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Mini-reviews: Dances of Thieves + The Darkest Legacy

pub 8/7/18 by Henry Holt & Co
Young Adult - Fantasy
Received ARC from pub
It’s been too long since I was last in the Remnant Chronicles world and I loved diving back in with this fresh new set of characters while still getting to see what my old favorites were up to (for the record, I approve!). The book switches between Kazi and Jase. The former is a street thief turned trusted guard for the Queen and she’s been sent on a mission to investigate trouble in the new settlements. It’s how she crosses paths with Jase, the newly appointed leader of the Ballenger Empire and said settlements. Both are too smart for their own good so naturally, antagonism and sparks fly between them immediately. (Pearson, you know how to get my attention.) What follows is a dangerous game as each tries to do what’s right for their people while one-upping the other, especially when they get put in a situation that forces them to work together (and more!). I enjoyed the intrigue and seeing how all the pieces fit as more was revealed. But my favorite parts were the characters and the different relationships we got to witness – romantic, friendship and familial. Pearson does a wonderful job of balancing the build up of the people and the world and I’m looking forward to what’s next!

Do I recommend? I do! I’m selfishly glad that it’s a duology so I don’t have to wait too long to find out how it ends! Luckily the first book ends on a solid note while making it clear that there’s more to come.

pub 7/31/18 by Disney-Hyperion
Young Adult - Dystopian
Borrowed ARC from Alexa
My darling Zu is all grown up and kicking ass and I was totally here for it! In preparation for reading The Darkest Legacy, I actually re-read the entire Darkest Minds trilogy for the first time since 2012. Despite how long it had been, the characters, their distinct personalities and the fierce love they shared for one another has always remained clear in mind. Bracken did an amazing job of maintaining the traits I loved in young Zu — her earnestness, inner strength and heart — while showing us how the aftermath of those trials affected her teenage life and quite frankly, the world. It’s been five years and Zu has become a spokesperson for the interim government, using her voice to fight for the rights of Psi children and the injustices they face. Even though they shut down the camps, their work has been far from over. It’s such a realistic path for the series to take and I’m glad it’s the one Bracken went down. When a violent attack occurs and Zu is falsely accused of committing the crime, she ends up fleeing the scene with two mysterious fellow Psi, Roman and Priyanka. It’s an uneasy alliance but a necessary one in order to survive. The pace is fast and relentless as Zu sees how much the world hasn’t changed, uncovers more secrets and lies, and figures out who she can trust. I just could not put the book down and read every time I had a free moment. Also, even though Zu is our leading lady, all the OGs play a huge role in the story, which filled my heart with joy. I will always love the Black Betty crew!

Do I recommend? Yes yes yes. I hope we get another book in this world! There are no plans for it but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Aruba | One Happy Island

Last week I went to Aruba with my best friend Carina and it was exactly what I needed. When I think of going on a trip, my first thought is pretty much always Europe. But knowing that my bestie could only do a 4 day weekend and we both wanted something low-key, we decided to do a beach vacation and go to Aruba. 

It was seriously what the doctor ordered–for both of us! From the minute we landed, I could immediately feel the heat but also feel all the stress I'd been feeling lately get replaced with excitement. We landed late afternoon so once we got dropped off at Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort, we freshened up, had ourselves a drink (it was complimentary!) and went in search of food and sunshine. 

Day 1

Views from our hotel / food from Passions Beach Bar & Lounge / first selfie of the trip!
Amsterdam Manor was perfect! Neither of us like big crowds so we purposely went for a smaller resort. Our room was right next to both restaurants but it never got too loud and best of all, the beach was literally across the street. So after we grabbed some bar food and drinks (their coconut shrimp and beef poutine were delicious) for a couple hours, we headed over to the beach. As guests, there were complimentary beach chairs for us to use and by that time the sun was starting to set, so we just walked a bit, admired the viewed and laid out on the chairs alternating between talking, reading and sitting in comfortable silence. 

the view the beach on our first night
Day 2
Even though we technically only had 2.5 days on Aruba, we knew we wanted to book one excursion to see more of the island beyond our resort and it was totally the right choice. It was also a good call to choose the half day one given our limited time. We went with Aruba Natural Pool Safari hosted by De Palm Tours. The tour guides were funny and personable and made sure we had a great time, which we did. We made stops at the Natural Pool, Natural Bridge, Alto Vista Chapel and California Lighthouse. But the Natural Pool was definitely my favorite part. It's a trek to make it down to the pool but once you do, I felt like I was in Ariel's grotto (except I can't swim so while Carina went out into the waters, I sat on the rocks about halfway in). 

About midway through the tour, we were taking a small break and our tour guide came up to me and said, "Every time I looked back at you during the drive you had this big smile on your face, you looked so happy." And I really did feel that way. Even though the drive was bumpy, dusty (the guides kept telling us Aruba isn't a tropical island and they weren't kidding!), and my hair was one giant knot by the end of it – I couldn't help being in awe of seeing a place so different from my every day life and just taking it all in. 

on the jeep / Natural Pool / Natural Bridge, Alto Vista Chapel / California Lighthouse
one of the many shots I took of the Natural Pool
At first Carina was like why do you want to take a picture in front of this billboard when the bridge is over there and I said, one original natural bridge collapsed and two, TRUST ME. This ended up being her favorite picture from the day!

