Thursday, June 16, 2016

Life Update: College Graduation and the Job Hunt

Summer 2016 is the season of change. 

Since my last Life Update post in February, I've been knee-deep in the job hunt with plans to move to New York City. My brother got accepted into a university in Florida, and he starts summer semester classes next week. My sister decided to relocate to the West Coast, my parents are swapping my childhood home in Ohio for a beach house in Florida, and my boyfriend is pursuing his Master's degree. Pretty soon my family, who have lived in the Midwest our whole lives, will be scattered across the country. 

Even though I'll miss my family like crazy, I'm ready to embrace the change in my life. In the words of Many Hale: "Change can be scary, but you know what's scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and progressing." 

On that note, here's what I've been up to in the last few months:

I graduated from Syracuse University with a magazine journalism degree!

My younger brother graduated from high school.

My sister and I took a day trip to Cedar Point, an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, where we suffered through many hour-long waits to ride some of the biggest roller coasters in the world.

My boyfriend and I took a day trip to Letchworth State Park in Upstate New York. Expect a blog post soon! 

I learned that New York City is beautiful even in the rain.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Syracuse Dining: Empire Brewing Company

Sometimes life calls for a cold beer and a juicy burger.  Empire Brewing Company in Syracuse, NY, is the perfect place for both.

Nestled in the basement floor of a building in Armory Square, Empire Brewing Company serves snazzy bar food and homemade brews. The restaurant is insanely popular among Syracuse locals, and the wait time often stretches past one hour on the weekends (thanks to a no-reservations policy). Guy Fieri visited the place in an episode of Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

I've been to Empire Brewing Company on multiple occasions with friends and family. The interior looks industrial with brick walls and dim lighting. As soon as you walk in the door, you're greeted by a huge bar that offers several locally brewed craft beers. I've tried several types while waiting to be seated. Some, like the Cream Ale and Empire State Pale Ale, are absolutely delicious. I'm not a big fans of the overly hoppy options, like the Lost Dog Pale Ale, but to each his own.

The food at Empire Brewing Company never disappoints. Most people order one of the many burgers listed on the menu, which have gained lots of hype in the Syracuse community. The burgers always come perfectly cooked and insanely juicy.

Here are other items that my friends and family have tried at Empire Brewing Company:

Sweet Fire: andouille sausage marinated with brown sugar and molasses, with a side of spicy mustard. Guy Fieri recommended this dish on his show. I wasn't sure if I'd like the mix of spicy sausage and brown sugar, but the flavors meshed together perfectly. I could've eaten this entire appetizer myself!

Mediterranean Platter: chipotle hummus, pickled green beans, falafel, feta cheese, olive, tzatziki, and flatbread. I'm a fan of Mediterranean food, so I enjoyed this appetizer platter. The falafel and feta cheese were especially delicious.

Dixie Cheese Steak Po'Boy: a cheesesteak sandwich with onions, peppers, mushrooms, and chipotle mayo. Although the steak was a bit fatty for my taste, the meal was full of flavor.

Beer Battered Haddock: My boyfriend ordered this fried fish meal, which was coated in a tasty, crunchy batter. I would order this myself in the future!

Feta Chicken Flatbread: When my dad ordered the flatbread, he thought it would be more like a pizza than a wrap. He still enjoyed the meal though.

The prices at Empire Brewing Company are reasonable, considering that the restaurant is trendy and the ingredients are high-quality. As long as you're willing to wait an hour or more for a table, I highly recommend Empire Brewing Company for its craft beers and upscale bar food!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Book Review: Confessions of a Murder Suspect

Today I'll be reviewing the Confessions series by James Patterson by Maxine Paetro, which includes four novels:
  • Confessions of a Murder Suspect
  • Confessions: The Private School Murders
  • Confessions: The Paris Mysteries
  • Confessions: The Murder of an Angel 
The series is aimed at young adults. Like many of James Patterson's novels, it can be classified as a mystery thriller. 


The Confessions series centers around the wealthy and secretive Angel family.

Malcolm and Maud Angel own a pharmaceutical company in New York City. Their four children boast unnatural abilities: Tandoori (Tandy), the 16-year-old narrator, has an off-the-charts IQ. Her twin brother, Harry, is a musical prodigy. Ten-year-old Hugo harbors the strength of a grown man, while Matthew is a star football player for the New York Giants. The Angel children are unemotional and extremely damaged, which they attribute to their parent's emphasis on perfection.

But soon Tandy learns that Malcolm and Maud are dead of an apparent murder. She and her three brothers are the prime suspects. As Tandy works to solve the crime,  many dark and dangerous family secrets begin to unravel. She suddenly questions everything she knows  – including her own innocence.

The four books in the Confessions series follow Tandy and her brothers as they dig deep into their family's past, discovering corruption, love, and betrayal along the way. 


Although I'm an avid reader, Confessions of a Murder Suspect is my first James Patterson novel. I really enjoyed the entire Confessions series.

First of all, I love the eccentric characters. I've never encountered a protagonist quite like Tandy. She's clever and strange, and she experiences immense character development throughout the series. Tandy talks directly to the reader at many points in the novels. I've read several reviews that criticize this literary device because it "interrupts the flow" of the plot, but I didn't mind it. I actually think it allowed me to better connect to Tandy. The other Angel children (Harry, Hugo, and Matthew), as well as the other characters introduced throughout the series, are equally as quirky and intriguing.

I also enjoyed how Patterson and Paetro interwove the plot throughout the novels in the series. Something mentioned in the first novel could come back in the third or fourth book without feeling too forced. The plot kept me on my toes, although the ending of the books was a bit too predictable for my taste. I feel like the mysteries fell into two categories: ones that were too easy to figure out, and ones that readers could never figure out given a lack of clues. But although some of the mysteries ended in an anti-climatic way,  I'm happy with the conclusion of the series overall.

Another perk of these novels were the short chapters. Since each one was merely four or five pages, I constantly told myself, "Just one more chapter!" as an excuse to keep reading.

Rating: 5/5

I loved the quirky characters and unique storyline. I deducted one-half point for some predictable plot points and anticlimactic mysteries. Here is my rating of the four novels, from favorite to least favorite:

1. Confessions: The Paris Mysteries (Book 3)
2. Confessions of a Murder Suspect (Book 1)
3. Confessions: The Private School Murders (Book 2)
4. Confessions: The Murder of an Angel (Book 4)

This series is best for young adults (ages 15-25) who enjoy quick and easy mystery novels. I highly recommend it!

Photos from