Books I've Read & Places I've Loved: February 2019

Hello! I’ve said before that February isn’t really my favorite month of the year, and often I spend the 28 days counting down until March. This year, however, was completely different. I had a wonderful month, but unfortunately I have no books and very few pictures to show for it. Still, with that said, here is a small peek into what my month was like.


Like I mentioned earlier, I did not read anything this month I don’t know if it was because I was so busy, or because I was so happy, or perhaps a combination of the two. Winter quarter has been incredibly busy, and it has been hard to find time to read for fun. I do have a few books I want to dive into, though, so here’s hoping for a book-filled March!


KCACTF- Eugene, Oregon
As a drama minor, I had the opportunity to go to a theatre festival called KCACTF (Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival). While there, I attended workshops and panels, and spent an entire week learning more about the thing I love so much. I took a lot of workshops on directing and diversity in theatre, and came away with pages and pages and pages of notes. I learned so much, and I hope this wasn’t the last time I get to attend a conference like this.

My time in Oregon was also a wonderful bonding experience for me and friends I haven’t seen much this quarter. Although we are all drama minors, we don’t see each other all the time anymore now that we don’t have an acting class together. We’re all in the winter show festival, but we’re all in different plays so we still manage to miss each other. This week was the perfect chance to catch each other up on how winter quarter has been going, and to offer love and support to each other (which is something we do best!).

As mentioned in the introduction, I had an amazing February, and I am honestly quite sad to see it go. Still, March is looking to be wonderful as well. If this month has not treated you kindly, I hope March turns things around. Here’s to a beautiful beginning of spring (hopefully. There’s still a horrible amount of snow on the ground in Washington)! <3

Books I've Read & Places I've Loved: January 2019

Welcome to the end of January! This month has been the busiest of my Freshman year so far, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I didn’t read much (the only book I read for fun was read before I came back to Washington), or write very much, and I spent all my time in only a couple of places, but I really loved this month.


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The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
Ever since I started college, Fredrik Backman has become one of my favorite authors. Both A Man Called Ove and this one have become some of my favorite books, as well. This is a small novella that took me a day to read. It’s a Christmas story with a twist, and it ends in a way you wouldn’t expect from reading the first page. It’s gripping, thought-provoking, and captivating, and I have a feeling I will return to it for many Christmases to come.

I recommend this book for: Anyone who wants to start reading more and wants a small book to start them on their way.

If this doesn’t appeal to you, try: A longer one of Fredrik Backman’s novels. I still think everyone should read something he’s written, and A Man Called Ove is a great place to start!


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The Little Theatre of Walla Walla

Much of my time this month was spent at a nearby theatre, working with their production of Calendar Girls. Working as a dresser meant having to master the art of the quick change very fast, and that was definitely one of the most challenging parts of the month for me. I spent many hours in the theatre, especially towards the end where the game of “How many twizzlers can Claira eat during tech week?” was played. Working with this theatre has been a really good experience for me so far, and I’m so glad I still have two weekends of shows left.

January was a really good month for me. It started off a little iffy with a lot of changes (and we all know how much I loath change), but by the end it had become a wonderful month. I’m hoping the last 31 days were an indication of what the rest of 2019 will be like, and if it is, I can only imagine the good things this year has in store. I hope January was a good month for all of you, as well. If it wasn’t, here’s to 28 days of a wonderful February.

Books I've Read & Places I've Loved: December 2018

Happy end of 2018! I know I don’t speak for everyone when I say this, but I had a really good time this year. Despite the awful things that happened, so much good in humanity was revealed. On a personal level, I tried many new things and had more successes than I thought were possible. This month in particular I finished my first quarter of college, which while being harder than I originally thought, was a wonderful way for me to fine tune what I want to do with my life. Upon coming home for the holidays, I was able to read a book and go to a few nice places (not all of which are pictured here due to a lack of pictures… haha).



Manuscript for Murder by Jon Land (or Jessica Fletcher ;-))
This book was certainly interesting to read. I love Murder, She Wrote, and I love mysteries in general, so when I saw this in a bookstore I figured it would the perfect easy read for after finals. It was, and while it wasn’t what I thought it would be like, I’m glad I had it. The mystery is interesting, the ending isn’t super predictable, and there’s Jessica Fletcher. Parts a little cringy, but overall I had a good time reading it. If you want something easy to read with familiar characters, I’d pick this up.

