Recent Reads, 20/40: All the Summer Girls


I’ve made it to the halfway mark! I am super proud of myself.
Last year, I was beyond 20 books at this point, but it was around this time that I really started to slow down and get frustrated with work stuff, allowing myself little time to do anything but be moody.

Book 20 is the 5th book Katie and I decided to read in our book club (ya know, our two person book club).
This book is definitely not something that will give us tons to mull over and to talk about, but it’s nice to read something that isn’t cumbersome, like Life After Life, that month-sucking book.

All the Summer Girls, by Meg Donahue, is that your typical beach read fluff. It has the romantic drama and the friendship drama and all other kinds of drama. But Donahue added a mix a bit of intrigue and trauma as well. Our three characters, Kate, Vanessa, and Dani, haven’t been the same since the death of Colin, Kate’s twin brother, several summers earlier at Avalon beach in NJ. Suddenly, the place they spent long vacations at every year is tainted with the terrible memory. We learn that everyone has guilt towards the death, feeling responsible in their own ways, but we don’t know why or what they did until the characters slowly start to tell each other.

One thing that bummed me out about the book is that, since every character is struggling through some sort of personal issue along with their issues towards Colin, the beach is like a backdrop that doesn’t shine. From the cover of the book to the title, it screams “READ ME WHILE YOU’RE SUNBATHING ON THE SHORE!” But the summer home they spent so much time in, the beach and boardwalk they lived on, don’t shine. I was definitely bummed, especially after being transported so well in We Were Liars. I want to mentally see that beach house, and it just wasn’t there.

I did like the fact that each chapter focused on a different character (The order is Kate, Vanessa, Dani). The book is written in a third-person POV, so it’s interesting to separate the chapters without them actually narrating the story.
I think it was smart to write the alternating chapters so that we could see just what these girls are going through.

To sum it up, it was a quick read that would definitely fly by if you have time on the beach.
Still, I feel like there are more summer-y summer reads.


Recent Reads, Book 19/40: Landline


So, at this point, Rainbow Rowell has a fan base that would willingly read a brochure on how to plunge toilets. Four books into her work, I think I can say I’m on that bandwagon. What I adore about her, really, is how Rainbow Rowell-y her writing is. It’s charming, it’s different, it’s real.

Landline was just released this past week and I read it in a little more than 48 hours…a new record for me lately, for sure. Instead of sleeping, I read and read, dying to know what would happen next. I was worried that, in a sleepy haze the next morning, I would forget what I had read. It didn’t happen.

Landline is the story of Georgie McCool, a TV writer who’s marriage to Neal has always been tough, despite their deep love for each other. When the career opportunity of a lifetime keeps Georgie from spending Christmas in Omaha with her husband and kids, their relationship is strained more than ever before. He won’t answer her calls or communicate with her in any way…until she goes to her mom’s house, plugs in the old landline, and calls his house, only to find 1998 Neal, just before he proposed, on the other line. Georgie is left to wonder if she is meant to prevent their marriage from happening or if it can be saved from the absolutely strange and impossible phone calls.

Each book of Rowell’s has this sort of strange magic to it, whether it’s intentional (in this case) or not.
It’s intoxicating and wonderful. Since the book takes place around Christmastime, I seriously thought I would see snow outside when I finally looked out the window after finishing. That’s how transported I got.
And I love the way she writes about love. It’s not the typical story. Some of the romantic moments are the strangest (a particular non-kiss scene in this book stands out), unlike anything you’d read in an Emily Giffin book.
That’s what’s so wonderful about her. Can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!


Tracy & Steve: A Wedding


This past Saturday, one of my dearest friends  (I’ve known her since elementary school!) got married. It’s been a while since I’ve attended a friend’s wedding (as opposed to family, which is still fun, but not the same kind of fun) and it was truly a blast. What’s better than watching your friend marry their best friend, then follow it up with drinks and dancing?
Not many things.

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Friends waiting for the big moment!


We all agreed she looked stunning. Everything was flattering…the dress, the hair (she wore this awesome headband under the veil), the makeup. Absolutely gorgeous.


MARRIED! And sneaking a peek at us.


The lot of us at cocktail hour, waiting not-so-patiently for the bar to open (I rarely get group photos, so I cherish this one immensely! Everyone is visible and looks amazing!!).


Why yes, I will post an obligatory cute photo of me and my love.


The lovely table setting.


Welcome the newlyweds!


Crazy boys.

