Rambling Review: The Selection Series

I know I said An Ember in the Ashes is my all-time favorite YA book. I stand by that. BUT. The Selection Series by Kierra Cass is one of my all-time favorite of the YA series (okay, so I have a lot of favorites…there’s a reason my husband promised in his wedding vows to move all my books wherever we go).

The Heir, which is the fourth book in the series, is what I read almost cover to cover the morning of my wedding day. As much as I loved America, I adore Eadlyn. And like a boy-crazy teenager, I really liked how different all the boys were.

The Selection through The One is basically The Bachelor meets Cinderella. Girls are selected from around the kingdom to compete for the affection of the crown prince. They represent different caste levels and each bring something appealing to the table, be it alliance potential, charisma for the paparazzi, or a desire to make life better for the lower castes. The camaraderie (and sometimes, the fighting) between the girls is beautifully written and wholly believable. It’s a trilogy about friendship as much as it is about love and politics.

The Heir and The Crown follow the next generation: a princess determined to prove she is the strongest person in the kingdom. She don’t need no man, and she tells her parents constantly. But the kingdom is still showing signs of unrest, and the king and queen hope a return to the traditional Selection will boost morale. Eadlyn is determined to torment the boys into leaving of their own volition, but as time passes, she grows to enjoy their company. Love blossoms in the least likely of places, and she has to decide if accepting a husband — even one she truly loves — will hold her back from being the queen she’s always dreamt of.

The writing is fast-paced and engaging, and the characters come to life with each page. I shared their heartbreaks and rejoiced over their triumphs, and actually believed the possibility of a less-than-happy ending. I’ve also read through this series at least twice. It’s a keeper on my shelves for sure!

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Rambling Reviews: An Ember in the Ashes

HOW HAVE I NOT ALREADY WRITTEN THIS?! Guys, this is my all time favorite YA book that isn’t Harry Potter (because Harry Potter is really its own thing at this point, anyway).

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is about a slave and a soldier in fantasy-Ancient Rome. Laia is a Scholar, the broken and subservient class, sent as a slave to spy on the martial school in order to help free her brother from imprisonment. Elias is a Martial, and on his way to joining the upper echelons of the Empire — a position that only fills him with disgust. (And also, Helene is a badass secondary character whom I love — dare I say it — possibly more than either Laia or Elias).

I will say right off the bat, if you haven’t already noticed, I’m not too hard to please when it comes to the love interest. I know that makes me somewhat unreliable when it comes to actual opinions about the guys in these female-led novels. Set that aside for a second and trust me when I say, Elias is everything. Strong and deadly and kind and compassionate. He’s probably my favorite swoon-worthy character since Gilbert Blythe (not that anyone will ever take the place of Gilbert Blythe).

Laia is relatable, at least for me. She wishes she were braver than she thinks she is, but she’s willing to do anything it takes to save her brother. She pushes herself out of her comfort zone time and again until she learns she is strong enough to take charge of her situation.

The writing is exceptional, especially for a debut author. It’s the kind of writing that makes me question whether my own could ever be good enough. And I mean that in a good way — too many debut novels make me cringe and wonder what the point is of even trying if pretty much anything can be published.

And, if you find yourself falling a little for Helene, she gets a main character POV in the next book which will only make you love her more. Plus, the third book is due to come out this June, so it’s a pretty good time to get started on the series. DO IT!

Sonoma and Babies

So I wrote this post last week (because I planned to be up to my eyeballs in adorableness today and have no time for blogging) but due to shitty weather basically everywhere except St Louis, all flights to the Bay Area were canceled/sold out/outrageously expensive. Still, the irony of it all was too heartbreaking-ly perfect not to still share. Sending my nephew wishes for the happiest of first birthdays from half a country away!

(Original post):

A year ago, our nephew was born in sunny California. He’s beautiful and rambunctious and perfect in every way — he’s the first of the next generation of our families, so he’s quite special.

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As such, we are using my husband’s spring break to fly out to Cali and celebrate this little munchkin turning 1. It’s a quick trip, because while he has 2 weeks off, I have a limited number of vacation days. I plan to soak up the sun and the delight of my nephew for the few days we have out there, and cross my fingers for another snow day.

See, last year around this time, our flight home was delayed due to bad weather on the east coast. We ended up staying an extra day, one of the nicest days of our trip, and got to experience California Wine Country for the second time (we’d previously been to Napa over Thanksgiving).

The first thing I liked about Sonoma was its sass. As we arrived, a sign let us know we were in the “REAL wine country” and I knew this was my kind of place. The town of Sonoma was very cute. We had a delicious lunch and wandered around the square, reading about the historical sites.

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The vineyards also had more of a look and feel that my husband and I are used to, similar to Virginia wine country: rolling hills and acres of grape vines. The wine was delicious, and of course enjoying a glass with such awesome views is always a plus.

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This year, if we do happen to get an extra day, we’ll probably spend it with the family rather than another road trip adventure, but I wouldn’t complain about that at all.