I recommend this book for: Fans of Murder, She Wrote who aren’t opposed to fan fiction and who need something fairly mindless to read.
I’d skip this one if: You don’t like Murder, She Wrote, or you do but you don’t want the slightly cringy moments that inevitably arrive when a different author tries to capture well-loved characters.



Mendocino, CA
Yup, I went back! I’ve gone to Mendocino once a year since 2015, and the last three times have been with my mom. Originally we were trying to go over the summer, but when that didn’t happen we knew that in order to keep our tradition we’d have to squeeze it in during one of my trips home from college. Since I was only home for a week, it didn’t happen over Thanksgiving, so we managed to fit it in during the last few days of the year. Our tradition is still going strong! I loved returning to Mendocino, even though it was super windy. My mom and I walked through the town, said hello to Jessica Fletcher’s house (see book above), and ate lunch at one of the best places I’ve eaten in a while (the gluten-free bread was fantastic). Returning to Mendocino is always a little bit nostalgic for me, and since I’m already feeling extra nostalgic at the end of the year, this was the perfect time for us to return.

This December marks the second full year of being recapping my month in this format. I recently went back to Books I’ve Read & Places I’ve Loved: December 2016, and I was once again greeted with how much can change in two years. What I’ve come to learn, especially in the last year, is that nothing truly great comes from your comfort zone. In 2019 I am challenging myself to leave beyond my comfort zone, even if it’s just a inch further. I have a lot going on in January, and some of it is pretty scary. But hopefully, as long as I stay that inch beyond, I’ll run into February with some new stories to tell.

In this new year, I hope all of you do what is best for you. I hope you remember that you know yourself. I hope you breathe, and sing, and run, and dance, and laugh. I hope you remember the good things and put more good out there into a world that so desperately needs it. I hope this last day of 2018 is everything you hope it will be, and here’s to 2019- may it be a year we look back on with happiness.

Books I've Read & Places I've Loved: November 2018

Like July, November was a month where I accidentally took a break from writing. I say accidentally because I got to the end of the month and realized that I had barely posted anything, and when things were posted, I forgot to share them like I usually do. This month was one of many ups and downs. I had my first college breakdown (my writing teacher had said that if it didn’t happen during weeks 3-5, we should all expect one before Thanksgiving. He was right), had a mini crisis when it came to this blog, and tried my hardest to expand my social circle while still staying on top of everything else. November was a little crazy, but it was also really good.



This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
I think it’s official- I will read anything recommended to me by my cousin. I should always keep in mind that anything recommended by her will result in me crying, but that’s neither here nor there. This book is spectacular. It revolves around a family of seven, with four boys and a child who was born a boy but discovers she’s actually a girl. This book goes in directions you don’t expect, and this book makes you think about how not even the black and white is black and white.

I recommend this book for: Fans of Celeste Ng (author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere). The writing is very similar, and Frankel has the ability to wrap readers in the lives of the characters and make them feel like they are part of the story.
If this book seems like a little too much right now, try:
Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng). Like I said, the writing is similar and the story is still deep, but in a different way that may seem more approachable.


The Drama Department’s Fall Show - You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown
I wasn’t expecting to get involved with the the drama department so quickly, but when a friend called to ask if I could help with house management, I jumped at the chance and said yes. This month I spent hours in a headset doing my best to keep up with unfamiliar- yet still extremely familiar- territory. I loved helping backstage, and it reminded me of how much I love tech people and being involved with a production in any way possible.


Sacramento, CA
I realized towards the end of Thanksgiving Break that I hadn’t taken any pictures of my time back home, so here’s the picture I took in the Walla Walla airport to show how small it is. Going home for a week was exactly what my tired soul needed. It was so nice to burn candles, eat home cooked food, and play music without using headphones. I got to play card games and watch movies with my family, and I got to spend a day with friends I hadn’t really spent time with in over a year. I have a whole post going up next week about what it can be like to go home when you’ve been on your own for a couple months, but the main thing to take away is that I was really happy to go home, even for a short while.

November was a month of inner turmoil. I had that breakdown, started the process of changing my major and adding another minor (more on these later), and spent most of my time trying to figure out how to be a little happier with my circumstances. But I also took time to remember how blessed I am. I go to a good school and I am lucky enough to be surrounded by good people doing good things. This month may have been a little strange, but I’m still very happy to be where I am, even when it isn’t perfect.

