Book Review: Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

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If we’re honest, media is a big part of how we view ourselves.  Maybe that’s why I like reading so much. For me at least, reading is a lot less influencing when it comes to appearance compared to something like scrolling Instagram.  I like that. I can always get on social media to check up on what people are wearing or doing, but books allow me to get inside characters’ heads. Only Ever Yours mixed things up though – a YA dystopian novel that takes place in a very appearance-focused Barbie world. Based on the synopsis, I was intrigued.

A lot has changed in the years between modern day and the society of Only Ever Yours.  For starters, girls aren’t even born any more.  They’re genetically manufactured to be gorgeous, perfect, and all almost identical.  The girls, called “eves”, spend their childhood getting ranked by their looks, isolated from the outside world in “School.” This is the life of Frieda and her friends, and this will be their entire lives until they turn seventeen and are assigned one of three jobs in the outside world. They could become teachers to younger eves, concubines, or wives (also known as “companions”) of wealthy men in the society. In order to achieve the sought-after position of companion, the man has to choose the eve at graduation.

Pros: The futuristic setting was eerily well-portrayed. Details like social media, nutrition info, and even the way names are capitalized both mirror and mock current society.

Cons: This was a hard book to read. It wasn’t necessarily boring, but every part of me was mad at what was going on. The book deals with things like eating disorders, sex slavery, and general cattiness. That was rough, but I expected it to some degree based on the synopsis. I kept reading because it seemed that it will build to some sort of satisfying resolution. Maybe the society would crumble, and appearance wouldn’t be all that mattered after all.

!!!Spoiler alert!!!

That doesn’t end up happening.

In the end the guy chooses the cute girl. Oh, and then the intelligent, not-chosen girls kill themselves. Lovely.  What kind of message is the novel trying to send? That sex appeal is all that matters and rejection is grounds for suicide? For a book that claims to be girl-empowering, it seemed depressing, and for me personally, almost sickening.

Sorry Louise O’Neill, but I don’t believe in portraying a dark world just for the sake of being thought-provoking.  In order to be enjoyable, a novel has to have some hint of hope. Since reading Only Ever Yours, I’ve been thinking hard about books that explore grittier subject matters like body image and eating disorders but include redemption.

Here are two I recommend: Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen and How It Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes.  Both explore those topics with grace and humor, and I thoroughly enjoyed them…maybe I should just stop ranting and review those instead. (:

Best of luck on your health journey, whether that’s with food, body image, or a stack of books!


This is the second post in a week-long series on food, diet, body image, all that good stuff.  You can check out the first post here, and I hope you’ll join the conversation. Do you know any good books or articles to recommend?

Stay lovely,



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I Didn’t Do Whole30.


Eat less sugar. Carbs are evil. But eat whole grains! Eat veggies! Eat less. Eat more. Fats can be healthy, bring on the guac. Avoid fat at all costs. Please only eat organic coconut oil and flax seed.  Life is short though, and ice cream makes you happy.  Love your body. But you need a flat stomach. Above all, don’t stress about dieting…you are what you eat as the old saying goes!


Diet is a scary word.


All last summer I worked as an outdoor overnight camp counselor. I probably burned a ton of calories, but was constantly starving at the end of every day. And then I proceeded to take a two week trip-of-a-lifetime to Italy where I consumed pasta and pizza and gelato and bread every single night.  I’m not fat. I’m fairly tall, and growing up I got all the “you’re so skinny” “you’re all legs” comments.  After the summer though, I just wanted to lose five pounds.  Coming off of the Italian carb frenzy, I figured changing my food habits was probably the way to do it.

I get where the hate for the word diet comes from. Even just typing it makes me feel all squirmy and guilty and vaguely mom-ish. The trend these days is more towards “choices” and “lifestyle” food changes, which is where Whole30 comes in.

If you aren’t familiar, Whole30 is a program where you follow strict guidelines on eating only super nutritious food for 30 days, absolutely no cheating or you have to start over. No sugar/honey/syrup/stevia, dairy, tree nuts, grains or rice or wheat. Basically just tons of fruit, veggies, and meat. The program claims to reset your nutrition, and people rave about how you fill up so fast and stop craving dessert and carbs all the time (was this for real?!).

