Everyday Outfits + TGIF 3/23/18

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Hello friends! We made it through another week. We're having a little weather whiplash around here with perfect Spring weather some days followed by cloudy and drizzly weather for a few days after that. So I guess my outfits are somewhat transitional since I'm not quite reaching for sandals and short sleeves yet, but I don't need my warmest sweaters and cardigans, either. It also looks like since I hadn't worn any camo for awhile, I decided to make up for lost time by wearing it twice in one week? Who knows but here's a look at what I wore recently along with notes on how things fit, where to buy similar options, etc.

Outfit Recap:

Camo Jacket, Black Tee:
Express Camo Jacket (Similar Below) | Z Supply Tee (c/o) | Similar Jeans | Perforated Ankle Boots

If you don't have a camo jacket there are plenty of good options in stores right now. Option #4 below is the only one that's over $50. My t-shirt is definitely relaxed fit so I recommend ordering your normal size. I'm wearing XS (my normal size at Express) and it's plenty roomy. I recommend going a half size in these perforated ankle boots. I got my normal size, and I really have to wear some kind of ankle sock with them or they're too loose. They're not really meant to be worn with socks, and I think my mistake was trying them on in store with socks, thinking, "ok, this fits." But then not taking into account that I wouldn't want to wear socks with them! Argh. Well. Hopefully you all can benefit from my mistake.

Current Camo Jacket Options:
1. Old Navy  | 2. Abercrombie | 3. JCP | 4. Rails

Khaki Bomber Jacket, Gray Tee:

I love this khaki bomber jacket and it's true to size. My ankle boots are he only other current/exact item and I took a half size down in those. This is a pretty typical weekday Momlife outfit for me. It's comfortable enough for just about any activity I might have from Target runs to laundry to doctor's appointments or events at school. I'm definitely looking to add a couple of new lighter weight jackets like this to my wardrobe this Spring since they're my favorite to throw over a t-shirt and jeans.

Cowl Neck Sweater, Camo Jeans:
Similar Sweater Options with more sizes: Amazon, Amazon, Amazon

I'm wearing a Small in this sweater, and it's honestly not as warm as it might look. It's a very open knit so I always have to wear a cami underneath to stay comfortable. It's almost sold out but I linked a few options above (with more sizes) that could give a similar look. My Camo Jeans and Peep Toe Ankle Boots both run true to size. Just a word of warning: when I first got these boots I almost returned them because they were so stiff...almost like cardboard! But I had been searching for ages for something this exact color at a reasonable price so I decided to keep them anyway and see if I could break them in. Sure enough, after wearing them several times they did become a lot more comfortable. 

On Fridays I like to share a few random fashion and lifestyle things to go along with my outfits. I use the acronym T.G.I.F. to share any words and topics come to mind for each of the letters. Here's my list this week!

T- Treasure & Bond
I have seen these Treasure & Bond Sannibel Sandals on about 432 different bloggers now, and although I usually try to avoid items when it seems like every last blogger has it, I really liked these and decided to order them anyway.

Well, I guess the universe doesn't want me to follow suit on this one! As it turns out, I'm between sizes in these. My normal size was just a bit too small (my toes were right on the edge, and any hint of a toe overhang is a deal breaker for me), but a half size up was too wide and didn't support my foot at all. Like most things in fashion they aren't one size/one style fits all, so I wanted to share in case you've been tempted by these as well.

G- Getting Ready
...for Easter. It's just over a week away! We are hosting a few friends at our place for a casual, potluck style event. We aren't doing a formal sit-down feast, but I still need to prepare some of the food. And I need to get organized on that ASAP so I don't end up making a last-minute trip to the store when it's guaranteed to be a zoo.

I- Individual 
My Z-Supply Camo t-shirt usually gets a lot of comments when I wear it in real life and on the blog, however it's a spurge item and it comes in a three pack with two other colors, adding up the cost even more. I've posted some more budget friendly options in the past, but I also saw that it you can by the exact one individually on Amazon. It's about the same cost per shirt as the 3-pack, but it still saves you a good $60 if you just want camo.
Camo Tee (c/o Shopbop) | Jeans | Necklace | Bracelets | Similar Shoes | Rebecca Minkoff Bag (c/o Shopbop)

For more affordable camo t-shirts you can check out this one from Abercrombie or this Target Option with a different neckline (more coverage).

