A Beginner’s Guidebook to Austin via Lovestruck Summer

Back in August, Estelle visited Austin (!!!). On her flight, she re-read Melissa Walker’s Lovestruck Summer, which she’s raved to me about so, so much (and as she did in her review). Seeing as it’s set in my city, Austin, TX, I knew I needed to read it, too. Plus I just adore Melissa’s writing. While Estelle was in flight, I joined her in reading so that we could explore Austin through Melissa’s lens. With the digital release of Lovestruck Summer, we decided to tour Austin just as Quinn would have as she interned there for the summer.

First, you are probably wondering what Lovestruck Summer is all about, right? Quinn is a super music fanatic who bamboozles her way into a killer internship at a small music label in Austin for the summer. The job is not exactly what she envisioned and neither is living with her super girlie cousin and cross-dressing dog. The rugged cowboy college student next door, Russ, is totally determined to get Quinn off the couch and off to explore the finer parts of Austin.

So buckle your seatbelts! Estelle and I are taking you on a tour of Austin today! We’ll be chatting about the book, sharing photographs from around the city that we took together of specific landmarks or favorite hot-spots, and some of our favorite quotes to encourage you to download Lovestruck Summer ASAP!

Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker 01

NOTE: This guy isn’t specifically mentioned in Lovestruck Summer, but he’s iconic around the University of Texas campus. Bevo (the UT Longhorn mascot) stands proudly in the parking lot near the Co-Op, the university bookstore, greeting all that come and go.

Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker 13

“Penny is the newly elected president of a powerful University of Texas sorority–The UT Tri-Pi’s. I half thought she was kidding about the sorority thing, but when we walk into the condo, I realize that she is dead serious. Above the faux marble mantle, there are metallic purple letters that say Pi Pi Pi. Atop every surface in the living room–from end tables to windowsills–are framed photos showcasing the electric smiles of groups of girls in rainbow-colored dresses with cookie-cutter guys at their sides.”
Walker, Melissa (2009-05-05). Lovestruck Summer (p. 11). . Kindle Edition.
NOTE: So this isn’t exactly the Tri-Pi house Quinn’s cousin Penny was the President of, but it seemed fitting when we walked past it off-campus.

Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker 02

“I found out that the guy with the weird high voice is Daniel Johnston, a native son of Texas who inspired musicians like Kurt Cobain in the early 90s. Daniel’s an artist, too, and I even bought a t-shirt with a design he drew of a little alien frog who’s saying, “Hi how are you?” It’s kind of an Austin thing, the girl at the store told me.”
Walker, Melissa (2009-05-05). Lovestruck Summer (pp. 76-77). . Kindle Edition.
NOTE: this wall is at the intersection of 21st and Guadalupe near the UT campus.

Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker 03

“When I reach campus, my water’s almost gone. I find a drinking fountain and re-fill it before I spread out on the first big stretch of grass I find. Under a tree. I can’t risk getting sun, and I’ve never been into tanning. Besides, did I mention it’s a thousand degrees outside? It is. There are lots of students around, but I’m sure the crowds are much bigger during the year. Summer is always the best season in a college town, when the student population thins out a little.”
Walker, Melissa (2009-05-05). Lovestruck Summer (p. 44). . Kindle Edition.
NOTE: I, M, attended UT and as I was reading, I imagined this would be the area Quinn escaped to. This area of campus is referred to as the Six-Pack and during the school year, it’s covered with students in between classes who are either sleeping or studying. Oh, and yes, it definitely felt like 1000 degrees on the day we were there. SO HOT.

Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker 04

Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker 06

“On Friday night, I have plans to meet Jade and Sebastian at Dirty’s. I go to Jade’s house first to pick her up–she doesn’t live too far from The Drag, which is this main strip near campus, and it’s definitely my turn to drive.”
Walker, Melissa (2009-05-05). Lovestruck Summer (p. 122). . Kindle Edition.
NOTE: The Drag is a stretch of Guadalupe St. by campus that is packed with hole-in-the-wall restaurants, coffee shops, the University Co-Op, tons of graffitied walls, and students constantly moving about. We walked down a large stretch and may or may not have stopped into Urban Outfitters to shop for a little while (and cool off in their AC).

Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker 07Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker 08Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker 09Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker 10Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker 11Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker 12

Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker-14

“When Russ parks the truck in the parking lot of the Four Seasons Hotel , I give him a skeptical eye. He grabs an old umbrella out of the back cab, confusing me further. The sky is crystal clear.”
Walker, Melissa (2009-05-05). Lovestruck Summer (pp. 117-118). . Kindle Edition.