The problem is, I’m a teenager. I’m lucky enough to be a part of a family where we eat together almost every night, and my mom does most of the cooking. I couldn’t alter the entire family’s way of doing meals. Plus, having to be so high-maintenance when going to a friend’s house, eating out, or babysitting wasn’t worth it. And health food is expensive!  So last September I attempted to modify the plan and did my own pseudo-Whole30 less intense diet thing.


The plan.

Basically I made up a several rules for myself in an attempt to eat healthier. I’m not going to list them all because

a) I am not a nutritionist

b) Dieting is very subjective as you already know from reading the first paragraph of this blog post slash novel

and c) Spoiler alert, I don’t recommend what I did.

But just think of a list of foods you’d consider unhealthy, and I didn’t allow myself to eat any of them no exceptions, and you get the idea. My birthday was in a little over 3 weeks, and I knew I’d want to eat cake and ice cream then, so I decided to keep it until my birthday dinner and then see how it went. 25 days couldn’t be that difficult, right?

Enacting it.

The results really were a mixed bag.  The diet forced me to get creative and try a lot more healthy foods, especially to snack on. Eating healthier, even with little changes, takes time. The ten minutes it takes to make a smoothie or cut up a sweet potato add up. The extra steps became worth it though, because within a few weeks I was sort of craving the healthier food.  I’m not sure why, but anything to make salads and carrots with hummus appealing, right? And I learned to drink black coffee, which has always been a goal of mine!

Passing up certain foods was difficult, especially at social gatherings.  I survived by finding alternatives I enjoyed, like watermelon or a mug of tea. That makes me sound really lame. I guess I was lame for eating a ton of watermelon at that one party, but it was my prerogative and 25 days isn’t forever.



From a purely food-focused standpoint, I’d consider my foray into the dieting world a positive experience. I did eat healthier for those 25 days and during the months since.

So why am I not 100% on board?

The food plan reinforced the pattern of constantly thinking about nutrition facts and weight.  While trying out a Whole30ish diet, I was consistently thinking about what I was eating or what I would be eating. Mentally, it was not a healthy experience.

My birthday apple crisp and vanilla ice cream shouldn’t be thought of as “400ish extra calories and a lot of sugar”. It should be remembered as the dessert that my mom baked for me and I enjoyed with my friends on my birthday.  I should be appreciating lunch at a friends house rather than fixating on the grams of fat I’m eating in the pizza they’re serving. While awareness is a good thing, a fixation on numbers can’t be healthy.

As in everything, eating healthy is a tricky a balance. I’m still searching for the happy medium, but in the meantime I’m going to try to enjoy my strawberry salad as much as possible…and maybe a doughnut every now and again too.

I’m not even pretending to have all this figured out.  Dieting and fitness and body image are all rather awkward and controversial topics , but I’d like to open the conversation up for the week.

I have a few more posts in this vein for this series, and then I’m planning on going back to normal, sporadic creative lifestyle posts. So if this isn’t your thing, I get it.  

That being said, if you’re still reading, I’d love to hear your thoughts on any and all of it. How do you balance “healthy” – nutritionally but also mentally/body image-wise? 

Stay lovely,


B(M)I Week


Filed under B(M)I Week, food, diet, and body image, musings

Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Image result for mr penumbra's 24 hour bookstore

“Why does the typical adventuring group consist of a wizard, a warrior, and a rogue, anyway? It should really be a wizard, a warrior, and a rich guy. Otherwise who’s going to pay for all the swords and spells and hotel rooms?”


Clay Jannon would do anything to get a job in modern-day San Francisco – anything including working the night shift at a dusty bookstore that’s open 24/7. His background is in web design, but at least he read one fantasy series when he was younger, so maybe he’s qualified? The towering shelves of the store are filled with incomprehensible books, the customers are eccentric, and the epic adventure the bookstore introduces is, well, just plain strange.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is one of the most weirdly well-crafted novels I’ve read in a while.  I hesitated at first since I’m not really into fantasy, and the synopsis seemed a bit too magic-y for me. I’ll take the high drama of everyday life over epic dramas of crusaders in far off lands any day, thank you. I don’t know why. However, this book pleasantly surprised me.