F- Feeling
...under the weather. I'm thankful we managed to avoid the flu at our house this winter, but our luck ran out this week right as Spring rolled in. No one has the flu, but now we're all battling different compromised immune systems from a cough and colds (me) to a "kind of looks like pneumonia" diagnosis for my husband. (I'm not entirely clear on the meaning of that but I know for sure he's not well!) I'm definitely hoping for a quiet weekend of rest, relaxation and recovery!

Linking up with: JoLynne | ErikaAndreaNarci


Gray Blazer + Kendra Scott Color Bar Party

Last week as I was preparing for a Kendra Scott Color Bar Party with a few blogger and non-blogger friends, I have to admit my first reaction to the "what to wear" question  was to think that I needed a newer, trendier outfit than my usual everyday casual stuff. A special event calls for a special outfit, right? But then I took a step back for a minute and reminded myself of a few things. For one, the women I'm friends with (bloggers or not) aren't the type that base our friendship on what I wear. We get together to visit and connect, not to judge outfits. Second, I do have a solid base of wardrobe staples that I can dress up or down based on the event. So I settled on a pretty classic outfit formula of a blazer and jeans that felt comfortable and true to my own style.

I purchased this Express blazer last year and I think I've worn it more than my black blazer since that time! It pairs easily with any color of denim and the light gray just seems appropriate for Spring. There's only one size left in stock for now, but I've linked a few similar options below with more sizes in stock. Two of them are from H&M and very reasonably priced. I haven't tried those exact options but I have had good experiences with H&M blazers in the past. For references I usually take a 0 or 2 in Express blazers and a 2 or 4 in H&M blazers.

When my husband saw this outfit he said, "That's like...half an Audi symbol." It took me a minute to figure out that he was talking about my Double O-Ring belt, and now I can never look at this belt the same way! Oh well. I still like it so I'll keep wearing the heck out of it until the trend dies down.

After months of debating the idea and a little trial and error in finding one that suits my needs, I finally got a white handbag. This is the Tory Burch Half Moon Crossbody and the size is just perfect. Not too big, not too small with a thin, comfortable (and detachable) crossbody strap. It's almost sold out at Shopbop (and may be gone by the time I post this), but if you love the style you can order it from Nordstrom and have it in a few weeks.

Here's a snapshot of our group at Kendra Scott. We had a great time shopping and visiting. I picked up the Alice Earrings I've been wanting (sold out online) and I chose the Teo Necklae as my hostess gift.
Natalie | Me | Ashley (Instagram) | Noelle (Instagram) | Michelle | Nicole

I "won" my Color Bar party in a raffle that I entered in store, but I wanted to get some additional details for this post in case anyone was interested in hosting a similar event on their own that they didn't win in a raffle, e.g. are there minimum purchase requirements for attendees or a deposit to reserve the space? As it turns out, winning was kind of a ruse! I called the store and they told me anyone can host the same event, raffle winner or not. You just have to call your local Kendra Scott store, pick a date and time for your Color Bar Party, then bring in (at least) four people in addition to yourself and you can get the exact same experience as we did! The hostess/organizer receives one complimentary Color Bar item, and everyone in the group gets 15% off any purchase in store in addition to champagne (or a non-alcoholic beverage if you prefer) and a some cookies or cupcakes for snacks. It was a fun experience and perfect for a blogger get together so I may have to do it again sometime!

Shopbop Sale on Sale:
Before I sign off for today, I just wanted to take a minute let you know about the sale happening right now at Shopbop. Select sale styles are an additional 25% off now through Thursday with code SOEXTRA.

You can browse all Sale Clothing Here or all Sale Bags Here, and I also rounded up a few examples of pieces included in the sale below. All of the clothing pictured below is under $20 with the code SO EXTRA, and the only piece pictured over $50 is the Loeffler Randall studded tote, which would be a gorgeous neutral bag to carry year round.
4. Kate Spade Wallet  (3 Colors) | 5. Studded Tote (Also in Black) | 5. Pearl Crossbody Bag

Thanks for stopping by today and see you back on Friday!

Linking up with: Lindsey | The Blended Blog | Kelly, Anessa | Brooke | DawnJoLynne

Link Up Hosts:
Join us to share your Style on the Daily by linking up your latest fashion-related posts below! If you link up, we ask that you link back to your hosts Amy Ann and Gina and follow us on the social media platform of your choice. Thank you!