Books I've Read & Places I've Loved: October 2018

Before we get to this month’s summary, I feel the need to let you know that tomorrow is my 19th birthday and I’m really excited about it. In other news, this was a really good month for me. I continued the process of adjusting to college and have settled into new routines. I picked up some new hobbies (swing dancing is one of my new favorite things), and still had time to read some new books and go to a couple of new places.



Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
Last month, during the week of the Kavenough hearings, I posted something on my Instagram story about believing survivors. My cousin saw it and mentioned that I’d probably like this book. I bought the audiobook right away, and I listened to it everyday for a week while working. This book made me think about my own childhood, and maybe even gave me an insight into what some of the people around me were thinking and going through ten years ago.

I’d recommend this for: Fans of Brené Brown. Even though both women have their own distinct voice and they don’t talk about the same ideas, there is something that feels familiar.
I wouldn’t recommend this for: People who aren’t in the right place in their lives to listen to someone else’s vulnerability and see if any of it is applicable to them. And that’s okay! This book is pretty darn honest, and if you can’t appreciate it I’d wait a little bit. I also wouldn’t recommend this if topics like alcohol, infidelity, or eating disorders are triggering for you.


Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
My mom has been talking about this book for forever, and when I was a Freshman in high school she used to read me parts of it when I’d be having a particularly bad day. After reading Love Warrior, I decided to give this one a try for myself. Whenever my mom would read me sections, they were always about perfectionists and perfectionism (shocking, I know). Because of this, I expected the majority of the book to also be like this, but boy oh boy was I wrong. Apparently, most of the book is about shame, and this became a book I didn’t know I needed.

I’d recommend this for: Anyone who, like me, needs a book about how shame affects our daily lives and how we can overcome it.
I wouldn’t recommend this for:
People who aren’t fans of Brené Brown. I still think everyone should read this book, but if you don’t like the author then you won’t be able to hear what she has to say.


A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman
I have become the girl who really only reads books recommended to her by her mother and her cousin, and I am very much okay with that. My cousin sent me this book as a graduation gift, and for whatever reason I kept putting it to the side to read something else. I am so, so, so glad I finally picked it up. When I started it, I wasn’t so sure since it seemed pretty slow, but it quickly picked up speed. Every chapter brings you deeper into the minds of the main character, and every chapter brings you deeper into the world of the other characters. This book made me cry (and when you’re cleaning bathrooms that’s not helpful). This book made me understand a lot of things a little bit more. This is definitely one of my favorite books that I read this year, and I’m happy it’s the last book I read while being eighteen.

I’d recommend this for: Everyone. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e.
I wouldn’t recommend this for:
See above.


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The Barn Party (Adventist Halloween party)
One of things I’ve always found humorous about SDA culture is the universal agreement that if a gathering of more than, hmm, fifteen people should occur in the month of October it must be called a “Barn Party” (barn optional). This particular barn party was held in the middle of October, and I almost didn’t go. I was snuggled up in my bed when Annaliese asked me if she could draw some whiskers on my face with eyeliner. I rolled my eyes, but it was actually a really good night.


Howard Tietan Park
One Friday morning, I got up at 6:30 to go watch a hot air balloon stampede with my roommate and another friend from high school who also ended up in college with me. It was very cold, very colorful, and very fun. I’ve always wanted to go see hot air balloons, and I have on more than one occasion googled flights to Albuquerque to see the giant hot air balloon festival in New Mexico. I’d still love to do that someday, but this stampede, with these people, in that park was one of the best ways I’ve spent an early morning.


A Little Hotel Near My School/Downtown Walla Walla
As I’ve mentioned before, Family Weekend happened to fall the weekend before my birthday. My momma came up for the weekend (and is also staying for tomorrow too! Yay!!), and I left school for a few days to stay in a hotel with her. We ordered food and watched Gilmore Girls and I was able to fully relax for the first time since leaving home. It was the perfect way for me to spend my last weekend of being eighteen, and I’m really going to miss her when she goes back home tomorrow.

This month was a beautiful one. It was really weird not being around my family all the time, and at times the lack of familiar faces was overwhelming. But there were so many mornings where I woke up happy, and there were many, many nights where I went to bed smiling. I’m so thankful to be in this place, with all these new people, doing all these new things. This month felt like a really good start for the rest of 2018 and the rest of the school year. I hope all of you had a good October as well. If not, here’s to a wonderful November.

