Recent Reads: Sharp Objects (Book #20 of 2013)


If Coraline met me, I’m what she would call a “wusspuss”.
Basically, I am an emotionally fragile human being and this makes me a scaredy-cat.
In an attempt to battle this, I find myself watching disturbing, scary movies to prove to myself that I’m strong. Mostly, this results in nightmares and running from room to room at night for fear that something might get me if I’m not fast enough.

To make the decision to start reading crime/mystery novels was tough. I’m still trying to find the perfect Stephen King novel (that man is damn prolific and has horror and sci-fi and a zillion other types of books coming out the wazoo). I bit the bullet when I read Gillian Flynn’s much-hyped-about Gone Girl last summer (you can read my review on that here).
You see, for me, there’s a difference between watching a movie that’s over in 100 minutes or reading a book that will take about 5 days.
When I’m reading, I get very emotionally invested. And not just like in a movie, which also happens, where I can snap back in an hour and move onto the next thing in an attempt to cleanse my mind. Books stay with you, because they are basically unfolding in your mind.
There isn’t a visual to guide you…you create your own. So, to go into a darker place…well, that’s hard for someone who isn’t always tough enough to handle those kinds of things. Still, this is a challenge after all, and Gillian Flynn did me right that first time. So I went ahead, after a couple of YA (one of which was completely forgettable) novels, I dove into Flynn’s debut novel, Sharp Objects.

Let me just say this now: I LOVED THIS BOOK.
I loved it more than Gone Girl, though they shouldn’t really be compared.
I love Gillian Flynn’s writing.
I just loved it.

The premise:
Camille Preaker lives in Chicago as a not-so-successful reporter for a not-so-successful newspaper. Her boss hears about a missing girl in Camille’s hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, one that has occured less than a year after the disappearance and murder of another girl of the same age, and asks Camille to go back home and do some work on this possible serial killer case to add leverage to her career and their paper. The problem is, Camille doesn’t like home. Camille doesn’t like her mother. Camille doesn’t know her real father. Camille’s sister died at a young age, and she hasn’t gotten over it. Camille spent most of her teenage years cutting herself, using knives to carve words into her flesh, her body now covered in scars and words.  There are a lot of reasons not to go, but she goes anyway.
Not long after she arrives, the body of the missing girl is found. She was strangled and all of her teeth were removed…exactly the way that the first girl was found. Camille is immediately intrigued by the case, and dives head first.
In the meantime, she is struggling with her distant and cold mother, her mother’s distant and cold husband, and her strange, powerful, and beautiful younger half-sister.

I find that the less I know about the story, specifically with these crime and mystery books, the better. So that’s all I’ll tell you.
The very basic.

This book was so damn good. Nearly gave me a heart attack in the best of ways.
Gillian Flynn knows what she’s doing. I like her.
Highly recommended.

P.S. This is a cool essay that Gillian Flynn wrote about this book.
It doesn’t ruin the book, but I didn’t read it until after so bookmark it for later!


Barbecue Season!

I had an absolutely divine Memorial Day weekend. I am so thankful for the holidays we get to celebrate in America, the people who have made this country safe and helped us make it so far. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate these holidays (and every lovely day) with the beautiful and amazing people in my life. And that’s exactly what I did.


I spent Monday at my friend Lauren’s parents’ house…it was a beautiful day and a great time. Amazing food, Shandy beer (See all that yellow in the cooler! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!), horseshoes, friends. I cannot wait to spend more of my weekends like this.
I ate and drank more than I should’ve, but I’m so grateful I have that freedom and wonderful people to share it with.


Recent Reads: This is What Happy Looks Like (#19 of 2013)


I don’t know why I haven’t been taking photos of each book I’ve read. I thought it would be easier to just search for the cover art and link it to Amazon, but this is actually cuter and easier, because I don’t have to search for it.

Anyway, book #19 of 52 was This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith. It is a YA novel, I guess it could be considered romance?
I will admit right off the bat that I was cheating when I borrowed this from the library. I was feeling behind and I knew a YA read, even if it’s around 400 pages, would be a fairly easy book to clear so I could stay on track (I’m one book behind). Granted, it was on my To-Read list and it got a recommendation from Gayle Forman (who wrote this book that I absolutely adore), so it’s not like I was  just aiming for any easy book. It was released almost 2 months ago and it’s hard to get your hands on a new book at the library, so I jumped at the chance.

The story is about a girl named Ellie and a boy named Graham, who are anonymous e-mail pen pals after Graham mistypes the email of a friend who is looking after his pet pig. Ellie responds, thinking Graham is talking about a dog, and wanting to let him know that he has the wrong person, and doesn’t want to leave anyone hanging if a pet is involved.
From that point, they start a budding communication that lasts over 3 months.

