Monday, October 26, 2015

Book Review: The Witness by Nora Roberts

Today I'll be reviewing "The Witness," a romantic suspense novel by Nora Roberts.

The novel opens with Elizabeth, an obedient teenage girl whose life is completely controlled by her mother. One rebellious stint at a nightclub makes Elizabeth a witness to events that will change her life forever.

Twelve years later, Elizabeth, now a software programmer going by the name Abigail Lowery, lives a secluded life in a small town. She catches the eye of police chief Brooks Gleason, who is intrigued by Abigail's secrecy, sophisticated security system, and impressive collection of firearms. Brooks soon realizes that Abigail has a secret, and he tries to protect her from whatever, or whoever, she's afraid of.

This is the best book I've read (listened to?) in a long time! I loved everything about it – the suspense, the romance, the characters, and the plot. I was interested throughout the whole book, and I constantly wondered what would happen next. I can see why Nora Roberts is such a famous author; she created a vivid world of fiction with believable characters and an intrinsic plot.

Abigail isn't your typical protagonist. She's unbelievably smart, quirky, and socially awkward – and she talks with in a sophisticated and calculated manner. Similarly, Brooks isn't as smooth or dreamy as most male protagonists. But I think the uniqueness of the characters draws me to them even more. Both Brooks and Abigail are unforgettable because I've never seen other characters quite like them.

The Audiobook Experience: 
I listened to the audiobook version of "The Witness" during a long car trip, and I was very pleased with the narrator. She brought the story to life through her voice,  and she perfectly varied her accent between the characters. I can't even imagine listening to this novel with a different narrator. The audiobook lasted more than 7 hours, so it kept me entertained for quite a while. The best part about the audiobook was the price – I bought it for $5 on iTunes!

Rating: 5/5
"The Witness" is unlike any book I've ever read, thanks to the unusual characters and plot. This was my first novel by Nora Roberts, and I'm definitely planning on reading more in the future. I highly recommend "The Witness!"

Photo from Amazon

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My Currently List

Here is what I'm currently...

Watching: I'm halfway through the second season of Orange is the New Black (I know I'm a bit behind), and I'm loving it! I understand why every Netflix user is addicted to the series. After I'm finished with OITNB, I plan to start watching Scandal and The Originals.  

Reading: I just finished The Witness by Nora Roberts. I highly recommend this romantic suspense novel. Expect a review on the blog soon!

Listening: Spotify has taken over my heart – I love how the service allows users to make playlists of their favorite songs. Also, have you heard Selena Gomez's new song, "Same Old Love?" It's so catchy that I've been playing it on repeat. 

Eating: It's apple season in New York, and you better believe I'm taking advantage of it. I love buying new varieties of apples at the store to test out. My current favorites are Honeycrisp, Cortland, Macoun, and Paula Red. 

Drinking: So I recently noticed that coffee exaggerates the symptoms of some digestive issues I have. As an alternative, I've made the temporary switch to black tea. The subtler taste isn't nearly as comforting, but it'll do for now. 

Enjoying: Boots, sweaters, warm beverages, colorful leaves, and everything else about fall!

Wanting: Since I'm at college, I haven't actually carved pumpkins or roasted pumpkin seeds for years. I miss that fall family tradition! 

Wearing: It's that time to year to break out the riding boots and army-inspired jackets – like my favorite gray one from Target

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Story Time: A Lockdown on Campus

Happy Saturday! I'm ready to lounge in bed with Netflix and some popcorn after a crazy week full of midterms and projects. 

And also a campus lockdown.  

Let me explain. While I was at a meeting for a campus publication on Wednesday night, everyone's phone started to vibrate and ring. Texts, emails, and phone calls from my school flashed across our screens, warning of a safety threat in the area. All students were advised to remain indoors and avoid Oakwood Cemetery, which borders Syracuse University's campus.  Naturally, the other students and I freaked out about the vague message – especially considering the recent string of school shootings in America. My thoughts turned panicky. What? Is this really happening?  

The other students and I remained in the classroom, trying to stay calm in spite of the confusion. Our eyes never left Twitter, constantly stalking the site for updates about the lockdown situation. Even though our campus media tried to keep students informed as much as possible, many details remained vague and unconfirmed at this point. 

From what we gathered, the incident seemed to be drug- or gang-related. Although Syracuse University has a beautiful campus, parts of the surrounding area are notoriously unsafe. But what had happened? A drug deal deal gone wrong? A police chase? A brawl that turned violent? Countless rumors floated across my Twitter feed, and my anxiety heightened with every minute of not knowing the truth. 

Eventually, as we remained trapped in the classroom, the safety precautions on campus tightened. Students living in dorms that bordered the cemetery were advised to turn off their lights. A professor at my journalism school locked the members of my meeting in a windowless classroom, and he eventually moved us to the building's auditorium with nearly 100 other students. Faculty wanted everyone in the journalism building in the same place, just as an extra precaution. 

In the auditorium, students continuously perused Twitter for updates, refreshing the feed over and over again. A livestream of campus news played on the big projector screen. Why couldn't anybody confirm the facts? How dangerous was the situation? 

Finally, after being locked in my journalism school for two hours, the police department lifted the "shelter in place" warning at around 10:30 p.m. and allowed students to return home.