Designer Inspired Bags

I often share designer-inspired bags, jewelry and other items on my Instagram stories, but those disappear after 24 hours so I like to give them a permanent home on the blog, too. Not to mention some of my most loyal blog readers aren't on Instagram and I want to make sure they have equal access to content. For price reference, most of the designer bags pictured here from Chloe and Celine retail for around $2,000, and the See by Chloe and ZAC bags are around $400-500. All of the inspired versions are under $100 unless otherwise noted.

Chloe "Hudson" Inspired Bags:

1. Chloe Hudson (Motty Gray) | 2. Chloe Hudson Bag (Caramel) | 3. Amazon
4. Amazon (3 Colors) | 5. Amazon ($30) | 6.  Amazon (4 colors) 

See by Chloe Inspired Bags + Chloe "Faye" Inspired Bags:

Celine + ZAC by ZAC Posen "Eartha" Inspired Bags:
1. Celine Belt Leather Handbag | 2. Amazon ($180) 3. Amazon ($180)
4. Celine Trapeze Bag | 5. ZAC by Zac Posen Eartha | 6. Amazon (3 Colors)
7. Amazon  (9 Colors) | 8. Celine Luggage Bag 9. Amazon ($119)

Which style of these is your favorite? Personally I've been eyeing the See by Chloe Hana shoulder bag lately but am torn between the Cognac and the Taupe/Grey color.  But the H&M version looks great and is so affordable, it might be a good "trial" piece to see how much I actually use it before I take the plunge on the real deal.

Linking up withRachelle | Carylee | Laura | Lindsey


Outfit Recap + Weekend Sales 3/17/17

Hello friends and Happy St. Patrick's Day! While I don't have any new outfits to share today, I thought I'd recap some of my previous outfits in the mirror selfie format since many of you voted that you prefer this style of photo in my Reader Survey. Plus, some of these pieces are on sale now so it makes for a good time to share some weekend sale news.

Outfit Recap:

Denim Jacket, Striped Tee:
Striped Tee | Black Ripped-Knee JeansDouble O-Ring Belt | Necklace | Mavi Denim Jacket  (SimilarSimilar) | Similar Boots

Outfit Details: Full post here. All pieces ran true to size, and this t-shirt is extra long so for short-to-average height ladies it will work with leggings, too.

Grey Button Detail Cardigan:

Outfit Details: Full post here. I'm wearing a small in this warm sweater (comes in several other colors) and I do find this brand to run smaller than Express, so I recommend going up one size from your Express sizing. 

Purple Cardigan, Black Tee:

Outfit Details: Full post here. This Purple Cardigan is on sale for under $35 today and it's a perfect weight for Spring. It runs true to size.

Weekend Sales:

Express: All Tops and Dresses are currently 30% off. The tops category includes Cardigans, like the purple one I'm wearing above. My blush cardigan is also included, and I shared six ways to wear it in this post.

Ann Taylor: Behind the scenes here I've been working on a side project helping a couple of ladies get set up with a new work wardrobe courtesy of their generous boss. I've found lot of great pieces for them at Ann Taylor, and they are running a 40% off sale today with code LUCKYME. So if you need work wear it's definitely worth checking out their sale.

One | Two | Three | Four

Target: All clothing deals at Target are listed here, and lots of their great basic tees & tanks are currently only $5. I'm not quite ready to shop for shorts yet, but if you're headed somewhere warm on Spring Break their shorts are on sale too, and I usually have pretty good luck with shorts shopping at Target when I go early in the season.

Old Navy: All Dresses are on sale at Old Navy, and they have some very cute options at very reasonable prices. The black and floral print option below (both come in more colors) are only $15. The blue stripe version (on the left) is only $26 and would make a great casual Easter dress. If it's chilly it would layer well with a white cardigan or denim jacket.

Well, it's cool and rainy here again today so it puts a damper on some of our plans for the day, including taking any kind of blog pictures. On the plus side, hopefully that will mean more time to read! I started One of Us is Lying last night and so far I'm really enjoying it! The description calls it a mix between Pretty Little Liars and the Breakfast Club. I haven't seen the former but I am seeing the the parallels with The Breakfast Club. Hope you all have a great weekend!

Linking Up with: Lindsey


Favorite Denim Jacket + TGIF

This week I'm doing things just a little differently than my typical Friday post. Due to gloomy weather and the fact that I mainly wore outfits that were 100% repeats of a previous outfit, I didn't have enough outfits to merit a recap post. But I am sticking with my T.G.I.F. format today, using the acronym T.G.I.F. to share random words and topics come to mind for each of the letters. And I do have a few outfits mixed in this week so off we go!

