Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Happy Wednesday, everyone!  Today's review is on a book I've been dying to read--Takedown by Allison van Diepen.  I can not keep van Diepen's books on my library shelf--especially Snitch and Street Pharm.  Guys and girls love her books, and I have to admit that I'm a fan, too!  She mostly writes "urban" fiction, or gang-related books.  And even though that is a totally different lifestyle than I'm used to, I get hooked in her stories!

Her latest, Takedown, follows her urban theme...I mean, check out this cover:

Pretty rough, right?  Very different than the girls-in-dresses covers that I usually read!

  • Standalone novel
  • Urban/realistic fiction

The Gist:
Darren sells drugs on the street for Diamond Tony, the infamous leader of the drug ring.  But after he takes the fall for Diamond Tony and serves two years in juvie, he wants revenge.  So he teams up with the police as an undercover informant.  But this is very risky--so risky that Diamond Tony would kill Darren on the spot if he knew.  And before Darren knows it, the violence and fear is out of control.
What I Loved:
  • This was just liked van Diepen's other books--page-turner, action-packed, adventurous.  I was totally involved in the book from the first chapter.
  • I loved the characters, especially Darren, Jessica, and Darren's little brother.  There was really a family unit among so many of the characters, even those who weren't really family.
  • I really love the cover--I'll be honest.  It's tough but still kind of pretty.
  • Darren writes music and shares his lyrics every few chapters or so.  And I really loved the lyrics!  A great added feature of the book.
What I Didn't Love:
  • Darren kept using the word "knapsack."  Really?  I think he'd say "backpack" or just "bag."  "Knapsack" sounds so dated.
  • The ending was very fact, the book built up SO MUCH for the ending, and it was too quick.  I wanted it a little more drawn out.  
My favorite quote:
"Outside the brick wall
A canister is hid
Put there by a friend
Then a lighter is lit
The flames spread like fear
The flames burn like tears
The walls of juvie burn
The flames of wasted years.
White Chris sits on a hill
Watches the fiery sight
'Merry Chris-mas to all
And to all a good night.'"

Four stars for me--a great read! 

Be back tomorrow with a Darren-inspired outfit.  See you then!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life-Inspired Outfit

Ouch!  I was supposed to post a week ago...oops.  But I have a great excuse--inventory!  Yep, it's the end of the school year which means library inventory, or as I like to call it, the two weeks when I have no life.  Because we literally scan every single book in the library to make sure everything is good to go for summer.

But I AM back today with an outfit inspired by the book The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando.  I reviewed this book last week and am excited to share the outfit today.  Since the book revolves around a scavenger hunt, today's outfit is the perfect look for a full-day scavenger hunt.  Something comfortable with a kick-butt message.  So here it is:

Isn't it so fun?!  I could totally see my friend Cherie wear this on a regular basis (which if you don't know her, check her out!).  Let's break it down:

  • A Wonder Woman!  It's fun but strong, just what you need for a scavenger hunt.
  • Distressed cuffed jeans.  These are comfortable and easy-moving.  Plus I love the look of cuffed jeans with tennis shoes.
  • These tennis shoes are awesome!  Who wouldn't want bright teal shoes?!
  • A yellow watch (gotta have a watch in a scavenger hunt!) and red stud earrings (no dangles to get in your way) round out the outfit with fun.
What do you think?  Would you wear this outfit?

T-shirt--Under Armour
Jeans--Annie Bing
Shoes--Nike Roshe Run
Watch--Marc by Marc Jacobs
Earrings--Kate Spade

 Such a fun outfit!

I'll be back tomorrow with a new book review (with a very tough cover!)--see you then!

Monday, May 19, 2014

REVIEW--The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life

Hello, everyone, and welcome to a new week!  Our weekend flew by--we went to a friend's first-year-old son's birthday party, continued working on fixing the back door of our house, and caught up on household chores and errands.  Which totally makes for a sleepy Monday :)

But it's time for a new review!  Today's review is on The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando.  And what sold me right away on reading this book was that it's about a SCAVENGER HUNT!  I love scavenger hunts, especially when there are prizes involved!  But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here.  


  • Standalone novel
  • Realistic fiction
The Gist:
Mary has had a pretty pathetic senior year of high school.  Prom did not go as she planned (she found out her best guy friend has a crush on her) and she didn't get into the college of her choice (while the class jerk did!).  So the unofficial senior scavenger hunt is her last chance at turning her year around.  She is determined--and I mean determined--to win it all.  But winning the scavenger hunt might mean putting her friendships at risk and losing all that she loves.

