Tag Archives: memoir

mid-week round-up

What are you up to this week? Tomorrow we’re hittin’ the road for our big move to Alabama! I’m so excited that moving day is finally so close. Getting ready for a move (especially one you’re super stoked about) just seems to drag on and on. We’ve been slowly packing and cleaning and tying up loose ends ever since we found out about the new job so I am READY. Next time I post we’ll be in the new place! Wish us luck. xoxo

Michelle Obama released the cover of her upcoming memoir.

The Great British Bake Off is secretly a show about time management.

This fully functional 140 square foot London studio is micro-living at it’s dreamiest!

Super cute bathing suit cover up, if you’re in the need.

Serious bedroom goals. (I can’t wait to decorate our room in the new place!)

These sweet potato wedges would make the perfect side dish to summer BBQ mains.

Why do American women refuse to give up tampons?

In trying to read up about politics in my soon-to-be home state, I stumbled upon these 18 candidates.

Family and community are the only things left in Adams County, Ohio.

Justine Kurland’s timeless photos of runaway girls.

I love the antique americana look of these 4th of July decor pieces.

One woman’s journey from coma to consciousness.

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — Bloggers Share Letters to Their Younger Selves and Picturesque Fruit Plates.

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Beth’s Reading List – Too Many Books, Never Enough Time

50 books from my reading list

I’ve always been a reader. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a book going (and sometimes 2, 3, or 4). If I find myself bored, and there’s a book around; it doesn’t matter what the book is about, I’ll probably pick it up and start reading. Why not?

Which is all to say, I’m not very discriminating when it comes to literary tastes. Novel, non-fiction, memoir. Give me one of each please and keep ’em comin’!

So, I guess it should come as no surprise that I have a rather VAST reading list. Around five years ago, I started keeping track of every book I read or heard about that sounded remotely interesting and recording each title personally recommended to me. As I’m a fan of so many types of books, and find myself interested in a whole slew of subject matter, that list has grown…and grown….and GROWN. I’ve collected hundreds upon hundreds of titles! So many in fact that keeping the list has sort of become a hobby in and of itself. (But, hey! I’m not complaining…I low-key LOVE lists and list-makin’.)

In case you’re curious about the type of books that make it on to my “too long to ever type out in it’s entirety” reading list, I decided to provide you with a sampling. Here goes!

1. You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney

2. Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way by Ruth Reichl 

3. So Many Ways to Sleep Badly by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore 

4. The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
The Glass Castle, also by Walls, is one of my all-time faves! I can’t wait to see the movie

5. Appalachian Trials: The Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail by Zach Davis 

6. The No Recipe Cookbook: A Beginner’s Guide to the Art of Cooking by Susan Crowther
Cookbooks are books too! 

7. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

8. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

9. Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine

10. Strange as This Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake
Lots of folks who know my love of Barbara Kingsolver have recommended this one to me.

11. Prairie Tale: A Memoir by Melissa Gilbert
For obvious reasons. 

12. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

13. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

14. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Trooper
I’ve seen the movie but I hear the books is better.

15. The Promise: A Tragic Accident, a Paralyzed Bride, and the Power of Love, Loyalty, and Friendship by Rachelle Friedman

16. A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

17. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs 

18. Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray
I don’t have kids but this seems like an important read nonetheless.

19. That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us by Erin Moore

20. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
I have a special place in my heart for sports journalism. 

21. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari 

22. Making the Mummies Dance: Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Thomas Hoving

23. Conquering Chaos by Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra
Because MTV reality tv is my vice and I don’t even care. 

24. Between Wrecks by George Singleton

25. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington

26. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

27. Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself by Sarah A. Chrisman

28. The Clasp by Sloane Crosley 

29. Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub
I have a huge girl crush on this author! 

30. Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

31. Cornbread Mafia: A Homegrown Syndicate’s Code of Silence and the Biggest Marijuana Bust in American History by James Higdon

32. Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More by Erin Boyle
One of my favorite bloggers. 

33. Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World by Susan Silverman 

34. Epilogue by Anne Roiphe 

35. Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
STILL have never read any of Vowell’s books and have GOT to get on it!

36. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

37. Ann Tenna by Marisa Acocella Marchetto

38. The Geography of Madness: Penis Thieves, Voodoo Death, and the Search for the Meaning of the World’s Strangest Syndromes by Frank Bures
I mean COME ON! Tell me that doesn’t sound good?! 

39. Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens 

40. High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed by Michael Kodas
I will read, watch, or listen to anything about Mt. Everest and Himalayan mountaineering.

