Books You Need to Read this Summer

My love for reading has fluctuated over the years. When I was younger, I despised the reading log calendars that we were forced to fill out merely to win tickets to see the Kane County Cougars. As I got older, I enjoyed reading quirky romance novels and teen reads like The Clique, the Princess Diaries series, Camp Confidential (if you know of this series, you’re a REAL one), and of course, Twilight. But since being in college the last four years of my life, I rarely had time to sit down and read a novel. Don’t get me wrong—I wanted to. But balancing school, and internship, and somewhat of a social life didn’t leave much room for just-for-fun reading. Since graduating, I have been attempting to make an effort to read at least one novel every two months. Normally, I can fly through a book in a matter of hours, but since my time is limited I have been sticking to reading a chapter of a book each night.

There’s nothing worse than dedicating a half hour or so to reading each night, then finding out a few chapters in that the book you decided to venture into actually sucks. Trust me, I’ve been there. Since summer is slowly (but surely) approaching, I decided to put together this blog post of the FOUR books you need to read as the weather turns warmer and vacation season approaches.

Here are my top three reasons why you need to reach these books:
1) I’ve already read them all and I can vouch that they’re actually good reads.
2) They’re the perfect combination of light-heartedness + good writing.
3) They’re all under 450 pages. Ideal for when you don’t have a lot of time, yet want to finish a whole book!


One Day in December, by Josie Silver

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I’m aware that it’s not December. I’m also aware that if you live anywhere it snows that the last thing you want to do is think about December. However, this book is at the top of my list because it was just that good. While I’m not going to do a whole book review on this post (let me know in the comments below if you’d enjoy reading detailed book reviews), I do have a few things to say about this novel and why you need to pick it up from your local library/book store ASAP.

When I find books to read, I often browse the “popular reads” section of my library because looking through the normal fiction shelves is way too overwhelming for someone as picky as I am when it comes to books. I decided to pick up One Day in December because I really loved the cover art…and I’m a sucker for eye-catching book covers. The front of the book displayed a paint-like winter scenery that couldn’t be ignored. After snatching it off the shelve and reading the back cover, I decided that this would be the book I was going to read.

The plot revolves around two best friends in London, an undercover love triangle, and a storyline about friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness. Sure, this sounds dramatic, but I can assure that you won’t be disappointed.


When Life Gives You Lululemons, by Lauren Weisberger

If you’re not a fan of The Devil Wears Prada, then who even are you? Just kidding. But no really, it was about time that Lauren Weisberger made a spinoff of her popular fashion industry novel. And it’s safe to say that if Hollywood doesn’t create a movie version of this book that I will be thoroughly disappointed. However, I knew that I had to read this book because I have seen The Devil Wear Prada movie at least 10 times—not exaggerating. I’m always down for a romantic comedy—on-screen, in-print, or otherwise—and after reading the back cover of When Life Gives You Lululemons, I decided that I would give it a try.

Unlike some books that drag the first few chapters, Weisberger wasted no time diving right into the plot and developing the characters. If you remember from The Devil Wear Prada, Miranda Priestly had an assistant before Andy (Anne Hathaway) came into the picture: Emily. Well, well, well, Emily makes her return in When Life Gives You Lululemons, as this book revolves around her and her life after Runway.

This spinoff novel is full of drama, romance, humor, and all of the lighthearted goodness that makes it the perfect summertime weekend read. And just for reference, the book isn’t about Lululemon.

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To All The Boys I've Loved Before Trilogy, by Jenny Han

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Not to toot my own horn, but I’m definitely a trendsetter. I remember reading To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before a few years ago before it ever became popular. I’ve been a huge fan of Jenny Han ever since reading her The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy (If you haven’t read this series yet, you are missing out!), and as soon as I got wind that she was releasing a new series of YA romance novels, I knew I had to check them out.

If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy young adult reads…then who even are you? Just kidding. But seriously, Jenny Han has a way of writing her novels that makes them sound mature (but not too mature for a romance novel, if you know what I mean), yet still enjoyable and fun to read.

I don’t want to ruin too much of this book for you, but here’s a little rundown of the premise. Girl in high school isn’t super popular, girl in high school writes letters to all of the boys whom she thinks never notices her, said letters get mailed to all of the boys, the boys find out, the rest of the story is a hot mess—to say the least.

As an added treat, Netflix came out with the movie version of the first novel in the series (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) and the second movie is currently in the works. But, do yourself a favor and read the book before you watch the movie, I promise you’ll love every second of it!


