DIY: Travel Fund Box


When I was saving up to go to New York in 2014, I wanted a physical bank to pop a few bills in every payday or any spare coins I had lying around. So as always, I took to Pinterest and came upon a shadow box picture frame project. This particular one is inspired by the DIY Honeymoon Frame by Something Turquoise (note: if you’re planning a wedding, I definitely recommend checking out their site for more great DIY’s like this one).

The first time I made this, I designed it specifically for New York — a photo of Times Square in the background, NEW YORK in big letters in the front. Having a visual definitely gives you more motivation to save up, I find. The beautiful thing about this project is that once one trip is over, you can change the design to reflect your next one, thanks to the use of water-based paint markers. Just wipe the old design off, switch out the background, and start over. I’ve got a couple of trips coming up this year and early next year, so I thought I’d revamp my box and make it a bit more general this time around.


  • Top-loading shadow box picture frame
  • Water-based paint marker
  • Photo for the background
  • Optional: design for the foreground

The top-loading frame is a must, as it’s just more practical. I found this 8″ x 10″ shadow box from Michaels about 2 years ago. I lucked out as it was on sale at 50% off then, but typically I’ve seen frames of this kind go for about $20.00 minimum. If you know of any stores that sell them (any size) for less than that, please leave me a comment!

I also picked up a set of Sharpie Water-Based Paint Markers; mine are gold and white, which is a combo that I’m bit obsessed with at the moment. I love the quality of these markers, because they come out boldly and smoothly, and they’re not messy. That’s the most important thing. I’ve had a couple of paint markers in the past that just go all Niagra Falls if the slightest bit of pressure is put on the nib. The worst.


The first thing you’ll need is an idea of what you want your box to look like. I personally like minimal designs, so I simply wrote up some “travel fund” typography onto regular paper for my foreground design. Customize this any way you want, of course. I like doing the designs ahead of time because I’m terrible at freehand, but if you’re brave enough to get right to writing on the front glass, then by all means, soldier on.

I set my design aside and worked on the background design, which will sit at the rear of the shadow box. I found a really simple drawing of part of a world map on Google and replicated it onto some black cardstock with my gold paint marker, and set that aside to dry as well. For this, you can put together a collage (just make sure it’s thin enough to slip between the two rear glasses of the frame), find a photo online, literally anything.

Now the last step is getting your design neatly onto the front glass. I removed the front glass from the shadow box and wiped it down with a cloth just to make sure I was working on a clean surface. I positioned it over my foreground design and traced over it with my white paint marker. No worries if you make a mistake — just use a wet cloth to wipe off the marker, maybe a bit of soap if it’s being extra fussy, wipe it dry and start over.

When everything is dry, simply assemble the box back together (always use extra care when dealing with glass!) and you’re good to go. Start saving that hard-earned money and plan the best trip you can. And try not to take out of it every week for coffee, like I did a couple times. Unless you’re making a rainy day box, which is just one of the many other money-savers you can use this project for.


In you go, Sir Wilfrid.


Review: Love or Justice by Rachel Mannino

Love or Justice by Rachel ManninoTitle:
Love or Justice
Author: Rachel Mannino
Series: Protect and Serve (Book #1)
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Limitless Press
Format: eBook
ISBN: 9781680583472
Rating: ★★★★☆
Purchase: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: After stumbling into a deadly kidnapping, Laurie’s life is in grave danger, and it falls to US Marshal Dante Stark to keep her safe until she testifies against Kaimi Quamboa—assuming he can be captured.

Dante knows he’ll lose his job if he becomes romantically involved with a witness…

But when he has to comfort her through constant nightmares, he finds it nearly impossible to fight his attraction to the beautiful, strong young woman he is sworn to protect. Laurie feels it too, but aware she’s in a high-stress situation and that when the danger is past she’ll never see Dante again, she tries to ignore his easygoing smile and the security he offers.

