Book Review: All the Bright Places

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You guys. This book. Seriously.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven has been sitting on my shelf for a while. It’s on my 2016 reading list, and I have been looking forward to reading it. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get to it, but I am so so so glad I read this book. I feel like this should be required reading for all high school students. For reals.

Okay. So the plot. Violet is a cute girl from the cool crowd who has gone through a pretty horrific family tragedy. Finch is the class freak who is dealing with some intense mental health issues. They meet one day at the top of the school’s bell tower as they each contemplate committing suicide. They don’t, but their moment together ties their future in a way that neither could have expected. Their journey together definitely goes beyond the typical high school relationship. I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll spend the rest of the review raving.

Violet and Finch are both written so well. They are characters who are real, flawed, make mistakes, and say and do some pretty harsh things. Yet, I love them both. Finch in particular is such a funny guy, he reminds me a lot of several people that I knew in high school. I love Violet’s intelligence and her passion for writing, and I loved watching her grow as a character. I became connected to these characters, which is how you know that they are written well. I cared about what happened to them. I was angry on their behalf. And I cried when they suffered.

In addition to creating two amazing characters, Niven has told a story that I think is so important, and so not talked about in our society. Mental health issues, especially in teenagers, are so taboo, but they are such a vital topic. Finch doesn’t want to deal with his issues because he doesn’t want to be labeled, and it’s honestly a legitimate concern knowing how our society operates. Niven handles the topic so beautifully. It is not cheesy or preachy at all. It’s just real.

One of the reasons I love reading young adult literature so much is that (most of) these books handle tough topics in a way that is much more relatable than adult fiction. All the Bright Places definitely does that. If I were still teaching high school English, this would be a book I would be putting on my class reading list. This is a serious novel about something serious, but it has so much heart. Pick it up and check it out, just make sure you have some Kleenex handy.

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Owl Crate Subscription Box: September 

As you might have figured out by now, I am a wee bit obsessed with my Owl Crate monthly subscription box. If you are new to these parts (welcome!), Owl Crate is designed for lovers of young adult lit. Each month they release a new themed box that contains one hardcover YA read, along with lots of other goodies inspired by popular teen novels. I have been receiving the boxes for a few months now and I feel like they are getting better and better each month. I look forward to each new box and am always excited to see what’s in store. September’s theme was Darkness, which is perfect for the fall weather that everyone but So Cal seems to be experiencing (not that I’m bitter or anything). This month’s box contained tons of good stuff and I’m psyched to share it with you!

One of my favorite items this month was this candle from The Melting Library. It’s inspired by Celaena from the Throne of Glass series (which I really enjoyed) and smells like a super tasty cake. Seriously, it’s one of those candles that smells like you could eat it. I am also loving the gold container.

I am a big fan of Out of Print, so I was stoked to see this canvas pouch with a quote from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I actually just finished the book (I never picked it up before because those pictures of the kids freak me out) and I liked it more than I thought I would.

Another one of my favorite items this month was this fortune-telling bath fizzer from Da Bomb. One, I love that this company was started by two teenage entrepreneurs (though nothing makes me feel lazier than kids with more drive/success than I have!). Two, I think the concept of the magic 8 ball esque bath bomb is brilliant. To use, you simply ask a yes or no question, hold your bath bomb under the tap, and discover your answer inside! Unfortunately, I did not get the answer I was hoping for from my bomb, but at least I got to take a relaxing bath right after to heal my woes.

The book for this month is Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, which looks really interesting. As always, the book came with a signed bookplate and a handwritten note from the author. In addition to all of that goodness, the box also contained a bookmark from Evie Bookish, a copy of the serial Remade, and a mini coloring book featuring the new series Moon Chosen.

And as always, we got a sneak peek into the next Owl Crate subscription box, and the new theme is Once Upon a Dream. I am SO EXCITED for this box. I obviously love fairy tales, and “Once Upon a Dream” is one of my favorite songs. I CANNOT WAIT to see what’s inside! If you are interested in checking out Owl Crate for yourself, please use this link (referral link). I promise, you will not be disappointed!

