What I read in April – Back on the Bookshelf

What I read in April 2017

Last month was relatively good for reading for me… 7 books! There was quite a range of different genres, which is always fun and mind-broadening. 

Without further ado, here is what I read in April:

All the Light We Cannot See

Completed: 4/7/17
Format: Hardback from the Library

Just wow… There’s a reason this Pulitzer Prize winner has been on top of everyone’s to-read list for the last year. 

This beautiful story follows two young people during WWII, a blind French girl whose father leaves her with an incredible secret, and a brilliant German boy forced to work for the Nazis. They are destined to meet near the very end of the war. 

Very beautifully written, heart breaking, and just wonderful. Exceptional historical fiction that made me want to put Anthony Doerr’s other novel on my reading list.

Recommended for: everyone. 

The Princess Diarist 

The Princess Diarist - one of the 7 books I read in April!

Completed: 4/11/17
Format: Hardback from Library

Y’all, Carrie Fisher was an absolutely hilarious person. This book, tragically her last, is at times painful, raunchy, and awkward, but it’s always funny. 

The bits and pieces of Carrie’s diary from when she first began playing the role of Princess Leia for the very first Star Wars are interspersed between the stories of how she and Harrison Ford’s fling during filming of Episode IV. There is some gorgeous and haunting poetry, shocking stories, and of course, lots of laughs. 

Recommended for: Star Wars fans who aren’t afraid of some dark, witty humor.

A Place Called Freedom

A Place Called Freedom - one of the 7 books I read in April!

Completed: 4/17/17
Format: Hardback from the Library

Ken Follett is one my very favorite authors. His historical fiction is all just fantastic. Last year I read 4 of his books (all of them are pretty dang large), and this one is probably my fifth favorite of the ones I’ve read. While I really enjoyed it, you can tell it’s one of his earlier stories. The characters are good, but not quite as fully developed as in Pillars of the Earth or The Century Trilogy.

It was still worth my time, though. I just love Ken Follet.

Recommended for: Fans of Outlander πŸ˜‰

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - one of the seven books I read in April!

Completed: 4/18/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

Malcolm Gladwell is just so good. Even though this book is almost 13 years old, it’s just chock full of incredible information and fun ways to hack your brain. Think-slicing is the fascinating way we take “thin slices” of information and quickly make decisions without knowing we’ve even had the first thought. 

Every human does it without realizing, and it’s a very important to keeping us alive while we move in the world, but it can also create implicit biases that hamper us and harm others. 

Recommended for fans of Freakonomics and other behavioral science type books.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers 

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - one of the 7 books I read in April

Completed: 4/24/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

Who knew a book about what’s done with our bodies after we die could be so hilarious? I had heard as much about Stiff, but as someone who has lost two close family members this year, I was still a little nervous about so bluntly facing this aspect of death. 

I’m actually glad I read this book. There was something about Roach’s matter of fact, humorous approach that reminded me how our bodies are merely the shells for our souls. 

From crash test dummies to important sources of training for future doctors, bodies donated to science have incredible lives after their inhabitants are gone. 

Recommended for: Dark humor lovers and sciency-types. 

Paper: Paging Through History

Paper: Paging Through History - One of the 7 books I read in April

Completed: 4/26/17
Format: Hardback from the Library

This is when you get to learn just how much of a nerd I really am. This is a book about paper, but really it’s a book about civilization and technology. All throughout the book Kurlanksy makes the argument that technology doesn’t create change in a society, society creates the demand for new technologies.

A little dry at times, but ultimately very interesting for the budding sociologist in me. 

Recommended for: nerds like this girl.

Orphan Train 

Orphan Train - one of the 7 books I read in April 2017

Completed: 4/27/17
Format: Paperback from the Library

After the denseness that was Paper, I was glad I had something a little lighter like Orphan TrainIt’s the fictional story drawn from the real history of sending American orphans west on trains to serve as “adopted children” to families in the early 20th century. Many of these orphans were mistreated and even abused by their new “families.”

Orphan Train wasn’t always easy and uplifting, but it was a good, relatively quick read!

Recommended for: historical fictionites.

Well, that’s all of what I read in April! What should I queue up next?


