8.27.2014

Recent Reads, Double Feature: Books 24 & 25

Usually, I like to do separate posts about my books, but I finished two books before sitting down to write.
Why not do a little combo post?

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Book 24 was The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe (it’s also the most recent book that Katie and I have read together). I had heard about it (it’s Thorpe’s debut novel) from a good review in Entertainment Weekly (surprise).

The book tells the story of two friends, Mia and Lorrie Ann, from Mia’s perspective. We learn about their friendship as teenagers, as Mia tells Lorrie Ann that she has scheduled an appointment for an abortion. The basic idea is that Mia is the bad seed in the relationship, which she welcomes with open arms, as she admires the beauty and perfection of Lorrie Ann and her family life. Throughout the novel, as time goes on, Mia is transfixed by the fact that, despite how wonderful a person Lorrie Ann is and how terrible and selfish Mia believes she is, Lorrie Ann’s life has been completely encompassed in bad luck.

The story is ultimately about what it means to be a woman, a mother, and how relationships change as we age.
I found this book to be a fairly quick read, and a lot of the conversations had between the two friends bring up a lot of interesting arguments. I’m not shouting from the rooftops about this novel, but I am glad I read it.
Can’t wait to talk about it with Katie!

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Book 25 is Panic by Lauren Oliver. Not only is this the second Lauren Oliver book I’ve read, it’s also the second Lauren Oliver book I’ve read this year. You may recall that I had many great things to say about Before I Fall.
She has a trilogy of books, and now Panic is her most recent novel, a stand-alone book.

Panic is the story of Heather, Dodge, and a game called Panic that occurs every summer in a small, boring town called Carp. There’s nothing else to do, so the seniors give money that ends up accumulating until the summer after their graduation, and then the winner takes the pot. The thing about Panic is that the stakes are always high. People have died in the past completing the challenges. Heather joins Panic on an impulse…she feels as though there is nothing left to lose.
Dodge, meanwhile, has been plotting revenge via entering the games for years. The story switches between Heather’s life and Dodge’s life, both third-person narrative.

I think this book had a lot of potential. The high-stakes game provided the occasional thrill, but it definitely could’ve been more exciting. And the end, which I don’t want to ruin, was so anti-climactic. It felt abrupt and so happily-ever-after. I think it was guaranteed to have a good ending, everything falling into place but…it felt forced and random.

A challenge update: I’m 63% done (1 book behind)!
My only problem is narrowing down the books I want to read. Over 50 unread books on the Kindle, so many unread books (old and new) that I’ve bought. And, of course, the library…sigh….

8.25.2014

Jenna & Ed: A Wedding

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This past Saturday, some dear friends of mine tied the knot in a super-fun wedding!

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From the start, I knew this was going to be a fair themed reception. I haven’t been to a “themed” wedding before, not that the ceremony itself actually had a theme. Obviously, there are color schemes and centerpieces that try to correlate with each other, but this was a genuine theme and it was executed perfectly!
They chose the theme, if I recall, because they love going to county fairs.

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We were at table 1, dubbed the “Dunk Tank” and everything was surrounded with cute tickets. The details were everywhere, very admirable. I also loved our little favors…yummy lollipops!

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If you know me, you know I love bunting flags. I like to make my own out of felt, and they are just so fun and festive! The cake was decorated with them (and there were some above them at the ceremony!) which is just too cute.
Close-up on the cake topper:

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The execution of the event was perfect, in my opinion. It was a party, really, and I think that’s something receptions often lack. Weddings are fun, but they can sometimes feel like obligations, in a way. The usual list of events, the same songs at each one. The DJ played amazing music, and that resulted in my dancing ALL NIGHT LONG (I swear, I didn’t sit down save for a couple of bathroom breaks and stops for ice water). I had a BLAST. And that’s what I hope will happen one day, at my future wedding. Of course, I wouldn’t have the same theme, but I want the fun, and I definitely want a reception that shows myself and my future husband through everything.

Now, a boatload of photos with friends!
(My phone died and I didn’t get a photo with the bride…still beating myself up about it!!)

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Literal best friend, partner-in-crime, bestest person in the world.

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Catie, Maria, and I photobombed by Ed and Jared, true playas all night.

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Interesting fact: I haven’t seen Lauren since February.
Feels like yesterday, but it has been way too long and I can’t wait to try and fix that.

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Seeing Nicole for the first time in forever was awesome…again, must make plans to see her soon!

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I’ve talked about Katie on the blog, but her she is! This is my “book club” buddy! I am so glad we’ve been spending so much time together, and that we were able to dance the night away!

I have so much photo-snagging to do for August PL layouts.
If you’re interested in seeing more of the wedding, check out Instagram, #obernowski2014 for so many great photos of the couple, the decor, and the crazy fun people!

Congrats again, guys!

8.17.2014

Recent Reads, 23/40: Grasshopper Jungle

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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.

8.11.2014

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

8.05.2014

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

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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.

8.04.2014

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!

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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.
NEVER STOP.
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!

7.30.2014

Recent Reads, 21/40: Roomies

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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.