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DIY: Ombré Canvas Zipper Pouch

Hello friends and welcome to another DIY tutorial! I am super psyched about this one because it is pretty easy, and yields (in my opinion) some super cute results. These canvas pouches with funny sayings on them seem to be everywhere these days, and while they are fine as they come, I decided to dress them up and give them a little more flavor. I’ve been wanting to experiment with dye and this seemed like the perfect opportunity! Let’s get to it!

First, gather your supplies. You will need canvas pouches (I scored big time with these, they were in the dollar bin at Michaels!), a hanger with clips on it, a plastic container (this one is the shoe box size), and one packet of Rit dye in the color of your choice. It is also helpful to have a measuring cup and a pitcher if you have them (note that you will be mixing dye in the pitcher so it is not going to be safe for drinks after this!).

Next, clip your pouch in the middle of the hanger.

Then place your pouch in the middle of the plastic container standing up. If you let the hook of the hanger hang over the side of the container, it will help stabilize the pouch and keep it in place.

Now comes the fun part! You should probably follow the directions included with the Rit dye package, however I did not. I mixed about six cups of super hot water with about a third of the packet of dye and stirred it all up (this is where a pitcher comes in handy). The steps I took worked for me and this project, but please follow the official instructions if you are going to be washing your pouch. Once you have the first batch of dye, slowly pour it into the plastic container. Even with the pouch stabilized, you will need to hold onto it as you pour the dyed water in. Let the first round sit for about 12 minutes.

While the first level is sitting, you can start to mix up the next round. Again, take six cups of super hot water and mix it with about a third of the dye package. Once the 12 minutes have elapsed, slowly pour the second batch into the plastic container. Don’t forget to hold on to the pouch while you pour. This round should sit for about eight minutes.

While level two is working, go ahead and mix up the third and final batch of dye. Again, use about six cups of piping hot water and the remaining third of the package of dye. Pour it slowly into the container (really slowly this time since this one will come close to the top). This level will need to sit for about eight minutes.

Once the final level is set, unclip your pouch from the hanger and (you might want gloves for this part) dip the entire pouch fully into the water so the top gets a dash of color. On the teal pouch, I dipped and immediately rinsed, but on the pink I dipped, let it sit for about two minutes, and then rinsed, so you can decide which look you like best.  Rinse in warm water first, and then do a douse of cold water to set the dye.

Lay the pouch out on some layered paper towels and allow it to dry for 24 hours. Then your pouch is all set!

Some tips for this project:

  1. Protect your work surface. If you are working inside your home as I did, make sure your counters are covered. If any dyed water gets on unprotected space, clean it up immediately.
  2. As soon as you finish rinsing out the pouches, wipe down your sink so no colored residue is left behind.
  3. When the pouch is dunked fully in the dyed water, it is going to collect some on the inside. Dump out the pouch in the plastic container before you rinse it in your sink.
  4. As you are working, feel free to check in on the color levels and adjust the times as needed.
  5. If you want to kill two birds with one stone (or dye two pouches with one box of dye) just clip a second pouch behind the first on the hanger. Both will turn out the same color.

I really love how both of these turned out and I think I have been bitten by the ombre bug (took me a while right?). What do you think? Are you still on the ombre train? What should I dye next?

Here are some supplies if you are interested in completing this project yourself (affiliate links):

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Owl Crate Subscription Box: August

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Two weeks ago I received my Owl Crate subscription box for the month of August. If this is your first time hearing about Owl Crate, it is a subscription box designed for young adult literature fans. And despite the fact that I am most definitely no longer a “young” adult, it is my favorite thing ever. I look forward to getting my box every month, and I have really loved each one of them so far.

