Recent Reads Vol 3

I’ve been reading a good bit, but life really has been a little crazy lately, and I haven’t had a chance to post a recent reads update. I’ll have another update ready in the next couple weeks. Unfortunately, this wasn’t my favorite batch of books, but I did get a great one in there.

She Was The Quiet One by Michelle Campbell ★★☆☆☆

I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Twin sisters Bel and Rose Enright start their sophomore year of high school at a prestigious boarding school in New England after losing their mother and moving in with their grandmother. While the sisters had never been the best of friends, boarding school tears them apart in ways they didn’t imagine.

I requested this novel because I really enjoyed Campbell’s last novel, It’s Always the Husband. Unfortunately, this one didn’t deliver. The dialogue was unrealistic. The characters were extremely unlikable. And the writing overall was honestly just bad. I would’ve put it down after a couple chapters had the plot not sucked me in.

Would I recommend? No. Skip this one, I suffered through the bad writing to find out what happened. It’s not worth it for you to do the same.

Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys ★★★★★

Joana, Emilia, and Florian come together on their journey to East Prussia in the hopes of finding freedom at the end of World War II. They make their way onto the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German military ship headed to Kiel.

I always think that I don’t like reading historical fiction. But then it’s always the World War II novels that I get completely wrapped up in and can’t put down. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard about the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff before. The novel was very well written, the character development was well done, and each element fell perfectly into place.

Would I recommend? Absolutely! It’s heartbreaking and beautifully written.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon ★★★☆☆

Christopher Boone, an autistic teenager, sets out to write a book based on the murder of his neighbor’s dog. He numbers his chapters using only prime numbers, and thinks about everything overly logically.

This book really takes you through the process of thinking of an autistic person. And if I’m being honest, being in the mind of an autistic person is exhausting so I can only imagine how it really feels to be in that person’s shoes. I felt like I was reading a lot of it just to get through it more than I was actually enjoying it.

Would I recommend? Yes. Even though I didn’t love it, I do think it’s important for everyone to see the world from another perspective and be able to better understand other people.


What have you read recently?

Shopping Ban Update: Month Two

I’m two months into my shopping ban, and I haven’t had any real slip ups since I caved during the CJLA warehouse sale in July.

My skin has been all kinds of a mess, so I needed to invest in some new skincare products to take better care of my face. Since it wasn’t skincare that I was currently using, I didn’t have to wait until I was out of something. I spent about $12 total on a set of 12 sheet masks and a pack of 30 eye masks. I’ve been using the eye masks 1-2 times a week and the sheet masks once a week, and I’ve seen such an improvement in my skin. My face looks brighter, and no more bags under my eyes.


This month was not without temptation. J. Crew and Jack Rogers both had major sales. I went as far as adding items to my cart and going back and forth between colors before eventually closing out of the web page before checking out. Because as cute as they were, I really don’t NEED another pair of booties.


We’ve recently moved into a new apartment so there’s been a lot of furniture buying. I know furniture was on the approved list because I knew it was going to be a need in the near-ish future, but it still feels like a loss because even buying cheaper furniture isn’t cheap. Even though I’m on a pretty tight budget, I still feel like I’ve been picking quality pieces that will last.


Avoiding temptation is getting easier. Even if I find myself window shopping and adding items to my cart, I’ve been able to talk myself out of hitting purchase because at the end of the day, I know it’s not stuff that I really need. I’ve been a lot more conscious about my spending habit, which resulted in me saving a lot of money this month.


Coffee Date

This is my first “coffee date” post. I love doing the monthly currently post, but that only goes into very surface level details of my life at the moment. I want a post where I can really talk to you and get to know you in the process.

If we were having coffee I’d probably order a cold brew or something iced because it’s been way too hot outside to even think about a hot coffee. The cold foam cold brews at Starbucks have been a favorite lately. The foam is just enough to sweeten the coffee without it feeling too sweet.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I have some big, exciting news that I can’t share publicly yet, and it’s killing me. It’s the worst being excited about something that you have to keep a secret. Because I know it’s probably your first guess, no I’m not pregnant.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I really want to dedicate more time to this blog. Since I’ve started, it’s been a good week if I get one post up. And forget keeping up with social media. I love this little space because it’s a great creative outlet, but I’ve been neglecting it from the start.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’ve started shaving my face. I had blonde upper lip hair that I was getting increasingly self conscious about. I started searching for ways to get rid of it without doing something super painful like waxing and stumbled upon this Popsugar article. I bought these eyebrow razors, and I’ve loved it. Shaving makes my face feel so smooth and no more lip hair!

Shopping Ban One Month Update

It’s been one month since I started my year-long shopping ban. It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing, but I’m back on track.