What I Loved:
  • Like I said, I love scavenger hunts, and I loved the way this one was set up.  Although I have to admit, this hunt stressed me out a bit.  But it was so organized in terms of rules, points, etc that I couldn't help wishing that I could participate.
  • I was more of a participant in this book than I expected.  For example, one of the items that Mary's team had to collect for the hunt was a ticket stub from one of the Twilight movies.  As soon as I read that, I thought to myself  "Ok, I went to all of those movies, but did I keep the stubs?  And where do I keep them?  Oh wait!  I'm not actually in this scavenger hunt so it doesn't matter!"  So I was totally involving myself without even realizing it.
What I Didn't Love:
  • The dialogue was a little cheesy, and I found myself rolling my eyes a little at it.
  • And I had a hard time keeping track of all the characters.  I couldn't place personality with person until about halfway through the book.
  • Mary was just an annoying protagonist.  She was whiny, bossy, and dramatic.  If it weren't for her I would've loved the book a lot more.
  • The hunt was so absolutely intense that there were thousands of points collected.  But the judging sessions seemed to take about 10 minutes.  Ten minutes to count thousands of points...really?!  It's the OCD side of me that wanted this to resemble real life.
My favorite quote:  "What kind of last summer would this last summer be if we weren't back to being thick as thieves?"

So an ok book--entertaining and full of fun, but not my favorite.  I give it three stars.

I'll be designing a scavenger hunt outfit tomorrow--so check back then!

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Touch of Himmeli

Whew!  It's Friday!  It's been a cold, rainy week here in Indiana but the weekend is finally here!  Looking forward to having fun with the family for the next few days!

I have become obsessed lately with himmeli designs...yeah, the term "himmeli" was new to me, too.  It's basically a European tradition of using straw to create mobiles.  But it's been adapted to make all kinds of cool decor pieces.  I first heard about it through Vintage Revivals, one of my all-time favorite home decor blogs.  Meeting Mandi is totally on my bucket list!  

Mandi recently posted a himmeli heart that she made for a room makeover (I think someone guest-blogged it on her site), and I thought it was a really unique design.  So I made one--probably going to use it on a school bulletin board. 

So I decided to take it a step further and make something for my home.  And that's when I found her video tutorial on a himmeli wreath.  And I totally fell in love!

It is amazing!

And all you need to make this AWESOME wreath is floral wire and cocktail straws (oh, and spray paint if you're like me and want to jazz it up a bit!).  That's it!  For about $4, you add the neatest artwork in your house.  And you'd never guess the wreath was made out of straws (especially if you paint it a metallic color) totally looks like iron/steel/metal.

You can get cocktail straws from the picnic section at Target.

Mandi implies that the project will take you about an, it took me about 2 days.  But I had to re-do quite a few steps since I'm not the best at visual learning.

And make sure your floral wire isn't too thick--you want something easily pliable that can be bent multiple times.

Here's how mine came out:

Isn't it awesome?  Doesn't look like straws, huh?  I love the look of it with the navy door.

A close-up of the straws/wire.

You should totally try this out for your home!  And then comment below with a photo so I can see it!
And check out Mandi over at Vintage Revivals--I've put string art and hand art in my home based off her designs!

Check back here on Monday for more books, more outfits, and maybe some more design!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

REVIEW--My Story by Elizabeth Smart

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

I'm not a huge nonfiction reader, but when I do read nonfiction, I love to read about people's lives.  Especially people that have crazy things happen to them.  Like Elizabeth Smart.  I mean, goodness--what a crazy, unpredictable turn her life took!

I was really intrigued when I saw that Elizabeth had written her side of her story.  She was so quiet when she was rescued from Brian David Mitchell (and who wouldn't be?! She was 14 and had been attacked daily for 9 months!) and did very few interviews.  So I was interested in getting her point of view and opinion--and boy does she give them!

So let's jump into the review!

  • Standalone novel
  • Nonfiction
The Gist:
 Elizabeth writes about her experience of being kidnapped by Brian David Mitchell, a religious fanatic, and his wife, Wanda Barzee.  She was literally taken from her bedroom on June 5, 2002 and held captive for 9 months.  She was repeatedly raped and psychologically broken down, but her faith kept her going strong until her rescue.

