Tuesday, June 30, 2015

REVIEW: Red Queen

If you watched my June TBR video, you saw that I wanted to finish Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard at the beginning of the month...and I did!  Fairly quickly, too.  Can we just pause for a moment and look at this cover?


Oh my goodness.  It is gorgeous and twisted and scary all at the same time.  I love it.
This was such an interesting read for me--mostly fantasy, a dystopian world, some romance and history thrown in.  Made for a fun and mysterious read!

Let's jump into my review!

  • Fantasy (with a Dystopian setting)
  • #1 in the Red Queen series
The Gist:
The world is split between two kinds of people: silver bloods and red bloods.  Silver bloods have power, literally.  They are the wealthy, the elite, the government, the money.  And some of them have superpowers, like being able to heal, control water, control fire, turn to stone, read minds, etc.  The red bloods are the poor, the common, the "normal."  Mare Barrow is a 17-year-old Red Blood girl living in The Stilts, a poverty-stricken area.  And she's expecting to be sent to serve in the military like her older brothers when instead she is thrust inside the Silver palace.  It is there that she (and everyone else) discovers that she too has a power, just like a Silver blood.  And instead of being a nobody girl in The Stilts, Mare is a secret of the kingdom--and if she plans on surviving, she has to learn how to control this secret.

What I Loved:
  • Ok, I already mentioned the cover.  But it should be noted again.  When I met Robyn Schneider on her book tour recently, I also met author Maggie Lehrman, and she and I gushed over this cover for a moment together.
  • I kind of want silver blood now (I mean, how cool would it be to have silver blood?!).  
  • I love the mix of genres in this book.  Definitely a fantasy with the amount of magic in the book, but it's thrown in a dystopian world with contemporary technology and medieval connections.
  • The villains are VILLAINS.  When you hope they'll have a change of hope, they don't.  Just as real villains would be.
  • The ending had some big twists and surprises.  It was my favorite part of the book.
  • Some heavier questions underline this book, like how willing you would be to sacrifice yourself for the greater good.  And is it ok to sacrifice a few for the good of the whole?
What I Didn't Love:
  • I just couldn't grasp the layout of the world in this book.  It seemed a bit complicated to understand the land, where everything was located, etc.
  • Speaking along those lines, I could not keep straight all of the families/houses/colors associated with the people.  In Harry Potter, I totally understood the four Houses at Hogwarts.  In The Hunger Games, I grasped the 13 districts.  I just don't get any of these.
  • And there are a LOT of powers held by people.  It was superpower heavy.  Again, just a lot to figure out.
I really enjoyed this book.  A great debut by Victoria Aveyard, and I'm definitely ready for the sequel!  I have a really fun nail polish look coming up on Thursday based off the book...you'll definitely want to give it a try!

Tomorrow I'll have video of my favorite things from June!  A lot of fun things to share!

Monday, June 29, 2015

We Were Liars-Inspired Outfit

Last week I reviewed We Were Liars, a summer mystery about Cady and her super-wealthy family. The suspense surrounding this book and the tight-lipped reviews of readers have made this a fun one to jump into...but of course, I could be lying...

Cady, her two cousins, and a friend have become the Liars, and with a name like that, you know they aren't 100% trustworthy.  But you just want to believe them.  Isn't that how it goes with liars?

So today's outfit is inspired by the Liars.  Because it looks sweet and trustworthy....but it hides a secret.

Here's a simple outfit to throw together when you are headed out to dinner:  A summer dress, scarf, jacket, and boots.  Easy enough, right?

These are no-brainer pieces to throw together when you need to rush out of the house.  They all tie together to make the outfit look planned.

But what's the secret?

This dress is actually a...

...swimsuit coverup!  

See?  It really IS easy to throw a few items over this to make the outfit look like a nice summer dress.

I can see Cady lounging around the beach all day and then throwing this outfit on to go out to dinner with the family.

