Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Best Paige In The Book Review: Something In The Water by Catherine Steadman

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Something In The Water was the first book I read after my law school graduation. To be perfectly honest, graduation was a huge let down. My school pre-recorded videos of the speakers and degree conferrals, and then released each video at a set time. I had technology issues three times throughout the streamed ceremony, my grandparents couldn't come to our house to celebrate due to health risks, and my dad even took a call in the middle of the whole thing. I was incredibly disappointed and was in need of a good book to bury my nose in for a while. Fortunately, Something In The Water was the exact opposite of my graduation; it was engaging, compelling, and ended up being the best book I read through quarantine!

Erin's life could not be going better: her career as a filmmaker is about to take off with a new documentary about high-profile prisoners, she's madly in love with her rich and handsome fiancé, Mark, who is an investment banker, and they are about to get married and start their lives together. Despite a hiccup in Mark's career right before their nuptials, the couple still manages to have a beautiful wedding. While the newlyweds are on their honeymoon in Bora Bora, they decide to go scuba diving. They anticipated seeing fish, coral reefs, and even sharks, but a mysterious "something in the water" leads their lives down an unexpected path. If nobody knows their secret, nobody can get hurt, right? But what if somebody does know? How far will they go to protect themselves, and how far will they stray from the morals they thought they had?

"Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?" That is how this book starts, and it holds your attention in every sentence following. Catherine Steadman takes an otherwise-ordinary character and exposes her to a situation that tests her values and threatens her idyllic vision of what her life could have been. This book is so engaging and the plot twists and turns keep you page flipping until the very end. The whole time the reader gets to think about how they would handle such a situation and what kinds of implications could come from making different choices.

Something In The Water was hands-down the best book I read all through my time in quarantine! I stayed up late three nights in a row just to find out what was going to happen next, and even at 4 AM I wanted to stay up and keep reading! The characters were overall relatable, which I found refreshing after having a bit of a disconnect with the main character and plot in Where The Crawdads Sing (check out my review of that book here). While the story overall wasn't something most people will ever encounter, I felt like the events that made up the plot seemed overall believable. I would have liked a more complete ending, but I think that the loose ends seemed to give the book a haunting touch. I love a good mystery thriller, and this book was the perfect fit!

Rating: ★★★★★
Favorite Quotes:
  • "I’m not deliberately keeping secrets; I just want to wait until the time is right. It’s such big news, I don’t want it tarnished by worry. I want it to be special. Pure."
  • "It seems that the one drawback of having every opportunity in life is that you can never fulfill that level of expectation. You’ll always fall short of your own potential. Any achievement will be the minimum expected of you, considering the circumstances, and any failure will be purely due to character weakness."
  • "Why are bad boys always so attractive? I suppose, at the end of the day, if you’re not good-looking you don’t get away with being a bad boy. You just get called a thug."
  • "I might actually be the world’s most naïve criminal. Completely oblivious. I’m lucky I’m not dead yet."
  • "Mistakes come down to three things: (1) lack of time, (2) lack of initiative, (3) lack of care."

I cannot recommend this book enough! It was engaging from the first page, and I could not put it down until I was done! If you're interested in checking it out, you can buy it from Amazon here. Let me know what you think!

Make today the best page yet,

(All images and text reprinted with permission from Penguin Random House LLC. Something In The Water was published by Ballantine Books in 2019)

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

How to Prepare for Law School

Hey everyone! I'm in the heat of bar prep, so I apologize I haven't been posting as much. I wanted to talk about what kinds of things you can do the summer before starting law school to get yourself prepared for the fall. These tips are mostly geared towards 0Ls, but rising 2Ls and 3Ls may be able to find something useful as well!

This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click the links and make a purchase

1. Relax
This tip is probably what you'll hear the most, and for a good reason! Law school is super stressful, so take some time to enjoy whatever makes you happy! Let yourself sleep in, binge watch something on Netflix, take a bubble bath, and hangout with friends. Everyone will be brand new to the law school experience in the fall (no matter how prepared they may seem), so there's no need to worry you're falling behind if you can't name every tort from day 1. The summer after your 1L year will probably start with the journal write-on competition, fill itself with OCI and job applications, and all the while you'll be working an internship full-time. Your 2L summer you'll also be working full-time and trying to lock down a post-grad job. Use the time before your law school journey begins to get yourself into a good state of mental health so you're energized and ready in the fall.

2. Read for Fun
If you're already an avid reader, this tip probably merged with the previous one. However, I wanted to emphasize the importance of getting into a habit of reading. In undergrad, I read here and there, but I didn't make as much time for it as I did growing up, despite loving to read. Getting used to sitting down with a book and carving out a few hours to read is a great habit to prepare you for law school. While case books aren't always the most exciting things to read, you'll have to do it every night. Making reading a routine will be a major benefit once law school starts. If you're looking for some recommendations, check out my reviews on An American Marriage, Little Fires Everywhere, The Queen of Hearts, and Where The Crawdads Sing.

