Recent Reads, 23/40: Grasshopper Jungle


I’ve been wanting to write my review for book 23, Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, all week, but I didn’t have the dust jacket to take a good photo. I’ve been at Brad’s all week, and the cover has been at home and I just couldn’t wait any longer. So this photo will have to do…maybe I’ll update it, but it’s not really that important.
(Although I like the cover!)

Grasshopper Jungle is the story of 16 year old Austin Szerba, who is documenting the history of the end of the world.
Austin and his best friend, Robby Brees, spend their afternoons and weekends skateboarding in an alleyway they dubbed “grasshopper jungle” in the small town of Ealing, Iowa, where nothing exciting happens and everything basically sucks. One day, Austin and Robby are beaten up and their shoes are thrown on the roof of a secondhand store. When the boys go to retrieve it, they sneak into the shop and into the locked backroom, where many a weird thing is stored. It leads to a globe of phosphorescent mold being stolen by the same jerks who beat the kids up…and that mold holds a plague that will bring about the end of the world as we know it, creating 6-foot tall preying mantises out of anyone who comes in contact with the strain. As all of this is happening, Austin is dealing with the common problems of a 16 year old boy. He’s horny, he’s bored, and he’s in love with his best friend and his girlfriend, Shann Collins, adding sexually confused to his hormonal mix.

This was unlike anything I read. It’s sci-fi mixed with teenage drama, but in a very mature sense. Austin never sounds too big for his britches, an important thing for me in young adult novels. In fact, there’s a very repetitive nature to the way he speaks, and I like that. Just a reminder of what has been happening, as if he really is documenting the history of this devastation in notebooks.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone look for something different.
If you need anymore egging on, read this great review from Entertainment Weekly.


Project Life: July Layouts

So, August is halfway over. I am definitely feeling it. August is a sad month. Summer is coming to a close, and I can’t help but feel like I didn’t enjoy it the way I usually do. I don’t remember the last time I sat by a pool with a summer beer or fruity mixed drink. I’ve got that summertime sadness (oh, ohoohoh).
As much as I enjoy the crisp weather of fall, I am stressing about the passing of time.
ANYWAY, a new month means last month’s Project Life layouts.

Only two major things happened in July: My friend Tracy’s wedding and our trip to Virginia.
So this was a short month of layouts, only really focusing on those two things, with a spread for random photos I took throughout the month and didn’t want to leave out.


I’m pleased with this layout as a whole, because I incorporated both the Sunshine core kit and some Studio Calico cards and embellishments. A particular favorite is the diamond wood veneer…perfect for a wedding! I also trimmed some portrait style photos down to 3x4 so they would be used in the layouts without adding more pages. I rounded them, which made them smaller, but I love the way they look. Sometimes, the pictures tell more than a journaling card can.


Out of this spread, only the grid card and heart card on the left are from the Sunshine kit. The title card is from the Summer cards and the rest are from various Studio Calico kits. I love the way it looks.
I’m also super pleased with the vertical page on the right.


Left page is ENTIRELY Studio Calico and I love it. The Thickers I used on the top left photo are from an Amy Tangerine collection, but everything else is SC. I love adding Thickers to photos. I also love my sister.


More small photos in the journaling card spaces. Love it.


Finally, the random moments that didn’t fit with the other layouts.

Ending with the vertical layout means starting with a vertical layout next month. That stresses me just a little bit.
I feel like I’m getting the hang of it, though.

Also, I’m still trying to find the best way to photograph my layouts. So many bloggers do it and they turn out great, but I end up with a lot of glare. Hopefully, I’ll find the perfect balance of light and background soon.


Recent Reads, 22/40: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks


After reading We Were Liars a couple of months ago, I decided to take a look at E. Lockhart’s other work.
Since this book was an honorable mention for the Printz award and has a good average on Goodreads, I decided to go with (the longest title ever) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.

The Disreputable History is the story of a 15 year old girl attending Alabaster Prep School, a place where people are defined by the groups they spend time with. Frankie’s body changes over the summer before her sophomore year, and she ends up getting the attention of one of the popular boys in school, Matthew Livingston.
While she is excited to have the attention of one of the cutest boys in the school, she is also aware of the way he views her: helpless, adorable, young. He often blows her off in favor of hanging out with his friends, one in particular named Alpha, in a secret society (The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds). In order to prove herself worthy of both the society and equality with the guys, she starts to infiltrate the system with great results.