Laurie and Dante are forced to flee again…

When Kaimi’s men descend on their hideaway, they escape to a second safe house, only to be tracked down there as well. Dante now knows there’s a mole inside the US Marshal Service, and the only thing left to do is disappear.
Kaimi will never stop looking for Laurie, and if he’s caught, showing up to testify could be the last thing she ever does.

With each choice as dangerous as the next, Dante and Laurie must confront the boundaries of what they’re willing to sacrifice, and which is more important…

Love or Justice.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to Enchanted Book Promotions for providing me with a copy for reviewing.

Whenever I manage to finish a book in a day, it’s usually a good thing. I couldn’t put this book down. The story jumps off right at the very beginning and sets everything up so I perfectly understood the tone of what I was getting into.

In short, the story is about a young woman named Laurie, a law student who puts herself through school by working at a hotel. She witnesses a crime in one of the rooms one day and is immediately put into witness protection due to the notoriety of the people associated with what she saw. In charge of her case is US Marshal, Dante. Along with Dante’s team, they protect Laurie by moving into a safe house. Throughout their time spent together in such close quarters, something blossoms between Laurie and Dante, even though it really shouldn’t be happening. The consequences for getting involved with his charge are huge, and Dante is one of the best Marshals and has worked hard to get to where he is. But the heart wants what it wants, and throughout the story, the connection becomes undeniable. The story pushes forward as they realize they’re in more danger than they thought. This causes Dante to take extra measures to protect Laurie, no matter what it takes.

Laurie and Dante are both extremely likeable, and their individual personalities complimented each other so nicely. As expected of a US Marshal, Dante is tough, oozes masculinity, and is a leader. But at the same time, he has a soft side. Meanwhile Laurie never plays the role of damsel. She herself is strong and unafraid despite circumstances that keep her life in jeopardy. Their romance is inevitable, but I loved how the author didn’t jump into it right away. The two got to know each other and went through some hard times in order for them to solidify their relationship. And when the calm before the storm came along in the middle of the book, we’re treated to a refreshing approach to their growing emotional connection.

My only real issues were regarding the way some scenes were set up; there were a couple of moments that were just plain unrealistic and had me scratching my head, but I guess they were needed in order to propel the story forward. After that, those little details became unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

To sum it up, the story is ultimately a love story, backed up by some really great action and suspense sequences. It’s definitely a strong debut from Mannino, and I’m looking forward to reading more in this series and any other works she has in the future.



Rachel Mannino is a passionate writer who creates characters and settings that allow readers to explore power dynamics in relationships, the empowerment of women, and the ethical and moral dilemmas love can create in our lives. Rachel also uses her writing skills to raise thousands of dollars for entities that enrich our lives and create community change around the world. She has worked for the Peace Corps; the Humanities Council of Washington, DC; Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company; and the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events in Boston, MA. Her first novel, Love or Justice, will be published by Limitless Press in 2016. Rachel has a BA in theatre studies and writing, literature, and publishing from Emerson College, and she has used it every day since graduation. She lives with her husband, author Christopher Mannino, and their adorable dog and cat in College Park, Maryland. (via Limitless Publishing)

CONNECT: Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

DIY: The Book Jar (aka TBR Jar)

The Book JarI have a huge problem. I buy way too many books than I know what to do with. And don’t even judge me about spending so much money on them, because I know I’m not the only one. I have a library of about 350 books and counting, and to my horror, I realized recently that I’ve only read about less than half of them.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that this is one of my biggest dilemmas: trying to figure out what book to read next. It’s either I buy a new book that everyone’s talking about and read it as soon as I’m out of the store, or I read a book that I’ve committed to reviewing. Or I’ve borrowed something from the library and don’t want to keep renewing or accrue any fines, so I prioritize it. But what about the books that I buy during a trip to the book store and buy solely because I’ve heard about it in passing, or because the cover caught my attention? It’s like.. “yeah I’ll buy you now because I know I’ll read you eventually.” But it happens way too often and the last book just gets pushed further and further onto the back burner. And now I’m stuck with (and I’m not exaggerating here) 183 books that I spent money on but never read.