After the tour, we still had a lot a bit of time so we spent the rest of the day at the beach just laying out, going into the water and reading. Then we ended the night with dinner at Mango's Restaurant.

Mango's Restaurant / at Eagle Beach

Day 3
Ah, our last full day in Aruba. It really crept on us too quickly but it was such a lovely day. We started off by going to Spa del Sol at Mancebo Beach Resort and it was the best massage ever. Not so much because of the massage itself (although it was great) but because of the atmosphere. We each had a private hut right out on the beach. The sound of the waves behind me and the sun shining in was just so peaceful. I swear I am forever spoiled by that massage experience.

After that, we explored the downtown area aka it was shopping day! We first got coffee at Santos Coffee with Soul, shopped for souvenirs, ate some more and went right back out on the beach for a couple more hours of sun. Their beaches are really breathtaking. Just so blue and the water is so warm. Plus I haven't mentioned this yet but the weather was amazing! Even though it's hot and sunny, there was a near-constant breeze which made it so nice.

We knew we wanted to end the vacation with a fancy-ish dinner so we made a reservation at Flying Fishbone. It was a half an hour from our resort but well worth it. You can literally eat in the water or on the sand (we chose the latter). The service was great and the food even better. It was a beautiful experience to eat dinner while watching the sunset.

Spa del Sol / Santos Coffee with Soul / Iguana Restaurant / more beach time

Last night at Flying Fishbone!


So that was our trip! Our "real" last day we couldn't do much except order room service for breakfast and head over to the airport so I don't have anything to share from that. But as you can see, we loved visiting Aruba and I could see myself going back again but definitely for a longer period of time! 

Have you been to Aruba before and did you love it as much as I did?

My 7 Travel Rituals

Two weeks ago, one of the blogs I follow, Damsel in Dior, wrote about her travel rituals since they weren’t exactly typical. It got me thinking about what mine would be or if I even had any, especially since Aruba was at the top of my mind at the time. And I realized, I do! I’ve come a long way from the girl whose main concern about boarding a plane was trying not to panic. Now I’m comfortable with flying (except I still do grip the seat when there’s turbulence!) and I do have my own little quirks when prepping for a trip.

|  Create a trip playlist 
Listen to my playlist!
Before every trip, I create a playlist. Sometimes they’re super specific (and un-originally named) like “Iceland” or “Barcelona.” Or I have one called “Fly Away” which I created for my Dublin trip and still listen to occasionally. It’s like a little snapshot of that moment not to mention I think every trip deserves its own soundtrack.

 |  Leggings on the flight
I used to always wear jeans during flights. Then I randomly decided to wear leggings instead and it was a game changer! Sometimes I see other women at airports who look super cute in dresses or even wearing heels but I’ll take comfort (with a side of cute) over that every single time. My travel uniform consists of black leggings, t-shirt or tunic (hoodie if it’s cold), nude flats and my Longchamp bag or Kanken backpack.

My suitcase is on the right!
 |  Plan out my outfits for each day of the trip so I only pack what I need 
I always manage to surprise people with how efficiently I pack for trips. I’m usually greeted with “that’s all your bringing?” and the answer is always yes! I mean I’m the one who’s going to be lugging that suitcase around so it needs to be manageable. (Side note: one of my besties packed like 3 weeks worth of clothing for our 6 day trip to Barcelona and my eyes bugged out at the sight of her suitcase!). To keep from packing too much, I plan my outfits for each day of the trip with 1-2 extra tops just in case. This is where having an itinerary (or even just a general sense of your plan is) really helps in figuring out what you do and don’t need.

 |  Pack one physical book with me
I always read a lot on trips! On flights, I rarely watch movies and prefer to spend my time reading. I make sure to load up my Kindle (I’ve been borrowing e-books from the library a lot lately) but I always like having one actual book with me. And yes, I read more than one book while on vacation.

Obligatory window seat photo!
 |  Print out my itinerary
I’m a planner so I can’t help having an itinerary! It’s always a mix of set plans, must-sees and other ideas in case we have extra time or change our minds. And even though it’s always accessible by phone (usually a spreadsheet or doc), I like printing it out and carrying it in my bag for the duration of the trip.

 |  Bring a bag of candy 
I know it would be far more practical to bring granola bars but for me, it’s a bag of candy all the way. It’s what I find myself craving on flights and I don’t bother to fight it. I usually bring apple-o gummies or sour brite crawlers but for my recent trip I got the Twizzler sour mini twists and I am obsessed.

 |  Take a photo on the plane
Whether it’s a selfie when I’m traveling with a friend or a view from the window seat as the plane ascends or descends (usually both!), I feel the need to capture the moment. I think it's because no matter how many times I get on a plane, it never fails to feel exciting.

What are your travel rituals?