I finished the pot of Estee Lauder moisturizer I was using. Instead of rushing out to buy the Olay moisturizer I want, I found another moisturizer I had stashed away that I’m going to use up instead.

I needed a dress to wear to a wedding this weekend. I thought about renting, but because I’m going straight from a work trip to the wedding, I would’ve needed an 8-day rental. Those start at $48. A lot of the shopping bans I’ve seen have been for minimalist reasons, since my motivations are more financial renting wasn’t the best choice for me. I found a great dress on Amazon for under $30 that I used gift cards for, costing me nothing out of pocket. And after I wear the dress this weekend, I’ll probably wash it and resell it to make some of that back. If you have an event coming up, I highly recommend this dress. It comes in a ton of colors, has pockets, and no one would guess you only paid $28 for it. I originally bought in a small, and ended up exchanging for an XS.


Only a couple weeks into my shopping ban, one of my favorite brands did a huge warehouse sale. They had all kinds of crazy markdowns on items I’d had my eye on and I caved and participated in the sale. In my first month I was up against the Nordstrom Sale, this warehouse sale, and Prime Day. I managed to avoid the NSale and Prime Day, but I was bound to fail somewhere.

What I’ve Learned

I’ve unsubscribed from all of the promotional emails I was receiving. If I’m not getting notifications about sales and great deals, it’s easier to avoid them and not think about browsing for something new I don’t need.

I’ve also muted some of my favorite Instagram accounts. I love following Carly Jean Los Angeles and a couple big fashion bloggers, but when all of their posts and stories are encouraging me to buy something or check out this item on sale, it’s too easy to swipe up. By avoiding these feeds, I’m avoiding a lot of temptation.

While I have made a couple really great purchases in the last few months (mostly jeans), most of the clothes I buy I don’t really love or eliminate the need for something else I already have in my closet.


Currently July


I can’t believe it’s the end of July already! This summer has just flown by.

Watching: Sharp Objects. HBO produced a miniseries based on Gillian Flynn’s novel starring Amy Adams. I’ve only watched the first episode, but it’s so so good. HBO did an amazing job with Big Little Lies, and it looks like they have with this one too.

Reading: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. I’ve pretty much just started reading this so I don’t have an opinion on it yet. The movie is coming out next week so I wanted to read the book first. And the book has rave reviews on Goodreads.

Listening: My Favorite Murder. I’ve discovered recently that I really love listening to podcasts during the day. It helps the day go by faster when I have something to listen to in the background. I’ve been getting through 2 or 3 episodes of My Favorite Murder a day lately. They describe themselves as a true crime comedy, and they discuss two true crime stories an episode. I love everything true crime, and this is right up my alley.

Wearing: Jeans. I used to live for warmer weather because I loved wearing skirts and dresses, but lately I’ve been gravitating more towards jeans. I think it’s partly because I have more tops that I like wearing than I used to and partly because I’ve found that jeans that actually fit me and are comfortable. I always wore American Eagle jeans because I thought that’s what fit me, but it turns out jeans are really comfortable when they actually fit you.

Eating: Tacos. Seriously, it’s like I can’t get enough. I think what I really love about tacos is that there’s so much variety, you can eat them for every meal and always have something different.

What have you been up to this month?

Recent Reads Volume 2

recent reads vol 2

Royals by Rachel Hawkins ★★★★☆

16-year-old Daisy Winters is just trying to live a normal life with her family in Florida. That gets harder for her when her older sister gets engaged to the prince of Scotland. After her ex-boyfriend sells her out to the press, the royal family has her spend the summer in Scotland so that they can better control the media.

Royals is exactly the predictable, cheesy love story that you’d expect it to be, but I loved it. The character development is great. This is a perfect light summer read when you need to take a break.

Would I recommend? If you’re looking for a light beach read, yes

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier ★★★★☆

I received this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Angela Wong disappeared 14 years ago. When her remains are finally discovered, evidence points to her best friend Georgina (Geo) Shaw. Geo loses her job and fiance when she is sentenced to 5 years in jail. Jar of Hearts slowly reveals bits and pieces of Angela’s murder while following Geo and her childhood friend/the officer who arrested her, Kaiser.

I absolutely loved Jar of Hearts. Every piece of information is revealed at just the right moment, and it has just the right amount of suspense and foreshadowing. The murder details do a get a bit gory and graphic, so it might not be the best read for anyone sensitive to that, but it’s evened out with the perfect psychological thriller.

Would I recommend? Definitely!