These said books have been doomed into the abyss that’s known as the dreaded “TBR pile”. You know what I’m talking about. TBR, also known as ‘to be read’, also known as ‘books I’ll get to eventually’, also known as ‘books collecting dust’. Honestly, I have books in this category that have been purchased literally years ago. I knew something had to be done. Surely I can’t keep neglecting another one of my children like this?!

Luckily the Lord has blessed the internet with Pinterest, and one day the clouds opened up and this little DIY project shone down on me, and I knew my problems were solved.

Ladies and gents, the TBR Jar (which, for my own aesthetic purposes, am calling ‘The Book Jar’, because how pretty does that look? And rhymes make me uneasy). Ironically, I didn’t pin this project and couldn’t be bothered to backtrack or search for it again, so I had to wing making my own.

The materialsMATERIALS:

  • 1 jar (size depends on the amount of TBR books)
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • 1 sheet of card stock
  • String / cord
  • Computer paper (colour is up to you)
  • Your list of TBR titles


The most important thing, naturally, is your list of TBR books. I personally have an Excel workbook that I keep updated with all my books. So with some filtering, I pulled up all the books I haven’t read yet and after a bit of formatting, I printed off the titles. This step is all personal preference. I’ve seen people use different coloured paper depending on genre, write out all their book titles by hand, etc.

Cut them up into individual slips and fold them to your fancy.

To make the jar, I printed a little label on some card stock and cut it into the shape of a tag. You can design it however you’d like, or print off the one I’ve created using my superior Microsoft Word skills (click here).

Punch a hole at the end of the tag and run the cord through it.

Take your jar and wrap the cord around the rim a few times. Secure it by tying a bow, making sure the text is visible on the tag.

Fill up the jar with your slips of book titles, cap it off if you have a lid, and you’re all set.

Of course, feel free to add new titles as you acquire new books. I’ve seen some people use their jars for stuff like yearly or monthly challenges, or just for picking out of when they’re stuck on what new book to read. Give it a shake, take one out, and there you go. May the odds be ever in your favour.

The Book Jar in action. I didn’t even know I owned this book…


The Book Jar in its new permanent spot

[ARC] Will You Won’t You Want Me? by Nora Zelevansky

Will You Won't You Want Me? by Nora ZelevanskyTitle: Will You Won’t You Want Me?
Author: Nora Zelevansky
Expected Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9781250001276
Rating: ★★★★★
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: Marjorie Plum never meant to peak in high school. She was Queen Bee. Now, 10 years later, she’s lost her sparkle. At her bleakest moment, she’s surprised by renewed interest from a questionable childhood crush, and the bickering with her cranky boss—at a potentially game-changing new job—grows increasingly like flirtatious banter. Suddenly, she’s faced with a choice between the life she always dreamed of and one she never thought to imagine. With the help of a precocious 11-year-old tutee, who unknowingly becomes the Ghost of Marjorie Past, and a musician roommate, who looks like a pixie and talks like the Dalai Lama, Marjorie struggles with the ultimate question: Who does she want to be? Nora Zelevansky’s Will You Won’t You Want Me? is a funny, often surprising, novel about growing up when you are already supposed to be grown.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

I don’t even know where to begin with this book. I loved it. So much. The story is about one Marjorie Plum: former Queen Bee, envied yet adored by all back in her high school heyday. Fast forward ten years, and she’s working at a job she starts to despise more and more each passing day until the next thing she knows, everything goes to absolute s#!*, and she’s just stuck.

If I had to choose one word to describe this book, it would be ‘reflective’. When we’re young, we think we have the world figured out and then some. We look to the future thinking that everything’s going to stay constant. But then things happen and we experience and we learn; life’s not actually that easy. A lot of us are afraid of change, so we avoid facing the reality that we’re not always who we were in the past. When it comes down to it, rarely do things ever go as planned for everyone, and even the ones who seem to have everything can end up with nothing. One little factor can flip your world on its axis and make you feel like the universe is giving you the biggest middle finger ever known to man. Or like it’s giving you a swift kick in the ass and telling you that no one gives a damn about who you were ten years ago. We’re stuck asking ourselves stuff like “Now what?” and “What happened to me?” because life used to be so, so good. Like winning homecoming queen good. But like Miss Plum, sometimes we just have to place the proverbial tiara back into its glass case, stash it away into the memory box of our youth, and move on. I strongly believe there’s a little Marjorie Plum in all of us.