Graham Larkin is an actor, recently starring in a popular trilogy of movies that have made him a star/heartthrob. Ellie O’Neill is a small town girl who works two jobs and lives in a shabby cottage in a little area of Maine. Graham knows where Ellie resides since she disclosed this information, so he pulls some strings to get the latest movie he’s filming to go on location in the same town.
One thing leads to another, and they meet and since they already like each other from the correspondence they…like each other more.
Craziness ensues: You’re a movie star? What if people find out who I am? What will my mom think?
Yada yada.

I have got to say, I didn’t care much for this book. Since the reader doesn’t see much of the correspondence that keeps them so interested in each other (even without knowing each other’s names or what they look like), it’s hard to believe these characters have such a deep connection. The side stories, basically dealing with the characters’ families, don’t completely really flow. And despite the fact that the book alternates chapters to explore the different viewpoints of Graham and Ellie, the entire thing is told in 3rd person. So we never truly know for sure what’s going on in the hearts and minds of these main characters.

And maybe it’s just me, but do people really communicate through e-mail that often? Wouldn’t they have maybe exchanged phone numbers or did some kind of instant messenger or chat? That seems more plausible, but then again, the whole book doesn’t seem completely believable.

It’s not that it’s a bad book, and I kept reading and shocking myself with how far I had gotten in so little time, but in this case, I felt it was a little too young for me. A YA novel doesn’t just have to appeal to young adults. Clearly, it will be about them and appeal to them primarily, but in the case of John Green or Gayle Forman, a good YA book (like any book in general) will appeal to the masses.
This just didn’t do that for me.


Nail Art Lately…

I’ve been having some fun playing with different nail art in the last couple of months.
Some were my idea, but I get most of my ideas from blogs/Tumblr/tutorial videos.


This polka dot gradient was a lot of fun. I used a nice white base (I love OPI’s My Boyfriend Scales Walls) and 4 colors. The idea was to have more of a cluster of dots at the base of the nail and make them a bit more sparse at the top. That’s hard when using so many colors, but I think I did a good job. Of all the nail art type thingees I’ve done, this has gotten nearly 50 likes on Instagram…that’s pretty astounding for me.


Speaking of gradients, I love glitter gradients. You can slap that glitter on, and it’ll be nice and all, but there’s something different and appealing about the subtle flow. I’m by no means saying this is perfect, but it’s something fairly easy and appeasing to the eye.


These cartoon nails might not be perfectly cleaned up (I took this pretty much right after it was done, and black is a total pain to get off the edges), but what an awesome look. I used Cute Polish’s amazing tutorial and it’s such a fun look. I hope to do it again, and perfect a clean line.
Cute Polish recommends using a matte top coat to add to the cartoon/comic effect, but I like my nails to be glossy for the most part.


This is an example of a jelly sandwich. A jelly sandwich is created by layering a jelly (sheer but pigmented) polish, a glitter, and another layer of jelly polish. It appears as though the glitter is suspended in the color. I liked this combo, which looked like a jawbreaker or Laffy Taffy in person. Jelly Sandwiches are super easy and an awesome look, but I don’t have many sheers, just a couple of pinks. I want to add more to my collection so that I can expand my sandwiches!


I absolutely love color blocked nails. There’s something dimensional about the look. You can do two different colors, but I think it’s fun to do two shades of the same color because it can have a fun effect to the eye. This mani was all Essie. In the Cab-ana, Mint Candy Apple, and As Gold As It Gets…all beautiful colors. I like the stripe of metallic color separating the main shades.


This was my most recent venture into some abstract nail art and I absolutely loved it. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked the color combo, but I’m so happy with how it turned out and I’d like to do it again, changing the shapes and the colors. I was inspired by this photo.

I have plenty more to show, but I’ll save those for another time!


A Long and Lovely (Birthday) Weekend


I had a fantastic three-day weekend, hence me posting about it today, Tuesday!
This past Sunday, I turned 26. Late 20s, here I am! Brad has been super-awesome with my last two birthdays. Not sure if anything will ever top the 20s extravaganza of last year, but this year we did a brunch party. Mimosas, Bloody Marys, the best bagels, yogurt parfait station (courtesy of my sister) and so much more. And, as always, the lovely people in my life joined together for laughs and good times.


We had a few tables set up together in the backyard with little cacti and succulents but it ended up raining most of the day. We utilized the set up for about 2 hours altogether? But it was still a nice touch and we still have the precious little plants.