The novel sort of reminds you of Harry Potter in how it’s a hodgepodge of the realistic with the fantastic. Technological computer savvy “magic” is mixed up with old…enchanted?…paper books.  If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. The character who narrates the story, Clay, is not entirely sure of what’s going on either. Beyond the brilliant plot line, Robin Sloan’s humorous writing style makes the book stand out. The characters would be off solving this complex mystery about a historical book club that revolves around a certain font, and then boom. The author throws in something like a side character who built his career on simulated boobs. Immature? Maybe. But admittedly still funny.

On top of the quirkiness, the novel communicates an interesting message as readers follow the characters on their journey.  As we see, the modern-day era gives access to so many different tools to solve problems. Technology, internet servers, books new and old, your friend network, etc.  That doesn’t mean that one method should be championed above the other though. Probably the answer to the problem to be solved isn’t even of eternal significance anyways.  These ideas are pretty counter-cultural in an era with so many voices saying things like “the internet is ruining culture” or “books are becoming obsolete.”

Even if you aren’t a nerd like me and don’t even care about subliminal themes, you should still read it. At the least, it’s entertaining.

Recommended to: students, adults, anyone looking for a smart but fun read.

Happy reading. (:



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How I Edit My Photos (without photoshop)


Between the blog pictures, pictures from my trip to Europe, and random iPhone Instagram pics, I have a lot of photographs.  I tend to think of blogging as writing, but honestly the visual side of creating a website is much more time consuming. I wish there was an Instagram filter method of editing all my photos in a snap, or that I had the time/money to invest in some Photoshop and lightroom skills.  Since that isn’t happening, I use the default program is already installed on my laptop, Windows Photo Gallery.  Here’s how I edit my photos to give them a bit more of that wow factor.


Here’s a picture I took on my iPhone this past summer.  First, I upload it, or if I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just email it to myself and download it on my computer that way.  Then I go into file explorer and hit “open in photo gallery”, then “edit, organize, and share”. This will be different depending on what computer you have, but mine is an HP laptop that uses windows.


There you go. Open up the picture you want, and go ahead and hit “fine tune” in the upper middle toolbar.  You’ll have the option to adjust exposure, color, straighten photo, and adjust detail.

The next steps will really be up to your taste. I’m sure I’m making the photographers reading this cringe, because I have absolutely no idea what all of these buttons mean technically. I just like the look they create, so I guess it works for me!

The first thing I do usually is increase the brightness and contrast to make photos pop. Brightness is probably the single most difference maker in photos.


You can also fiddle with the shadows and highlights dial to create different types of depths in your photos. See the differences in whether the town (shadowed) or sky (highlighted) stand out?  You can also adjust the histogram if you want an even more dramatic depth difference.  Different photos will do well with different amounts, but my preference is low shadow, high highlight for greater contrast.


The last step I do is to adjust the color.  Color temperature tells whether you want more of a warm or cool tone to your picture.  Most often I adjust it to the right to make it warmer, but lately I’ve been favoring the cool tones as well. Maybe it’s a winter thing?  You can also up the saturation if you want a vivid, colorful photo. I usually ignore tint unless I really need to adjust the colors, simply because only a little adjustment of the tint and your photo can end up looking super green or pink.austria-4

Here’s how the photo progressed as I fine-tuned. Of course the version you like best is subjective. But now you know how to make it look how you want, and with practice it gets faster!


This only takes a minute or two, and I really love seeing the difference.  Who needs photoshop when you can cheat? (: Hope this helps someone out!


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Book Review: The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes


It was the survival-in-the-woods story that pulled me in. Some days it seems like every other young adult book is either a quirky romance or a dark, probably psychological, “problem” novel.  Actually I love both the romances and the dark tales, but the synopsis of this book was some of neither.