It was such a great time! I love celebrating love, especially with people I love.


Recent Reads, 18/40: How to Love


I just keep chuggin’ along with the books.
I’m 3 books behind schedule, still, but this is the rate I typically read books at, about one per week.
Last year, I got so stressed because I made the goal so high (a book a week, not considering social life or work situations) and eventually gave up. I might not make the goal, exactly, but I’m not far behind and I’m allowing myself to enjoy the books. Either way, I’ll give myself a pat on the back. A couple of set-backs and I’m still doing okay.

How to Love by Katie Cotugno has been on my Amazon Wish List since it was released last fall, thanks to this good review from Entertainment Weekly. I pretty much trust my life with EW. My parents got me a couple of Amazon gift cards that I used for tons of Kindle books, but decided it was time to start buying some physical copies again.

How to Love is the story of Reena (Serena) Montero, a smart teenager who became pregnant at 16 and was abandoned by the father, and great love of her life, Sawyer LeGrande, who has suddenly come back into her life. Though he disappeared without knowing about the baby, the abandonment and the teen pregnancy caused tension in her life both towards him and with her family. The story is told in alternating chapters, BEFORE he left and AFTER he came back.
Reena has known Sawyer forever, and loved him about that long, but he isn’t all he’s cracked up to be when they finally come together. Their relationship is strained with secrets and fears. Can they overcome all of that?

I had high expectations for this book. I don’t want to say it let me down, but it didn’t become a favorite. Still, I consider a book good and read-worthy when it gives me something to think about and carry with me. I know this story won’t become a forgotten book in the library of my mind. While checking some spoiler-free reviews on Goodreads, I came across many people hating the character of Sawyer LeGrande. I, of course, ended up disliking him, too. I wondered if it was influenced by the reviews or if I would’ve felt that way regardless. He’s not particularly likeable, and Reena is a repressed and angry soul, so she’s hard to like sometimes,too. I think there’s something smart about that, though, especially in terms of a book geared towards Young Adults. It’s not the perfect love story. 

I think Cotugno handled Reena’s motherhood really well, too. It wasn’t the focus of the story. Reena’s a teen mom, and she’s dealing with it as best she can while living a normal life, but it’s not used to overdramatize the story in my opinion. It is the cause for family tension, but it’s not trying to send a message.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It’s more of a drama, unlike cutesy love stories you might find in YA romances,
but that doesn’t make it any harder to read or enjoy. It’s a refreshing change.


Recent Reads, 17/40: Where Things Come Back


This past weekend, I finished Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. This book came out in 2012 and was honored with the Michael L. Printz award, but I never felt particularly compelled to read it. A while back, it was a Kindle Daily Deal, and for $2 bucks, I couldn’t say no.

Usually, I have an idea of what book I’d like to read before I finish the current book. Not this time. I finished The Leftovers on a Friday night before bed, so I figured I’d just work it out the next day. I brought my Kindle to work with me, knowing I had an hour break to eat and read (which is what I always do when I have an hour. Panera and a book.).
The Kindle was the easiest thing to do because I currently have 64 unread books on it.
I might have a problem?

When I buy a new book, it automatically downloads on Wi-Fi and shows up on my Carousel. To keep it looking neat, I keep only a few books on that page at a time. Though I bought Where Things Come Back a while ago, it was on the carousel and I thought, why not? And then I fell right in.

I’m not sure how to explain the book. This is what I could say, but I don’t know if it’ll do it justice.
Cullen Witter is a 17 year old stuck in the small town of Lily, Arkansas. It’s one of those towns people dream about leaving but either never do or always end up coming back. The summer before his senior year of high school, Cullen is sent to a morgue to identify the body of his cousin Oslo, who died of a drug overdose. From that moment on, everything starts to crumble around him. Lily becomes obsessed with the idea that a woodpecker once thought to be extinct is somewhere in their town. They cling to the idea that this Lazarus Woodpecker will bring business to the area.
Meanwhile, Cullen’s younger brother Gabriel disappears and the family’s search for him is strained and fearful.

There’s like SO MUCH MORE to this book. There are multiple narratives that sort of flow together throughout. Honestly, I had no idea how to describe the book to Brad as I was reading it or even to myself. And yet, every time I sat down to read it, I would clear large portions at a time without realizing it.