I’m an extremely lucky girl. My friends got me some nail polish and a bunch of Ulta gift cards because they know me all too well.
Brad and Lauren also acknowledged my sudden and extreme obsession with Adventure Time. I have some really awesome and thoughtful people in my life. Sometimes it takes a silly party to remember how much people know you and how many good folks in your life you have, but I never want to forget.

As for the rest of the weekend, I spent lots of time with Brad, eating Chinese food and drinking mimosas and just enjoying the good, lazy life.
Back to reality today. But hopefully with a new year (for me) comes a new outlook.


Recent Reads: Will Grayson, Will Grayson (Book 18 of 2013)


I almost feel like reading a book written by (even half) John Green is sort of like cheating on my challenge. The reason I feel this way is because I freaking love him and his work and it’s a given that I will stay thoroughly entertained and amused enough to finish in less than a week. My last book took over 10 days. This one took about 5. I needed a boost to get back in tune with the challenge (I’m a book behind, but I’m not worried about it), and this was it.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson was co-written by John Green and David Levithan (who wrote this intriguing book), and tells the story of two teenagers with the exact same name who meet on the streets of Chicago one winter night. They are tied together, eventually, by the force of Tiny Cooper, a 300+ lb gay teenager who is best friends with Will Grayson #1 (I say #1 because his chapter is first…the story is told in alternating chapters). The circumstances under which the Wills meet is a tough one, and it leads to the real meat of the story.

I don’t know how to explain the story without giving it away. I liked not knowing much.

Even though the story is told from the prospective of two different guys, one gay and one straight, the book stays consistent. It never feels like it doesn’t flow, it’s got a really nice rhythm. And I was completely invested in both Wills’s stories. It’s possible I’d only like one of the characters and have to force myself into the other. But not the case.

I can’t express enough how much I love and would recommend anything John Green has a hand in.
This book was full of heart and humor, and who doesn’t want to read a fun but meaningful book?


A Review: Hooray For May! Julep Mystery Box

Welp, I fell for it again. I ordered this month’s Julep Mystery Box, which I’m assuming is a monthly thing.
This is going to be a problem if it keeps happening.
I’m going to try to stop!


That’s what will get me in trouble.

But for now, here’s a peek at the box I received (which was version 4).

As always, the package was presented with pretty paper and confetti filling.
The blue satchel has one color in it that is already packed and easy to present as a gift.
It has the only dupe in the box…Zelda from my last box.
I’m not sure whether I will give it away or keep it, I’m sort of in love with that color and I’m going through the bottle like crazy.


The two polishes were wrapped together, which I find appropriate. They are very delicate and girly.
The top one is Audrey, the bottom Emmanuelle.


The final three polishes were (top to bottom) Kylie, Vera, and one of the two special brights that was guaranteed to be in the box,
Korin, which is an awesome lime green crème.


I decided to do swatches of each polish. This isn’t the best photo of them, but whatever.

So it seems that this box was just polish. From some of the other boxes I’ve seen, they all seem to be polish-based (unlike last month, which included creams and scrubs and the like). There’s nothing wrong with that. None of the colors particularly shouted to me aside from Korin (and my backup Zelda). But that’s part of the game…and part of the reason I’m probably going to stop doing this for a little while.
The regular monthly boxes and occasional deals on singular polish (as well as the secret store) are enough for me.

I mentioned this last time, but a reminder: You pay one price (24.99) and get $70-200 worth of product.
As a non-maven, 6 polishes would set you back 84 bucks.
As a Maven, about 68 bucks.
The good thing about this is that you’re obviously saving some money to build up a stash,
and the mystery box is open to anyone, not just Mavens. No subscription necessary!


A Beautiful Mess: The Photo App

If you’re an avid blog reader like I am, then I’m pretty sure Elsie and Emma’s A Beautiful Mess is on your bookmarked daily must-reads. The blog has everything…DIY tutorials, fashion and style tips, recipes, photography, little inspirational slices of life…it’s kinda perfect.
So when the news broke about a week ago that they were releasing a photo editing app, I knew I would immediately be purchasing it and using it. It took a while, but the moment I saw people talking about it on Instagram, I downloaded it from the store.
It is .99 cents, and there are a variety of in-app purchases to expand the experience, but the app is fine as is.

Here’s what I did while playing around yesterday (and maybe a little bit at work…it was quiet!)…

IMG_1152In this picture, I utilized one of their borders. The rest was edited on Afterlight and Instagram.

This picture, one from the wedding we attended a few weeks ago, was already edited in Instagram.
I added a border and a cute heart doodle…ya know, cuz we’re in love and all.