41. The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West by Lesley Poling-Kempes

42. I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro 

43. A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran by Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal, and Sarah Shourd 

44. You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein 

45. Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen by Alyssa Shelasky 

46. The End of the Perfect 10: The Making and Breaking of Gymnastics’ Top Score – From Nadia to Now by Dvora Meyers
For those of us who pretend to be gymnastics experts every 4 years. 

47. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer 

48. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
May as well see what all the fuss is about!

49. Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
Can you believe this is the same woman who wrote The Lottery?

50. The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

What are some books on YOUR reading list?

Finally – Do you have any of the books listed above? I’m ALWAYS down for a book-swap!! I’d love to pass along a book from my collection that may be on your reading list. Let me know!

Books I Read and Loved in 2016

_m-drbinfa4-eli-francis

As I explained in this post, I’ve been tracking my reading on a spreadsheet in an effort to diversify the genres and voices I consume, as well as quell my own curiosity about the ebbs and flows of my changing tastes and obsessions. The resulting data was interesting and I had fun recording lots of details for my future-self to cull through. (Full-disclosure: By the 4th quarter of the year I was much less thorough in my approach. Something to work on in 2017!)

For those of you who might be interested, I’ve used the aforementioned spreadsheet to compile a list of the books I read and loved in 2016.

  1. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson (On the blog HERE.)
  2. Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman
  3. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom – So gripping! (On the blog HERE.)
  4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – Better than the movie. (On the blog HERE.)
  5. Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward
  6. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo – A fascinating look at a society not often discussed. (On the blog HERE.)
  7. How to Be Good by Nick Hornby
  8. Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine (On the blog HERE.)
  9. The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler
  10. January First: A Child’s Descent into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her by Michael Schofield
  11. Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home by Leah Lax – A triumphant memoir. (On the blog HERE.)
  12. A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay (On the blog HERE.)
  13. Chef by Jaspreet Singh
  14. Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace – A cross between two of my favorite movies: A League of Their Own and Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. (On the blog HERE.)
  15. A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White
  16. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  17. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – Tears galore!
  18. The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein (On the blog HERE.)
  19. Crush It! Why NOW is the Time to Cash In On Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk
  20. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson – A must-read if you enjoy true-crime and American history. (On the blog HERE.)
  21. Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
  22. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer – There just aren’t enough books about Himalayan mountaineering to satisfy my strange obsession.  (On the blog HERE.)
  23. The Book of Ayurveda by Judith H. Morrison
  24. The Heavy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet by Dara-Lynn Weiss
  25. Grace by Grace Coddington – Spirit animal.
  26. Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives by Hoda Kotb (On the blog HERE.)
  27. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green – YA Fiction at it’s finest.
  28. Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee by Hoda Kotb – I was having a bit of a Hoda moment. 
  29. Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi (On the blog HERE.)
  30. The Last Undercover: The True Story of an FBI Agent’s Dangerous Dance with Evil by Bob Hamer
  31. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – I kicked off my mission to re-read the Little House books.
  32. About Alice by Calvin Trillin
  33. Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang – Hilarious!
  34. The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker
  35. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Now it’s time to set up my spreadsheet for 2017!

What books did YOU read and love in 2016? Share below…and who knows! Maybe they’ll end up on my list next year. 

Books to Read This Fall

Mourning those Summer months? Me either! I’m too excited about wrapping up, burrito-style, in a fluffy blanket with a good book and something pumpkin spice close at hand.

But for real, what better reason than a temperature turn-down to share a few favorite books I think would be perfect for your Fall reading list.

So, in the midst of all your other autumnal activities (Think: swapping out all your flip flops for riding boots and Snapchatting from the pumpkin patch.) — here are 5 books to read this Fall…

bossypantsBossypants by Tina Fey

Tina Fey’s book is short, messy, and impossibly funny (an apt description of the comedian herself). From her humble roots growing up in Pennsylvania to her days doing amateur improv in Chicago to her early sketches on SNL, Fey gives us a fascinating glimpse behind the curtain of modern comedy with equal doses of wit, candor, and self-deprecation.

There’s always something to be learned from the life experiences of fascinating (and funny!) people. This book provides a peek into the worlds of improv, SNL, and 30 Rock–all with Fey’s famous humor.

 

the-painter-from-shanghaiThe Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein

Down the muddy waters of the Yangtze River, through the raucous glamour of prewar Shanghai and the bohemian splendor of 1920s Paris, and back to a China teetering on the brink of revolution: this is the epic story of Pan Yuliang, one of the most talented—and provocative—Chinese artists of the twentieth century.