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan ★★★★☆

American Bex Porter meets Prince Nicholas when she spends a semester abroad at Oxford. The Royal We follows Bex and Nick through their relationship from their initial meeting to their royal wedding. It’s basically Kate Middleton fan fiction, so if you love following the royal family in real life, you’ll love this book.

I wouldn’t have typically chosen to read two royal books so close together, but I read this one for the Bad on Paper podcast. It’s a very long book, and I had a trouble getting through it because it’s not a fast paced story. But the actually story itself is very good, the character development is phenomenal, and it’s a beautiful love story

Would I recommend? If you love love, this one is definitely for you

The Power by Naomi Alderman ★★★☆☆

The Power shows us what the world could look like if women had the power. Teenage girls start discovering that they can produce electricity from their fingers, and they start using against boys. As the story goes on, all women develop this power and it’s a role reversal of female oppression.

From a human rights perspective, this story is actually a little terrifying. It shows the very slow oppression of men over a time span of 10 years where women slowly gain all of the power and men eventually have almost none. It’s an intriguing story that kept my attention until the very end, but it was a little too creepy for me.

Would I recommend? Maybe. Not a must read, but a good read.

What have you read recently?

Shopping Ban

I’ve been on serious spending spree lately for absolutely no reason. I wanted a new bathing suit to go to the beach with this week, and one thing lead to another I guess. Regardless of the why, it’s time for a little bit of a spending freeze. I’ve seen a lot of talk lately about doing a year long shopping ban from bloggers like Britt from Tiny Ambitions and Cait Flanders, and even author Ann Patchett. I’m at a point in my life where that’s something that I’d like to experiment with myself. Putting money towards things like a wedding and a house are things that are in my semi-near future so I’d really prefer to be saving my money instead of buying frivolous things.

I debated delaying the full on shopping ban until later in the year. My boyfriend and I will be moving in the next couple months, and we’re going to be starting over with a lot of our furniture. Our last place had a couch that was on its last leg and a lot of my parents’ old furniture so it’s time to start from scratch and really find our own style together as a couple, but that also requires shopping. But I didn’t want to keep making excuses and delaying it so I’m allowing furniture purchases in my rules.

My Shopping Ban Timeline

July 2, 2018 – July 2, 2019

The Goal

To save more money to put towards big purchases, and keep my closet from overflowing.

The Rules

What I’m allowed to shop for:

  • groceries and basic kitchen supplies
  • toiletries and cosmetics like toothpaste, shampoo, mascara, etc. (but only after I run out)
  • cleaning and household products (again, only after I run out of our current stock)
  • gifts for others
  • dress rentals for attending weddings (we have one coming up in August)
  • furniture for our new place

What I’m NOT allowed to shop for:

  • clothes
  • shoes
  • accessories (jewelry, scarves, bags, etc.)
  • books and notebooks
  • nail polish or any toiletries/cosmetics that I won’t use on a regular basis

What Now?

I’ll post an update at the beginning of each month with my thoughts and progress. And I’ll add any additional rules as questionable issues come up throughout the next year.

Have you ever done a shopping ban? What were your experiences like?

What’s in my Beach Bag

Disclaimer: Lauren E. Townsend is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. I may earn commission from the products mentioned in this post.

I’m headed off to the beach next week. My boyfriend is at a bachelor party all weekend, so we’ll be heading down to North Carolina Monday afternoon. Usually we try to make time for beach trips in the fall and around Memorial Day, but we weren’t able to do either of those this past year so this will be our first trip back to my family’s beach house in a year.

I always like to read posts about what other people are packing, so I thought I’d share what I’ll be packing for my beach bag.

what's in my beach bag

Beach Towel // Cover-up // S’well Water Bottle // Alba Hawaiian Suncreen // Lip Balm SPF 30 // Supergoop Spray On Sunscreen // Kindle // Beach Hat // Beach Bag

Beach Towel– Old Navy has the cutest patterned beach towels. They’re pretty thin, so you get what you pay for, but at $10.50 a towel they’re perfect for a day at the beach.

Cover-up– I love a cute cover up! This one from J. Crew Factory is perfect and breezy.

S’well Water Bottle– I’m obsessed with S’well water bottles. They really do keep your water cold, even when you’re sitting out in the hot sun. You can obviously find cheaper ones that aren’t a part of the Lilly Pulitzer collaboration, but I love the bright prints.

Alba Hawaiian Suncreen– I like Alba sunscreens because they’re made of clean ingredients. It’s not too thick or sticky, and doesn’t give you the feeling of being covered in sunscreen.

Supergoop Spray On Sunscreen– I usually use a cream sunscreen for my initial application, but I like to take a spray sunscreen with me to use throughout the day. It’s much easier to apply on sandy skin. I’ve heard really great things about the Supergoop sunscreens so I picked up a bottle of this to take with us.