“So there are probably a million bats under that bridge right now.”
“You mean like flying minions of Dracula?” I ask. “That kind of bat?”
“I wouldn’t bring vampires into this,” says Russ. “But yes, that kind of bat.”
“I’m intrigued,” I admit. “Go on.”
“Well, at sunset, they all come out to look for food ,” he says. “They stream over the water and fill the sky with black wings. It’s incredible! It’s like this giant cloud of creatures hovering over you.”
Walker, Melissa (2009-05-05). Lovestruck Summer (pp. 118-119). . Kindle Edition.

Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker-18

“Even without the bats flying, this time around day’s end is stunning. There is a brief golden moment that seem like it comes straight out of a cinematographer’s filmic dream–the sparkling glow on the water, the bright green of the grass under the rose-hued sky. And Russ’s hair with a shimmer of sundown in it. It’s like a song.”
Walker, Melissa (2009-05-05). Lovestruck Summer (p. 121). . Kindle Edition.

Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker-19

NOTE: This guy was sitting on a little dock overlooking Lady Bird Lake, headphones plugged into his ears, and singing at the top of his lungs (extremely off-key). We couldn’t help but pause and discuss his lack of humility and how fitting it was that he was so into his music…especially considering how musically focused Lovestruck Summer is. He was just begging to be photographed, really.

Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker-20

NOTE: We walked down near the Four Seasons hotel where Russ and Quinn would have stood to watch the bats, but another great view is from the Congress Bridge. These people were lined up along the bridge and were able to watch the bats exit the bridge right under their feet.

Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker-16Lovestruck Summer Melissa Walker-17

Estelle: Austin is one of my favorite places to visit. Not only is the atmosphere awesome and the people are so incredibly nice but two of my best friends live there! (You know one of them.) Before I met up with Magan during my trip, my friend took me tubing in a river. (Another moment included in Melissa’s book.) I highly recommend it, even if you look a little funny trying to hop into your tube. It was so relaxing and a nice way to drink sangria with friends.

There were a few times we kept bumping into 3 girls on tubes and finally just gave up and started talking to them. Such lovely people who were very excited about me visiting and started listed “must-dos” of Austin. I felt like a broken record because EVERYTHING they mentioned was in Melissa’s Lovestuck Summer. I already felt in the know. So this book can definitely be a beacon for anyone visiting this super cool place for the first time, or even a checklist for what you want to accomplish on future trips. I felt super connected to Quinn. (And even lent my copy of Melissa’s book to my other Austin best friend.)

Magan: So, so much of Lovestruck Summer felt incredibly authentic. I kept a running list while I was reading of locations I was familiar with that I wanted to take Estelle. There were, unfortunately, a few that we weren’t able to hit up (like the beautiful San Jose Hotel on South Congress), but I think it’s kind of nice that we have a few places to look forward to going together. Maybe next time we’ll plan a little better and it won’t be August and we won’t be sweating our way through the trip!

Aside from all the amazing landmarks mentioned in this awesome book, the music scene is incredibly inspiring. I wanted to get out of the house and listen to more music. I wanted to look up every band that was mentioned (even if some of them were made up). I’m not really sure why I didn’t read Lovestruck Summer sooner. Absolutely, absolutely put it on your to-read list. Or if you’re feeling wild, take a moment to download it for your Kindle. It’s only $3.99 and well worth the price!

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book related PMS survival kit

On a (Very) Personal Note: A PMS Survival Kit

Male readers, I apologize in advance for today’s topic being so … girly. (Actually, maybe take note and make one of these for your significant other. You could win major bonus points for thoughtfulness.)

someecards.com - PMS is such a drag...feeling like a Jekyll and Hyde type of day. Which face should I wear.......decisions decisions.....

Image from Some E Cards

I’m not sure if you ladies are like me, but when I’m all PMS-y and hormonal, there are a few things I find myself needing every. single. month. It’s like a pattern. I get ragey-pants, sad, and have to stay away from sad/depressed people who are woe-is-me all the time because I’m already flipping out because OH MY GOSH I HAVE SO MANY THINGS TO DO and MY TO DO LIST IS OVERWHELMING and THERE’S NOT ENOUGH TIME and ALL I WANT TO DO IS CURL INTO A BALL AND ROCK BACK AND FORTH.