This month’s theme was Fast Times at YA High, which I was a little eh about when I first heard it, especially since last month’s Good vs. Evil theme was so epic. But this ended up being a really cute box with a couple of items that I really love. The book for this month is P.S. I Like You by Kasie West. It started a little slow and typical romancey for me, but about halfway through it got really interesting. It ended up being a super fun and cute read. The book came with a signed card from the author and this adorbs little pack of colored pencils.

By far, my favorite items in this month’s box were the Harry Potter items. I am so in love with this Hogwarts is my Home button from Taryn Draws. I love the colors, the design, and most importantly the quote.  And how freaking amazing is the Harry Potter print from Susanne Draws?!?! So cute. This one is getting framed and displayed in my office for sure.

Since I just finished reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, I was really excited to see this themed necklace included in the box. It’s adorable and I love the addition of the cassette tape. Takes me back to my childhood…

Also included in this month’s box were a decomposition notebook, which I love since I always have a notebook with me, and a stress relieving patterns coloring book from Blue Star Coloring. Once again, I was really happy with the contents of my Owl Crate box and I am once again looking forward to next month. The theme for the September box is Darkness, which should be super cool. If you are interested in subscribing to Owl Crate, click this link right here and sign up (and help me save some moola in the process!). I truly recommend this box to any young adult lit fans out there. It’s the shizz!

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A Tour of The Last Bookstore in Downtown LA

One item on my summer bucket list was to visit The Last Bookstore in downtown LA. Honestly, I can’t believe I’ve never been there before, but I can officially check it off my list. I really enjoyed my trip to The Last Bookstore, and probably would visit on a regular basis if it weren’t for a couple of factors. The main thing is parking, which as is common downtown, sucks. I know that parking sucks in all major cities in America, but I feel like LA is the only one with crappy parking and crappy public transportation. There is no good way to get from my house to downtown other than to drive, which makes it not such a fun trip. Also, the bookstore itself doesn’t have air conditioning, so I will definitely be waiting for winter before I visit again. Lastly, tourists should be aware that this is not the best location in LA. There is a lot of trash and some unpleasant smells haunting the area (though once inside everything is clean and lovely). But The Last Bookstore should be on every book lover’s list and I really enjoyed exploring the space and all it has to offer.

The first floor of the bookstore is similar to any other used bookstore. You have lots of different sections to look at with lots and lots of (mostly) well-priced books for sale, including quite a few older books that are probably hard to find at Barnes and Noble. There is also a music section on the first floor if that’s your jam. Downstairs is also home to a special kids section and comic book section. The second floor is what The Last Bookstore is famous for, as it has what they call the book labyrinth. You may have seen this book tunnel on Instagram before…

last bookstore la

My favorite part of the upstairs was the rainbow book wall. There is something extremely satisfying about seeing books arranged by color.

From the upstairs, you also have a really cool view of the entire downstairs layout, including the crazy book sculpture up on the wall.

The upper level of The Last Bookstore also contains several small shops curated by local artists and craftmakers. Several of them were closed when we went during the week, but the ones we were able to explore had lots of cute art prints, jewelry, and fun knick knacks. When I went to New York in January, I absolutely fell in love with Strand Bookshop and have since been longing for one of our own here in LA. The Last Bookstore is not quite on the same level as Strand (in my opinion), but it is still an awesome place to check out for book lovers. If I could teleport there and not deal with parking, I would probably go all the time, but instead I will probably save it for special occasions.

What are you reading right now? Any good books I should add to my to read list?

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Bucket List Check In: Read Four New Books

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A couple of weeks ago, I shared my summer bucket list, and while I have been able to check off a few items, I really need to get a move on. I’m slacking, and summer is quickly fading away so I better get on it. Surprisingly, the one thing I was most concerned about is the one item I checked off my list first. I made it my mission to read four new books this summer, thinking I would probably only get through two or three, and I actually have already read all four. And I still have like a month left! Go me!