What book recommendations do you have? I’m always on the hunt for a captivating read (romance, comedy, murder mystery, or otherwise), so let me know in the comments below!

Three Ways to Stay Happy

Remember when I said I was going to post every Saturday? So much for that! This post is all about finding ways to stay happy, and let me tell you, not following through on my commitments—personal or otherwise—doesn’t make me happy. But nonetheless, everyone deserves a second chance. And seeing as this is my personal blog, I decided to give myself another chance at redemption.

The main cause to my lack of posting wasn’t because I’ve gotten over the whole blogging thing. But rather, I have nothing going on in my life besides working full-time, going to the gym, and going to bed (truthfully). Because of that, it gives me little to no material to write about. However, after talking to several people, I have decided to get a few hobbies other than working out. Don’t get me wrong, I love a killer sweat sesh but working out doesn’t always make me happy. Working out can be stressful, especially if you’re someone like me who likes improving every single time whether it’s by beating my mile time, tacking on another mile or two to my distance runs, or increasing the amount of weight that I lift. Therefore, I wanted to find a hobby that was relaxing and didn’t cause me to feel stressed. Now, this may be easy for some people but I find it a bit more challenging. In the past, I’ve tried coloring books but wasn’t a fan because I not only found it overly tedious to color so precisely between the lines, but I felt the need to color perfectly (seeing as though I’m somewhat of a perfectionist). Another hobby that I took up during my high school years was playing guitar and songwriting. I truthfully thought that I was going to be the next Taylor Swift, and while I love jamming every now-and-then, I’m content with the songs that I know and the chords that I can play and don’t feel the need (or the want) to become a professional guitar player.

You’re probably wondering what I have chosen to take up as a hobby considering the activities mentioned above I don’t want to pursue further. Well, I am happy to say that I have found 3 things that I do on somewhat of a daily basis that help me stay happy.


painting

How “art school” of me is it that I’ve taken up painting? Pretty dang art school-y if you ask me. But there’s just something so relaxing about mixing paint colors together and stroking the paintbrush along the paper. Since I have no professional painting training (but don’t you fret—I’m signed up for a modern paint training course through Joann Fabrics at the end of April), my mom suggested that I get coloring book pages and paint them. At first, I thought this was silly because when am I ever going to hang up a picture of an Easter bunny with some eggs? Probably never. But as my mom expressed to me, it doesn’t really matter if I ever plan on hanging it up or not. What matters is that I enjoyed my time painting the picture.


52 lists for happiness book

Maybe you’re like me and find it really hard to find things in your life to be happy about. Keep in mind, there’s a big difference between finding things to be HAPPY about and finding things to be THANKFUL for. There are so many things that I’m thankful for in my life, but being thankful doesn’t necessarily equate to happiness. Someone recommended to me the book 52 Lists for Happiness, which I have been filling out daily. Every week, you’re presented with a new prompt that makes you think about the things in your life that you’re good at, the things in your life that make you happy, and the things in your life that you appreciate, among others. This book has really challenged me to think outside of the box and really take a look at my life and find the things that truly make me smile each and every day.


podcasts

Okay, okay. I totally get that listening to podcasts isn’t a hobby. But, it is something that makes me happy. I commute a little over 2 hours to work (back and forth) each day. For the first week or so of my new full-time job, I was listening to music. Don’t get me wrong, I love singing to Kacey Musgraves in the car and blasting Drake whenever I can. But, I found myself so uninspired and almost drained after spending 2 hours in the car mindlessly listening to music. One of my co-workers told me about the podcast The Morning Toast, and one of the Instagram bloggers that I follow started her own podcast called What We Said.

I love The Morning Toast because it gives me the perfect dose of news, while still being entertaining. The two hosts, Jackie and Claudia Oshry are two of the funniest personalities I’ve ever encountered online. They’re both in their twenties and completely aware of millennial trends and pop culture. Because of their personalities, it makes listening to the news a lot more enjoyable.

What We Said is my second favorite podcast because the two hosts, Jacie Marie Smith and Chelsey Curtis are best friends who complement each other so well. These two ladies talk about everything from embarrassing stories and dating, to interviewing social media influencers and entrepreneurs like Aspyn Ovard and @hairby_chrissy (two of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow). A lot of their episodes also talk about being a #girlboss and how to be successful on social media or whatever your side passions are. I highly recommend both of these podcasts for anyone who wants to listen to something entertaining, informative, and inspiring!


