The Siberian American: December 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Year in Review: 2016 Highlights (Part One)

2016 was a tough year. It’s no secret that overall, it was the hardest year of my life. Still, there was so much good in this year, and I want to remember it. I love doing the year recaps every year (here is 2015 part one and part two and 2014 part one, part two, part three, and part four), so I was looking forward to doing one in 2016.


Most Popular Blog Post: Ten Best Books I Read in 2015

We kicked off the new year by celebrating New Year’s Eve with my parents and friends in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Chris had to leave the next day, but I spent an extra day with my family. Then, my parents drove me to Chicago, and I spent an afternoon showing them some of my favorite places in the city.

Another January highlight was my Christmas present-tickets to the Potted Potter! We had the best date night watching the show and eating at Cheesecake Factory.

Click here for a full recap of January in Chicago.


Most Popular Blog Post: Stunning Sea Views on the Via dell’Amore in Cinque Terre, Italy 

Chris had to work on Valentine’s Day, but he still made it special with a sweet message from the dog park while he was walking Skyler. We went to Bohemian House on the Monday after Valentine’s Day to celebrate. It was so delicious and ended up being one of my favorite meals in Chicago.

February was filled with lots of great restaurant and a gorgeous walk on a 50-degree day.

Click here for a full recap of February in Chicago. 


Most Popular Blog Post: Quick Trip: 24 Hours in Strasbourg, France

March was such a fun month! After Chris got off work on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, we headed to the Chicago River to see it turn green. It was a blast, and I highly recommend visiting Chicago during St. Patrick’s Day.

March was also a great month of visitors. I had such a fun time with my Red Army girls on our reunion weekend. I loved showing them the city! Then, my in laws came into town for Easter weekend. I loved going out of town with them for a day trip, so they could see more of Illinois.

Click here for a full recap of March in Chicago. 


Most Popular Blog Post: California Road Trip: Hearst Castle Upstairs Suites Tour and Roman Pool

I realized there was something wrong with me in early February, but I wasn’t able to get an appointment until April. By April, I was having a hard time moving, so we weren’t able to explore as much. Still, I had a blast taking photos with Christopher to remember our time in Chicago, eating at Smoque, and enjoying the NFL Draft Town festivities.

Click here for a full recap of April in Chicago. 


Most Popular Blog Posts: The Hardest Post I’ve Ever Written, Best Things to Do in Vegas if You Don’t Gamble or Drink, and California Road Trip: Pacific Coast Highway Tips

In May, I was determined to not let being sick ruin my last full month in Chicago. By that time, Chris and I really missed Russian food, so we loved going to Russian Tea Time and meeting friends at a Ukrainian restaurant called Shokolad.

On Mother’s Day, we went to our first Cubs game ever at Wrigley Field! I have been joking with friends that they won the World Series this year because we are lucky charms. Haha.

Of course, I can’t write a short recap of our month without mentioning the Gelato World Tour. It was so neat to go to the festival and eat gelato from all over the world!

Click here for a full recap of May in Chicago. 


Most Popular Blog Post: Chicago Travel: Wendella Lake Michigan Fireworks Cruise 

June brought so many changes. Christopher finished intern year, and we celebrated in our favorite way: trying out new places to eat in Chicago. We went to Bavette’s, an amazing French steakhouse and Café Ba-Ba-Reeba for tapas and sangria!

We capped off our time in Chicago in the best way: with a fireworks cruise on Lake Michigan. If you are ever in Chicago during the summer, put this on your list!

My parents drove from Texas to pick Skyler and me up, so I wouldn’t have to ride in the Penske truck. My dad made the drive from Chicago to Texas in 13 hours, and I spent the rest of the month meeting up friends, relaxing, and moving into our new place.

Click here for a recap of our last weeks in Chicago (filled with lots of amazing food!) and our first weeks in Texas.  