This was unlike any YA book I’ve ever read, in particular one about a teenage girl. Frankie is not your typical 15 year old female character. Yes, she is attracted to a boy and wants his attention, but she also finds it important that he see her on equal terms. She is acutely aware of the way the girls around her are seen, both by boys and the girls themselves.
She is a young feminist. I feel like strong female characters are usually in the form of Katniss or Tris. In those books (which I still love), there is some sort of powerful force that is harming the population and a strong girl steps up to change things. In the case of Frankie, she is a 15 year old girl looking for equality among the sexes within her own little universe of school. It’s life. She is smart, but still thinks like a 15 year old girl. There was no “Dawson’s Creek Syndrome” making her sound wise beyond her years. I tagged a lot of pages because there were some great points within.

I don’t know about E. Lockhart’s other books, but two have already pleased me greatly.
I’ll have to check out her others.


50% Done: Favorite Books of 2014 (so far)

Now that I’m working on the second half of my 2014 book challenge (a reminder that this year is more than halfway over), I wanted to take the time to choose my favorites from the list thus far.
As I’m typing this, I’m embarking on book 23, but I’m going to just pick from the first 20!


1) Before I Fall – Lauren Oliver – This book started off a little too teen-y for my liking, but it quickly became a favorite, and not just of 2014. Oliver had me in tears with this story, which is just a beautiful and sad telling of a girl realizing the important things in life just a little too late. I very rarely cry at books, but I was sobbing. Full review here.

2) We Were Liars – E. Lockhart – This book was a curveball for me. I heard about it and immediately wanted to read it (usually, I’ve known about a book for a little while). Luckily, my boyfriend rocks and got it as a present for me for my birthday (along with The Goldfinch, I might be the only person who hasn’t read that yet). E. Lockhart is a beautiful writer, and I was transported to this secluded island ensconced in mystery and overwhelmed by the ending. 
Full review here.

3) The Leftovers, Tom Perrotta – This is my second Perrotta novel and I think I really like this guy. He so perfectly encapsulates the suburban lifestyle and adds these crazy instances (in this case, a Sudden Departure of millions of people, randomly and instantly) that contrast an otherwise simple story. The writing is quiet but it keeps me hooked. Full review here.

4) Landline, Rainbow Rowell – So, if Rainbow Rowell can just keep churning out the books, I would be soooo grateful. This was the second Rowell novel I read this year, and though Fangirl is great, I breezed through this in record (for me) time. Less than 48 hours, I had devoured this story of love and time travel(?). Her writing is quirky and lovely.
Full review here.

Honorable Mentions:

So, I didn’t fully finish Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, but that is honestly because the writing was that good. I’m a girl who strays away from murder and mystery in my books, because it’s so intense to put myself in that mindset. What I loved is that the book did just what the title says: I was in a dark place because of it, and I couldn’t finish. It still should be said that Gillian Flynn’s writing is GOLD and you should read everything she writes.

Second, I want to include One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by BJ Novak. I listened to this on audiobook, and I just adored it. The writing was funny but also very poignant at parts. I hope to own the actual book one day. Kudos.

It’s funny that, out of 20 books, I can really only narrow my favorites down to 4.
I’ve read a lot of enjoyable books, books I would absolutely recommend (and probably did in the posts, if necessary), but these four were the standouts. Let’s hope there are more in the next 20!


Recent Reads, 21/40: Roomies


Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando was on my to-read list for a little while, and something finally pulled me to check the library to see if they had it. There’s a funny story surrounding that trip to the library,
but that can wait for another day.

This book is (probably very obviously, from the cover) a YA novel told from two different perspectives.
Elizabeth and Lauren are both attending UC Berkeley in the fall, and each receives their roommate assignments. Elizabeth, who is from New Jersey, immediately decides to email Lauren and establish a bond. Lauren, however, is less than thrilled to discover that her request for a single has been denied. (Elizabeth is an only child, while Lauren is surrounded in a house with younger siblings.) Still, they find themselves turning to each other’s emails as they face their changing relationships with friends and growing relationships with boys.

This is one of those YA books I probably really would’ve liked if I were 16 or 17, college still ahead of me.
The switch between characters from chapter to chapter kept it interesting, but ultimately, it was just a fluff read.

