The Unpretentious Reader

Monthly Archive: February 2016

Life lately, vol. 3 [San Diego edition]

I spent last weekend with two of my oldest friends in one of my favorite cities of all time. It was a whirlwind weekend, but I think we made the best of our time together. Here are some of my favorite photos from our three days of perfect weather, delicious food, and sunny, beautiful beaches. PS: These are all iPhone photos, hence the less than great quality.

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On the plane and ready to get out of the Salt Lake smog!

On the plane!

See that gray mess below? PEACE OUT, UTAH.

Plane view 1

California: much better view!

Plane view 2

Literally the first stop after Alisa picked us up from the airport. (#priorities) Not pictured: the most delicious pineapple juice mimosa. Snooze A.M. is THE BEST breakfast, hands down. And yes, that’s a flight of pancakes!

Snooze breakfast

Breakfast then pedicures. Treat yo’self!


Friends for over 16 years. I feel old!

Alisa and Tracy <3

Alisa and Tracy <3

West coast sunsets…can’t beat ’em.


On our walk to dinner.


A poorly lit photo of some pretty good tacos and REALLY good refried beans. (Not pictured: our waiter who thought we were hilarious)

I really don’t have words for this one.

In my happy place.

The chaos that is Hodad’s!


Single file, please.


Burger + potato wedges + la cerveza.


Our Valentine’s Day dinner: sandwiches, extremely disappointing pasta salad, delicious seafood dip and crackers, champagne, and pie. We’re classy.

V-Day Dinner

Last day spent on the Mission Beach boardwalk.


Beach hair.


Why can’t I wake up to this view every day?


Until next time!!! Love these girls.


Book review: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies, by Liana MoriartyPremise

A group of parents are getting ready to send their respective children to kindergarten at a primary school in a small Australian beachside town. The book switches perspectives between three main characters, each more different and intriguing than the last, and each with her own secrets to hide. Early on you find out that something terrible happens at the school’s parent trivia night, and the book follows the events leading up to the night. It’s a good mix of mystery and humor.


This is not the first book I’ve read by Liane Moriarty, and it certainly won’t be the last. She tends to write about a lot of characters which can sometimes be mentally taxing, but she does it in such a brilliant way that I don’t mind. Each one is unique and complex, and the character development throughout the story is spot-on. You immediately become invested in their lives, their decisions, and their drama. Moriarty’s writing is clever, piercing, and sometimes downright hilarious. The book manages to be both entertaining and sobering at times, covering a wide range of serious issues while simultaneously exploring the sometimes-petty drama of being the parent of a kindergartner. It’s a remarkable look at the way high school doesn’t always seem to end at high school, and gossip and cliques tend to exist for long after.

I flew through this book in just a few days. I loved everything about it! If you enjoy humor and witty writing, don’t mind keeping up with all the characters, and like a little bit of mystery, then you’ll enjoy this book. I’d probably categorize it as a beach read. I felt the same way about The Husband’s Secret, another great one by Moriarty, and I plan on reading What Alice Forgot soon. Also – I just found out that HBO is making a mini-series on Big Little Lies which I am SO excited about!


PS. Fans of Jojo Moyes, have you seen the trailer for Me Before You??? It looks so good!

Leaving on a jet plane

Del Mar Beach

Sorry for the lack of posts this week – I’ve been too busy getting ready for SAN DIEGO this weekend!! This trip came together in the best of ways: completely and utterly spontaneously! I had a companion fare ticket through Alaska Airlines that was going to expire, and after a quick chat with my bestie of 16+ years, Tracy, we decided that we obviously needed to put it to use. Minutes later, we had texted our other bestie from high school, Alisa, who lives three hours away from San Diego, and she immediately agreed to the idea! The next day, tickets were purchased, an Airbnb rental was booked, and all we had to do was wait a few weeks until it was time to leave.

San Diego is quite possibly my all-time favorite city, and I’m thrilled to get to spend a few days there with two of my oldest friends. I’m never happier than when I’m at the beach, in the sun, sand between my toes, and breathing in the salty, ocean air. Can’t. Freaking. Wait.

Also, I’ve got two books I devoured last week and loved, and I’m itching to write reviews for them – so stay tuned for that sometime next week.


I hope you all have a FABULOUS weekend!

Life lately, vol. 2

A curated list of photos from my life over the past few weeks. Enjoy! 

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Half a week’s worth of groceries from Sprouts. (I buy everything else at Target. RedCard for liiiiiife.)


The TOD (Taco of the Day) at Taqueria 27, complete with MASHED POTATOES.


Personal best.


Kale, Chicken, and Gnocchi Soup from Budget Bytes:


I was at the top for the briefest of moments…and then Bekah resumed the throne literally an hour later.