Books I've Read & Places I've Loved: September 2018

Well... That was September. This month was full of beautiful change, tearful goodbyes, and funny memories that will last a lifetime. I read some books, went on some hikes, and tried to make some new friends. This month I moved to a new state, into a new room, with new people around me all the time. My introverted-extrovert self was challenged every day of the last two weeks, and I already have lots of new stories to tell and things I can write about. You can expect those to pop up very soon, but for right now here are the books I read and the places I loved in this month of September:



Sea of Strangers by Lang Leav
I know I read some last month, but in general I haven't read a lot of poetry this year. For whatever reason, I find myself being drawn to memoirs and fiction a little more. Still, poetry is very important to me, and reading it helps me write it. I also figured that reading a book of poetry would be a fairly easy way to get used to reading for fun while in college. I picked up this book because I liked the title, but the inside pages didn’t live up to my expectations. The writing felt very adolescent, and that is something I was trying to get away from when it comes to poetry. Still, there are pieces of this book that I did like, and there are some lines that went underlined.

I recommend this book if: You're just getting into poetry and want some prose scattered throughout to balance things. 
I don't recommend this book if: You want to read about love, but you don't want the prose or one sentence poems. Instead, try reading something by Pablo Neruda. He's one of my favorites. 


Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
For my week of orientation I was part of a book club, and this was the book that was chosen. I got the audio book, and started it the Thursday before I left (I know, I know). I listened to it while I finished packing, while loading up the car, the morning before I left, and on the drive up to Washington. I finished it in my dorm room just in time for the first meeting on Tuesday. This book is intense at it’s best and heartbreaking at it’s worst. It was written by a lawyer who’s entire job is getting innocent people off death row, so you can imagine what I mean when I say it’s intense. There is one story that flows throughout the book with other stories dotted here and there, and it is all wrapped up really well. I would definitely, definitely, definitely recommend this book.

I’d recommend this book if: You’re angry with the criminal justice system and want someone to show the light that can shine through the darkness.
I wouldn’t recommend this book if:
topics relating to racial tension, domestic violence, mental health, or sexual harassment/abuse are triggering for you.



Hidden Falls, CA
This month I tried to soak up as much of California as possible before heading off to college. The first day of the month saw me up near my grandparents house on a hike I've only done a few times, but always enjoy. I also realized again how awkward I can be when it comes to taking pictures, but that's okay because we're working on it. 


Folsom Lake, CA
My grandmother's birthday is right at the beginning of September, and it happened to be a really beautiful, not too hot day. We went hiking by Folsom Lake, and got to go out to some of the "islands" that are usually covered by water. The "lake" is actually a dam, and some of the water had been drained recently, and the little strip of land that connects the islands wasn't under water like it usually is. We walked around and took pictures on the rocks, and hopefully made some good memories for my Grandmom on her birthday. 

The Atlas - College Place, WA
Towards the end of my orientation week, the nearby, student-run coffee house (literally, it’s an old house turned into a coffee place) opened up again and had an open mic. I brought my poetry notebook with me just in case I decided to do something, and, sure enough, I wound up reading this poem up front. I was nervous, especially since I’d never read a poem in front of that many people before, but I’m really glad I did it, and hopefully I’ll do more in the future.


A Coffee Shop With a Name I Can’t Remember
Whoops… It was a really nice place, though! On the first day of Fall, I went into downtown with the other two people who came from my high school. We found a coffeeshop and I ordered a chai to celebrate the beginning of one of my favorite seasons. That whole day was good for my soul, and this coffee shop was the perfect place for it all to come together.

September was definitely a month of change- some good, and some not so good. This month I started college which brought so much new along with it. This month was certainly an adjustment period, and while that can be really uncomfortable it’s important (and necessary) for the beauty to follow. Yesterday I was rereading Letters to a Young Poet (which I first read back in August of last year) and came across this quote: "Therefore... love your solitude and bear with sweet sounding lamentation the suffering it causes you. For those who are near you are far, you say, and that shows it is beginning to grow wide around you… Your solitude will be a hold and home for you even amid very unfamiliar conditions and fro there you will find all your ways.” (Rainer Maria Rilke) As I go into October (my favorite month of the year), I’m going to try to remember that quote, and if it helps you at all I hope you will too.