Historical fiction so researched and rich in details that you will find yourself completely immersed in another time and place.

 

 

a-secret-kept A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay

Antoine Rey thought he had the perfect surprise for his sister Mélanie’s birthday: a weekend by the sea at Noirmoutier Island , where the pair spent many happy childhood summers playing on the beach. But the island’s haunting beauty triggers more than happy memories.

A French family, a fascinating story, and an unraveling secret at the heart of it all that will keep you reading well past your bedtime. Beware: you may finish de Rosnay’s mystery novel in one go!

 

 

the-namesakeThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. Son, Gogol Ganguli, knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs.’

Rather than follow a plot, this book follows a life. The resulting prose is breathtaking in it’s beauty.

 

behind-the-beautiful-foreversBehind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

In this book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in a makeshift settlement near the Mumbai airport. Based on years of uncompromising reporting, it carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.

True to the style of “embedded journalism,” Boo embedded herself in a slum so readers could see, hear, and understand the residents and their challenges.

 

What are YOU reading this Fall? Share below! 

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April favorites.

April Favorites collage

With the turning of the calendar page from April to May, it’s time to bundle together the best products, places, media and everything in between from the last month. Here are 9 things I found myself loving in April…

1. Pocket Letters

If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ll know I’ve been going a little Pocket Letter crazy this month. I just can’t get enough. For those curious, Pocket Letters are a genius way to send someone (pen pal, friend, stranger, etc.) a little mailbox surprise! Essentially, you take a 3×3 baseball card holder, decorate it to your heart’s content, tuck in some stationery goodies for your pal, and mail it off. Here’s a TUTORIAL if you’d like to learn more. I’ve been making these for a little while now, but I only recently hopped on PocketLetterPals.com to start arranging swaps with peeps from across the country. The resulting deliveries have made mail time a giddy experience. (If you’re interested in swapping leave a comment below!) 

2. Ballet

While I’m hopelessly devoted to my yoga practice, the month of April saw me dusting off my ballet shoes for a bit of barre work. I turned to YouTube (of course!) and was able to rustle up a few videos of actual ballet classes. I then got to work and have been trying to incorporate ballet into my workout routine on a weekly basis. For me no other exercise ever seems as effective yet effortless as ballet. I can have sweat dripping down my neck all with a smile on my face. Maybe because it has been a part of my life for so long? *cue that scene in Center Stage where Juliette Simone/Julie Simon talks about the barre being home.*

3. Graze snacks

If you wanna up your snacking game, you GOTTA check out Graze. Graze is a snack subscription service that sends you 4 or 8 individually packaged snacks weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. I’ve gotten two boxes so far and I gotta tell ya…I am HOOKED. Each snack I’ve tried has been delicious and perfectly portioned. And you can’t beat the convenience! My favorite snack so far has gotta go to the Honeycomb Flapjack which Graze describes as a “rustic rolled oat flapjack with honeycomb and chocolate drizzle.” It’s legit better than a candy bar. YUM!

4. Homestead Town Hall Museum

On a recent #AdventureSaturday, Chet and I decided to explore Historic Downtown Homestead. Normally when we spend a Saturday in Homestead it’s at the beach. But this time around we decided to stay on dry land and see what else the city had to offer. Downtown Homestead is definitely a blink and you’ll miss it stretch of road but it does offer some quaint places — an old theater with a retro marquis, a park with an amphitheater, and the Homestead Town Hall Museum. After chowing down on some amazing Cuban food at a little hole-in-the-wall attached to the local bus station, we headed to the museum. Admission is free and was totally time well spent just for the eccentric docent who showed us around. (Although she did try to convince us to sit down in a couple of folding chairs to watch an HOUR long documentary about Homestead on a rinky-dink TV. Not gonna happen, lady.)

5. Free printables

One of the joys of wedding planning on a budget has been scouring the internet for ways to cut corners. My favorite way so far? Free printables. They are so fun to tinker around with. Pictured above is one I found for a Thumbprint Guestbook. It is so simple and fun! I love the idea of having it out at our reception with some ink pads and asking guests to create the leaves. Wouldn’t it be lovely to frame that as a keepsake? What a beautiful reminder of all our “people” and the special family tree we’ve created for ourselves, both with our actual family and the folks who’ve become our family.