What I Loved:
  • Elizabeth is very honest.  When I've read memoirs like this in the past, it seems that the writers spend a lot of time talking about forgiveness and moving on with their lives.  And while that is very commendable, I often find it a little unrealistic.  Smart, however, often writes that Mitchell is "evil" and "the devil" and has absolutely no problem hiding her disdain for him.  I appreciated that honesty.
  • She gives many details--in fact, I didn't feel like I missed out on much.  And she covers all bases of her life--before her kidnapping, during, after, etc.  I really felt like I got the full story.
  • This is her story (like the title states) and Elizabeth sticks to that.  She doesn't switch back to her parents' point of view (you can read their book to get that story) and instead focuses only on her experiences.  And that's what I wanted as the reader.
What I Didn't Love:
  • There were no photos in the book.  This seems to be a trend in nonfiction, but I want the photos!  I know I can look them up online, but as I was reading I wanted to see Mitchell and Barzee or see the tent Elizabeth had to sleep inside.
  • It was never made clear who contacted the police when Elizabeth was rescued.  I'm guessing it was someone from Walmart, but again, it's never fully stated.
  • It was a little mundane at times...I felt like I read every single day of her captivity, which made it difficult to pick up at times.  But I'm sure that's part of experiencing what Elizabeth suffered.  
My favorite quote:
"My next wife will be called Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz Rebeckah Isaiah," he said.
Holy cow, I thought.  That's a worse name than Shearjashub.
"Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was a son of Isaiah," he explained.
Another boy's name for your new wife!  I wanted to say.  What is going on inside your head?
"It means 'plunder speedeth, spoil hasteth.'"
No, it only means you're stupid.

A good read!  Depressing for sure but nevertheless very interesting.  Four stars!

*Out of respect to Elizabeth's story, I won't be designing an outfit based off this book.

I'll be back this week with a home design that I think has added some "style" to our home!  See you back here soon!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children-Inspired Look

Happy Monday, everyone!  Unfortunately I've had a case of the grumbles all day--two-year-old tantrums, state testing, end-of-year restlessness...whew!  It was wearing on me today!

But a blog post will make me feel better!  Here's an outfit that I designed based off the book Beautiful Music for Ugly Children (which I reviewed last week).  It's a book about Gabe, a guy who was actually born as Elizabeth.  So today's look is a women's outfit that has incorporated male-friendly pieces.  Here it is:

Chic yet masculine too, right?  I think a girl would be pretty trendy in this!
  • I chose a pin-striped blazer because blazers are still a huge staple for anyone's wardrobe.  And I like the pinstriped look as we head into the summer season.
  • Paired with the blazer are navy ankle pants.  Ankle pants are making a comeback and can be paired with all kinds of shoes.
  • Speaking of shoes, these glittery Sperry shoes are awesome!  So trendy but can still be semi-professional.
  • A large watch with a male-inspired face brings this together.  You don't want too many accessories in a guy-inspired look, and this one does it just right.
So what do you think?  Gals, would you wear it?  Guys, do you see the inspiration?

Pants--White House Black Market
Watch--Michael Kors 

*I am not associated with any companies/products mentioned.

I'll be back this week with more book reviews AND a look at how I'm making my house stylish!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

REVIEW--Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

The weekend is almost here!  I just love weekends with the family, so I'm looking forward to wrapping up the week and heading into some relaxation!

Today's book review is on Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills, a book that is a bit controversial in some circles.  I read it for an Indiana committee and couldn't wait to share my thoughts--so here we go!


  • Standalone novel
  • Realistic fiction

The Gist: 
Elizabeth is so ready for high school to be over...graduation is so close, and she can move on with her life.  Well, he can move on with his life.  Because Elizabeth is now Gabe, a guy.  But only her family and best friend know about her new identity...the rest of the school just think she's a weird lesbian.  But Gabe has the opportunity to DJ a late-Friday-night radio show, and he does so as his new self.  But what happens when people become obsessed with the show--and with Gabe--and want to meet up?

What I Loved:
  • The's gorgeous.  The colors, the graphics--all so great.
  • This was much more of a page-turner than I expected it to be.  I was very focused on Gabe's story and was just sucked into the plot.
  • I know that the topic can be hard for some people to swallow--watching someone want to change their gender--but it wasn't too in-your-face.  The story had much more to do with relationships than it did sexuality.
  • The references to music were fantastic, and now I feel like I've been sheltered in the music world.  I want to go listen to old records right now!
What I Didn't Love:
  • Gabe was very much in danger a few times, but he doesn't want to reach out for help.  And I felt like his character WOULD have wanted that didn't fit well for me.
  • I don't know many students who get hooked onto DJs or radio stations nowadays, so seeing Gabe have such a big following was a little unbelievable for me.  
My favorite quote:  "But sometimes I want a detour, to some place like Antarctica where people wear so many layers of clothes that nobody cares who you are."

I really enjoyed this one--which surprised me.  More of a page turner than I expected!  So 4 stars for me!

I'll be designing a Gabe/Elizabeth outfit tomorrow, so check back with me!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Antonia-Inspired Look; Three Pieces to Make You Look "Country"

Hi, readers and fashionistas!  I hope you're all having a great week!  The weather has been BEAUTIFUL here in Indiana (I'm so glad I finally get to say that!) and we've been enjoying it by taking the boys to a local fire station and playing in our backyard sandbox.  It's gearing us up for summer break!