Only then did I really find out what happened. A drive-by shooting two miles off campus left one teenager dead and another injured. The police responded to the shots and began a car chase with two suspects, which resulted with the suspects running into the cemetery. The police lost track of the men and worried they might try to escape by cutting through Syracuse's campus. The shootings had nothing to do with Syracuse University or Syracuse students; however, the campus police issued the lockdown to ensure the safety of students and faculty. The police never caught the suspects, but law enforcement thoroughly surveyed campus before lifting the shelter and declaring the area safe for students. 

This incident showed me that a "bubble" surrounds my university. Although I'm knowledgeable of most campus-related events, I'm pretty clueless about what goes on in the greater Syracuse area. Apparently 20 homicides happened in the city this year, and I only knew about the one that came too close to the university for comfort. I think all college students should make an effort to understand the city in which they live – after all, it is your home for four years. 

Has anyone been in a similar situation? I'd love to hear about it. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

NYC Dining: Katz's Delicatessen

Among New York City's countless delis and sandwich shops, one place has stood above the rest for generations: Katz's Delicatessen. Located on the corner of Ludlow and Houston in the Lower East Side, Katz's serves "kosher style" sandwiches and meats – including its legendary pastrami sandwich.

It's also "where Harry met Sally."

The restaurant attracts hundreds of locals and tourists every day. The line often start at the deli's counter, continues out the door, and stretched down Houston Street. I lived a couple of blocks away from Katz's for two summers, and I never saw the place empty.

Who knew that thick cut pastrami piled high on rye bread could create such a stir?

However, ashamed as I am to admit it, I didn't eat at New York City's "most legendary" deli until my last day in Manhattan. Here's what I thought of Katz's Delicatessen.

My dad and I arrived at Katz's at about 11 a.m. on a Saturday. While the crowd wasn't as strong as usual, we still waited a few minutes to place our order. At least there was chaos to the madness – a "bouncer" at the door handed out tickets to everyone as they got in line. I'm not sure how necessary this was, but it probably makes everything run smoothly during the most chaotic hours.

Of course, I couldn't go to Katz's and not order the legendary pastrami sandwich. I cringed a bit at the price – nearly $20 for one sandwich. Then again, I never expected one of NYC's most famous restaurants to be cheap.

We didn't wait long for our food, and the entrees smelled amazing when the arrived. I haven't had much pastrami in my life, but this particular meat was mouth-wateringly delicious. It was tender, flavorful, and perfectly cooked with spices. The only downside was the crazy amount of fatty pieces. I understand that the fat is key to the flavor of the pastrami, but I found myself picking it out of the sandwich. My dad, who also ordered a beer, ate the entire thing and liked it a lot.

We also ordered homemade pickles, which were also good. But beware: they tasted much more like cucumbers than traditional pickles.

Overall opinion: I'm so glad I finally tested the landmark pastrami sandwich at Katz's. I enjoyed my sandwich and thought the pastrami was delicious, but I think the hype surrounding Katz's is a little exaggerated.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Five Senses of Fall

Over the last few weeks, blog posts about fall have completely taken over my feed.  I can't blame the bloggers, though, because I'm equally obsessed with the season. Autumn just strikes me as being cozy and comfortable – maybe it's all of the warm knit fabrics and hot spiced beverages.

Today I thought I'd share my own list of things I love about fall, but I'm branching out from the crowd and categorizing my list by the five senses. Here are my fall favorites:

FALL FOLIAGE. I go to school in Upstate New York, where the fall foliage bursts with bright red, orange, and yellow hues.

COZY CLOTHES. I love pulling out my oversized sweaters and light military-style jackets. Something about bundling up in warm clothes on a chilly day never fails to comfort me. And let's not forget the riding boots!

PUMPKIN. During the fall, I crave pumpkin-flavored everything – the flavor just works so well in bread, cookies, and pastries. Plus, ordering Pumpkin Spice Latte just feels right on crisp mornings.

APPLES. I can't experience fall in Upstate New York and not talk about the state's famous apples. Dozens of varieties stock row after row of shelves at the grocery store during this time of year. My personal favorites are Jonamac, Pink Lady, and Zestar.

SPICES. When the air feel a bit nippy, no aroma pleases me more than cinnamon, nutmeg, and other seasonal spices. Also, the scent of coffee seems even more inviting than usual during the fall.

WIND. Hearing the wind rustling through the brittle leaves on the trees constantly reminds me to look up and enjoy the foliage colors.

Fall also brings back some great childhood memories. When I was young, my family visited apple orchards every year to ride the tractors, climb the hay barrels, and get lost in corn mazes. We'd pick a whole bag of apples from the trees to take home, and of course we'd eat one or two along the way.

I remember stuffing my face with warm apple cider and freshly baked donuts. Carving pumpkins and having "pumpkin goop fights." Jumping into leaves that my dad raked into a pile. Getting overly excited when my mom baked a fresh batch of pumpkin seeds. Dressing up in a costume to trick-or-treating around my neighborhood. The memories never fail to make me smile.

Do you love fall? What are your favorite things about the season?

Picture on top: Climbing trees in Copenhagen, Denmark