Gingham Maxi Dress

Gingham maxi dress

This post about my favorite new Gingham Maxi Dress contains affiliate links πŸ™‚ 

Gingham maxi dress

After looking for an affordable maxi dress for just about two months I finally found this PERFECT one through eShakti

At first I was skeptical of eShakti… Could they really make a high quality dress to my measurements? 

The answer is (thankfully!) a RESOUNDING yes! 

Gingham maxi dress

After falling in love with J.Crew’s gingham maxi dress at the beginning of the season I began my search for one that was 1. within my budget, and 2. had thicker straps so I could wear it with a regular bra. 

I found this one on eShakti, and to my great relief, it is super simple to add on the thicker straps and have it cut to my exact measurements for only $9.95 above the regular price. 

Gingham maxi dress

Not only that, because I signed up for their email list I got an extra amount bumped off… In total I paid only about $40 for this custom dressβ€”$120 LESS than the J.Crew version. This budget babe going to call that a big win. 


What I Read in March – Back on the Bookshelf

Here is what I couldn't put down in March!

Here's what I couldn't put down in March!

Due to all the travel we did at the end of February and beginning of March I didn’t get to read as much as I wanted to during my birthday month, but I’m still ahead of my 60-books-in-2017 goal… but just barely! I have a stack of good books to read in the month ahead, and will get back on schedule soon. 

Here’s what I read in March!

Next: The Future Just Happened

Completed 3/11/17 
Format: eBook through OverDrive

Written by Michael Lewis in 2001, right in the middle of the “dotcom bubble” bursting, this book went through some of the ways the internet was being utilized by younger generations (now who we would consider the oldest millennials). This was right in the middle of when people were losing faith in the internet as something that could revolutionize society as we know it. 

But Lewis didn’t lose faith, and you can see that in the book. His narrative nonfiction style is one of my favorite genres and I can’t wait to read more of his books, including Moneyball, The Big Short, and the New New Thing.

Recommended for Michael Lewis fans and people enjoy narrative nonfiction. 

Bringing Down the House

Completed 3/13/2017
Format: Paperback

Did you ever watch the movie 21 with Kevin Spacey about the MIT kids who counted cards at Blackjack and made a huge run on Vegas before (spoiler alert!) getting busted? This is the nonfiction book that tells that story in even more gripping detail!

Bringing Down the House was recommended to me by my good friend Blake, who said it was one of his favorite books, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Recommended for people who enjoy narrative nonfiction and those who have a slight interest in gambling πŸ˜‰ 

Elizabeth Renaissance Prince

Completed 3/30/17
Format: Paperback

This is the book I bought at Hatchard’s on Piccadilly! I’m not going to lie, it was dense, but a very interesting look at how Queen Elizabeth I saw herself.  In the middle of the Renaissance, and immediately after her Catholic sister’s “bloody” reign. As only the second queen regnant in British history, Elizabeth found herself in a highly precarious position. She knew that as a woman she’d be constantly questioned, and famously refused to marry so that her power could never be undermined by her husband. 

That didn’t mean she never flirted though… According to this biography she used the complicated language of courting and courtly love to get what she wanted from diplomats and the leaders of other countries. 

Recommended for those who want to know more about Queen Elizabeth I… A lot more!

The Book Thief

Completed 3/31/17
Format: Audiobook

Oh my goodness. So good. So sad. Set in Germany during WWII it follows the story of a young girl who moves in with foster parents in a new city and begins stealing books… before she can even read. 

Her new Papa teaches her how to read, and survive. 

It’s hard to call this book a happy one, but it was beautifully told and brought me to tears several times. 

Recommended for dang near everyone. Just have tissues ready.

So… What should I read next? I’m excited about the stack I have on my bedside table right now!

London Literary Tour in an Afternoon

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!


Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

In a city as old as and historically and culturally rich as London it should come as no surprise that it is also one of the densest literary destinations in the world. 

If you’re a reader you can almost certainly find something in London to suit your fancy. 

Some of it is free, and some locations will set you back several quid. During our trip we spent an afternoon chasing this book lover’s whimsy, and it was so much fun! This London literary tour only took a few hours and kept us around central London, so it’s easy for a quick trip.