I make one monthly trip to Walgreen’s to grab a few of my PMS staples. A few weeks ago, I was doing just that very thing and realized that, no pun intended, of course, it’s this big cycle. After my trip, I drove home thinking, “Oh, if only I could get Dustyn to make me a survival kit because being a woman sucks.”

I went home and stacked all my purchases into a neat little pile and started gathering a few more things that should be there, and viola!, my completely inappropriate post was born. Here’s what would be in my monthly PMS survival kit:

book related PMS survival kit

So what you see above is:

+ Sprite. Because apparently caffeine will only make us feel worse.

+ Midol Complete. Um, this doesn’t really need an explanation other than HOLY MOTHER I HATE PAIN.

+ Nail polish. Let’s talk about femininity? I feel ugly and disgusting and gross. Painting my nails helps cheer me up and feel a little better. (Yes, yes, I admit — serious polish addict. I know.) This helps me feel a bit more girly and appreciate SOME aspect of womanhood. Pictured here are my Essie Top Coat and Essie Base Coat. And I obsess about this frequently on twitter, but I’m sharing my one of my favorite Julep nail polish colors, Eloise. (In case you’re interested in their Julep Maven program, here’s where you can find out more.)

+ Sour Punch Straws. These are my favorite, favorite treat. Some girls choose ice cream or chocolate, but GIVE ME THE SUGAR. (Yes, I’m aware that I snack like a 10 year old kid.)

+ A Big Ol’ Glass of H2O. Apparently water helps us feel better. As much as it can be (seeing as how 95% of my work is done on my computer) my right hand is glued to my glass of water.

+ Books. I also really want to read a specific type of book during this hellacious week. I want something like Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker (Clem is a little bit emo, I’m a little bit emo. It works.) Or something by Sarah Dessen. (She’s always makes me fall in love with her characters. Shown in these photos is Lock and Key, but I haven’t read it yet. Next month. ;)) Or maybe a book that’s going to break me into a million pieces and let me get out ALL OF MY CRYING. You know, like Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer.

magan's pms survival kit with books

I looked down while I was taking these photographs and realized I also dress like a frump. My old lady moccasins are glued to my feet, I wear my favorite old t-shirts and the comfiest pajamas a girl can buy from Target. I snuggle up in blankets and don’t really leave the house (*except for my Walgreen’s trips, I swear).

Things I Thought About After Taking Photographs:

+ Music. This is usually when I’ll change the station in my car 100,000 times because nothing fits my mood and everything is just too sad. But! If I find someone I like, I listen to them over and over and over again. Usually this person is uplifting and happy to pull me out of my self-loathing funk.

+ Take Out Dinner. Because a) I don’t feel like cooking and b) I look like a frump and c) I’m doubled over in pain.

+ Flowers. Sometimes I buy myself cheap little $5 bouquets of flowers just to cheer myself up.

+ Movies. Anyone else think this is a good time to watch The Notebook over and over and over again?

*I just realized the people at Walgreen’s must laugh at me when I leave the store. I’m always all “hey, yeah, these sour punch straws aren’t for me….” in my head, but I’m sure my Midol purchase is a dead giveaway.

– – –

So, yup. I just like to be holed away and remind myself that the world isn’t ending (even if it feels like my uterus hates me). What would you add to my Survival Kit? Any book recommendations that seem like they’d fit the bill for me?

book bundle for unbreak my heart by melissa c walker

Unbreak My Heart Themed Gift-Pack

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker is one of my favorite books from 2012. There’s a fantastic cast of characters and a main character who is working through some pretty major emotions post-big-blow-up with her best friend, Amanda. Her family takes the summer to sail together and along the route, Clem meets an awesome guy James.

James is probably one of my most favorite YA boys. He’s quirky and respectful. He’s an observer and seems to always have Clem’s best interest at heart. Clem deals with conflicting emotions of moving on and not being sure if she deserves to be happy after what she did that tore her and Amanda apart. She writes letters to Amanda, reflects on what she did, and has some fun times with her little sister, Olive.

I remembered a few specific things for this Unbreak My Heart themed gift-pack so I went back to find their specific references and why they were important.

This would make such a fun pack for a friend. You could choose a few of these things to bundle together with the book to make a pretty spectacular gift for someone this Christmas!

Hope you enjoy what I’ve selected (and why)!

book bundle for unbreak my heart by melissa c walker

01. Bananas, Cinnamon Gum, Chamomile Tea,  and Strawberry Yogurt — Clem’s mom sends her to the super market to get gum and tea, which is where she meets James for the first time.