T- This Just In
I noticed earlier this week that my very favorite denim jacket was re-stocked in all sizes. It's the perfect light wash for Spring and Summer. A lot of other denim jackets I'm seeing in stores lately have an oversized fit, and while I like the look on other people, that just does not flatter me. This one is more fitted but still soft, stretchy, comfortable, and easy to move around in. Here are outfits with this jacket from last Spring, using lots of basic wardrobe staples.

Denim Jacket, Taupe Tee, White Jeans:

Denim Jacket, Black Sundress:

Denim Jacket, White Tee, Black Jeans:

It's a little bit of a splurge but I have easily gotten my money's worth out of it in the years I've owned it, and it's held up very well to all the washing and wearing.

G- Green
Are you all planning any festive, green-themed outfits or fun events for St. Patrick's Day on Saturday? I'm not, but my kids did mention at the last minute that they wanted to war something festive to school today so we made a last minute Old Navy run. If you're in need of some festive outfit inspo for yourself, Kellyann posted a dozen St. Patrick's Day outfit ideas in her post earlier this week.

I- I'm looking forward...
...to meeting up with NoelleAshley, and a several other ladies (non-bloggers) for a Kendra Scott Color Bar party this weekend! When I went in to Kendra Scott to take advantage of my birthday discount (50% off any item in your birthday month), I entered a raffle to win a Color Bar Party. A few weeks later I was incredibly surprised to find out that I won! The event has nothing to do with my blog or blogging, but I invited a few blogger friends since they appreciate a special shopping trip to Kendra Scott (sweets, drinks, and discounts are involved) more than most of my everyday friends.

F- Fail
I failed to think of anything else interesting to share here so I guess that does it for today!

Linking up with: JoLynne | ErikaAndreaNarci


Lace Henley Top + LipSense, Monat Reviews

Last weekend, I finally experienced the situation I've heard many bloggers complain about: "I'm supposed to take blog pictures today but I can't because it's raining [or insert other bad weather condition]!" We are in a severe drought here in San Diego, which is terrible for the environment but great for blogging! Ha! I rarely have to factor weather into my picture taking plans, but my luck finally ran out so I had to get creative with what to share today. So...how about an iPhone snap of an outfit I wore on a Spring-like day back in January?

I shared a pretty similar version of this outfit here with a blush cardigan, so in the unlikely event you remember that, sorry for the near-repeat! I do prefer to wear this lace henley top all by itself rather than covered up, though. It runs one size small compared to mall brands (Express, Gap, LOFT) but normal for Pattyboutik pieces. It does come with a white bandeau top to wear under the henley (it's not attached to the lace henley, though), but I didn't see how that was going to stay up or be comfortable throughout the day, so I just wore a basic white cami underneath instead.

My jeans are a great lighter wash for Spring and the only other current item I've wearing. They're true to size, and the distressing does look a little different on me than on the model, but I purchased them online so I know for sure they are the exact pair. I do have this similar pair of boots in taupe and they are a great option for reasonably comfortable pointed-toe ankle boots.

LipSense & Monat Reviews
If you're on Instagram at all, chances are you've heard of one or both of these brands. I thought I share my thoughts on these today as an unbiased, non-sponsored (I purchased every product I'm about to discuss), non-distributor in case it helps any of you make a decision on these for yourself.

I've really been wanting to try these since Amy Ann shared her review and favorites, but I was very indecisive about which colors would work for me. I happened to see a LipSense sign hanging in a local beauty supply store, so that's where I ended up making my first purchase since I could sample the colors (on the back of my hand) first. I now have the colors Bella (Example here) for daytime wear, Plum (Example on Pinterest) for evening wear, and a tube of Glossy Gloss.
Top to bottom: Bella, Plum, Glossy Gloss
This stuff is really, really long lasting. Absolutely the longest lasting stuff I've tried. I love wearing it to any kind of social event with food or drinks involved. I know that I'll still have full color on my lips without having to dash off to the bathroom to re-apply, even though I'm eating and drinking. I look completely washed out without lip color, so it's nice to finally have an option that eliminates the problem in social settings.

For me, it comes off easily enough with a makeup removing wipe. I do have to scrub a little, but the whole process takes under 30 seconds so no complaints there. I find waterproof mascara harder to remove than this, so for the lasting power you get, the easy removal process is on the pro side for me.