I can see why it won the Printz award. Though it is a book you would find in the Young Adult section, it’s very mature (but it’s stupid to say that Young Adult novels are only for teens, and maybe one day I’ll share my argument.).
A lot of different themes, from religion to death to depression, are covered.
It’s an easy read, but the material is shrouded in a dark cloud.
However, I enjoyed it and am curious to read Whaley’s new book, Noggin, which has yet another strange premise.


Project Life: June Layouts


Now that it’s July…it’s time for June’s Project Life layouts!

My photos for June were very sparse. I printed way less than I usually do, and I didn’t even use all of them.
I guess the fact that the book is so huge already is getting me nervous.
Because of this, the layouts are all pretty simple.


The first layout focuses on my trip to Virginia, specifically the journey there.
I used the June wood veneer from Studio Calico’s Hello, Hello kit. I love the way it looks.
The “enjoy the adventure” card and date washi tape was also the perfect addition for this page.
I printed out a few Instagram photos with the full intention of using them in another page like last month, but they were all too random that I decided to stick them to some cardstock, which you can see on the bottom right.
That particular paper was designed by Crate Paper.

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I was super excited to do the Virginia Beach layout because I purchased the Project Life Summer Themed Cards back in May and have been anxiously waiting to use them…they are so stinking cute! I kept two of my Sunshine Core Kit cards (“Today is Beachy”, using the cutest Thickers I got for 1.50 from Marshalls), but the rest are Summer cards.


I once again used Design D for my vertical pictures, and I can’t stress enough how much I don’t like using these. I don’t find them aesthetically pleasing and I also hate that I then have to use at least 3 photos on the other side. I miss my Design G, but I don’t want to let these go to waste. Maybe they will grow on me. And I don’t hate using the cards vertically, because I’ve gotten some cute ones through my SC kits and themed cards. Still, something about them…


I ended the month with a layout dedicated to spending time with my friends. The top and bottom have different focuses, and I probably could’ve done pages for both, but I condensed it so that I could start fresh on the left side next month.

I enjoy these layouts and the memories, but I felt a little uninspired. I always try to bang it all out in one sitting, and that can be good or bad. The great thing is, I can always go back and change the decorative cards, add more journaling and embellishments, or just play around a little more with the way the pictures are placed.

For now, this works just fine!


Recent Reads, 16/40: The Leftovers


I’m a little behind on Recent Reads post. I’ve actually just started book 18, so I have a couple of books to update about.
Book 16 was also the fourth pick for book club (Katie and I). She looked through my To-Read list on Goodreads and picked this one, because she didn’t know that the HBO show of the same name was inspired by it. I was more than happy to read it, since it’s been on that list for quite some time.

This is the second book I have read by Tom Perrotta, the first being Little Children. I read that back in my college days (probably 2007?), so I don’t recall every detail. I just remembered everything being very dramatic yet quiet.
My fear was that The Leftovers would be a lot like our attempt at reading Life After Life and that it would sound better than it was executed. I can say that that’s not true. I was engaged very quickly and enjoyed reading this book.

The Leftovers is about what happens when millions of people in the world suddenly disappear in what they eventually call the Sudden Departure (though the religious call it the rapture). Many things happen as people try to go on living life after the loss of loved ones and the unknown reason behind it all. In the book, we are shown the perspective of 5 different people, 4 of which are the members of the Garvey family. Kevin, the father, has become the mayor of Mapleton 3 years after the event. He is trying to maintain hope in the community while dealing with the loss of Laurie, his wife, who joined a group called the Guilty Remnant. The GR is filled with people who dress only in white, take a vow of silence, and smoke cigarettes (though I still don’t fully understand the reasoning behind that). They believe they were left behind because they weren’t worthy in God’s eyes, so they must make up for it in their own way. Laurie left her whole family behind to join this group. Their daughter Jill is a teenager, so frustrated with the loss of her mother and those troubling teen years that she shaves her head and gets in with the wrong girl, getting high, drinking, and ditching school. And their son, Tom, has become a volunteer of a man called “Holy Wayne” who started the Healing Hug Movement, telling the world that he can remove their pain through hugs.

I loved reading about the various groups of people in the world who are dealing with the departure in their own ways, religious or otherwise. I think Perrotta just knows how to tell a story about suburbia, something we always like to think of as calm and innocent but is always holding secrets underneath.

Katie and I still haven’t met to discuss the book, but I’m so glad that we read this one. I really believe that we will have plenty to talk about. If you’ve seen the show, I don’t believe it will be super similar to the book, other than the character names and groupings. I’m curious to see it one day, but for now I am pleased with the story the book told.