The British Library

Just wow. This was one of the most undersold, but most exciting (for this book nerd and her equally nerdy husband) museums we experienced in London. 

From the Magna Carta to Jane Austen’s glasses to lyrics scrawled on a loose piece of paper by John Lennon to the world’s oldest known Bible, this small museum just inside the unimpressive brick British Library a five minute walk from Kings Cross/St. Pancras station. 

Sup, Beowulf manuscript. (Wikipedia Commons)

After you’re done gawking at the beautiful foundations of the English written word pop into the library’s cafe for locally roasted coffee and a pastry. My lemon tart was fantastic! We enjoyed our snack in the shadow of this huge bookcase, which kind of took my breath away. 

There were no pictures allowed in the museum, but believe me when I say it’s worth the trip if you’re a reader. Like all public British museums, it is free but has a great gift shop πŸ™‚ 

Visit Platform 9 3/4s at Kings Cross Station

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

(Oh hey, I’m wearing my favorite travel shoes! Learn more about them here.)

Harry Potter is one of those magical stories (pun fully intended) that is simultaneously universal and extremely personal for the people who have read and loved it. 

It is truly difficult to find a person between the ages of 13 and 35 who hasn’t read the seven books in the series, and even rarer to find someone who has read it and didn’t love it. 

Platform 9 3/4s captures a little bit of that magic, and it’s evident that every person who works there is 100% bought into it. 

It was a little piece of the fictional Harry Potter World tucked into a very real London. 

We stood in line for about 20 minutes with lots of other fans waiting our turn for the perfect picture. 

I’m a sucker for a picture, so we bought the professional ones, as well as having the opportunity to take our own. Then we ambled around the gift shop (where they conveniently funnel you after you have your picture taken). James bought me this beautiful gold-plated silver time turner ?

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

Overall, this was definitely worth the time, but particularly if you’re already going through Kings Cross/St. Pancras station during your travels!

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson’s Apartment at 221B Baker Street 

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

Next stop on our London literary tour was the most famous address in the world! From Kings Cross jump on the Underground and take either the Circle, Hammersmith & City, or Metropolitan lines over to the Baker Street Station. The whole area embraces the fictional consulting detective, from the murals in the tube station to the dry cleaner across the street from where the Sherlock Holmes museum resides. 

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

We didn’t actually drop the Β£15 per person that the actual museum costs, but we did go into the good shop right next door. All the employees are wearing period garb, and there are some really cute souvenirs and interesting Sherlock pieces you likely can’t find anywhere else in London. 

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

PS, you’ll actually have to purchase your ticket in the gift shop before you go next door to enter the museum. 

Hatchard’s Bookstore – Piccadilly Circus

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

From the Baker Street Station get back on the tube and get on the Bakerloo Line down to Piccadilly Circus. 

Now, the evening we spent walking around Piccadilly Circus was probably the only time in London I felt a little wary because of the crush of tourists. There’s so much to see in the area and it’s a very popular place for some very intense shopping. 

(I got some great teas from Fortnum and Mason, whose big main store is also in Piccadilly Circus!) 

You won’t find any clowns or talented elephants here, though! It’s called a circus because of its circular shape. It’s kind of an equivalent to Times Square, with lots of souvenir shops, talented street performers, and bright electric signs. 

But we trekked down Piccadilly to Hatchard’s Bookstore, the oldest bookstore in the UK.

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

It opened in 1797, meaning they’ve been selling books in this spot for nearly 220 years! I picked up one book, but only because I didn’t have room in my luggage for all the ones I wanted to buy…. There are FIVE stories of books! 

Book Lovers: Follow along on an afternoon central London literary tour!


For us this was the end of our afternoon London literary tour, but there are so many other spots to see! You can probably spend an entire London trip just visiting the haunts of British writers and settings they wrote into their books. 

Buzzfeed has some more ideas πŸ™‚

OR if you’re really ambitious, check out this gorgeous typographical map of London I found!

Book Lovers: Follow along on an afternoon central London literary tour!

Loosen them Shoulders Up, Pour it Up, Let’s Work!