First, most people will tell you it's very drying on your lips. Yes, it comes with gloss to moisturize, to me, it still feels dry underneath the gloss. Second, it takes a very careful, precise application. If I'm in a rush to get out the door I can't use this stuff because it takes a few minutes for me to apply it correctly. Third, you also cannot pair it with a regular lip liner, and I really need a liner to make my lips look decent. What does work for me in place of lip liner is to line my lips first with the LipSense color using tiny, fine point cotton swabs (imagine a Q-tips with a tip the size of a a ball point pen). After "lining" them, I fill them in with the regular applicator wand. I also have to apply a few layers of product to get the color impact I want, so again, it just adds to the time-consumption factor of the process.

In all fairness, even though the application process is a little tedious, it's still easier than say, applying false eyelashes. It's probably on par to carefully applying mascara and attempting not to smudge. I may get faster as I wear it more often, but right now I mainly use it for special occasions so my skills are not improving very quickly.

I would also say that I'm not 100% thrilled with either of the colors I have, but that's no fault of the product. Even though I tested them on the back of my hand before buying, they still looked different on my lips and in natural light vs. store light. I think it's just going to be a trial and error process to get the right color, which isn't exactly great news given the cost involved.

Ultimately, yes, LipSense was worth it for me. It's not an everyday product for me, but it's a great option to have in  my beauty arsenal for times when I'm willing to sacrifice a little convenience comfort for very long wearing color. Since I purchased mine in store, I can't recommend a particular distributor, but I know Amy Ann is very happy with her distributor, so I would probably start there if I wanted to buy online.

I have seen nothing but positive reviews for this all over Instagram, but I still just could not get myself to pay $100 for their products (retail price for the three items shown below) without trying them first because I am very picky about shampoo and conditioner and hardly ever find any high-end hair products worth the money.
Image via Monat

So instead I decided to purchase a set of 7 Sample Sizes on eBay for $14.50. (Link goes to the exact seller I used.) I am sure there is some slight risk that eBay products may not be authentic, but...I'm okay with that risk. That's all I was willing to spend to try this stuff, period.

I have fine, highlighted hair so it needs all the volumizing and deep conditioning it can get. My sample set came with seven products and I have tried the following six: Revive Shampoo, Renew Shampoo, Intense Repair Treatment Conditioner, Restore Leave-In Conditioner, Revitalize Conditioner, Replenish Masque. (I think I misplaced the leave-in oil, c'est la vie.)

In a nutshell, I was just underwhelmed by all of it. The Leave-In Conditioner left my hair limp and unstyleable. The shampoos were okay, but they didn't seem to do anything special to justify the cost. I'm sure you have to use them longer to see any of the growth benefits promised, but if I can't style my hair after using a certain shampoo or conditioner, I really can't be convinced to keep using it for more benefits somewhere down the line. My favorite product from this set and the only one I'll consider purchasing full size was the Replenish Masque. That seemed to condition and "restore" my hair nicely without weighing it down like the other products

I am sure other people will have different results based on their hair type, climate, etc. so I don't think there's anything wrong with the line, per se. I just didn't "wow" me enough to justify the high price. I hope that helps you make a more informed decision!

Linking up with: Lindsey | The Blended Blog | Kelly, Anessa | Brooke | Carrie | JoLynne

Link Up Hosts:
Join us to share your Style on the Daily by linking up your latest fashion-related posts below! If you link up, we ask that you link back to your hosts Amy Ann and Gina and follow us on the social media platform of your choice. Thank you!


March Book Reviews

It's another second Tuesday of the month and I have another round of book reviews for you all today! As usual, I had a few I really loved, some in the "meh" department, and some that were a complete waste of time, so read on for my thoughts on each of the titles below:

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Basic Plot: A school teacher grieving the loss of his son ends up with some unlikely companions for a summer on the road in his RV.
My Verdict: Highly Recommend. This is sure to make my list of favorites for 2018! Based on the subject matter I would never have expected to like it, so I'm glad I took Kristen's recommendation and went for it. The second half seemed just a bit slower than the first, but it didn't ruin the overall experience of the book for me. I was ultimately pleased with the resolution and all of the character development, so I could forgive the few minor things I disliked. This book also gets bonus points for me because I had my ten year old son read it after I finished it and he loved it! This is the first book we've both read and enjoyed, and I think it's impressive that it could reach across the age and gender gap. He ranked this in his top five books of all time, and also liked that, "it didn't try to teach you a lesson, it was just a good adventure."