This one has one of several phrases written in Elsie’s handwriting. It’s so cute.  This is a watermelon margarita I had a couple of weeks ago.
I love that arrowed border as well.


This one utilizes one of the several fonts they have to offer, I chose what to write. And, of course, another border.


A purple dotted border and some hot pink arrows to point at my Julep collection. Not sure why the photo itself is blurry, I did edit it on Afterlight before using the ABM app but it still didn’t come out for me.


A hand-drawn border and one of my favorite sayings, which I typed as well (so it wasn’t a pre-written phrase).

What I Like:
This app is adorable, just like you’d expect from A Beautiful Mess.

Pretty/funky borders, plenty of colors to choose from, and about 8 additional add-on packages to expand the experience.

You can also change the size of the doodles, phrases, and text.

It’s not just filters and light adjustment…you can add words and symbols to really personalize and amp up a photo.

What I Don’t Like:
This app is like, less than 48 hours old so I think it’ll only be going up from here. These are just face-value.
The borders can be placed wherever on the photo, but they can’t be expanded or collapsed, unlike the text/doodles. Maybe I’m doing something wrong? I would just love if I could make one of the pretty borders (like the one in the coffee, which I would’ve liked around the cup as opposed to into it) bigger or smaller, depending on what I’m emphasizing.

There are a total of 6 filters (3 in color, 3 in B&W) with no expansion pack just yet (although I think that should be automatically included in a future update without additional payment if they choose to add more). Considering there are so many ways to add filters to photos, and you can use photos from whichever app you choose, I guess it’s not that big of a deal. But I like a full experience, and the filters (aside from the gorgeous saturated B&W filter, Vampire) just aren’t doing it for me. I’ll most likely be using Afterlight first.

I’m slightly worried about originality. Elsie’s handwriting and doodles are wonderful but I feel bad taking them for some reason?
I don’t want my photos to turn into posts from their blog…I still want them to feel like me. So many of us edit with filters or use apps like Overgram that allow us to add type/font to pictures. But using someone’s handwriting? It’s so specific, and I feel weird. I’ll still use it, truthfully, but I don’t see it becoming a massive part of my personal space (i.e. this blog)…I still want that to reflect me.

.99 cents is a great price for the app, and I would’ve supported them regardless and purchased it. But 8 additional in-app purchases right off the bat? If you want the full experience, you’re spending nearly 10 bucks in one shot. I know apps like Hipstamatic do this, but it’s over the course of time. They also offer free-paks too. The good thing about this, though, is that the additional packs aren’t necessary to the experience.
They are very specific, and pretty much all the stuff you would want is in the basic app.

And those are my opinions! I do enjoy the app, and I can’t wait for more updates and news about it.
I’m a sucker for all photo apps, and while I’m not sure this will always be a go-to, I think it will be fun for the occasional pop!


Recent Reads: The Interestings (Book 17 of 2013)


When doing a 52/52 challenge, and your life gets really busy for a little while there, maybe don’t take out a book from the library that’s nearly 500 pages long. I got really excited when my boyfriend and I took a walk to the library and I saw this book on the New Releases shelf. Entertainment Weekly (my reliable go-to book review source) praised Meg Wolitzer’s novel and it had pretty much just come out.

When I borrow a new release from the library, I have two weeks with the book. That’s all well and good, but I was already finishing up a different book when I borrowed it. I was making a preemptive strike. Not to mention the fact that I had a wedding that upcoming weekend (meaning zilch time to read), I already knew it was going to take a while. But I thought…screw it, do it.

Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings is about a group of six friends who meet at a arts and crafts summer camp (Spirit-in-the-Woods). They call themselves The Interestings because they are 15-16 years old, and think they are more interesting than anyone else because of the authors they read and the talents they possess. Like any teenagers, they want to be different.

It is told in 3rd person. I would argue that Julie “Jules” Jacobsen is the main character…she’s the newbie in the group of people who have been attending the camp for years. She feels special, wanted, when the beautiful Ash Wolf invites her to join their little gang.
The novel takes us through the next several decades, into the gang’s 50s, talking about how far they get trying to be creative.

Many things happen in the book…I mean, it’s 460 pages so of course. Plus, we are revolving around at least 4 different characters throughout the majority. Keeping up with time frames and storylines can be difficult. But I will say this…it was a beautifully written book.
I never once felt that, while reading a story about one of the male characters, that it was a woman trying to write like a man.
Meg Wolitzer did a great job, and I really got into the story once I got the hang of the names.
This is a novel. I always say book or story…but this is a novel, written by a novelist.
So that’s hard for me too, sometimes.
But that’s what makes it a challenge. I didn’t just want to read short, easy books this year.
I wanted to expand my horizons and this did.