Lip Balm SPF 30– The worst is when you’re spending time in the sun, and your lips get burned. I like to always have a lip balm on hand with some kind of SPF to protect my lips.

Kindle– I always take my Kindle to the beach. I can take as many books as I want, and there’s no glare in the sun. They’re pretty sturdy, so I haven’t ever had any trouble with taking mine out to the beach.

Beach Hat– I’m pretty fair-skinned, so I like to wear a hat on the beach to protect my scalp and give my face and shoulders a little extra sun protection.

Beach Bag– I usually stick to cheap beach bags, but lately I’ve been loving using a Scout bag. They’re basically indestructible so when they get sandy or sticky, they’re very easy to clean.


What are your beach must haves?

Currently June


Happy official first day of summer!

Watching: Younger. It’s the one show that I really look forward to watching every week. I started watching the first season when it came out because I was excited to see Hilary Duff back in a TV series, and I’ve been hooked!

Reading: The Royal We. It’s taking me a long, long time to get through though. Maybe because I recently read Royals by Rachel Hawkins, I’ve already filled my royal fix?

Listening: S-Town. I’ve been hearing a lot about this podcast so I gave it a try on a road trip to Raleigh. By the end of the series, everything still felt really unresolved to me, but listening to it certainly made the time fly by.

Playing: Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery. It’s borderline embarrassing how hooked I am on this game. You get to be a witch/wizard at Hogwarts and take classes and build relationships. I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.

Wearing: True & Co.’s front closure bra. I also tried one of their True Body bras that you pull over your head and ended up returning it. Honestly, getting it on and off was just too much work. But I really love the front closure bra. It basically feels like I’m wearing a really comfortable sports bra. The only downside is that because its shape, it doesn’t work well with tank tops, a.k.a. a lot of my summer wardrobe.

Loving: Summer. I’m soaking up all of the summer adventures. We’ve already gotten a lot of time on the water and have a beach trip planned for the 4th. I always feel like summer flies by before I’ve had time to take advantage of it so I’m squeezing everything in.

What have you been up to this month?

Book Challenge By Erin 9.0

I always see Erin’s book challenges and think “that looks fun.” But then I have a handful of library loans to tackle before they expire or get caught up in other books that I’ve been meaning to read and never really get around to it. When I saw Ashley’s picks for the challenge, I saw a couple of books that I’ve been wanting to read and thought maybe this time I’d make the challenge work for me.

And it’s summer. I remember as a kid always being so excited about going to the library over the summer and completing their summer reading challenges. So while I don’t have the summer off with unlimited reading time, it’s still fun to try to complete a reading challenge over the summer. It’s doesn’t start until July 1 so you still have time to join if you’re interested!

I basically just skimmed through my wish list on my digital library’s website to knock out a bunch of books that have been on my TBR list and complete the challenge at the same time.

This post does contain affiliate links, which means that I’ll earn a small amount from any book you purchase using my link at no extra cost to you.

• 5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages
She Was the Quiet One by Michelle Campbell (352 pages)

• 10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “N”
Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser (320 pages)

• 10 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) orange cover
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (226 pages)

• 15 points: Read a book with an unlikeable character
Tampa by Alissa Nutting (272 pages)

• 20 points: Read a book from the list of 100 books that PBS calls “The Great American Read” (although, they aren’t all by American authors)
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (477 pages)

• 20 points: Read a book with something related to water in the title; i.e. ocean, sea, lake, river, waves, etc.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (393 pages)

• 25 points: Read a book you’ve owned the longest but haven’t read yet (or that has been on your goodreads “to read” list the longest, or has been sitting in your kindle the longest)…basically, read a book you’ve been meaning to read the longest but haven’t got to it yet.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (277 pages)

• 30 points: Read a book with an emotion word in the title; i.e. joy, sadness, grief, love, anger, etc. (submitted by Megan)
Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover (337 pages)

• 30 points: Read a book (must be at least 2 words in the title) where each word in the title of the book begins with the same letter (submitted by Vinay); examples: Magpie Murders, Gone Girl, Peter Pan, Love’s Labor Lost
Paper Princess by Erin Watt (370 pages)

• 35 points: Read a book featuring a character who shares your profession or similar one – basically the idea is the character does the same kind of thing as you do day to day – stay at home parent or student counts as a profession; yes, you may need to be creative with this one, stretch it, and make it work for you. (submitted by Bev)
Younger by Pamela Redmond Satran (304 pages) – I work in peer review publishing, not book publishing, but it was as close as I could get

Are participating in the book challenge? What are you most excited about reading?

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