Hidden by Catherine Mackenzie
Basic Plot: A man is killed in an accident and in the aftermath of his death, we learn (through alternating perspectives and time periods) that he may have been keeping some secrets from his wife. This sounds exactly like the plot of another book I just read (Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica), but thankfully it played out in an entirely different way.
My Verdict: Do Not Recommend. Meh. The book held my interested and was fairly entertaining throughout, but the ending fizzled and I didn't feel the story was resolved very well. Also, the author switched narrators with each chapter but wouldn't identify which character was narrating. It became easier to figure out as the story went along, but in the beginning it was confusing. It didn't add to the suspense, only to my frustration with the book.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Basic Plot: A troubled man (former Vietnam POW) moves his family to Alaska in the 1970s to get a fresh start in life. The story is mainly told from the perspective of the 13 year old daughter who has to learn to survive not only coming-of-age and life in the wild, but her parents unstable relationship.
My Verdict: Highly Recommend, especially if you have enjoyed Kristin Hannah's other books. I've only read The Nightingale and Night Road by Hannah and thought this lived up to my expectations. I wouldn't expect to enjoy a book about surviving in the wilds of Alaska, but this book transported me and made me feel like I lived in this village and knew the people myself. I was invested in their lives and survival. There was romance and heartbreak along the way, but life is like that so it felt very natural and real. After I finished the book, I read some reviews and a few people thought the ending was rushed. I can definitely see that, but it didn't bother me personally because it seemed time for the story to wrap up anyway.

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs
Basic Plot: Every two years, Min is murdered on her birthday. But the next day, she wakes up in the woods without a scratch on her body and makes her way home as if nothing happened. She's determined to figure out why this is happening to her and who is behind it.
My Verdict: Do Not Recommend. This was the book Kristen and I chose to read together this month and UGH, did we ever regret this choice. The premise sounded it interesting, but it was a mess and I did not enjoy it at all. It started off decent, but halfway through it became a terrible mix of Hunger Games meets Matrix meets Lord of the Flies. There was so much pointless dialogue and so many pointless characters. I think there were 64 sophomores in Min's high school class and the author made sure to name them all and tell us where they lived and what their parents did, even if they had zero purpose in the story at all and were only there to say, "Yeah, come on guys! This isn't fair!" (Not an exact quote, but you get the idea.) Even worse, it turns out this is going to be a series. So the ending wasn't really an ending at all, but I assure you I will not be reading Book 2.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Basic Plot: An agoraphobic woman has a hobby (hm, maybe "bad habit" is a better description here) of spying on her neighbors. Through her her spying she witnessing a crime, but as an alcoholic on a number of other medications to boot, we can't tell whether to trust what she saw, and neither can she or anyone else.
My Verdict: Recommend. When I finished this book, I was thinking a solid 4 out of 5 stars. But after chatting with a couple of other people who read it and analyzing my thoughts a little more, I am bumping my rating up to 4.5 stars. The key detail I didn't like was the unreliable narrator. It just felt too "Girl on the Train" and I'm a bit tired of books trying to be the next Girl on the Train. But aside from that detail, the narrator had a witty sense of humor, which I really like and I think it's hard to find in suspense novels. (The Passenger also had this type of narrator and I loved that book.) There was a really good twist I never suspected, and even though I did figure out the criminal, there was a mystery about the victim that I didn't guess and I thought was well played. So yes, definitely recommend for suspense lovers and thanks to Tracy for the recommendation!

The Stranger Inside by Jennifer Jaynes
Basic Plot: A murder mystery writer (Diane) moves to a new town for a fresh start with her two kids after the death of her husband. Her daughter goes to college in a nearby town, and a serial killer begins taking victims around campus and leaving hints for Diane.
My Verdict: Do Not Recommend. When I finished this book, I slammed my Kindle shut and shoved it aside. I hated the ending. It was absurd and so frustrating. Up that point, the story was pretty okay, albeit predictable. I guessed the killer by halfway through and didn't connect with any of the characters so it wasn't going to be my favorite. But the ending took it all the way down to a one star rating for me. I didn't think an ending could be worse than Nemesis this month, but this one managed to do it.

Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata
Basic Plot: Ruby signs up for the Help a Soldier program, which requires her to regularly email an enlisted soldier stationed overseas. Ruby is assigned to Aaron, and they develop a friendship and feelings for each other through their written communication.
My Verdict: Recommend if you like cute romantic stories. Which I do as long as they're not too cliché. The majority of the book is back and forth email (then later Instant Messenger or Text) conversations between Ruby and Aaron, and I thought it was a fun, entertaining and unique way to develop a relationship. I almost felt like I was violating someone's privacy and reading through their private email conversations. Which of course, is very enjoyable when there's no guilt involved! I've enjoyed most of Zapata's books and this was no exception.