Would YOU wear a swimsuit coverup as a dress?  I've done it!  And no one knew!

Tomorrow I'll have another review...and more videos are coming this week!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

REVIEW: We Were Liars

I'm so glad that I am reviewing this book in June, because summer is the PERFECT time to read this book!

Today's review is on We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.  I'm impressed if you haven't heard of this book--it had SO MUCH buzz about it when it was first released.  But to be honest, the less you've heard the better...

  • Standalone novel
  • Mystery

The Gist:
Cadence Sinclair Easton comes from old money, and this definitely shows every summer when her grandparents, aunts/uncles, and cousins stay on their private island off of Cape Cod.  And Cady LOVES being with her fellow "Liars"--her cousins Mirren and Johnny and her friend Gat.  But when Cady suffers a mysterious accident, she suffers with depression, amnesia, and migraines, and life just isn't the same.  She struggles to find her place with the Liars and her family, and she certainly isn't prepared for the revelations that come to light by the end of the summer.

What I Loved:
  • The setting and the premise were unique and captivating.  They sucked me in and kept me wondering.
  • E. Lockhart's writing is lyrical and beautiful.  Her writing truly makes the book.
  • This book has you thinking even when it's over; what's extra impressive about this is that the book is a standalone and a rather short one at that.
  • The cover is pretty great.
What I Didn't Love:
  • Because this book had so much buzz about it, I went into it just looking for the "mystery" surrounding it.  And I pretty much figured it out.  I was expected to be blown away in surprise, and I just wasn't.
  • The characters weren't very likable.  I found myself just not caring for Cady.  
A mysterious, (kind-of) suspenseful summer read...just don't read too much about it ahead of time!

An outfit coming up based on the Liars!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Extraordinary Means-Inspired Outfit

Hey, readers and fashionistas!

Have you picked up Extraordinary Means yet?  Go. get. it.  I reviewed it yesterday and it was such a great read.

When I was thinking about fashion inspiration from this book, I couldn't focus on just one character.  Lane, Sadie, Nick, Marina, and Charlie are such a solid group that I knew I had to focus on all of them.  And that led me to pajamas.

In the book, the group decides to go to a movie night at the school's gym.  But while every other student dresses in pajamas (as the tradition goes), Lane and Sadie's group wear fancy dresses and suits so that they stand out and have a night to remember.  So we never get to see them wear their pajamas together, and I would imagine that their pajamas would have major character.

So today I picked five t-shirts that I think these five characters would use as pajama shirts.  None of the characters would be fancy in their pj choices, but I do think they would want to make a statement.  And here are my choices:

Here's how I chose the T-shirts:
  • Nick would be wearing the "World's Greatest DAD!" shirt because he would find it hilarious.  He'd want everyone asking him if he was really a dad (and the underlying assumption that he had gotten a girl pregnant).  
  • Sadie would wear the Mrs. Peacock tee.  She and Lane have an ongoing Clue joke, and this would show him that she wanted that joke to continue.
  • Marina would wear the Slytherin shirt.  She loves Harry Potter, and let's be honest--Slytherin has a major cool factor--it's dangerous and risky.
  • Lane, of course, would wear the Stanford shirt.  Maybe at first because he didn't want to forget about his goals, and later because he wanted to remember that he had more to his life.
  • Charlie would wear an Oregon Trail T-shirt.  Because he knows the severity of his illness, he would find humor in wearing a shirt from another past illness.  Who knows, maybe he would use the statement "You have died of dysentery" as a lyric for a song?!
So what do you think?!  Can't you see these characters proudly wearing these shirts into the gym?
This was one of my favorite fashion posts because I can totally see it.  And I really want the Mrs. Peacock shirt now!

Like any of these shirts?  Check out all the details here.

Thanks so much for checking out my Robyn Schneider Week posts!  What a fun week it has been!  Can't wait to see more books from Robyn down the road!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

REVIEW: Extraordinary Means

Just a few days left of Robyn Schneider Week!  Today is a review of Robyn's new book, Extraordinary Means, and wow did it not disappoint!  Believe me, I had high expectations after reading her first book and was super excited to jump into this one.