The first book I finished was Heir of Fire, which is the third book in the Throne of Glass series. I really enjoyed the first two books in the series, but this one took me a little longer to get into. About halfway through I really started to enjoy it, but this one was a lot different than the first two so it took me a little while to adjust. By the time I finished it though, I was ready for book four. Unfortunately book four is still only available in hardback so I am trying to hold out as long as possible before I buy it.

The second book I finished was part of the July Owl Crate box, My Lady Jane. I hadn’t heard of it before receiving my box, but I was super excited when I read the summary because I love British history and Jane Grey is a character (well, real person) I am familiar with because I have read other books where she was featured. I liked the young adult take on her story, and I loved that the second half of the book totally strayed from real historical fact. I thought the ending and the authors’ whole take on the story was extremely creative and it was super fun to read.

Both Heir of Fire and My Lady Jane are on the long side, so I figured I could cheat a little on my third book and read something short and easy. Since Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is on my 2016 reading list, I chose it for my third book. This one was a super easy and fast read, and it was just a fun book. I wish there were more notes from Harry as those were my favorite parts, but I liked it nonetheless and I am now really looking forward to the movie. If you want to win a copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, head over to my Instagram!

My final book of the foursome was Summer Secrets by one of my all-time favorite authors Jane Green. I have read almost all of her books and I used to reread many of hers on a regular basis. I haven’t kept up with her newer releases much, but I happened upon this one and it was already in paperback so I figured I would give it a shot. I really like her style of writing, and though this book deals with a heavy topic (alcoholism), it was still an easy read. This is a great summer beach book.

Not going to lie, it feels really good to have checked this item off my list. I have lived most of my life as a voracious reader, but my reading definitely fell by the wayside during Squirt’s first year or so (mainly because sleep became more important than books). It feels awesome to be reading some incredible books again and I’m already out looking for my next book to conquer! Have you read any good books lately? I’m always looking for recommendations!

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Owl Crate Subscription Box: Good vs. Evil

Hey book worms! Last week I received my July edition of my Owl Crate subscription box and let me tell you, I was super excited for this one. With the June box, we got a sneak peek at the theme for this month’s box, Good vs. Evil, and I spent the month debating whether I wanted the “good” box or the “evil” box. I think if I had had a choice, I would have picked evil, which is what I ended up getting, though after seeing the contents of the box, I probably would have preferred the good. But nonetheless, this month’s box was amazing, and possibly my favorite one yet.

Here is an overview of this month’s contents…

My favorite item in the box is this wood carved Death Star necklace from Vector Engraving. I love it so much I immediately went to their Etsy shop and purchased their BB-8 earrings. The good box received the Millennium Falcon version of the necklace, which is slightly more awesome than the Death Star; however, I was thrilled to see a Star Wars themed item in the box.

Also included in the box was a Harry Potter POP figure from Funko. I am not a huge collector of these figurines (mainly because I know once I start I won’t stop), but I am all for anything Harry Potter. The evil boxes had either Draco or a dementor and the good boxes had either Luna or Dobby. I would have preferred one of the good guys, but I’m definitely glad I got Draco instead of the dementor.

Another fun item that was included in both boxes was this young adult book cover coloring book. The Queen of Hearts adorns the magnetic bookmark from Jane’s Tiny Things in the evil box, while the good box features Alice (this is one of those situations where I would much rather have the villain than the good guy).

Our book for this month is This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. It’s another one I hadn’t heard of until I opened my box, and it seems a little dark for my tastes, but all of my Owl Crate book choices have been really good so I’m sure I will enjoy it. I say this every month, but I am really (truly) happy with my Owl Crate subscription! I have looked around at some of the other young adult subscription boxes out there and Owl Crate consistently provides more items per month, and everything in the box is so thoughtfully done. I really encourage you to check it out!

If you are interested in looking into an Owl Crate subscription, please use this (affiliate) link! Happy reading!

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