3. Get Into A Healthy Routine
Speaking of helpful routines, the summer before law school is a great time to start making healthy choices. There's a myth that it takes 21 days to form a habit, but research has actually shown that habit formation varies pretty widely between people, and it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit (here's the study if you're interested). The summer before law school gives you a pretty wide stretch of time to try to form your own new habits. Do you prefer a morning workout or an evening workout? What kinds of healthy lunches can you try? Do you prefer to write out your whole week in a planner or are you more inclined to write out a daily to-do list on a post-it note? I lived on campus all 4 years of undergrad and then went straight to law school. I had always just eaten in the dining hall, so getting used to making my own meals was something I knew I'd need to adapt to once I started law school. I learned how to cook a bunch of different foods, figured out proper portion sizes, and by the end of the summer I had a list of meal ideas for the year. I also got into the habit of doing yoga as a way to exercise and relax. Finally, forcing myself to wake up and go to sleep at set times also helped me get used to my law school schedule. Having a healthy routine in place can make your transition into law school a lot easier.

4. Finalize Living Arrangements
One major source of stress can be apartment hunting, especially if you're going to school out-of-state (or unable to tour apartments due to the pandemic). Then once you have a place to stay, there's the issues of insurance, getting the power set up, picking out a cable/ wifi package, and figuring out where the nearest stores are. Getting all of this handled before you move in will save a lot of headaches. When I moved in to my new apartment, nothing was ready, and I had to deal with all of it by myself since my roommates weren't moving in for a few days. Fortunately, I had a few weeks until school started, so by the time I needed to focus on orientation and classes, everything was under control. I also was able to do a few practice runs to see how long it would take to walk to the shuttle and get to school. Getting yourself settled in before school starts will allow you to focus on law school and spend time on what matters.

5. Clean Up Your Social Media
You've probably heard this since you started using social media, but it's worth mentioning. Anyone can see what you post on the internet, and that includes judges, attorneys, and future employers. Go through each of your social media accounts and posts to make sure your privacy settings are adjusted so your personal information isn't on display. None of your pubic posts, images, or profiles should have anything you wouldn't want a future judge, lawyer, or employer to see. Also consider that you'll be adding your future classmates on social media, and this may be their first impression of you. If you don't already have a LinkedIn profile, now is also a great time to set that up. Make sure to use a professional-looking profile picture since it's a professional networking site. Another good idea is to do a google search of your name and see what pops up. If there are links or images that you don't want on the internet, you can request that they be removed at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals. This may not be a big issue if you have a common last name, but if you're like me and have a distinctive one, the search results may be ALL about you. By clearing up your google results, you can ensure that future employers will get a more professional impression of you. 

6. Buy A Suit and Professional Attire
Now is a great time to buy a suit. During your orientation you'll likely have a day that you're expected to wear a suit for a professional headshot as well as your swearing in. You'll also want to have a suit on hand for interviews, networking, and oral arguments. Buying a suit ahead of time ensures you'll have a well-fitting and put-together outfit and won't have to hope that something off the rack is your size at the last minute. Your best bet is to get a suit in grey, navy, and/ or black. While I don't know much about men's suits, I'd recommend ladies get a suit jacket and the coordinating pants and skirt. By getting all 3 pieces from the same designer, you ensure that the fabric colors match. Having the option of a skirt or pants also helps to dress around the weather. Personally, I really like Calvin Klein suits because they're well-made, true to size, and have lots of size and color options. If you're not crazy about going out shopping yet, you can check out Amazon for options on blazers, pants, and skirts. Also make sure you have a few neutral-colored tops for under the blazer and professional-looking shoes. I'd also recommend a faux pearl earring and necklace set to complete your outfit.

7. Figure Out A Study System
The basic overview of a law school class is: read the assigned reading before class, go to class, discuss the cases and legal concepts the reading addresses, work through a few hypothetical situations with differing facts, repeat. Your goal is to maximize your retention of 1) your reading and 2) your class lecture. First, think about how you will be able to best understand and retain what you read. This could be a highlighter system, summarizing paragraphs or pages as you read them, writing out notes by hand, typing up case briefs, or any other system. Preparing a highlighter color code system or having designated class notebooks ahead of time will allow you to dive right in to your assignments when they come rather than worrying how to approach them. After you have a plan for reading, think about how you'll get the most out of class. Some people (like me!) can't keep up with taking hand-written notes, so typing your notes is essential. Other people swear by the pen and paper method. If you do plan on typing lecture notes, try out note-taking programs like OneNote or EverNote to see what works for you. I personally used OneNote, and it helped me to stay organized from class to class. By having your files set up before classes even start, you'll be ready to go from the very beginning! 