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February Fashion: Follow Up

For most posts on the actual “style challenge” go here and here.

My favorites from the month:


A lot of the pieces that make up my favorites have come from either ThredUP or Stitch Fix.

I’ve mentioned ThredUp in the past, but I’ll talk about it again now. It’s an online consignment shop where you can both buy and sell gently used clothing. They’ll send you a “cleanout bag” to ship your clothes to them, and you can decide if you want anything they don’t keep to be returned to you or to be responsibly recycled. The amount they pay for your clothes varies (there’s a link on their website to give you a general idea), and the amount shows in your account as a credit — after 14 days you can have it sent to you as a Visa gift card if you prefer not to use it in the store. Purchasing clothing is also pretty low-risk. You can return anything you don’t like within 14 days, with the option of free return shipping and store credit or a refund to the original form of payment (the return shipping label is deducted from the refund amount). I’ve found numerous gems through ThredUp and highly recommend it, especially for anyone shopping on a budget. If you use this link to shop, we both get $10 off!

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Top I just got from ThredUP and pants from Stitch Fix

 

Stitch Fix is another site I’m obsessed with. Disclaimer: it’s the only clothing subscription service I’ve tried, but I love it. For a $20 styling fee, you receive 5 pieces carefully picked out just for you. You have several days to try everything on and coordinate the pieces with your current wardrobe (you can extend your time if necessary, too). The styling fee is credited towards your purchase, and if you keep all 5 items you also get 25% off! You decide how frequently you want your fixes (anywhere from every 2-3 weeks to every 3 months), or you can just manually request a fix whenever you feel like it. You fill out a style profile to help your stylist get to know you, and — now this is very important — set up a Pinterest board so they can understand what styles you really like. The only time I’ve heard of friends hating their fixes, they haven’t utilized Pinterest. They style men, too, so if you or a guy in your life could use a fashion upgrade, check out Stitch Fix. If you use this link to sign up, your first $20 styling fee is waived (plus, full disclosure, I get a credit on my account, too)!

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Finally an athleisure outfit done right! Shirt from ThredUp, jacket from Stitch Fix (and mud on my shoes courtesy of Castlewood Park)

 

Magic of Home

So as I was driving home the other day, I was trying to think of the right words to explain the love I feel for where I am. Every time I try to simply say “I love Saint Louis,” it doesn’t capture what I mean. My husband is able to make it smaller, explain away the magic with rationalities like the convenience of city living or the newness of this environment for us.

And he’s right, but he’s also so very wrong. When I say how much I love it here, I mean so much more than the architecture or stores or restaurants or people. They’re all fantastic, sure. But there’s something…more. Deeper. More pure. It’s a knowledge in my bones that I belong in the world. It’s magical. It’s home.

And as I reached my exit, I glanced up at the bridge that spans the highway like I always do — there’s often someone standing up there, just watching the cars pass, and for whatever reason, it makes me smile. Today, though, was more magic.

Someone had written a marriage proposal in painted cups wedged into the chain link barricade. Whoever Jonna (Ionna? Tonna?) is, I hope they say yes.


And for all the other people dating other Jonnas who take 44E home, tonight may get a little awkward.

MAGIC, GUYS!

February Fashion: Part 1

These were taken before February so don’t technically count for the month, but I like the outfits.

I’ve been pretty obsessed with fashion and style blogs lately. Enough to wish I had my own style blog, enough to know I most likely never will. I know myself well enough to accept that while I love putting together outfits that make me feel great, I don’t know enough to give other people advice about their own style. Also, I’m still trying to pull my own style out of a blending together of my very different style icons.

Beth (This is Us), Maggie (Grey’s), Jess (New Girl), Mandy (Last Man Standing), and Sabrina (The Mick) *Photos from Google*      (also, not pictured: my sister in law)

However, as sort of a creative challenge, I determined to try with every outfit this month (none of this just throwing on leggings and a t-shirt because it’s Saturday nonsense — not that there’s anything wrong with leggings and a tee, especially with the athleisure trend seemingly here to stay). It’s been fun putting together combinations I haven’t tried before, and I’ve found a few new “fave outfits” that just make me feel great.

2/3 – 2/7 (- 2/5 [no pic] + quick change for Date Night)
Of course, I was sick (like call-out-of-work, fuse-to-the-couch kind of sick) the first two days of February. Those days I did manage to at least change from PJs to leggings and a hoodie, but that was as far as I got.

2/8-2/10 (+ fundraiser event and polka dot details)

I’ve been jotting down ideas for each day, as well as noting the ones I really love (like both center pics above).
I’ve only run into one major dud (and I immediately changed), which is great, but this project is really about finding clothes and outfits I truly *love*. At the end of the month, I’ll highlight my favorites, which will also make dressing for work a lot easier, too!

2/11-2/14

The challenge has the added bonus of helping me clean out my closet of clothes I rarely wear or ones I learn I won’t wear again (which in turn makes room for new pieces to love!).