In the Woods Review

I just finished reading this book called In the Woods. Unlike the movie, it was unbelievable. Down to every character detail and the dramatic end, it was brilliant. Every character development and plot twist were better than the last. I couldn’t have predicted the end if I tried. In Tana French’s amazing new book, three children had gone out of their small Dublin countryside neighborhood. Hours of unanswered phone calls later, one child is found by the police gripping a tree in terror. Police empty his blood-filled sneakers and after intense interrogation found the little boy could not remember anything. Over two decades later, Detective Rob Ryan, an alias for this small found boy grown up, has kept all of his past a secret- except his police partner Cassie Maddox. When a child murder case floats through the homicide department when everyone else is out, this time of a twelve year old girl, Cassie jumps on the case and Detective Ryan realizes it is in the woods that once caused him so much terror. As they return again and again trying to trace leads and catch the killer, only snippets of long-buried remembrances guide them, and Ryan has a chance to uncover both the mystery of the girl’s murder and of his childhood friends. Anyone who enjoys police procedurals with international flair will love in the woods. It is the part whodunit, part psychological thriller, and all around successful. Tana’s plot entanglements will confound even the most intelligent reader. Well written and expertly plotted thriller that will have even smart people who know better lose themselves in, of course, the woods. url

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BOOK REVIEW: BRAVE NEW WORLD BY ALDOUS HUXLEY

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All I can say about this book is: wow. When I first started reading I was a bit unsure whether I would enjoy it, written in 1931 and set in London in the year 2540. I tried to seek out connections as I began reading and realized very quickly that I didn’t have too. Written as a beautiful story full of science fiction made real, it follows the adventures of about three main characters as they experience life in this society. images-1Written mainly from an omniscient type of viewpoint, I love the way I felt involved in the book, and it’s plot while still feeling like I knew what was happening but not what was going to happen. It took a little bit longer than my usual read to get to the part in the plot where the real action took place.

The ending was highly unexpected; I had to reread the last page two or three times to truly understand. Overall, this book is incredible for the way it makes your mind work to not only grasp but to think about the material. imgres-4It makes you feel and I enjoyed the experience. Also, I will be thinking about this long after I reread it for a second or third time. A fantastic read, I would recommend it to all who like fiction, science fiction, theories, philosophy, or just want to think while reading. A must read in my book.

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Book Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

You may know her as the author to Gone Girl, but there is another thriller that should soon be sweeping the nation by this tour de force mystery writer. Reporter Camille Preaker has to return to her small town roots in Wind Gap, MO in order to cover a story of serial murders. Coming into this book I was immediately hooked and fell more in love with the imperfect characters and tortured small town ideals of the people. Page by page, I got more and more obsessed and trust me when I say it keeps you guessing until. the. very. last. page. literally. With doting on the ill, possibly insane Adora, the perfect barbie of this small town and Camille’s mother. Alan, Adora’s husband, who lurks around offering unique advice at the oddest times. Amma, Camille’s half sister and Adora’s chance to redo her relationship with her deceased daughter, Amma seems to be a young party girl who happens to be perfect daughter at home and something very different outside of it. And finally, Camille, a sharp, model looking, woman who is always covered because her past is written all over her. This tale almost runs this risk of being cliché; however, I promise it is anything but.

Beach Day

Growing up on the coast, I have always had easy access to the beach. But I have not been to the beach for (gasp) almost three weeks now and seeing everyone’s fun photos makes me want to go soak up the sun, surf, and sand even more. So here are my top beach pics whether you are headed out for a week or a weekend. Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 12.04.19 PM