I know it’s Wednesday and I’m only just getting to the weekend now, but I came down with a crazy cold/allergy attack that knocked me out until yesterday. I took a sick day on Monday and, while I often beat myself up and feel guilty about it, I’m so glad I did. I’m not 100% yet, but I think we underestimate the power of bed rest and hydration when we are sick. I hope to be up to full-speed by the weekend…fingers crossed!

Anyway, Saturday (what little there was of it) was crazy. Maria, Lauren, and I headed off to Philadelphia for the Foals concert.
If you don’t listen to Foals, please start to do so. Their music is beautiful and I was astounded at the live show.
Yannis’s voice is just as amazing in person and the whole band puts a lot of passion into the performance.
I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not saying I thought they were going to be bad, by any means. They were just that good.
We also hit up Cantina Dos Segundos, which is one of my sister’s favorite spots in Philadelphia.
I had never been, but I already want to go back. They have a variety of  margarita flavors and the food…yeah.

I may have suffered throughout the day and spent Sunday and Monday in bed, sleeping on and off,
but it was a great Saturday, and I couldn’t have asked for better people to spend it with!


It’s hard to take pics at a concert. I just want to enjoy the show.


Peddler’s Village

I had heard of Peddler’s Village before, but I never thought I’d actually go there. For one, I had no idea where it was. Also, I didn’t know what it was, so why would I want to go? That was until we passed it on our way to the wedding last weekend. Lauren, Brad, and I decided that we would definitely have to check it out on our way back. Even though we rocked crazy, messy, hung-over looks, it was such a beautiful place and I’m really glad I got to walk around, enter adorable little stores, and look at bright, blooming tulips.


Can you believe it’s already Friday? Maybe you guys had a long weekend, but mine went way too fast. Perhaps it was the day off on Monday, or the fact that I didn’t work in my usual office on Tuesday…I don’t know. But this came quickly.
I’m very ready for the weekend, though. It’s going to speed by like the rest of this week, for sure.
Maria, Lauren, and I are off to see Foals in Philly…so excited! They are an excellent band.
I work Saturday morning, but whatever. I have the next 3 off afterwards.

Man, it feels like May is going too fast already!

Have a great weekend!


May-ven Box

Okay, so I talk about Julep a lot lately. For Pete’s Sake, I made a video about it (there’s another one video in the works, by the way). 
I showed you what my Sea Salt Mystery Box looked like, but I wanted to share with you guys what the typical monthly box is like.
Enter, the May Maven Box.
This month’s box is inspired by the 1920s…I love it. Jazz, flappers…I mean, you saw my birthday party last year, right?
I think they were definitely inspired by the release of The Great Gatsby (which I can’t wait to see, I’m a big Baz Luhrmann fan!).

Anyway, this what the May Bombshell box looked like.


Even though you know which colors you’ll be getting a week before you receive the box (to ensure that you actually want to get it that month/change it if you like a different Maven box), it’s still a sweet surprise unwrapping the box. Everything is decorated and wrapped in appropriate paper and ribbon and it’s very exciting!


I wasn’t expecting these adorable hair pins! That was a sweet little touch. This is only my second Maven box, and the April box came with a rock candy lollipop. I’m curious if there will always be a cute little treat inside…and in this case, it’s incredibly cute and reusable (whereas a candy can only be enjoyed once, of course).


In the video, I mentioned that every Maven (with the exception of Modern Beauty, which is only beauty products, and It Girl, which is only nail color) receives a full-size beauty product with the nail colors you’re getting. This month, we got these beautiful lip color trios. I got Paris, but my Boho Glam friend Lauren got the New York trio. Each has two sheer colors that go with any and everything and a matte red color that is pretty much the perfect lipstick. Again, this is excellent. Not to mention, the packaging…I die. It’s like an art deco cigarette holder.
Attention to details, people.


My nail colors were Zelda (which is the gorgeous shimmer, I’m wearing it right now and it’s too beautiful to handle) and this amazing dusty purple called Gabrielle. I had to include a picture of the tops of the caps…this is a genius idea. I love these stickers!!


So that’s the box! What’s not to love?
I also did an add on of the color Paris (which I purchased using Jules instead of cash), but unfortunately the add-ons come separately and I have yet to get mine in the mail. At least I have something to look forward to!

Don’t forget to click the Bombshell sticker on the top left if you’re interested in becoming a Maven!
But you can always check out the Julep site if you’d rather not do the referral!