So let's get talking about it!

  • Standalone novel
  • Realistic fiction
The Gist:
Tuberculosis is back as a full-on threat, and there is no cure.  Lane is a teen diagnosed with the disease, and he has been sent to Latham House, a boarding school/camp/medical facility that will keep him quarantined and monitored until he can return to society, a cure is found, or he dies.  Lane is devastated by this change in his life, since it means he likely won't receive early acceptance to Stanford, get to take his SATs, or graduate with his class as salutatorian.  But then he sees Sadie, a girl who used to attend the same summer camp as him, and he starts to see living in a new way.  And even though living with TB is horrible, being at Latham House might not be so bad.

What I Loved:
  • The cover!  Robyn Schneider said at a recent author event that she thought the cover was "ok," but I love it!  So beautiful, eye-catching, and meaningful.  It even kind of matches Robyn's first book.
  • The overall message of this book is beautiful and beautifully portrayed.  Put down the attitude of what you wish would happen and just LIVE.  The characters represented this so well.
  • A perfect mixture of humor, romance, devastation, and suspense.  I'm not always a realistic reader, but I am falling in love with this genre because of books like this.
  • Once again, the characterization is spot on.  I want to be a part of Sadie's crowd.
  • The ending...still has me thinking about it.  And an ending should do that.
What I Didn't Love:
  • There's a lot of internalization in this book--much more thinking than action for both Lane and Sadie.  I think I would have read faster if there had been more action.
My favorite quote:
"But I like to think of all those little moments that add up to the final one, because it meant that my death would be my own, the result of my life, and not just something that happened to me."

A great book--Robyn Schneider brought her A-game again!  Have fun reading it!

An outfit based off of Sadie's group of friends tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My Interview with Robyn Schneider!

Today's post is probably one of my favorites ever, because it takes me back to the GREAT experience of meeting and interviewing Robyn Schneider.  Robyn's publicist was kind enough to give me time to talk with Robyn before a stop on her Epic Reads book tour.  Thanks so much to Robyn for this experience!

Robyn's new book, Extraordinary Means, will be reviewed here on the blog tomorrow (spoiler: it's so amazing!), and Robyn went on a small tour a few weeks ago to promote the book.  The book follows a group of students who have tuberculosis and are forced to live at a camp/boarding school while they await treatment, a cure, or possibly death. 

I just asked Robyn a few questions about the book and, of course, beauty products!  Check out Robyn's YouTube channel if you haven't yet! 


Julia: So we're both kind of nerdy/quirky, but we're both also into fashion.  How do you combine those two worlds?  Usually nerdy people aren't fashionable, and fashionable people aren't nerdy, so how do you combine those two worlds?

Robyn: I think that nerdy people can be very fashionable.  If you're nerdy about the Victorian era, then you start dressing a little bit more Victorian.  You're into cameos, and granny boots, and you're into corsets.  So I think it just depends on what your nerd passion is.  If it's Star Trek, then you're probably not going to be the most fashionable girl, but it really depends on if your fandom relates to fashion.

Julia:  What are your top 3 beauty products?  What could you not go without?

Robyn:  I really like the Kevyn Aucoin curling mascara.  It rubs off with soap and water.  You can rub gently and it just peels off like glue, like the good kind of glue.  And then I guess I really like the Tarte cheek stains.  I think those are really pretty.  They're really subtle.  They look really scary in the tube, but it's like putting a push pop on your face.  And then my standby lip color is Revlon Just Bitten Kissable balm stains.  Cause they're really hydrating and they stay on.  And I like the orange color because it's bright and citrus.  They're better than most high-end balm stains.

Julia:  So in The Beginning of Everything, I feel like part of the underlying message is finding yourself when party of your identity has fallen apart or disappeared.  What is the message you're trying to get across in Extraordinary Means?