Swimsuit: Marysia Antibes scalloped bandeau bikini

Umbrella: Beach Umbrella in Bronte design by SunnyLIFE

Dress: CP SHADES Lia Solid Linen Dress

Towel: Edie Parker Happy Beach Towel Royal Beach Towels

Sunglasses: Emilio Pucci Women’s Oval White Sunglasses Black Lens

Hair ties: Glam Bands Blues Combo Hair Ties

Shoes: Kg Kurt Geiger Flip Flops & Slides

Bag: ELOQUII Catrinka Lalita Beach Bag

Book: The Vacationers

Sunscreen for body: umbra sheer physical defense SPF 30

lipbalm with spf: Ole Henriksen Fresh Lips-Stimulating Lip Treatment SPF15 14g

Greece and Italy Breakdown

DAY 1: GROUP FLIGHT DEPARTS FROM NEWARK, NJ
On first impression, the group was really nice and that proved to be correct throughout our trip. I was lucky enough to sit next to a girl on my trip on the plane and we watched cheesy movies set in Europe like Mama Mia and Sound of Music the entire time in between naps on tray tables.
Days 2-8: CORFU, GREECE
The trip started on Corfu. We worked sorting clothes in a warehouse for children of difficult situations who now live in temporary housing in one big building, similar to an orphanage. When we weren’t working we went and adventured. Firstly, we toured the farm  where the kids help work on and checked out some of the animals. Then we went to this beach with amazing craggy cliffs that people could jump off of. We also went on boats and explored more beaches. Shopping in the town of Corfu and exploring an old fortress was also required before going back to the beach. We also visited the microbrewery that supplied the London Olympics. For our final night in Greece, we had a seafood dinner before taking the ferry to Italy.

DAYS 9-10: SORRENTO, ITALY

Say farewell to Corfu and board the ferry for Italy, for a short trip across the sea. A highlight from Sorrento was a boat trip on the Amalfi coast. Positano is one of my favorite places, especially after that.

DAYS 11-13: ROME, ITALY

Then we traveled to our final destination, Rome, where you’ll find an amazing sight around every corner. The Colosseum was amazing. My dad is an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin and there were students from UT at the Colosseum. They were kind enough to take photos of me doing the hook ‘em horns sign, when I noticed that tourists were giving me weird looks. Turns out hook ‘em horns means something different in Italian… Anyways after that we got to walk in the steps of Caesar in the Roman Forum and visit St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. The next day we got to go and see the Sistine Chapel, which was incredible. The blues of the sky were amazing and even though we got yelled at by the guards for sitting on the floor (it was a 105+ degrees fahrenheit in there according to snapchat) it was truly an incredible experience. That night we finished with a fancy dinner having all of the wonderful pasta we could try. My personal favorites were the spaghetti and the pesto. IMG_5127 IMG_5032 IMG_3496 IMG_5259 IMG_4969 IMG_4936 IMG_4947 IMG_5031 IMG_5123 IMG_5180 IMG_4902 IMG_4802 IMG_5257 IMG_4793 IMG_5252 IMG_4903 IMG_4901 IMG_3619 IMG_5242 IMG_5120 IMG_4934 IMG_4872 IMG_4884 IMG_4938 IMG_5039 IMG_4961 IMG_3566 IMG_3532 IMG_5135 IMG_5142 IMG_3327 IMG_4876 IMG_3494 IMG_5139 IMG_5029 IMG_4883 IMG_4943 IMG_5091 IMG_3531 IMG_5023 IMG_4886 IMG_5255 IMG_5034 IMG_5025 IMG_4931 IMG_4761 IMG_5021 IMG_5181 IMG_5093 IMG_4854 IMG_5177 IMG_4941

City Guide: Austin, Texas

Hotels:   

Hotel Saint Cecilia – classy, chic, sophisticated, and envy-inducing are all words that come to mind when I type Hotel Saint  Cecilia. An excerpt from the website reads “ Created in honor of the patron saint of music and poetry, the Saint Cecilia takes inspiration from the great era of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when a revolution of rock and roll and beat poetry overran the  hallowed halls of established convention. We pay tribute to the great creative legacy of our revolutionary idols and to the spirit of the artist that lies within us all.” The particulars that the author of this failed to mention is the 50-foot heated lap pool that is open 24 hours a day, the lovely poolside dining; this is a not miss hotel in Austin. 

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Kimber Modern – Tucked away on a quiet suburban side street off only one block from restaurants and live music galore – yet tucked in a woodsy oasis – is it a mansion? is it a store? No, it is Kimber Modern, the latest in new hotel technology. Here is, in the words of Kimber  Cavendish, “My  goal was to create an  exceptional architectural work of art, tailored toward the independent urban traveler.  Here you’ll have all the comfort of the finest hotel with the intimacy of a bed and breakfast.  I  invite you to define your own experience through our invisible service concept where everything you could want or need has been provided effortlessly at your fingertips.  Release yourself from the usual constraints and notions of the average hotel. … It’s simply a functional, comfortable and beautiful work of art.””

imgres-2imgres-3Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa – A sort of resort meets movie backdrop, Texas cuisine and live music reign at their open air pavilion, Three Springs Spa holds all sorts of natural treatments to make you look better than ever before, 11 tennis courts allow you to  strengthen your  game while on vacation, one of my favorites (golf!) 4 distinct golf courses, their words, my agreement, are settled in the rolling regions of Texas to create a special kind of game where you feel as if you are in a tournament with just you and your competitors- erm, I mean your family. Beautiful views abound this property, especially with its nature hiking trails and indoor and outdoor pools, make you feel as if you are set in a painting.