6. Washi tape

I LOVE washi tape. This month I’ve been using it a ton to decorate pocket letters (see above) and my planner (see below). Last week we stumbled upon an office supply store that was going out of business and I stocked up. My other favorite places to find washi? Target, Dollar Tree, and Ikea. Ikea sells packs of four for FIFTY CENTS. Hello!?! Need I say more.

7. Target Dollar Spot planner

I started using my Target Dollar Spot planner on April 1st and the obsession is still going strong. In case you’re wondering, I call it the Target Dollar Spot planner because it was created from 3 components purchased at Target in the $1-$3 section. A mini binder, dividers/weekly inserts, and folders/monthly inserts. Each of these “kits” was $3. While I utilize this planner for weekly and monthly planning, I’ve also been trying my hand at planner decorating. (Inspired by CheapCraftyGirl on YouTube.) It’s a fun activity to sit down on a Sunday night and decorate the next week’s spread! And it’s also a cool way to use some of the stationery goodies I receive in my pocket letters. Paper crafting for the win!

8. The Brain Candy Podcast

Confession: I’m a LONG time viewer of The Real World, Road Rules, and The Challenge. I have never “out grown” these shows and continue to enjoy, especially The Challenge, to this day. The advent of social media has taken my interest in reality TV in a different direction. I love keeping up with cast members on Twitter and Instagram because seeing what D-List celebs do in their day to day is just as interesting (if not more) to me than watching them on a show. Anyways, that’s all to say, I follow the two ladies responsible for this podcast on social media. So when they started promoting this endeavor I was totally into it. It’s hosted by Susie Meister (RR: Down Under) and Sarah Rice (RW: Brooklyn) and is billed as “candy for your left brain and your right brain.” While some episodes are about The Challenge (both Susie and Sarah have competed multiple times on the show), many are not. They cover everything from cults to travel to DIY. It is super easy listening…kind of like you’re eavesdropping on two intelligent girlfriends having a chat. Oh, and usually wine is involved!

9. Uncovered by Leah Lax

If women and religion, and how the two intersect, is of interest to you, then this memoir is a must-read. I love learning about different religions and recently realized I didn’t know too much about the lives of Hasidic Jews. I picked up this memoir at my local library and couldn’t put it down. It tells the story of Leah Lax who left her liberal, secular home as a teenager for a life as a Hasidic Jew. Lax recounts her experiences with arranged marriage, fundamentalist faith, and motherhood during her time with the Hasidim, and exposes how her creative, sexual, and spiritual longings existed beneath the surface throughout her time there. This book taught me a lot about this particular faith through the eyes of a woman who lived it and then left it.

 

Kentucky Kicks Ass: Books to read if you love the Commonwealth.

kentucky horse

I love Kentucky. I’m proud to be from The Bluegrass State and was lucky enough to “hang my hat” there for so many years. Now that I’ve moved further South, I’ve been considering the ways in which people connect to a sense of home. Whether it be through a special meal or a well-worn family heirloom, we all maintain tethers to those places we hold most important. Today, I thought it would be fun to explore a few literary connections to my home state. If you, like me, have a soft spot for thoroughbreds, college basketball, bourbon, and all the beautiful scenery between Paducah and Pikeville; then these books are for you. Some are written by Kentucky authors. Some explore Kentucky through setting and characters. Whether you currently call Kentucky home or look fondly upon the time that you once did, here are 5 books to read if you love the Commonwealth:

the coal tattoo

The Coal Tattoo by Silas House

Mining the storytelling tradition of Appalachia, House tells the story of two very different sisters. Lovingly constructed characters, a deep understanding of mountain folk’s religiosity, and strong imagery coalesce  to create a tale about what brings people together and tears them apart. A gripping read.

night rider

Night Rider by Robert Penn Warren

This is Robert Penn Warren’s first novel and details the tobacco wars which once plagued the state of Kentucky. A classic Southern tale featuring a main character who will do anything to set himself apart in the outbreak of violence.

the memory keepers daughter

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards 

Set in Kentucky and spanning one family’s journey over a quarter of a century, this book is dramatic and captivating and mysterious. Playing out the resulting years after a father makes a split-second decision, it’s plot makes for a story that’s hard to put down.

appalachian elegy

Appalachian Elegy by bell hooks

This book of poetry is inspired by hooks’ childhood in the hollows and hills of Kentucky. She expertly touches on matters both political and confessional, painting a truthful portrait of life in Appalachia narrated by someone grappling with the slow loss of this very identity.

coal miners daughter

Coal Miner’s Daughter by Loretta Lynn with George Vecsey

Don’t ya just love a good rags to riches tale? They always make me think of this cartoon — safely covering both ends of the spectrum! This one tells the story of country music star Loretta Lynn. Covering her early life in Butcher Holler, KY and her rise to fame, we learn the paths she took to become a prolific songwriter and an influential woman in the music industry.