VA Vacay

Since Maria moved out to Virginia in April, I’ve been excited about bringing Brad to see her and their new home.
Personally, I would go to Virginia every week if I could. This trip was, as they always are, super quick.
Still, it was so much fun (even though there were some setbacks)…


Brad and I left Friday evening. As expected, we hit traffic and got there about an hour and a half later than expected. The trip should be just shy of 6 hours, but with traffic and food/bathroom breaks, it always gets extended.


Artie had this bowtie on when we arrived. SO CUTE.


So, I took this photo on Saturday, as we headed to the beach. We were in the car for four hours without ever actually getting to the beach (that damn traffic) and I went MAD. If you follow me on IG, I had this up and deleted it. I never do stuff like that, but I was that angry. Also, it was a lie because we never ended up at the beach that day.


Saturday night got better. After naps and showers, we went to Norfolk to check out Field Guide for food and cocktails, and then The Birch for a variety of foreign beers. It definitely made up for the failure earlier in the day. Despite the fact that I wanted to go to the beach, I was also really nervous about the fact that we wouldn’t make it out to places like these, to see new things and try new restaurants. So it totally worked out.


On Sunday, it was a little rainy off and on, so we headed to Richmond instead of VA beach, and I love Carytown so much!
It’s such a fun place to shop. We started the day with Dixie Donuts and amazing Lamplighter coffee.
One of my favorite moments was at a book store called BBGB, a new shop that wasn’t there when I went last month.
It focuses on children’s books, but I saw some John Green in the window and had to stop and check out any YA.|
The woman who was working was amazing. She was helping a customer pick out another YA read (they were both older than me, proving yet again how important YA is to everyone!) and I fell in love. The customer had finished
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart and wanted something new! Brad ended up buying me a signed copy of
Grasshopper Jungle, which has been on my list since it came out. Honestly, guys. I would be so happy to just be surrounded by books all the gosh darn time. Books forever, right?

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On Monday, we FINALLY MADE IT! We started at Zeke’s Bowls and Beans and had an awesome experience with great coffee. Then we headed to Virginia Beach and I read in the sand and swam in the ocean so much. Oh, to always be by the beach. I truly hope that, one day, I can spend a whole summer at a beach house. Or every summer for the rest of my gosh darn life. The dream, guys.

I can’t wait to go back. It probably won’t be for quite a while, but I’m sure it’ll be awesome whenever we do.


Greatest Hits of July (so far)

Tonight, Brad and I are hitting the road for Virginia. I am soooo excited to spend some more time down south with my favoritest people! My sister, Josh, and my boyfriend all in one place. UGH IT’S GONNA BE AWESOME!
We come back before the month is over, but I just know it’s going to fly, and that I’ll have tons of pictures to share from the trip in their own posts. So for now, here are some photos of things from this month that have been pretty great!


Awesome new mug alert! When I visited Catie last month, we stopped at the cutest shop and I grabbed some awesome items, this being one of them. I love when mugs have little surprises inside! Also, M. For Me! Michal Lynn!


So we only did this one night this month, but Brad and I are working on a joint 6x8 Project Life album. I’m excited about it because we are using the Plus One Mini Kit (which is amazing) plus my Studio Calico kits. The whole thing is going to be free-flowing, unlike my fairly structured 2014 book.I can’t wait until we have more time to work on it.


I’ve been doing this challenge on Instagram, #30DaysofBookstagram . It’s a lot of fun and more creative than you might think. One of the prompts was “Book Spine Poetry” and the pic above is my poem. I know it’s geeky, but I’m proud of it!


As you may know, I read Landline by Rainbow Rowell in less than 48 hours. I adore Rainbow Rowell.
I did some nail art inspired by the amazing colors of the cover and gave a shout out to the author, just for fun. SHE TWEETED AT ME AND FAVORITED IT. FANGIRL moment! (And yes, Fangirl is also one of her books!) I also got a little comment from one of my favorite bloggers. I love social media.


These ridiculous dogs! Mia has joined the crew at Lou and Brad’s and she is like 0 pounds and the funniest little thing.
I love that I caught both of them with their tongues out.


Jenna has been in PA for a while, but we only just got to hang out this past week.
I had to do a Party Party .gif with her! Which, by the way, Party Party is the best.
If you check out my IG feed, you will see a lot of #partypartyapp on there!

It’s been a fast month with lots going on. I can’t wait to enjoy some more summer fun!