Golfers walking off the 17th green of the Fazio Foothills Course at Barton Creek Resort in Austin, Texas, USA.

Golfers walking off the 17th green of the Fazio Foothills Course at Barton Creek Resort in Austin, Texas, USA.

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Travaasa Austin – Conde Naste 2014 rates this as a top hotel and it is easy to see why, beautiful balcony views from a secluded estate, wonderful stables and ropes courses plus zip lining allow for non stop adventures. The infinity pool and yoga studio also allows time to relax and recharge before the spa that has all sorts of refreshing treatments. At night you can dine or help cook with renowned chefs and enjoy culinary masterpieces under the stars on their balcony.    

If you can't tell, I am dying to stay at Travaasa

If you can’t tell, I am dying to stay at Travaasa

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Wine & Dine: 

Elizabeth Street Café – Known for spicy bowls that are fabulously flavorful and the best iced coffee i’ve ever had. Last time I was in Texas I went three times in two days and did not go often enough. Traditional vietnamese fair paired with chic, colorful decor makes for the perfect dining environment.

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La V – best meal i’ve had in Texas hands down. It was pouring down rain as my dad pulled the car around so I hopped out and ran in through the stately doors, I just avoided the downpour. We went for father’s day, to start we ordered powdered sugar donuts, bacon, fruit, coffee orange juice, then we continued with salad and many other delightful dishes to follow. After stuffing ourselves completely full of delicious food, we took a walk through the Texas State Cemetery, beautiful grounds on the opposite side of the restaurant. 

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Torchy’s Tacos – there are multiple locations for this traditionally made, uniquely named food across Austin. I strongly recommend getting the guacamole and the independent (in terms of tacos, not political beliefs, I wouldn’t tell you what to think) The lines always are long but if you know your order you can be seated in 10 minutes and the casual atmosphere provides perfect dining when you want something spur of the moment.

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Dolce Neve – a brand new staple in Austin cuisine. Quality gelato with adorable shirts they have equally adorable workers who are always up for a  chat. I strongly recommend the coffee 😉 Across the way there is also a gorgeous butterfly wall mural where you can take fun pictures with your iced treats for instagram (feel free to follow me: @julia_orr)

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Franklin BBQ – unbelievably long line, unbelievably worth it. Best in the world BBQ, with the best hype in the business. If you are a fan of BBQ or meat in general, make sure to make a stop for the sweet sauces and the savory meals. 

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Fonda San Miguel – A formal Mexican food experience, they have wonderful wall art and even better dishes. Caldo Tlapeno, ensalada de espinacas, and angels on horseback are some of the best dishes I have had there, though anything on the menu is sure to be like a mini vacation for your tastebuds.

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Juliet- Perhaps the youngest restaurant on this all-too-long list, it is truly fantastic italian food, really cool outdoor seating, pretty unique menu, nice place to go out or even just for upscale drinks, they are trying to cater for people who will go there for bar action and for old fashioned italian food like pizza and pasta, not inexpensive but it is on barton springs road so if you want to go there then go for a dip it is a nice location

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Hopdoddy – Insanely long line 24/7. I have seen people standing in pouring rain for over 20 minutes to get inside. This means really good burgers and salads, nice space for seating indoors, not too fussy.

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Homeslice – A total typical tourist stop, those in the know will direct you here. Inexpensive pizza on Congress, across from good live music, featured in many movies (The Chef anyone??) it is a staple for good pizza and better conversation on the street

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Sights:

Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge  – by standing near this bridge, on it, or below it in a boat on the water, during summer and fall there is a very good chance to see hundreds of thousands of bats fly out. Truly magical. 

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Zilker Park – across the street from my dad’s place, there is Zilker Park. Excellent swing set, trust me i’ve tested it. Wide open spaces for running around with dogs or small children plus a good skyline view of Austin.

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Barton Springs – ah yes, the photo  that keeps appearing on your twitter feed. A huge, stunning natural spring in the heart of Austin that they clean regularly it is perfect every time and a great place to grab a towel, a book, and to chill for the afternoon. Fun guaranteed (also if you forget food do not sweat it there is a snack stand across from where you buy tickets on the outside parking lot)! The water is chilly but I guarantee that it will be one of the best workouts. Ever.

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Violet Crown Movie Theater – showing all the Bohemian and current movies your heart desires with excellent snacks and better prices. I recently saw Love & Mercy 🙂 Two locations, Santa Fe and Austin, only for those who truly know the city & now whomever reads this, happy movie going! imgres-2 imgres-1 imgres