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
Basic Plot: Handsome Boy who works at a competitive gymnastics gym is killed in a hit and run. Mom of the Star Gymnast finds the circumstances of his death suspicious and as expected, things are not what they seem.
My Verdict: Do Not Recommend. First, this book is billed as a look inside the world of competitive women's gymnastics. Gymnastics was part of the story, sure, but that was happening on the sidelines and it was really just a murder mystery. The story was interesting enough but the writing style was just not my cup of tea. Coincidentally, there was a line in the book that perfectly described how I felt about the narrative: "...it all felt cryptic, the whisper of a story rather than a story." The characters and the writing kept me feeling like an outsider, and I want to be drawn in. Compare this with something like The Great Alone (see above) where I felt completely there, involved and invested, which is what I want from a book and didn't get here.


Alone Together by Sherry Turkle
This book looks in depth at the way technology is affecting human-to-human interaction and how humans use technology in place of interpersonal relationships. First off, I did not like the narrator. Her voice grated my nerves so that made it hard to enjoy the book at all. Second, the first half of the book was all about human/robot interactions and I listened to one or two chapters and was completely bored. So I skipped ahead to the second half, which was more about our relationships with our mobile devices and how social media affects our interactions, etc. This was a bit more interesting, but not enough so to make it one that I'd recommend often. Irresistible covers a similar subject matter and was far more interesting, entertaining, and relevant.

Attached by Amir Levine, MD
This was a Valentine's Day Audible bargain so I decided to try it since it had good reviews. Well, that'll teach me to impulse shop for books! This book posits that humans fall into three different attachment types when it comes to relationships: Secure, Avoidant, and Anxious. While the theory was interesting in general, I lost interest once they started to go into detail about how to date and deal with people of the different attachment types. I'm not in the dating game so after about four hours of this book I decided to quit because I wasn't learning anything particularly fascinating or useful to me. There was nothing bad about the narrator or the writing, though, so if you're in the dating pool or generally interested in the subject matter you might enjoy this.

Natural Disaster by Ginger Zee
After a couple of duds, I decided to go with this one thanks to Kristi's recommendation. I only watch snippets of Good Morning America on occasion, so I'm more familiar with Ginger Zee from her stint on Dancing with the Stars than from her role as Chief Meteorologist on GMA, but I still really enjoyed this book. She tells the story of her life from a young girl up through everything she went through personally and professionally to advance her career to the point of landing her current job on GMA. It's very easy to see these pretty, talking heads on the news and think their job is easy and glamorous, and then to assume the rest of their life is just as picture perfect. It was a good reminder of just how much we don't know about what's going on in anyone else's life, and it really made me respect and admire how hard she worked and what she had to go through to get to this point in her career.

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
This was a pretty short audiobook (4 hours vs. roughly 6-12 hours for most books I read) and for such a short time investment it was worth the listen. It talks about how modern day humans are working 24/7, on the go and on call all of the time with professional, personal, and family demands pulling us in every direction. The authors offer tips on how to be more effective and manage your energy (not your time, as they say) for peak performance based on what they've learned from years of coaching professional athletes and business professionals alike. For me, this was a good reminder to make time for things that really renew my energy, like going for a walk or taking a dance class, rather than always thinking "but I could be getting X amount of things done at home/on the blog, etc."

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman
A couple of weeks ago, I was in a bit of a negative funk, so I thought maybe a book could help. I searched up "Positive Thinking" on Audible and this came up. The title made me laugh and the ratings looked good, so I went for it. The author is a skeptic on all things related to positive thinking and our generally goal-obsessed society, and he did a good job of logically picking apart some of the common mantras and clichés of the popular self-help "experts" and beliefs. I enjoyed this one and do recommend it, even if you are a positive, goal oriented person. I think you'll find it less negative and more enjoyable than you might expect!

Current Reads + Up Next:
On the fiction side, I just started "The Opposite of You" (seems like a rom-com so far) and I'm about to start Seriously, I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres.

Sometime this month Kristen and I will both be reading Homegoing by Yaa Kyasi and we sincerely hope it will be better than our last couple of joint choices! Also on my mile-long "want to read soon" list are: The Dry by Jane Harper, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes, and One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus...just to name a few!

Hope you found a couple of titles that sound like something you might enjoy, and as always, if you have something you think I might enjoy, let me know in the comments!