P.S. No brainer: You should also pick up anything ever by Wendell Berry and give it a read! You may also want to read Players First by John Calipari to prove how blue you bleed. Or, if you can get your hands on a copy, Pauline’s by Pauline Tabor, a memoir about a famous madam who managed a brothel in Bowling Green, is AMAZING. Speaking of…if you have MY copy of Pauline’s, I WANT IT BACK!

Now it’s your turn! From Kentucky or call the Commonwealth home? What books do you think fellow Kentuckians should pick up? Not a Kentucky guy or gal? What books connect you to YOUR home?! I’d love to hear! 

The 365 Sentence Memoir Project

Recently, my sister Katie told me about a genius project she is undertaking and I wanted her to share it with you guys! She is a wonderful and creative recorder of her thoughts and history (a quality I deeply wish I possessed), and her newest take on journaling would be an awesome summer activity for those of you eager to get the writing juices flowing (or well-oiled if you’re on a break from school). Let’s learn more…

365 day memoir

For a very long time, I didn’t necessarily identify as a “writer.”  In fact, I would never say I was one.  I was (and am) a musical theatre actress.  Last December, when I had the first reading of the musical I wrote  there was a press release that said “Join Playwright Katie Berger as she shares her original musical.”  My thought process went like this: “Playwright Katie Berger?  That’s me?  Oh, yea that’s ME!!  Of course I’m a writer!  I literally write all the time!  It’s one of my very favorite things to do in the world! I wrote a musical!”  Anyway, since then I have been asked numerous times for advice and even though I feel very unqualified to give tips of any kind I always say “Make sure you write every day, even if it’s only a sentence.”  Thus my newest project was born.  Every day for a year, I will be writing a one sentence story.  By the end of the year, I will have a 365 sentence long memoir. A year is a while to wait though, so here is a peek:

 

4-22

She found herself hiding in every single song on the radio.

 

4-23

It wasn’t exactly that she was heart broken but the rain relentlessly fell on her umbrella and she was definitely glad it wasn’t sunny.

 

4-24

She loved them so much that she absolutely would, without question, stay trapped in a mine if it meant she could hallucinate from lack of oxygen with them, and she took great comfort in the fact that they felt the same way about her.

 

4-25

He could make her smile harder than just about anyone.

 

4-26

Let’s get married if we both aren’t, she joked, and he said earnestly I would jump at the chance.

 

4-27

Sometimes it’s nice to have someone hand you a beer, crank up the show tunes, and dance the night away with.

 

4-28

She looked down at her flannel shirt and her polka dot skirt and her knee socks and boots and pushed up her thick rimmed glasses and chuckled at the fact that after so long trying to escape the manic pixie dream girl trope here she was delivering a handwritten letter to a boy trapped inside his own anger and when she got back home she would probably play her ukulele and dance by herself to her Ben Folds a cappella cd and she thought maybe it’s okay to be a walking stereotype because this is exactly who I am when no one is watching.

 

4-29

She realized that starting tomorrow she will have spent more time on this earth without him than with him.

 

4-30

She laughed so hard she couldn’t breathe and maybe it was because everything always seemed a bit absurd on the anniversary of her dad’s death or maybe it was because she felt slightly feverish but it was probably because the response she got from her handwritten, heart felt letter was “my chinchilla chewed the paper.”

everything you ever wanted by jillian lauren

Writer Jillian Lauren made quite a splash with her first book, Some Girls. The book, which details her eighteen months in the harem of Prince Jefri Bolkiah, youngest brother of the Sultan of Brunei, was a New York Times bestseller. So, where does one go from there? After tossing aside the poor student-life in New York City for a life of palaces and high-roller sex trafficking? Eager to find out, when I was offered a pre-release copy of Lauren’s newest memoir, I jumped at the chance. Admittedly, I love a good memoir. And a memoir by a former drug addict and concubine seemed like a pretty good bet to me.