What are your favorite things to do to fuel your happiness? Do you have any favorite podcasts? Let me know in the comments below!

Sustainable + Vegan Holiday Gift Guide

It’s finally the holidays, and I’ve been burning my Trader Joe’s Gingerbread candle and jamming to Santa Tell Me by Ariana Grande for a week straight now—and I couldn’t be more excited. While I love spending time with family (and my cat “brother,” Oscar) and walking around Downtown Chicago and my hometown’s downtown area, there’s nothing better than giving the perfect gift to someone. In lieu of my love for a more sustainable lifestyle and my passion for veganism, I have decided to create a gift guide to serve as your one-stop-shop to the best sustainable and vegan holiday gifts.

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1 // stasher bag:

Stasher Bags are the coolest things since plastic baggies. Sure, everyone and their mom was amazed when they had something besides paper towels to wrap their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in. But, we all know how bad throwing away plastic is for the environment, which is why Stasher Bag nails it with their product. Made from BPA, lead, latex, and phthalate-free silicone, Stasher Bags make packing lunches, snacks, and even reheating food safe and sustainable.

You can purchase Stasher Bags here, here, and here!

2 // bee’s wrap:

I fell in love with Bee’s Wrap’s products after my sister gifted me them last Christmas. Instead of using plastic wrap (or cling wrap or whatever the kids are calling it nowadays), Bee’s Wrap can be used over-and-over again to keep food safe for travel or preserve leftovers inside of your fridge. I find myself wrapping apples or celery in them to bring with me to school, sometimes I cover the tops of Tupperware containers or half-eaten coconut yogurt containers with them, as well. These genius wraps are made from certified organic cotton and jojoba oil, sustainably sourced beeswax, and tree resin.

You can purchase Bee’s Wrap here!

3 // pela phone case:

Everyone needs a phone case, and someone who thinks otherwise is either wrong or delusional because a phone without a case is risky business. Pela makes it easy to protect your phone with style while still helping the planet. Pela phone cases are made from their signature “Flaxstic” which is starch and other natural fibers that are compostable and don’t include BPA or lead—that’s right, you can compost your Pela phone case when you no longer want it. Additionally, Pela has partnered with three different causes to make your phone case purchases even more worth it.

You can purchase Pela cases here!

4 // SPROUT PENCILS:

When I was in Texas a few months ago, I stumbled upon these amazing pencils inside of a gift shop in Dallas. Pencils, in-and-of-themselves, are practical. But, when filled with seeds to be planted after the pencil is too short to be used is brilliant and even more practical. Sprout Pencils are 100 percent sustainable and non-toxic (made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood), and the little capsule that holds the plant seeds are made with natural clay.

You can purchase Sprout Pencils here, here, and here!

5 // hu chocolate

Would this gift guide really be complete without my favorite chocolate of all time? Obviously not. Hu Kitchen’s chocolate has been a long-time favorite of mine ever since I took a bite of their glorious hazelnut-filled bar 2-years-ago. Since then, I’ve tried almost all of their flavors with the cashew butter-filled bar being my favorite. While their bars not only taste delicious, they’re made out of organic cacao and are gluten-free, paleo, and vegan—what a win. Plus, all of their chocolate bars (and other new chocolatey treats) are made without dairy, GMOs, soy, refined sugars, and sugar alcohols. Bottom line: Hu Chocolate makes great-tasting desserts that are a healthy alternative to run-of-the-mill chocolate bars.

You can purchase Hu Kitchen Chocolate here, here, and here!

6 // homesick candles

I can honestly say I have never met a person who doesn’t like candles. And when the candle is scented after their hometown/college town/or favorite place, chances are they will love the candle even more. Homesick Candles are the perfect gift for out-of-town friends and relatives, recently graduated students, or anyone who loves vacationing. Homesick candles are scented after different places in the world, and the brand’s “Chicago” candle is scented to smell like the Windy City by capturing the “complex scent of rich chocolate carried by bursts of Great Lake air.” Sounds delicious, right? The best part of these candles is that they’re made from natural soy wax and high-quality cotton wicks that are free from lead and plastic. Plus, they’re made paragon, petroleum, and phthalate-free, and their jars can be washed and reused even after the candle is done burning.

You can purchase Homesick Candles here, here, and here!


Let me know which sustainable + vegan gift you would like to give and receive from my list above. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and happy whatever-holiday-you-celebrate!

with love & light, Amanda