“As I’m rounding the corner to look for strawberry yogurt, my basket collides directly with someone else’s –someone who’s filled his basket to the brim with bananas.”  (page 17)

02. Boat-Themed Note Cards, — Clem tries to write countless notes to Amanda to explain what happened.

“But the truth is, a letter to Amanda is a stupid idea. And besides, it’s not like I didn’t think of that. I’ve been trying to write one every night for three weeks, but when I reread my drafts I just hear how whiny I sound. It’s pathetic. I can’t make the words mean anything.” (page 31)

03. Funfetti Rainbow Cake Mix — In a flashback to 7th or 8th grade, Clem remembers making a cake with Amanda.

“Do you think each colored chip has a different flavor?” I had asked.” (page 23)

04. Sketchbook + Charcoal Pencils – James is always sketching. It’s his favorite past time and he’s quite good at it.

“He sits up and whips a sketchbook and dark gray pencil out of the tote he’s been carrying.” (page 69)

05. The Proposal + Training Day DVDs — A favorite element of mine in Unbreak My Heart is the emphasis on family. Clem reflects on watching movies with her her parents and little sister, Olive.

“I don’t know how many times Dad has had to sit through The Proposal instead of Training Day (his favorite) on family movie night.” (page 160)

06. Floral Bikini With Ruffles — Once Clem and James start hanging out, she becomes more conscious of what she’s wearing. She tries to look cute for him to show she’s coming out of her sad frame of mind.

“I’m already ahead of him, slipping my cotton dress over my head to reveal the floral bikini that has just the right amount of ruffle (which is “very little, but enough to flatter our butt,” according to Amanda). (page 184)

Estelle: Lovestruck Summer by Melissa C. Walker

Lovestuck Summer by Melissa C. Walker
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 272
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Austin, music, high school graduate, summer
Format read: Borrowed from library.

Summary: Quinn manages to wrangle an internship at a record label in Austin, TX. This means living with her college student cousin and hearing awesome music ALL summer. Quinn quickly realizes the summer may not be all she imagined when she lands in Texas for multiple reasons, including that cowboy country music loving boy next door.

When I was in college I had a boyfriend who LOVED country music. He even had a cowboy hat and boots he would wear sometimes. (I’m sure it was just to taunt me.) But this freaking kid would listen to country music in the car all the time and I despised it. I would never like country music. Well, I might as well have shot myself in the foot because guess what? He made a country music lover out of me. That was 7 years ago and country music is still my tune of choice. (Much to my husband’s chagrin, I’m sure.)

So I get the whole quick to judge thing. I do this all the time. Even after my change of heart when it came to certain friends, my husband, and country music, I still do this. So I understood Quinn and her sudden judgments about her sorority sister cousin and the annoying cowboy next door, Russ. Sometimes people are stubborn (hi, me) and sometimes they need to be proven wrong (that’s me again). I loved this premise. Even more so because Quinn was an older character for YA, on the verge of starting college.

Now the setting. You may know by now that Magan is from Austin and I live in New York and I met her at a friend’s wedding IN Austin. So Lovestruck Summer practically felt like OUR story. (Well, sort of.) I have such love for Austin even if I’ve only been there twice and I was giddy when reading about certain locations I went to visit. (Thanks to my pal Carly and her husband David for being such awesome tour guides!) The novel was practically a love song for Austin and I came very close to booking my next trip out there multiple times.

I first discovered this title when April from Good Books and Good Wine listed it as a book with a deceiving cover. WAS SHE EVER RIGHT! This book is more than neon swim tubes and water. In fact, I thought it was downright IRONIC that Lovestruck Summer had this cover when the book was basically about reevaluating judgments and first impressions. Lovestruck Summer dives beneath the surface and introduces some unique main characters and a summer that brings about much change for many of its characters. It’s fast paced and entertaining, and gee, my only complaint is that it wasn’t a little bit longer.

Look no further for the perfect summer read. It’s funny, it’s sweet, and just like it’s cover — more than meets the eye.

Goodreads | Amazon

Estelle: Shelve It (5/27/2012)

weekly feature focusing on the books we bought, borrowed, and received from publishersEvery time my turn rolls around, I can’t believe how fast two weeks have flown by!