This off the shoulder look is great for Spring 2017!

This off the shoulder look is great for Spring 2017!

Shirt (similar)//Pants//Shoes//Sunglasses//Earrings//Necklace (similar)

Girl, you gotta relax!

I love how much I’ve been seeing these off the shoulder tops around as we’re quickly moving into Spring. 

Most of the tops I’ve have been either 100% cotton or silk, which means they’ll be nice and cool when the weather starts heating up πŸ™‚ 

This off the shoulder look is great for Spring 2017!

I styled these with another amazing shoe find. This is my first go at ankle straps, and I’m a little in love. This blush color is right on trend and the strappy ankle wraps plus the low block heel means they were comfortable all day long. 

But I’m going to need someone to teach me how to tie the bows in the back… I couldn’t figure out how to do it by myself! 

Can you believe March is almost gone already?! But that’s ok because there’s lots of fun content being lined up for this Spring and Summer! 

This off the shoulder look is great for Spring 2017!

Speaking of Summer, how fun are these sunglasses? They are SO mirrored I had a hard time getting a shot of them without it being 100% a reflection of my camera (and sweet photographer/husband). I picked them up at Nordstrom Rack last week and I know I’ll be wearing them quite a bit this summer in addition to my normal rotation of RayBans. 

Keep Calm and Bagpipe On

Keep Calm and Bagpipe On

Keep Calm and Bagpipe On

2017 in Photos Day 84

This Bagpiper was on Westminster bridge every day while we were in London, and I could help but think of him when the news began spreading about the terror attack at the Palace of Westminster last week. 

Was he safe? Did he witness the incident? Was he one of the Londoners who helped pull others to safety as the madman was plowing through the crowds of tourists and workgoers? 

I do know one thing, Britons are not easily budged. Keep Calm and Carry On is more than a slogan, it is a reality that was hammered into their fibre over centuries of defending the islands we now call the United Kingdom. 

Immediately after the attacks I began seeing people I know in the UK say the only way to respond was to keep going about their business. One person even commented the Underground was just as busy on the way home that day as it ever was. 

What a message to the people who would do harm! It’s hard to terrorize a group who refused to submit to terror. 

I learned this afternoon that the dear bagpiper is still out there on Westminster Bridge today. 

Keep Calm and Bagpipe on, my friend. 

My Favorite Sneakers for Adding Whimsy to Your Wardrobe

My favorite sneakers for adding some whimsey to your wardrobe!

My husband thinks my love of shoes… especially sneakers… has gone too far.

He couldn’t be more wrong! To me they make or break an outfit, and if I can get a quality pair of stylish shoes I’m not going to hold back, no siree. 

I don’t buy cheap shoes, as a rule, but finding nice shoes on sale for cheap prices doesn’t count, mk? 

I’m also SO glad sneakers are in style right now, and I hope they don’t go ANYWHERE. As a 6 foot tall woman I don’t always love wearing heels, and as someone with high arches that NEED support if I’m going to be walking even a moderate amount, I am loving it even more. 

Here are a few of my favorites

My favorite sneakers for adding some whimsey to your wardrobe!

  1. Cole Haan Wingtip Oxford in Cabernet Suede (Waterproof)
  2. Adidas Superstars in Gold
  3. BΓΈrn Bayne leather sneakers
  4. Sparkle Superga 
  5. Sperry Seacoast Floral Sneakers

I already own the top three pairs, and am working on the last two πŸ˜‰ See how I styled them below:

^On my recent trip to SF!

^Out to brunch with girlfriends!


Floral Dress Obsession – 2017 in Photos Day 81

Gorgeous floral dress for only $33!

Gorgeous floral dress for only $33!

Now that the weather is warming back up (not that it really got that cold this winter) I’ll pretty much be living in dresses, and this floral beauty is going to be on repeat all.year.long.

Gorgeous floral dress for only $33!
I’m such a nerd. My excuse is that I was going to see Beauty and the Beast that night!

It is light and flowy, and breathable making it perfect for the coming sweltering days. 

I did buy it sized up, because it is made of the breathable but shrinkable rayon, and I wanted to make sure it would still fit my upper half after a trip through the wash.