It wasn’t easy for her, though, as we learn throughout this colourful, quirky surprise of a book. She loses everything and walks in a disillusioned haze before realizing that it takes hard work and consideration of other people to truly make it in this world. But it’s also about self-respect and she learns the hard way that even people she thought had her back for life either drag her down, or can be plain toxic and she’s better off without them. It’s also about not dismissing people who might not fit into your usual crowd; the most unassuming people can affect your outlook in the best ways possible.

This was more of a realization of one’s self-worth rather than the whirlwind contemporary romance that I find myself drawn to as of late, though it didn’t come up short in that area in the slightest. It was refreshing to read about a woman’s journey to finding herself without focusing too much on her love life. It was even more refreshing to read a book about a 28-year-old woman who didn’t have her life together yet, because that’s okay. She eventually figures it out; things always work out if you truly want it to. This book perfectly showed that there’s always potential to become the person you want to be, if you’re willing to grow up and realize that the world moves forward whether you’re ready for it or not.

I’m so excited for this book to be published and finally available for everyone to enjoy. Please, please, please. Don’t pass this one up. I loved it so much that I’m already looking forward to getting a physical copy just so I can have it within arms reach whenever I feel like re-reading it. And so that I can hug it. Seriously.



Nora Zelevansky is the author of Will You Won’t You Want Me? and Semi-Charmed Life. Her writing has appeared in ELLE, T Magazine (The New York Times), Town & Country, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair, among others. She lives with her husband and daughter in Brooklyn, New York. (via Goodreads)

CONNECT: Goodreads | Official Site | Twitter | Facebook

[ARC] Elastic Hearts by Claire Contreras

Elastic Hearts by Claire ContrerasTitle: Elastic Hearts
Author: Claire Contreras
Series: Hearts (Book #3)
Expected Publication Date: March 20, 2016
Publisher: Claire Contreras
Format: ARC
Rating: ★★★★★
Pre-order: iBooks
Summary: Victor Reuben.

Most sought out divorce attorney in LA.

Nicole Alessi.

Soon to be ex-wife of Hollywood’s biggest star and Victor’s latest client.

In such a high profile divorce, they can’t afford any extra drama. Luckily, neither one of them has anything to hide.

Unless you count the mind blowing sex they had…



Three times all those years ago.

The past is in the past, though. As long as they keep their hands off each other until the divorce is final, they’ll be fine. But she keeps wearing those tight dresses, and he keeps giving her those heated glances, and keeping their hands to themselves is proving to be more difficult than either one of them realize.

It won’t be long before the paparazzi starts smelling the smoke, and where there’s smoke…

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to Claire Contreras for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

I have to admit that I always saw Victor as being just there in the last two books in the Hearts series. But the fact that he was a divorce lawyer and never wanted anything to do with serious relationships was kind of intriguing. And then this gem of a book came along and was kind of, sort of so much effing better than anything I expected. Elastic Hearts can’t even be compared to its predecessors. It’s different from Kaleidoscope Hearts and Paper Hearts in that the two mains, Victor and Nicole, don’t have a history the way Oliver and Elle, and Jensen and Mia do. They had past encounters, but Nicole is a totally new character, and she just fit into this universe so seamlessly. It’s less drama but more intensity and sophistication.

I loved finally getting to know Victor more. Where Oliver and Jensen are sweet and sensitive, Victor is aggressive and all business; he gets s#*! done, and he’s just… woah. Different. And extremely sexy. He’s so confident and cocky and you can’t even get mad at him because it’s so, so justified. Ladies, I’m telling you, you’re gonna want a Victor Reuben after reading this.