Now it's your turn! What was your favorite part of 2016?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Best Books I Read in 2016

Hey, friends! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. I was so excited Chris was able to have four whole days off this year (it felt like we won the lottery), and we loved getting to spend it with family. Anyways, today I am linking up with Steph and Jana to share the best books I read in 2016. Y’all, deciding on my favorite books was so hard this year. So far this year I have read 145 books (I think that number will increase by one or two before the year is over), which is by far the most I have ever read in a year. Since I was sick for half of the year (and recovering after that), reading really became a huge part of my life. Anyways, because of the number of books I read, I had a hard time picking out favorites.

Best Thrillers

Only Ever You by Rebecca Drake
(c/o NetGalley)
A mother loses her child for 45 minutes...only for her to be taken again three months later. Soon, the parents become the prime suspects. The whole book was suspenseful with many twists and turns. Every time I thought I had the story figured out, it surprised me. If you love psychological thrillers, this is a great read.

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
(c/o NetGalley)
I only read this book a few weeks ago, but it has stayed with me. I've mentioned before I think the best kind of thrillers are the kinds that you can't say much about without spoiling it. This thriller is GOOD. It's insanely twisted and just when you think you know what's going on the author says HAHA and throws another plot twist. It alternates from the girl before (Emma) who was killed in the house the current girl (Jane) is renting. There were a few uncomfortable moments, but the ending really sealed the deal for me. If you love thrillers, you have to get your hands on this one!

Honorable Mention: Find Her by Lisa Gardner (review here)

Best Romance

Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino
(c/o NetGalley)
It's been a long time since I've felt this emotional while reading a book. I knew Renee Carlino could write after reading Before We Were Strangers, but this book is a million times better. The story captivated me from the first page. Emiline, a creative writing professor living in San Diego and struggling with her own writing, is recommended a debut novel from J.Colby. From the first page, Emiline realizes the novel is written about her by the boy who was everything to her growing up...who she hasn't seen in 12 years. The past and present is intertwined perfectly with a book within a book format. As you read the book with Emiline, you get to see Emiline and Jase's love develop, and you truly feel all the pain Emiline experienced growing up. The book absolutely consumed me-I could think of nothing else until I finished. It's not perfect. There were several things that bothered me, and the ending felt a bit rushed, but it's five stars for me based on how emotionally invested I got and how much I want to tell everyone I know about it.

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
(c/o NetGalley)
I have always wanted to read a Colleen Hoover book. In fact, I have several of her books that have been hanging out on my Kindle for years waiting to be read. After reading It Ends with Us, I think I need to move them up higher on my list. I went into this book not knowing much about it. I thought it was just a love story. It's not just a love story. It's beautiful, heartbreaking, raw, and truly eye-opening. Even before I got to the Author's Note, I could tell the author had experience with the topic from the way it was written. I started this book blindly, and I don't want to give anything away because I think that's the best way to read it. You go into it not knowing anything and come out shaken by this powerful read.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
This book was such a guilty pleasure! I like the royal family, though I didn't know much about Kate and William's love story (I knew they met at St. Andrews, and it took him a while to propose). Of course, I had to look up more of their story while I read The Royal We, and this novel does loosely follow the same timeline. I really thought this book was fun. As much as I liked Bex and Prince Nick, I thought the supporting characters really made this story. It was longer than I expected, but I didn't really mind. I was in the mood for this kind of novel, and I'm glad I read it.

Honorable Mention: The One You Really Want by Jill Mansel (review here) and One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (review here)

Best World War II Historical Fiction

I usually read a lot of World War II historical fiction, but this year I only read five books. Thankfully, they were all good!

Karolina’s Twins by Ronald H. Balson
(c/o NetGalley)
I love Ronald H. Balson's writing. Last year, Saving Sophie was one of my favorite reads of the year, and I liked Karolina's Twins just as much. Lena's story of her life during World War II and her current search for the twins was beautiful and heartbreaking. I guessed the big "twist" early on in the book, but that didn't detract from the novel. If you're a fan of World War II historical fiction, this one is a must read!