Gorgeous floral dress for only $33!

I received so many compliments from people as I worked out and about town yesterday, which is always a morale booster πŸ˜‰ The slit in the front is just a bit high, but some slipshorts kept things modest.

Gorgeous floral dress for only $33!

And the best part? It was only $33 through Amazon

This post contains affiliate links!

My 100% Unbiased eBags Professional Weekender Review

eBags Professional Weekender review


eBags Professional Weekender review

While we were planning our trip to London I found myself continually being fed ads from eBags for their professional weekender backpack

I was instantly intrigued… Space for two days of clothes, a laptop, tablet, and all the other gizmos, wires, and accessories I need for a weekend trip? It sounded too good to be true!

eBags Professional Weekender review

Now, while eBags in no way solicited this review, I have signed up for their affiliate program, so if you decide to purchase a bag from them after reading this (by clicking this link!) I will get a very small portion of that sale. 

James and I each decided to get the eBags Professional Weekender, and I’m so glad we did. Mine is heather grey, and he went with the black :).

The backpack itself is pretty big, and on first glance I was a tad afraid it wouldn’t be comfortable enough to wear. But the quality construction of the bag and its components actually made it very comfortable, even when I had it packed completely full!

eBags Professional Weekender review

While this is perfect for a weekend getaway or a quick road trip, I’ve found that when I travel internationally or am otherwise checking a bag on a long flight, I like to be able to keep a change of clothes with me in case any number of fashion emergencies happen. 

I also want to make sure my precious laptop is kept nice and safely padded! 

Speaking of padding, there is a hardshell case in the lumbar region that I found perfect for putting snacks and sunglasses in… No smooshing! 

For our London trip I packed my laptop, iPad, DSLR, extra camera battery and charger, a change of clothes, a toiletry bag, fuzzy socks, eye mask, passport, neck pillow, computer charger, and my phone/iPad/Apple Watch (what can I say?) chargers. 

Phew! That really is quite a bit. And it was still comfortable, and just as importantly, it fit very easily into the overhead bin both in our large transatlantic jet and the smaller regional one that took us from Birmingham to Atlanta. 

Another great perk is that in most airports you can unzip the bag in half and put the whole thing through the x-ray without having to take out your laptop! It also comes with a clear zip bag for all your teeny tiny liquids. No one enjoys the security line, and I’ll take any travel hack that makes getting through easier! 

This is me being happy because security is simpler with this backpack!

Bottom line: I am extremely happy with the eBags Professional Weekender and can’t wait to take it on dozens of adventures. 

The Very Best Tower of London Tour

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

I love it when the stars align and you’re unexpectedly given a gem of a travel tip! That’s exactly what happened when our boat tour guide told us how to experience the best Tower of London Tour. 

Every 30 minutes a Yeoman Warders, also known as “Beefeaters,” leads a behind-the-scenes Tower of London tour

At no additional cost over the price of admission to the Tower, you will be treated to great stories and a few peeks at areas other tourists aren’t allowed to go, including the Church of St Peter ad Vincula, where Anne Boleyn is buried. 

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

Did you know there’s a legend that if the Ravens ever leave the Tower of London the Crown will fall and the British Monarchy will be no more? As the story goes, 6 Ravens must guard the Tower at all times… And the Yeomen take it very seriously, there’s a Rookery where 7 Ravens live the life of kings, just in case!

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

 Another fun fact: Ravens often mate for life! Awwwwww!

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

This little monument stands where Anne Boleyn, the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, was executed by a French swordsman under orders from Henry VIII.

Inside the White Tower, which was built in 1076(!), there is lots of cool armor and other historical artifacts… Including this suit of armor that belonged to Henry VIII. 

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

As is obvious from so many of his other life choices, Old King Harry was really preoccupied with his… manliness. 

While I can’t show you any pictures of the Crown Jewels (they take the whole no photography thing in there very seriously), they were great!

Appropriately, right next to the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge, one of the most iconic bridges in the world. 

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

This was the perfect way to spend 3-ish hours on a beautiful London Day. Just don’t forget to get a Tower of London Tour from a Yeoman Warder!