On Monday I reviewed the classic My Antonia by Willa Cather, a look at the life of young Jim Burden as he grows up in Nebraska.  So I was inspired by the book to put together a very simple look; in fact, the look is really only three pieces that you can put together for a "country, Out West" look.  By either wearing them together or separately, you just add a little country flair to your look!  So here's what I came up with:

  • First is the dress.  If you want to add a country flair, pick a floral pattern.  This gives the outfit a simple and even dated--almost vintage.  I chose a dress for this particular book design since Antonia loves dressing up and going to the local dances.
  • A jean jacket.  These are coming back BIG TIME in fashion right now.  I chose a cropped vest for this look--vests can really bring a more casual tone to an outfit.
  • Tall brown boots.  What's more country than boots, right?  These are trendy and very durable, and they bring down the "seriousness" of the dress.
So what do you think?  Do you own any of these pieces in your wardrobe?  How do you add a little country to your look?

Dress--Ted Baker

*I am not associated with any companies/products mentioned. 

Tomorrow's book review is over a more controversial book--I can't wait to let you know what I thought of it!  See you then!

Monday, May 5, 2014

REVIEW--My Antonia

Happy Monday, readers and fashionistas!  I hope you had a fantastic weekend!  Normally I have pretty good weekends, but they're usually filled with chores and errands.  This past weekend, though, was so super--I visited my parents in my hometown, did some awesome yard-saling, and had my first Tropical Snos of the year.  Yes, a fine weekend indeed!

I recently finished coaching my season for my high school Academic Superbowl team.  This year's theme was "Westward Expansion," and my English team was assigned to read My Antonia by Willa Cather.  Since I don't talk much about classics on this blog, I thought I'd review the book...basically just to prove that I do read more than just YA fiction!

  • Standalone novel
  • Classics (Historical fiction)
 The Gist:
Young boy Jim Burden is sent out West to live with his grandparents in Nebraska after his parents die.  Here he learns about both life on a farm and life in town, but it is his relationship with Bohemian Antonia that truly shapes him as a man.  As they grow up and experience Western life together, the pair always seem to find their way back to each other.

What I Loved:
  • A very sweet and even humorous look at times of life out West.  The connection of neighbors and farmhands, the scenery, and Jim's reflections on his childhood gave the book a soft, sweet character.
  • The characters--especially Antonia's family.  They were so diverse in personalities and behaviors, which often left them a bit unpredictable.
  • The Burden family...Jim's grandparents took him in with some compassion and comfort, and they treated their hired farmhands as extended family members.  I would have wanted to live with them!
What I Didn't Love:
  • For a boy living out West, Jim sure didn't have to do much.  Here his neighbors were being worked dawn to dusk and he just helped his grandmother in the kitchen.  Even though he had grown up in the East, I expected his grandparents to get him helping in the fields.
  • The ending disappointed me.  I was left feeling like the characters all just grew up and went their separate ways.  I wanted surprise marriages, shocking accidents...something to validate all of the reading I'd just done. 
Overall a nice read, but not necessarily a page-turner.  Great for fans of classic books or those who just like to read about nice scenery and country life.

I'll be designing an outfit based off this book--check back tomorrow to see it!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Into the Still Blue-Inspired Outfit

Wow did I love Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi--my favorite book in the trilogy, mostly because I couldn't get enough of the characters.  And as I mentioned in my review, in this book Aria and Perry's "tribes" have come together in a desperate search for survival.  So I thought today's outfit would represent a mix of their two cultures.  
Aria's group of Dwellers--futuristic, clean lines, and sharp
Perry's tribe of Tides--animalistic, natural, and comfortable

And here's what I came up with:

Neutral yet fun, right?  Here's what I chose:
  • I wanted a leather jacket because the Dwellers were totally into that kind of wardrobe.  But I chose tan for the Tides--a warmer, more natural color.  I paired this with a blank tank to keep it all neutral.
  • Roughed up skinny jeans--rough for the Tides, skinny for the Dwellers.
  • The leopard print shoes are totally Tide-related.  Plus they give the outfit a more comfortable look.
  • Black accessories--stud earrings and a necklace--tie the color palette all together.  I like the chain-wrapped-around-the-stone as a symbol of Aria and Perry's worlds colliding together.
So what do you think?  Could you see yourself wearing this?

Jacket and Tank--John Lewis
Jeans--True Religion
Shoes--Avenue 32
Earrings--JC Penney
Necklace--David Yurman

*I am not associated with any companies/products mentioned.

That's it for this week's posts!  Few but fun...I will be back next week with more books and fashion!  See you then!