Linking up with: Steph & Jana | Stephanie


Cashmere Cardigan + Monday Motivation

When it comes to splurge items, I've noticed there are a couple of different types of people. Type A will purchase a splurge item and save it to wear on special occasions. And then there's Type B, who wear the heck out of the splurge item either because they just love it or want to bring down the cost per wear to justify the splurge. These days, I'm definitely Type B. I've never owned anything cashmere until I got this camel cardigan as a birthday splurge back in January. I've worn it almost once a week since then, including last weekend when I wore it to my monthly girls' brunch.
Budget Cardigan Options: Boohoo, AmazonAmazon
Leopard Crossbody Options: Budget | Mid End | Tory Burch

I didn't meant to go head-to-toe (er...ankle) Abercrombie with this outfit but it ended up that way by chance. My cardigan and lace trim cami both run true to size for Abercombie (I'm wearing an XS in both), and their sizing usually runs the same for me as Express sizing. Their jeans like this black pair I'm wearing also run true to size. They are narrower at the ankle than my black Express jeans, so I've started wearing these jeans instead of my black Express jeans anytime I'm not covering up the ankle area with a boot since I prefer the slimmer look.

Budget Cardigan Options: Boohoo, AmazonAmazon
Leopard Crossbody Options: Budget | Mid End | Tory Burch

My nude pumps and Double O-Ring belt are also getting frequent use, but they're both under $50 so the Type B Splurge Logic doesn't really apply. I wear them a lot just because they go with a lot! They're both true to size, though I did have to add heel inserts to prevent slipping on the pumps.

Monday Motivation: Values vs. Bloglife
Last week, this article popped up in my news feed and I found it pretty fascinating. In a nutshell, it's the story of a 26 year old girl who racked up $10,000 in debt trying to become an Instagram star. She bought all the right designer shoes and handbags, traveled to all the right locations to take her photos (which of course, were taken by expensive professional photographers) and lived a lifestyle well beyond her means, perhaps with the hope that it would eventually pay for itself.

While I was initially shocked at that $10K number, I guess I really shouldn't be. It's very easy to forget that what we see on blogs and social media is only part of the story. I suspect she is not alone in her debt situation, she's just the only one willing to admit it. While I am glad to say I've never gone into debt over anything Instagram or blog related, I can't be too judgmental because I know I've gone over budget at times and I've done things for Instagram that seem silly in retrospect. It's just two pages out of the same book, and who knows, under a different set of circumstances maybe I too could have gotten even more caught up in trying to achieve a certain level of blog or Instagram status.

I've been pretty open here about my ongoing effort to manage my time on social media and on my phone in general (e.g. this post and this one), and when I look back on the values I set out to work on in my new year post, I have to say social media is mostly a bad influence on all of those values:

1. Time Management: Pretty obvious how it's not good for time management!
2. Relationships: Actually, social media has primarily been positive for me on this front. I have made a handful of good connections and friendships through social media, but what's surprised me more is how much fun it's been to engage with real-life family and friends who follow my blog account. That said, it's not without it's problems on that front. I know more than a few people (myself included) who have had their feelings hurt by something that was posted by another friend on social media, often leading to a strain on a real life relationship. And it can easily be a distraction from in-person connections, too.
3. Personal Growth: The only way social media has helped me with personal growth is through book recommendations from social media. Otherwise I don't think it's really helping me grow as a person.
4. Health & Fitness: Hm, well, this is another tie. Sometimes social media can be a good influence on my fitness. When I see other people sharing their workouts, it motivates me. As for health, it's a terrible influence as far as food temptations. And it's repeatedly been shown to be bad for mental health (e.g. this article), so there's that to consider as well.

So it all begs the question...why am I doing it? I started my Instagram account to help grow my blog and hopefully create some new opportunities for myself. It's done that to an extent, but at what cost? I honestly have no answers in today's post...just questions. I apologize for potentially beating a dead horse with this topic, but it's been at the forefront of my mind a lot this year. I know I can't worry about what anyone else in the industry is doing, so if a blogger goes into $10k of debt in pursuit of Instagram fame, it's really none of my business, and at some point she's going to pay for her own mistakes anyway. What I am concerned about is how can participate in the industry in the most useful (to others), enjoyable (to myself) way possible. I would love to hear from you all what's working for you these days in terms of keeping it all in balance and in check and what social content you find useful vs. unhealthy!

Linking up with Rachelle | Carylee | JoLynne | Erika