Nicole, on the other hand, is going through a high-profile divorce from her Hollywood soon-to-be ex-husband. But she’s far from the doting trophy wife. She’s very much her own person; fierce and independent, but at the same time there’s a vulnerability to her. Sure, there’s something undeniable between her and Victor, but she still wants to be amicable with her ex-husband and do what was right with the divorce. She has this admirable quality of self-respect and confidence that made her totally likeable from the very beginning.

What I really adored about this book was that these two were so career-driven and mature. Even though their feelings for each other pushed them to the edge, they respected each other’s decisions to not act on anything that could ruin what they’ve each worked so hard for. The tension that resulted from this push-pull relationship was so incomparable to anything I’ve read in this genre in the last little while. They had amazing chemistry and I couldn’t help but root for them to make things work despite the emotional rollercoaster they were put through.

Of course, there was the aspect of seeing the other characters: Mia, Elle, Oliver, Jensen, and the Reubens, all of whom I love. It was fun getting different sides of both Victor and Nicole when they interacted with the others. Some of my favourite moments actually came from scenes with the whole gang together. And Nicole just eased right in there perfectly.

Giving this book five stars, five unicorns, five rainbows, five hearts; kaleidoscope, paper, elastic– just five out of five everything, because it’s amazing and had me feeling all kinds of emotions. I didn’t want it to end, but I needed to see where it would go. I feel like sending Claire Contreras a fruit basket (or a whole orange grove) as a ‘thank you’ for writing an addicting series and concluding it with this book.



Claire is caring, smart, witty, and funny as heck. Despite being a New York Times Best Selling Author of a popular contemporary romance series, Claire doesn’t read many romance novels. However, when she sits down to write, those are the ones that pour from her fingers. Much to her displeasure, we like to say she’s a romantic at heart.

She is a breast cancer survivor who lives in Miami with her good looking husband, two adorable boys, three bulldogs, and two stray cats that she refuses to admit are hers (even though they live on her porch and she continues to feed them). When she’s not writing, she’s always lost in a book (the more suspenseful, the better). (via Goodreads)

CONNECT: Goodreads | Official SiteTwitter | Facebook

[ARC] My Kind of Crazy by Robin Reul

My Kind of Crazy by Robin ReulTitle: My Kind of Crazy
Author: Robin Reul
Expected Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9781492631767
Rating: ★★★★☆
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble | iBooks
Summary: Despite the best of intentions, seventeen-year old, wisecracking Hank Kirby can’t quite seem to catch a break. It’s not that he means to screw things up all the time, it just happens. A lot. Case in point: his attempt to ask out the girl he likes literally goes up in flames when he spells “Prom” in sparklers on her lawn…and nearly burns down her house.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Peyton Breedlove, a brooding loner and budding pyromaniac, witnesses the whole thing. Much to Hank’s dismay, Peyton takes an interest in him—and his “work.” The two are thrust into an unusual friendship, but their boundaries are tested when Hank learns that Peyton is hiding some dark secrets, secrets that may change everything he thought he knew about Peyton.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

The story starts off with a failed promposal; Hank Kirby intended to ask out one of the most popular girls in school but instead ended up almost burning her house down. He flees from the scene and thinks there’s nothing to trace him back there, but to his dread, there’s a witness.

As I was reading this book, I kept picturing it like a movie in my head; something akin to the awesome adaptation of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. The characters just come right off the page. Each of them have their own quirks, like the fact that Peyton is a complete pyromaniac and that Nick’s dad may or may not be involved with the mob. But when you look at the big picture, they’re so utterly… normal. And it made the story work. These are kids who go through what normal kids do: high school crushes, obsessing over dances, worrying about what’s going to happen after graduation, getting into college; the list goes on.

Reul also touches on a couple of serious issues in this book, but instead of weighing down the story, she kept it light and spares the readers from feeling down. And though it deals with themes we’ve seen in YA contemporaries time and time again, it somehow manages to stray from being stereotypical.