This week, we jumpstarted a book event with Ginger from GReads and Tara from Fiction Folio called Sweet Summertime Reads, where we will all be sharing our favorite reads, songs, and a few surprises along the way!

So this week’s Shelve It is going to be a little different.

summertime books for people to read

Since I’m going to be away next week, I thought I would show you what books I was planning to take on my trip.

> Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker (Goodreads | Amazon)
> Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker (Goodreads | Amazon)
> In Honor by Jessi Kirby (Goodreads |  Amazon)
> Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols (Goodreads | Amazon)
> Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (Goodreads | Amazon)
> Pizza, Love and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams (Goodreads | Amazon)
> Four Decades of Magic: A Collection of Essays (Goodreads | Amazon)

On the blog this week:

> Magan uncovers some exciting June 2012 Young Adult Releases!
> What if your world totally changed because of a YouTube video? Check out my review of Awkward by Marni Bates.
>  Disappointed by a book and so affected, she couldn’t get into the next book for quite awhile. Magan’s honest review of Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson.
> A great meme from Broke & Bookish featuring 10 OTHER blogs we visit during the day.
> Rediscovering Louis Sachar, an old favorite with a review of The Cardturner.

HUGE REMINDER to enter Ginger’s Jennifer Echols giveaway over at GReads as part of the Sweet Summertime Reads event!

Hope you have a great Sunday! We’ll see you around this week! 🙂

Magan: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker [website | twitter]
Publisher: Bloomsbury
UPCOMING Publication Date: May 22, 2012
Pages: 240
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format read: eBook ARC from Netgalley.

Summary: Clementine is spending the whole summer sailing with her parents on their forty-two foot boat. The seclusion from her friends would normally be unthinkable, but she finds herself alone because she did something terrible. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend.

Last year Melissa Walker’s book, Small Town Sinners, really took me outside my comfort zone and introduced me to a story that was completely unlike anything I’d ever read. When I saw Unbreak My Heart pop up on Netgalley, it was all I could do not to refresh my inbox constantly to see if we’d been approved for the title. I jumped for joy when we received the approval email, and I happily (i.e. HAPPILY) devoured it.

I had never read a book about a teenager who falls for her someone who is already in a relationship. Especially not her best friend’s boyfriend. I knew from the summary that this happened so I was prepared for lots of tangled emotions. From the very beginning, I was (unexpectedly) laughing at Clem’s inner dialogue. She was a fun, loveable character who made a terrible mistake. I love that Walker didn’t create a character who lacked any and all personality; Clem was a fantastic girl who screwed up and realizes how much she’s lost for the sake of a boy.

Walker made me connect and understand what Clem was going through, but she also showed me the agony that was a result of Clem’s year-long debacle with Ethan. While I don’t approve of cheating, I understand the mix of emotions and enjoyed seeing how the whole story was pieced together. The chapters alternated between present day, with Clem being frustrated and depressed, to reflections of the past as she tried to piece together how she could have fallen for Ethan.

I’ve never cheated on someone, but I did have a guy best friend from junior high through most of high school. I had more-than-friends feelings for this boy, and though things never worked out between us and we each married other people, I guess you could say we were in a constant tango – our feelings would ebb back and forth for one another. I would be so completely heartbroken when I saw him in a relationship with someone who wasn’t me. I would like to think this isn’t an uncommon occurrence for teenagers who have so many emotions and insecurities. Walker did an incredible job exploring how everything happened and how those choices affected every part of Clem’s life.

One of my most favorite aspects of a YA book is when there are strong family ties. Clem is stuck on the boat with her parents and 10-year-old sister, Olive. I found myself repeatedly thinking “I want to be parents like them,” or “I want do have children as close as these girls are.” It’s a rarity to see such a well-balanced and supportive family. I shed a few tears over scenes with Olive and the parents; they were so touching and perfect.

But, of course, nothing excited me more than the boy in Unbreak My Heart. Red (aka: James). Clem and James’ boats are sailing along the same route over the summer. It’s only natural that they’d bump into each other every once in a while. My heart did a pitter-patter, happy dance when I saw his name on the page. He was funny, sweet, and kind; he was respectful and genuine.

He is probably one of my FAVORITE YOUNG ADULT BOYS.

I know! That’s a big, bold statement. But I’m standing by it.

I’m really curious to know if you’ll feel the same way about James and how you’ll respond to Clem after you finish this book. I’m clicking over to Amazon right now to pre-order my copy; Unbreak My Heart is definitely a book I want to own.

Goodreads | Amazon