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
(c/o NetGalley)
Even though I've read a lot of World War II historical fiction (and non-fiction), I feel like every time I pick up a WWII book, I learn something new. I had never heard of Caroline Ferriday and barely knew anything about the Ravensbrück "Rabbits." The thing that stands out to me about this book is a decent chunk of the story occurs after the war is over. It was interesting (and heartbreaking) to read a book that truly how difficult it was to glue a life back together after such unimaginable trauma. If you are a fan of WWII historical fiction, I think Lilac Girls is worth a read.

Best Other Historical Fiction

A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock
(c/o Blogging for Books)
I was surprised by how much I liked this book. Alternating between Vera's senior year at university in the 1910s and her socialite life in the 1920s, A Fine Imitation really portrays why there is more to life than money. Even though she has everything she could possibly want, Vera is terribly lonely until she meets Emil Hallan, the artist invited to paint a mural in the pool room of her building. As they begin to get to know each other, Vera begins to question whether her life of privilege is worth being miserable. It's written well, and both timelines were woven together beautifully at the end.

Honorable Mention: The Winemakers by Jan Moran (review here)

Best Books That Don’t Fit a Category

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
(c/o NetGalley)
I think it's almost impossible to review this book without spoilers, so I'm going to be super generic. Jason Dessen is kidnapped one day heading home from the bar and wakes up in a totally different life. This book sucked me in. It's intense and overwhelming at times (the physics parts weren't my cup of tea). I thought the twist was unique, and the ending was interesting.

Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon
(c/o NetGalley)
This is the best time travel book I've ever read. It's a love story, but it's so much more than that. It's a coming of age story. A story about second chances, of feeling stuck and fighting to get out of it. It's slow at first but gets so much better. I loved all the characters. I don't usually tear up while reading, but this book got me. It's truly beautiful.

No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn 
(c/o NetGalley)
No Ordinary Life was a fascinating account of how sudden child stardom affects the child and the rest of her family. Molly is discovered after a viral YouTube video, and her mother Faye becomes her manager while still being a mother to her two other children and dealing with a broken marriage. I loved the behind the scenes look of making a television show, and Faye and Molly were both great characters. No Ordinary Life hooked me in from the first page, and I couldn't put it down!

Linking up with Steph & Jana.

What were some of your favorite reads in 2016?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Hey, friends! I just stopped by to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas! Chris and I are headed to his parent's house today, so I am taking a mini break for the holidays. I'll be back on Tuesday with the top books I read in 2016! Sending y'all lots of love and hope you have the most wonderful weekend celebrating!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Reflections: Six Months Back in Texas

I realized on Monday that I have officially been back in Texas for six months. I’m always in a reflective mood this time of year, so I thought I would share some thoughts on leaving Chicago and life back in Texas.

In some ways, it feels like we have been home forever. So much has happened since we moved back, and honestly, those first few months back are a bit of a blur. In other ways, it feels like we just left. Weren’t we just celebrating the end of intern year? I talked a little in the past about how residency life is weird. It’s hard to stay in the moment when it’s designed to always look ahead. Each rotation is four weeks, so Chris and I are constantly discussing the next rotation and what the schedule will be like. Even so, I’ve been trying to enjoy these last six months with an easier schedule. I’ve mentioned it before, but medical students don’t learn much radiology, so first year radiology residents aren’t prepared to take call by themselves right away. It’s an interesting residency in that Chris has to come home and study for two to three hours a day.

Of course, all of that is about to change. His schedule gets much worse starting in January, and starting in July, he will be doing four months of nights per year. (The medical new year starts in July). All that to say we have really enjoyed the extra time together. He has been off every other weekend, so we have loved exploring where we live.

I do miss Chicago. I definitely don’t miss it as much now when Chicago friends post about negative wind chill, and I really don’t miss the crazy intern year schedule, but I do miss walking to Lake Michigan and constantly finding new places to explore with my love.

One thing Chicago didn’t have, though, is family. We live about an hour and a half from both sets of parents (though they live in opposite directions from us), and it’s been such a blessing to visit my in-laws for the weekend or go to a Russian party at my parents’ house.