Hallelujah (yes that is actually the protagonist’s name) doesn’t want to go on the retreat in the woods with the youth group she’s alienated herself from. Or have they alienated her? It’s hard to tell after the incident six months ago, when one event turned her social status on its head. Either way, the tortuously awkward hiking retreat in the Smoky Mountains becomes even worse when Hal and two others become separated from the group and lost in a storm, in the woods.  It’s a classic: “will they make it out again…and become best friends in the process…?” *insert cliffhanger music here.*

As stated before, props to Kathryn Holmes for creating a  novel that is readable and entertaining, and one that strays from the typical backdrops for YA novels of the 21st century. Unfortunately, for me as a reader, I found many of the plot turns formulaic. Of course I enjoyed a break from my typical genre, but the lost-in-the-woods story line is not original enough to render it a real page-turner.  The most predictable, and slightly annoying plot point is the incident.  Why does Hallelujah have no friends? Hinted at in the synopsis, all the details are finally revealed in the second half of the book, but at that point I had pretty much guessed what was going to happen anyway. No spoilers here, however, overall the backstory felt forced and frankly a little cheesy.  Holmes intrigued me with the ideas in this survival tale, but, in my opinion, failed to deliver the story in a realistic or original way.

All that being said, I can’t entirely discredit the novel. It did keep my interest, and a few slices of dialogue toward the end were particularly resonant.  As Hal and her friends are trekking through the wilderness, they bring up whether they’ve ever “felt God” and if that’s even hypocritical to talk about. At another point, they discuss whether cursing is justifiable in certain contexts. As a church kid, I can relate asking those same questions with my own friends, but you almost never find topics like that explored in writing that doesn’t also try to shove the gospel down your throat.

While not substantial enough to stay in your head and haunt you for days, I enjoyed the journey with The Distance Between Lost and Found enough to check out another Kathryn Holmes, How It Feels To Fly…second time’s a charm?

As always, if you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Recommended to: YA readers looking for a quick read, people who enjoyed the tv show Lost, My Side of the Mountain, and Hatchet (wilderness survival type books)


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thankful | volume 5



  • The new friends I made this summer when I worked as an overnight camp counselor for eight weeks. Lesson learned: the best friends are the ones who can make even cleaning the dining hall seem like pretty much the most fun job in existence.
  • The opportunity to visit Italy and Austria with my family a few weeks ago. I still can’t get over the experience of merely existing in another culture – hearing Italian spoken all the time, walking everywhere instead of driving, seeing yet another 400-year-old cathedral.


  • Thankful for whoever invented the Common App so I’m filling out all of the paperwork involved in applying to colleges only once instead of 5+ times.
  • For plums and peanut butter and pesto and having access to good tasting food in general. And spicy zoodles!
  • For metronomes for making practicing an almost mindless activity for this rhythm-deaf pianist.


  • Cheering on the Falcons on Sunday afternoons
  • Taking the test to get belay-certified at the rock climbing gym near my house
  • Drinking loads of tea and coffee while conquering Calculus. BOOM.
  • Getting to wear all the lovely giant sweaters in the near future
  • Reading my growing stack of library books…book review time maybe??

Have a good Wednesday, guys.


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thankful | volume 4

thankful again

  • Libraries.  Gotta love a place that will let me take home an armful of books for free. I love that now school is slowing down I have time to read again!
  • Tea. I used to hate tea, but I started drinking it last fall. It’s gotten me through a lot of school stress this semester.
  • That I had the opportunity to stage manage a show this semester. I learned a lot from working backstage, and I’m so thankful my “drama friends” as I call them were there for me.
  • Spotify. All the free music and organizing it into playlists!!! I’m sensing a theme with the free stuff though…
  • My friends.  Some of them are graduating on Saturday, and it’s gotten me reeeeally sentimental.   Those of you reading this – I’m so happy for you guys and am 100% positive that you’re going to do great things!

Right now, I’m also thankful to anyone reading this. Life happens, and school hasn’t given me a lot of leeway to pursue more creative things (hence no blogging since last JANUARY), but I enjoy getting to use this text box as an outlet when I can.

Happy Thursday!  Book review coming soon…


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