Pad Thai from Tea Rose Diner. Good food, but the service was disappointing this time around. 🙁


My sweet mom sent me the coziest, warmest, softest blanket in the mail, and I’ve been cuddling with it ever since. 🙂


New obsession.


Utah has the best sunsets. Just. The best.


Mid-morning snack that I eat M-F.


Visits to the yarn store. ❤️


Another gorgeous Utah evening + a dirty window.


I hope you have a great weekend!!

10 books you can’t put down

Over the past year or so I read a number of books that hooked me right from the beginning and didn’t let go until the end. It’s the best kind of reading experience, if you ask me. While it’s true the books that make you work the hardest often provide the most rewarding payoff in the end, some days I just need something easy that invites me in, something that causes me to look up after an unknown number of pages and hours and question, “What time is it?”

These are some of those books.


Everything, Everything
Everything, Everything

by Nicola Yoon

YA fiction about a girl who has “bubble baby disease” where she cannot leave her home, because she’s fatally allergic to the world. She lives as full of a life as she can, confined to her house with her mom and full-time nurse, but one day someone moves in next door that has her questioning everything.


Bird Box
Bird Box

by Josh Malerman

Horror/thriller. It’s a post-apocalyptic world, there are just a handful of survivors, and something is lurking that has killed the rest of mankind. The things we can’t see are sometimes far scarier than the things we can, and Bird Box does (in my opinion) a phenomenal job of playing up this idea. I had nightmares about this book, and maybe that will scare you off, but it was one of those books that had me thinking about it for DAYS afterward.


Tell the Wolves I'm Home
Tell the Wolves I’m Home

by Carol Rifka Brunt

A beautiful, thought-provoking, poignant coming-of-age tale about love, heartache, and loss. Set in the late 1980s, a 14-year-old girl loses her beloved uncle and eventually finds healing in a new and unexpected friendship. It’s emotional and raw and I absolutely loved it.


We Were Liars
We Were Liars

by E. Lockhart

I read this from start to finish on a flight from SLC to Nashville. It was just SO GOOD. A group of friends from very well-off families spend their summers on a private island, where they refer to themselves as The Liars. Mystery lies under the surface, though, and one girl tries to discover the truth of things. It’s a sophisticated, not-your-typical YA fiction, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.


The Truth About Alice
The Truth About Alice

by Jennifer Mathieu

YA fiction that explores how easily girls are judged, perceived, labeled, and written off as a certain type of person. This book follows the story of Alice and the rumors that are flying about something she may or may not have done one night at a party. It’s a truly brilliant, sobering, insightful look into high school rumors and the havoc they can cause. This is another one that I read entirely in one sitting.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

Christopher is an extremely gifted 15-year-old autistic boy who decides one day that he absolutely must solve the murder of his neighbor’s dog. The book follows his thought processes and challenges as he investigates the murder, and I found it to be charming, well-written, and endearing. I listened to the audiobook, which is read by a British person, and that’s definitely how I recommend reading the book if you can.



by Emma Donoghue

Told from the perspective of a 5-year-old boy whose entire world is “Room,” you soon learn that this boy and his young mother have been held captive for years. I didn’t think I would like this book initially, but the author brilliantly tells an engaging, consuming story and you quickly forget you’re listening to a 5-year-old’s voice. I won’t say too much for fear of ruining the plot, but, man – I absolutely loved this one. I have yet to see the film, but it’s on my list.


The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars

by John Green

While this book (and author) certainly has its haters, the ratings don’t lie – and I 100% fall into the “I absolutely loved this” camp. In case you’ve been living under a rock and aren’t familiar with the plot: a teenage girl has cancer and one day meets a boy at a cancer support group. It’s a YA love story that will make you cry, and the movie is – surprisingly – a great complement to the book.


Gone Girl
Gone Girl

by Gillian Flynn

Another one that you’ve certainly heard of, Gone Girl absolutely lives up to the hype. It’s full of twists and turns, betrayal and shock, and I could never have predicted what was going to happen (and I love it when a book surprises me). I read this over a weekend and thought about it for days afterward. If you haven’t seen the (phenomenal) movie adaptation, I’d recommend reading the book first, for sure.


Me Before You
Me Before You

by Jojo Moyes

Oh, Jojo Moyes. You have captured my heart and I will read everything you ever publish, no questions asked. Me Before You is a story about Louisa, a woman in her late 20s, who’s just lost her job and by a series of events ends up taking a job as a caretaker for a man named Will. Will is in his early 30s, and two years previously, was in a terrible motorcycle accident which left him as a quadriplegic. The story is beautiful, well-written, and simultaneously funny and heartbreaking. I found the sequel After You to be just as good.


What are some of your favorite, can’t-put-down books?