I hope y’all have enjoyed my stream of consciousness. I did want to say a quick apology for not reading your blogs or answering comments as much. I haven’t been feeling well barely have the energy to write. I’m planning on catching up after Christmas, though!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Blogger Christmas Cheer Exchange Reveal and Linkup 2016

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I just love doing the Blogger Christmas Cheer Exchange with Mattie. It’s so fun to get to know other bloggers and to shop for blogger friends! This year, I gave my gift to Ashley at The Wandering Weekenders, and my Secret Santa was Alexandra at Simply Alexandra!

Alexandra did such a wonderful job wrapping the gift! I’m always impressed with people who are good at wrapping because I don’t have that gift (Chris actually wraps everything at our house. He’s super good at it). Isn’t the fox wrapping paper just adorable?

I love the gifts she picked out for me! The gold and black sketch pad and pencils are super cute. I am so excited to read Heartless by Marissa Meyer after loving The Lunar Chronicles (though I never finished them! Oops). She also included a Hershey’s Kiss and a book called The Dry by Jane Harper. Thank you so much for the fun gifts, Alexandra!

If you participated in the exchange, link up with us below. I can’t wait to see what everyone received. Merry Christmas, friends!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December 2016 PopSugar Must Have Box Review

Recently, I have gotten several emails asking me if I am planning on doing more PopSugar reviews in the future. The truth is the May 2016 PopSugar box was my last box before this one. As much as I love PopSugar, I didn’t want to mess with it while we were moving and I was waiting for surgery. I ended up getting a new subscription on Black Friday. They were selling PopSugar for $20 a box, and I couldn’t say no to that! The December boxes have always been one of my favorites of the year (here is 2015 and 2014 for reference), so I was a little bummed this one wasn’t as festive as previous years. Still, it had some great items, so I’m excited to share it with y’all!

Note: This post contains referral links. If you decide to purchase a PopSugar box, I would love it if you used my link.

Odeme Catchall and Ring Dish Set ($67): 
I really love this set. It’s made out of porcelain and has a beautiful minimalist look.

Bauble Bar Snowfall Pendant ($28): 
This is a PopSugar exclusive item, which is always fun, but I don’t love it. It’s just not my style.

Winky Lux Lip Pill in Bunny ($14): 
I love cranberry lipstick for the holidays, and it’s even better that it’s matte! This is a gorgeous color with a beautiful pigment and is surprisingly moisturizing for a matte lipstick.

Dessange Top Coat Serum ($12): 
Apparently, this serum adds shine to your hair. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s not a bad product to get.

Mane Message Date Night Bobby Pins ($10): 
I can’t remember the last time I’ve used bobby pins, but these are so cute and sparkly!

Sisters’ Gourmet Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix ($7): 
I was just thinking I needed to pick up ingredients for cookies, so this is perfect! Chris and I always love the food in PopSugar boxes, so we’re excited about this mix.

The total value of this box is $138. I didn’t love all the items, but the catchall and ring dish set makes it more than worth it for me.

If you are interested in a PopSugar subscriptionPopSugar is currently offering $5 of your first box with the code “MUSTHAVE5.”

What was your favorite item in my December 2016 PopSugar box

Monday, December 12, 2016

Eleven Books I Read in November

I honestly didn’t realize how much I read in November until I looked at the list of books since my last update. It was another strange reading month. I read a bunch, but only a few books stood out. Most of them fall in the “just OK” category, and there is only one that I would go out of my way to recommend. Also, I’ve decided not to divide my reviews into categories for now. If you want to know how I ranked them out of my five stars, you can check out my GoodReads account.

Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon
(c/o NetGalley)
This is the best time travel book I've ever read. It's a love story, but it's so much more than that. It's a coming of age story. A story about second chances, of feeling stuck and fighting to get out of it. It's slow at first but gets so much better. I loved all the characters. I don't usually tear up while reading, but this book got me. It's truly beautiful.

