem. Everyone had to get off the plane and then re-board an hour later only to learn the problem wasn't quite fixed yet. After another 45 minutes of waiting, we were finally cleared for take off but would be arriving in San Diego almost 3 hours late. 
We were starving and tired by the time we reached our hotel, especially being on pacific time instead of central. Thanks to a recommendation from the hotel's the front desk staff, we walked a short distance to Puesto where J and I both agreed, we had the best tacos of our lives. 
The filet tacos in blue corn tortillas were amazing. The steak is wrapped in cheese which is then fried creating a brown crunchy cheesy crust. J and I still talk about how good these tacos were. 


Waking up on Saturday morning we were able to fully take in the gorgeous view from the 21st floor of our hotel room. When making reservations I always request a high room and although they can't guarantee it, we've been lucky to snag some great rooms with even greater views. We stayed at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina and I would highly recommend it. It was the perfect location and we were able to walk or ride bikes almost everywhere we went. 


While J slept in, I walked to get us breakfast and when you're in San Diego, you have to eat at Donut Bar.

Based on reviews online, I knew to expect a wait but it was well worth it. Besides great donuts, Donut Bar also has some pretty awesome customer service. They handed out free donuts for kids in line and a Donut Bar Ferrari that sits outside the restaurant so customers, both big and little, can hop in and pretend like they're driving. 

After waiting so long I knew I couldn't get just one donut for each of us, so J and I ended up trying out a few different ones. From left to right: Boston Creme, Homer, Strawberry Cheesecake, Creme Brulee, Double Chocolate. J and I both really loved the Homer but he also loved the Boston Creme. 

After breakfast I went to my first sessions of the morning and then met up with J for lunch. We ate outside by the marina at Sally's Fish House and I had my first ever lobster roll.  While mine was good, J's fish and chips were delicious. Luckily he was willing to share.

We still had time to kill before I had to be back to the conference so we rented bikes and rode around the marina and pier. I haven't ridden a bike in years and forgot how much fun it was. One of my favorite things about San Diego is that there were bikes and electric scooters all over the city for people to rent. You simply download the app, scan the bike you want to ride, and it automatically unlocks. When you're done, you leave the bike wherever you are, press the lock button, and it's ready for the next person to use. I loved that we didn't have to return the bikes to a particular spot and it was fun to search for the coveted electric bikes which were a blast to ride. We used Lime Bike the most and I would highly recommend it. 

After my early evening sessions were over, we found two more bikes and explored a different area of town before returning to the marina and eating at Buster's Beach House. We ordered the buffalo chicken pizza which I would get again and their quesadilla which I would not. If you're debating whether or not to eat here I would probably another place. 


The morning started with a walk to Bruegger's Bagels before catching an Uber to take us 20 min north to La Jolla. 

La Jolla was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The views were spectacular, the weather was perfect, and the sea lions were adorable, although super stinky.

How adorable is that house?!?

One thing I really wanted to do while in Ja Jolla was visit Sunny Jim Cave, the only sea cave in California that is accessible by land. You enter the cave from the gift shop and take the 145 stairs down to the bottom where you're greeted with beautiful views of the ocean. We only spent about 5 minutes in the cave, but if you're in the area it's worth checking out. 

We ended up cancelling our reservation at George's and ate at Jose's instead. Although it wasn't right on the water, we still had great views of the ocean. We also tried the macaron bakery right next door with the sweetest French chef who helped us pick out flavors.

After stuffing ourselves with delicious Mexican food, we Ubered back to the hotel where J and I rested for a bit before I headed back to the conference. Sunday night we finally tried out the Tequila bar at our hotel where we sampled a flight of different ones and I learned I definitely prefer my tequila in my margaritas.  


Monday was Memorial Day and our last full day in San Diego. After checking out some morning sessions, we rented a pair of electric scooters and rode down to the USS Midway. Btw, the boys thought we were so cool for doing this:) 

We explored the ship and took a tour of the captain's deck which was lead by Veteran's who were on the ship. I couldn't think of a better way to spend the holiday. 

We couldn't leave California without trying In & Out burger and it did not disappoint!

That night we took the trolley to Old Town, about a 10 minute ride from our hotel. Old Town is the historic heart of San Diego and was California's first settlement in 1769. It was already starting to get dark by the time we arrived, and I wish we had had more time to explore. The area was beautiful with lots of neat little shops and restaurants. We ate dinner at Casa de Reyes which is nestled in a lush garden patio and we were greeted by live music and flamenco dancers in their courtyard area. 

Our flight left bright and early the next morning so it was lights out once we got back to the hotel. We had the best time together in San Diego and we both agreed that we won't wait so long before we take another trip with just the two of us. 

If you have questions about anything I posted or want more recommendations for your trip send me an email and I'd be happy to answer them!