My Kind of Crazy is unconventional, funny (so, so funny), and witty. At the same time it’s emotional and real. I’m trying really hard to not talk too much about the story without going into too much detail because this is something everyone should experience for themselves. All I can say is that there’s this incredible original quality to the book that definitely makes it one YA contemporary to watch out for this year.



Robin Reul has been writing since she was in early elementary school, when she used to make her own book club flyers for her classmates and then pen them original stories. Though she grew up on movie sets and worked for many years in the film and television industry both as an actress and in motion picture development, she ultimately decided to focus her attention on writing young adult novels. She likes to write the same kinds of stories she loved as a teen: the ones that give her with butterflies in her stomach and are filled with quirky, memorable characters who stay with the reader long after the story ends. When she’s not writing, Robin can be found singlehandedly driving up the profit margin of her local Starbucks and indulging her love of baked goods, particularly those in the key of pumpkin. She lives in Los Angeles suburbia with her husband, son and daughter. (via Goodreads)

CONNECT: Goodreads | Official SiteTwitter

Paper Hearts by Claire Contreras

Title: Paper Hearts
Author: Claire Contreras
Series: Hearts (Book #2)
Publication Date: September 9, 2015
Publisher: Claire Contreras
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780986416729
Rating: ★★★★★
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Summary: I lost her. No, I didn’t lose her. I threw her away. She was my best friend. I was never supposed to fall in love with her. I was careless. She was heartbroken. I thought I was doing fine. But here she is, years later, forced to work with me, reminding me why I fell in love with her in the first place. And this time I’m going to do everything in my power to never let her go.

My Thoughts:
When I read the first book, Kaleidoscope Hearts, I fell in love with Contreras’ writing style and couldn’t get enough. As much as I liked Oliver and Elle’s story, I found myself wanting nothing more than to know about Mia and Jensen’s past relationship (and more about Victor, but that’s a review for another time when Elastic Hearts comes out later this month. Cue happy tears). I have to admit that I had really high expectations for this book after also reading the novella that came before it. I think my rating speaks for itself; I loved, loved, loved this book. So much.

Like the first book, this is a second chance romance story. Jensen and Mia cross paths again after five years. The past isn’t easily forgotten; Mia still isn’t over what happened between them and even though life’s drastically changed for Jensen, he hasn’t fully gotten over her, either. It seems impossible for them to rekindle what they had before due to circumstances and bad timing. They went through hell and back, and then back again a couple more times throughout. But as one of the quintessential quotes in the book states, “Real love stories never end.”

I can’t say enough about Contreras’ writing. She narrated the story from both Mia and Jensen’s perspectives, and as a reader, I felt for both characters; the way she perfectly penned out their inner struggles and conflicting feelings versus actions was just super intense and gorgeous. Poetic, almost. The fact that Jensen was a writer and had such a penchant for words also lent itself to the story beautifully. It was also fun to revisit all the characters that we got to know in the first book, but getting to expand on the then secondary characters was such a gift. I always love when authors follow up books focusing on different characters– in this case especially, because Mia and Jensen both intrigued me in the first book. I didn’t favour Mia over Jensen or sympathize with Jensen more than Mia, or vice versa. That’s what was captivating about this book; you could relate to both of their situations and it was honestly pretty heart-wrenching to read. My precious babies. I wanted to hug them both.

I read this book for the first time a few months ago in December, and even months later I still find myself going back to it from time to time just to read little quotes and excerpts because it’s that good.



Claire is caring, smart, witty, and funny as heck. Despite being a New York Times Best Selling Author of a popular contemporary romance series, Claire doesn’t read many romance novels. However, when she sits down to write, those are the ones that pour from her fingers. Much to her displeasure, we like to say she’s a romantic at heart.

She is a breast cancer survivor who lives in Miami with her good looking husband, two adorable boys, three bulldogs, and two stray cats that she refuses to admit are hers (even though they live on her porch and she continues to feed them). When she’s not writing, she’s always lost in a book (the more suspenseful, the better). (via Goodreads)

CONNECT: Goodreads | Official SiteTwitter | Facebook