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale
(c/o NetGalley)
This was a good book, but it was much different than I expected. It was more a family drama than a thriller. When Aimee's fiance dies, she has to piece her life back together, but she can never get over the feeling that he's still alive. She decides to dig further into his disappearance, hoping the truth will help her heal. I liked Aimee and her will to move past her circumstances. I didn't love a few of the situations towards the end and the way they were resolved, but overall, it was a good read.

The Confectioner’s Tale by Laura Madeleine
(c/o NetGalley)
Petra thought her late grandfather never hid anything from her until she discovered a photo of him in Paris in front of a patisserie with two people she doesn't know and the words "forgive me" on the back. Told in a dual timeline between Gui in 1909 and Petra in 1988, this is an interesting story of a forbidden love affair. It did stall for me a little at times, and I wish there were more descriptions of the patisserie, but overall, it was a good read.

Results May Vary by Bethany Chase
(c/o NetGalley)
I needed some fluff in my life, so I picked up this book. It was a little sadder and more serious than I expected (though I don't really know why since I knew it was a book about a woman finding out about her husband's affair). It was a decent read. It's not super memorable or a book I would go out of my way to recommend, but I'm not disappointed I read it.

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
(c/o NetGalley)
I love WWII historical fiction, so it's a genre I read often. For that reason, I probably judge WWII historical fiction books a little harsher than others. This one was just so-so for me. Only the first 25 percent was about WWII-most of it was about Hannah's life in Cuba. I think it would have been better if the part of the family on board the SS St. Louis was longer. Overall, (and I hate to say this about a book about WWII) it was just boring. There are so many better books out there.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
(c/o NetGalley)
Anne and Marco went to a dinner party next door and left their baby at home unsupervised, and she gets kidnapped. What happened to her? I really enjoyed this thriller. There were several interesting twists, and it was a fast-paced novel. There were also several technical issues. I didn't love the writing style, and it was quite a bit repetitive in the beginning. Overall, it was a good read.

Note: The next two books are the second and third book in a trilogy. Click here for my review of Alone, the first book in the trilogy.

Alight by Scott Sigler
(c/o NetGalley)
In the first book, Scott Sigler asked us not to give away an spoilers, so I am going to be super generic about this one too. This was my favorite book in the series. Usually the second book in a trilogy can be rough, but I think this one really worked. I really grew to love Em and the other characters in this book.

Alone by Scott Sigler
(c/o NetGalley)
I really liked how the third book started. It was exciting, and I felt like things really came together. The middle lost me for a bit. It felt a little repetitive. I hated some of the decisions made towards the end, but I understand why they had to be done. Overall, it was a satisfying ending to the series.

Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin
(c/o NetGalley)
I always have the same thing to say about Holly Martin's books-the writing is rough, but I love the story. The writing in this one really bothered me at times. It was awkward, and there was a lot of repetition. I honestly think the book could be 50 pages shorter. Still, it was a sweet Christmas story that kept me interested (I was hoping for a little more conflict toward the end, though. I felt like things got resolved too quickly).

Christmas Under a Starlit Sky by Holly Martin
(c/o NetGalley)
This book was a little over the top for me. I can handle one insta-love story, but three at once? Plus, Oakley and Neve's story just seemed weird to me. I hate what she did and how she tried to justify it. The ending was cute, but overall, this was my least favorite of Holly Martin's books.

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber
(c/o NetGalley)
I thought the concept of this book was cute: Julia was frustrated with her grumpy neighbor Cain, so she decided to "kill him with kindness" on the 12 days leading up to Christmas. She writes her progress in a blog, which happens to go viral (I'm not really buying that). The blog was a fun idea, and I like Julia & Cain, but I thought the conflict and resolution towards the end of the book was extremely weak. Still, it kept me engaged, and I read it quickly. It works as a feel-good Christmas read.

Favorite reads in November: Valley of the Moon, The Couple Next Door, and The Generations Trilogy by Scott Sigler.

Linking up with Steph & Jana.

I love book suggestions. What have you read lately?