Robyn:  The message is that if you keep preparing for an ideal version of your life, you never really get to live your life.  If you keep saying "Well next year I'll be happy because I'll have ____ or I'll achieve ____, it's never going to happen.  I thought Lane's character represented a part of myself that I realized that I indulged in grad school in the wrong way, believing that I had to be a doctor and help people in that concrete way to be happy.  I was just putting off living my life because I kept thinking "Oh, well it'll be so long until I'm a doctor, until I'm helping people" and I just got very upset that I felt like I was wasting time.  And I think you can't really waste time, but you can spend it unwisely.

Julia: And I feel like bucket lists have become such a trendy thing, but it's all about doing something later, not now.

Robyn: It's like saying "I'll be happy once I've accomplished these things," and that's so dangerous.  We shouldn't make bucket lists, but we should list all the things that we've accomplished and maybe add 5 things to the bottom that they want to complete the list.  So we don't have lists that say "here are all the things I haven't done."

Julia:  So is Extraordinary Means partly autobiographical in some way?

Robyn: I think everything I write is hugely autobiographical.  I just take emotions that I'm having about something from my life and just translate it into emotions someone else would be having from something different in their life, but it's usually related.

Thanks again, Robyn!  I would definitely add this interview to a list of things I've accomplished!

Come back tomorrow for a review of Extraordinary Means!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Beginning of Everything-Inspired Outfit

Ok, if you read my post yesterday about The Beginning of Everything and didn't go out and buy it/check it out at the library, go do that right now.  Don't worry, I'll wait.  Go ahead.

Ok, now that that is done, let's move on with Robyn Schneider Week!  Today's outfit is inspired by Ezra, the protagonist of the book.  Poor Ezra goes from being the most envied guy in school to the guy trying to figure out his identity.  And in the midst of his search, he joins a debate team.

We never had a debate team at my high school, so the concept has always intrigued and terrified me.  So you go into a debate as prepared as you can be but may not have anything to say back to your opponent?!  Scary!  Probably why I'm not a lawyer...

But Ezra joins the debate team with some of his new-found friends and competes in a full-day, multiple-debate competition.  And that competition is the inspiration for this outfit.  I wanted something trendy (after all, Ezra was at one time a popular student) and dressy but something with a relaxed feel as well (since Ezra isn't debate team-obsessed).  And here's what I designed:

Hey, I'd be happy if my hubby wore this outfit!

Let's detail it:
  • I think baby blue is the most handsome color on a man, so I k new that I wanted that to be the driving force in the outfit.  I paired the baby blue dress shirt with a deep gray cardigan.  Cardigans are still dressy but a bit more casual than a blazer.
  • Light gray pants are sleek next to the baby blue/dark gray cardigan on top.
  • Aren't these light gray shoes great?  Again, dressy in a casual way.
  • The deep blue bow tie is a fun trend, and I think guys in bow ties get noticed quickly.  Wearing a bow tie would have been on Ezra's side as he went into his first competition.
  • Love this black/silver watch!  It's a simple statement accessory and complements the outfit well.
Obviously this isn't the outfit Ezra wears in the novel, but I think it'd be one he could definitely carry off!  And I would expect to see Toby in a bow tie, too--he would rock that accessory!

Interested in this outfit?  Find all the details here.

Tomorrow I'll post my interview with Robyn Schneider about beauty products and her new book, Extraordinary Means!  You'll definitely want to check that out!

Monday, June 15, 2015

REVIEW: The Beginning of Everything and The Start of Robyn Schneider Week!

YOU GUYS.  This week is going to be SO FUN on the blog!  If you watched my June TBR video, you saw that I LOVE Robyn Schneider.  Her books are witty and clever AND she's a YouTube beauty guru...so we were obviously meant to be best friends.