jillian laurenI first heard pieces of Jillian Lauren’s story on The Moth. But her tale didn’t end after getting clean. Everything You Ever Wanted begins with Lauren in cosmetology school, attempting to make a more sustainable life for herself. She meets Scott Shriner (bassist for Weezer, small world) and falls crazy in love. Thus begins the tumultuous and intense journey of trying to have a child. After medical interventions and lots of super L.A. boho conception rituals, the obvious choice becomes clear, and the couple adopts an Ethiopian son. What follows is a love story between mother and child. Tender and painful. Heart warming and heart wrenching. While this book has keen lessons for any readers, I think it is a must-read for all the moms out there. (And just in time for Mother’s Day! Fancy that!) A fairly quick read, it would be a nice one to pick up for lazy summer days or a future plane ride.

everything you ever wanted cover

Lauren’s story is a great lesson in redemption and reinvention. It’s a narrative which shows how the ability to be who we truly want to be was there all along. We were the ones with the power. The telling is honest and the writing is witty. Lauren’s journey is a struggle and the candid recollection of that struggle allows readers to go along for the ride. You can tell she wants us to find beauty in all the terribly un-glamorous aspects of motherhood. Specifically, her ability to come to terms with her own childhood through becoming an adoptive mother, just as HER mother did before her. I think this book could be especially helpful for those walking a similar adoption path. At the end of the day, Everything You Ever Wanted is a masterfully penned love letter to one very lucky and loved child from a mother whose unique past has had a profound impact on her need to write it.

I would HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone and do hope you’ll give it a look. Perhaps it will inspire you to pen your own love letters! And lucky for you lot, in honor of today’s official launch of the memoir on Amazon, I’m giving away ONE FREE COPY to one of my dear readers.

To win your very own copy of EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED BY JILLIAN LAUREN, simply comment below and tell me what book you’re currently reading and how you like it! I’ll choose the winner a week from today (May 12th). Good luck!  GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNER, MADDIE! 

jillian lauren family

 

Girl Crush: Amy Poehler

amypoehler

It seems everyone and their mom has picked up Amy Poehler’s new book Yes Please as their kick off read of 2015. With a load of books ahead of this one in my personal queue, I still couldn’t help myself…I cracked it open to check out the first few pages and then couldn’t put it down. Now I’m even more in love with Amy Poehler than I was after watching Parks and Rec. While Amy is clearly hilarious and there are laugh out loud moments of honesty, I actually found myself tearing up during several passages. Her descriptions of friendships and creating things together just take me to a place. Plus, it’s a great behind the scenes look at Upright Citizens Brigade, SNL, Parks and Recreation and all those awards show bits orchestrated by Poehler.

If you haven’t yet, definitely give this book a read. But you’ve been warned, you might get a little bummed that you’re not BFF’s with Amy Poehler…yet.

Plus, isn’t this so wonderfully true? Such a good reminder–

“Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.”

(Photo via here.)

Strawberry Walks into Bar.

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I just finished this book, girl walks into a bar. by Strawberry Saroyan, that I scored last year at the Friends of the Library book sale for a buck. While at times the memoir feels a bit banal, it does paint a clear picture of life in the magazine (and pseudo-famous) world of the angst-riddled 90’s. The memoir is split into chapters which read more like individual essays as opposed to supporting an over-arching story, yet thematically they all work in the context of the title–Saroyan seems to have “come of age” so to speak in the various bars she frequented.

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Here she discusses her ritual of going to bars every Thursday night with a group of friends she made after moving cross country in her mid-20’s:

We weren’t just people who hung out at a bar one evening a week together, trying to valet our screwed-up cars as discreetly as possible before dashing in in our fancy duds. We were friends. For even though they’d all seemed so glittering to me, the truth was we were all, to varying degrees, alone: Rich or poor, ascending or not, we were almost all professionally freelance, and personally single.

We were all edging toward thirty, too, without the family and kids that some of us had been taught to expect by this time, but even more than that, without the sense of being adults that had been implicitly promised us. None of us felt like adults. And it’s something that I’ve still rarely heard acknowledged, but that I find to be almost frighteningly true: No one ever tells you that you’re never going to feel grown-up.

Proto Lena Dunham Lena Dunham-y, amirite? Basically, if you find hipster-y lifestyle blogs and Girls entertaining and painfully relatable I think you’ll dig this book. (And the last essay reads a bit like Frances Ha.) Just don’t go into it expecting a narrative because all you’re gonna get are some general quarter-life crises musings.

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I enjoyed this book best while munching on self-made trail mix and drinking a berry smoothie. My favorite of the essays was the bounty boys.

P.S. Check out this piece Strawberry wrote for The New York Times in 2004 after Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter Apple. Those fruit-named gals have to stick together, I suppose.