8. Read to Prepare
Okay, take this last point with a grain of salt. I'm going to state right now that you do not need to start studying before classes even start. You'll learn the law the way that your professors teach it to you, and you will figure out how to write exam answers without trying to master it before your first day. However, if you're like I was before I started law school and want to get a jump on your studies or to feel more confident going in, there are a handful of resources I recommend. Getting to Maybe was a book I read that I felt helped me understand how to approach legal analyses as well as how to structure my exam essays. Some of it WILL go over your head because it's designed to be read by students who have already experienced a semester of law school classes and their first round of exams, but it's digestible enough that it is definitely helpful. If you want to get into some substantive information, I would recommend the Short and Happy series. These books go over legal subjects you'll learn in your first year (such as civil procedure, torts, contracts, property, and criminal law) and get you thinking about how to apply the law to different cases. Figure out what classes you'll be taking your first semester and check out the corresponding book! If you really want to get started on learning, getting prepared will be a great use of your time!

Ultimately, the summer before law school is yours to do whatever you want before you delve into the legal world. Getting into a routine, preparing, or simply having fun are all great ways to spend your time. Feel free to reach out if you want advice about getting ready for law school or just to chat! What are some other suggestions for the summer before law school? Let me know in the comments!

Make today the best page yet,

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Best Paige In The Book Review: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click the links and make a purchase
Where The Crawdads Sing was the first book I read after finishing my last law school final EVER! After spending a week writing out exam essays and over-analyzing answers for multiple choice questions, I was so ready to curl up with a good book. I had seen so many people talk about how much they loved this book, so I was excited to get into it. While I think my expectations were set a bit high from all of the hype, I did enjoy reading this book.

Catherine Danielle Clark ("Kya") lives in her family's shack in the marshes of Barkley Cove, a small town along the North Carolina coast. In the early 1950's, when Kya is only 6 years old, her mother abandons the family, never to be seen again. Gradually, all of Kya's siblings abandon the shack too, leaving Kya with her abusive and alcoholic father. Kya's father teaches her to fish, and the two seem to get along, but after a few years he leaves too. Alone, Kya learns to fend for herself and finds solace in the beauty of the nature she grew up around. She becomes known as the "marsh girl" to the people in town who see her on occasion. The residents of Barkley Cove are not shy about their prejudices against Kya, causing her to avoid people as much as possible. However, as Kya grows up, she starts to long for human connection. Two boys from town take an interest in her untamed beauty, but Kya learns that love isn't ever simple. Flash forward to 1969- Chase Andrews is found dead. Fondly remembered by the residents of Barkley Cove as the star quarterback and every girl's dream guy in his youth, the town is in a frenzy to find out who killed Chase. Naturally, everyone wants to point fingers at the mysterious marsh girl. The simplicity of nature and the flaws in humanity are contrasted as the search for Chase's murderer endures. 

The writing in this book was really beautiful. Owens describes nature is such an ethereal and breathtaking way that the reader can picture exactly what the marsh and its surroundings are like. The murder investigation timeline also keeps readers on the edge on their seats trying to find out how it will end. The storylines between Kya growing up and the murder investigation are intertwined to highlight how the person we were when we grew up never quite leaves us. Themes about prejudice and bias are reflected in Kya's childhood and her adulthood as the storyline develops. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The first 2/3 of it were a bit slow, and while the scenery was beautifully described, it did seem to drag the storyline along. There were also some plot points that I didn't think were very believable. For a while I was confused how this book had gotten such rave reviews. Once the story picked up, however, I couldn't put it down. The law student in me loved the murder investigation, and I found the legal end of things to be pretty realistic. There was also a major twist at the end that I didn't see coming. Once the book picked up, I loved reading it to the end.

Rating: ★★★★
Favorite Quotes:
  • “Don’t go thinking poetry’s just for sissies. There’s mushy love poems, for sure, but there’s also funny ones, lots about nature, war even. Whole point of it—they make ya feel something.”
  • "Why should the injured, the still bleeding, bear the onus of forgiveness?"
  • "Let’s face it, a lot of times love doesn’t work out. Yet even when it fails, it connects you to others and, in the end, that is all you have, the connections."
  • "A lesser male needs to shout to be noticed."
  • “That’s what nobody understands about me.” She raised her voice, “I never hated people. They hated me. They laughed at me. They left me. They harassed me. They attacked me. Well, it’s true; I learned to live without them. Without you. Without Ma! Or anybody!”
  • "it was enough to be part of this natural sequence as sure as the tides. She was bonded to her planet and its life in a way few people are. Rooted solid in this earth. Born of this mother."

I would definitely recommend this book. The writing is beautiful and the story combines coming-of-age with a page-turning murder mystery. If you haven't already read this wildly popular book, you can buy it from Amazon here. Let me know what you think!

Make today the best page yet!

(All images and text reprinted with permission from Penguin Random House LLC. Where The Crawdads Sing was published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in 2018)