I got to meet and interview Robyn a little over a week ago while she was touring for her newest book, Extraordinary Means.  And I love her even more after meeting her!  So I decided to make this "Robyn Schneider Week" on the blog!  I will review both of her books, show off some outfits I designed for both of them, and post my interview with Robyn.

So let's jump right in!

Today's post is a review of The Beginning of Everything, Robyn's first book.  I picked it up on a whim and was SOLD by page 3.  Definitely one of my favorite reads of 2015.  Even one of my school's English teachers, who coaches football and prides himself on being manly, told me he "freakin' loved it."  Yes, it's just that good.  So let's get reviewing!

  • Standalone novel
  • Realistic fiction

The Gist:
Ezra Faulkner seems to have it all--at the end of his junior year he is a star tennis player and a front-runner for Homecoming King and has a popular girlfriend.  But when he catches his girlfriend in the act of cheating and leaves a party hurriedly, he is hit by another car and has his life changed forever.  Now a bit crippled and unable to play tennis, he loses his so-called friends and popularity status.  And on the first day of his senior year, Ezra finds himself completely starting over.  But when he meets Cassidy Thorpe, a girl unlike any others, he realizes that this may just be his chance in re-identifying himself.

What I Loved:

  • First of all, Schneider's dedication to her parents at the beginning of the book is witty and adorable.  Completely sets the pace for the book (and when do dedications ever do that?).
  • The first three pages just got me...Poor Toby at Disneyland on his birthday!!!
  • And speaking of the first three pages, the cover is genius!  Love love love it!
  • I want to be friends with Toby, Phoebe, Austin, and the rest.  The characterization was fantastic.
  • I thought I had figured out the twist involving Cassidy, and I was disappointed that I had it solved.  And then I learned that I DIDN'T have it figured out.  
What I Didn't Love:
  • There's a bit of a plot hole towards the end.  Did no one ever look for the person who hit Ezra in the accident?  No police reports/investigations?  I feel like that would have been a curiosity.
My Favorite Quotes:
"That everyone's life, no matter how unremarkable, has a moment when it will become extraordinary--a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen."

"The funny thing about gold is how quickly it can tarnish."

"We're taking the road beyond the road less traveled, and being on time will make all the difference."

Gosh, I just loved this book.  Witty, heart-wrenching, mysterious.  Five stars from me!

Tomorrow you'll see an outfit for EZRA--yep, a guy's outfit!  Inspired by his joining the debate team.  So come back and check it out!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea-Inspired Outfit

Hey, readers and fashionistas!  A few weeks ago I reviewed Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke.  It was a creepy, mysterious supernatural that I absolutely loved!  And today's outfit is inspired by Violet and her growing relationship with the strange new guy in town, River.

One thing I loved about this book was Violet and River's date nights.  They were a bit more mature than the typical date-outdoor vintage movies in the town square, picnics with bread and cheese, elaborate cooking, etc.  And even though Violet and River's relationship is skeptical at best, their dates are swoon worthy.  They even dress in vintage costumes that they find in Violet's basement--a true trip down antique lane!  So that's what I was thinking about for Violet's outfit--a vintage take on a date night outfit.  And here it is:

Doesn't it take you back a few years?!  I love this for a date night.  So let's get into the details:

  • The white lace top and knee-length printed skirt have a 1940s vibe.  They are sweet and respectable pieces while obviously very feminine.
  • Look at those shoes!  Adorable, and I love pairing a darker skirt with light shoes.
  • The light blue belt connects with the shoes and brings together the top and skirt as one cohesive piece.
  • The pearl stud earrings and thin silver watch are vintage-inspired.  Simple, elegant, and reminiscent of times gone by.
So what do you think?  Someone wearing this (especially a teenager!) gives off a more respectable air and that they care about the date.  Better than jeans and a hoodie, right?

I could see Violet wearing this as she and River go off to try a pizzeria and then read poetry in the park.  Couldn't you?

Want the specifics of this outfit?  Check them out here.