If you’re a regular reader here, you know that I’ve been reading a whole lot lately. The best book I’ve read so far is Julie Buntin’s Marlena, and it’s hard to imagine anything that will top it. Set in mid-90’s Michigan, it’s the story of a girl who tries to figure out what really happened to her friend. A bit of a trope lately, but the story really stuck with me, and Buntin’s writing is incredible.
Another book discovery, the Libby app is my new favorite thing. Similar to Scribd and Hoopla, Libby is affiliated with libraries, and I find it easier to navigate than Overdrive. You can check out audiobooks or eBooks, and send books to your Kindle or read them in the app (so even if you don’t own an eReader, you can still check out eBooks from the library.) Another way to save tons of money while shoveling through the never-ending TBR list!
This is definitely a different… subject than I typically share here, but I try to be pretty sex-positive, and over the holidays I discovered Unbound. They’re a sex toy eCommerce site that’s super tech- and femme-focused, and they have a quarterly box subscription. In addition to sexual health and wellness products and toys, they also have really fun feminist t-shirts, tote bags, and more.
DESSA’S NEW RECORD IS OUT!! Writer, rapper, and general badass, Chime is my album of the year and my favorite of hers to date. It explores feminism and gender, and even her experience in neuroscience experiments in trying to force herself out of love. (That part is worth exploring on its own.)
I’m a little bit late to podcasts, honestly. I liked My Favorite Murder for awhile, I like And That’s Why We Drink a lot, but I never got around to listening to My Brother, My Brother and Me until boyfriend showed me the TV show. The McElroy brothers are super funny, and two of them host my new favorite YouTube discovery, Monster Factory.
I’ve been reading more than ever the past few months. My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading.
Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.)
Some books are provided by the publisher through NetGalley or as physical advanced reading copies in exchange for an honest review.
Coming Clean: When this book was published in 2013, I heard the author give an interview on NPR. When I found it on Prime Reading, I was excited to finally read it, but… this book was hard to listen to. I knew it would be. It’s well-written, and the narrator is fine, but it’s one I can’t read at my normal speed because it’s very close to home.
Limited Edition (Ideal Standard): I read this titled Limited Edition on NetGalley, but it’s on Amazon as Ideal Standard – I assume the story is still the same. It’s about Claire, a 30-something who is neurotic about getting older alone… which would have felt very close to home a year ago. It’s a comic, which I’m getting into more and more, and I liked the story but did find it a little hard to follow sometimes. The font used for the text can be a little hard to read occasionally, and the limited colors (while really stunning) don’t lend a lot of help in keeping track of the story, but I thought it was a fun read. If you’re nearing 30 and want to get into comics or graphic novels, give this one a read.
Welcome to Night Vale (Book 1): For a long time I’ve wanted to get into the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, but it’s a little overwhelming to navigate. Do you have to start at the beginning? (Turns out, no.) One of our prompts, a book with a purple spine, proved a lot more difficult to fill than expected, so I was pretty pumped to find this book. I listened to the audiobook – it’s narrated by the voice of the podcast, so it’s a really good way to jump into this fictional desert town. The book was long and the beginning was a little slow to weave the two main characters together, but it was a really fun listen for long drives to Michigan!
Eleanor & Park: Another one that has long languished on the TBR list, I decided to use this as a palette cleanser this month. It was… fine? I liked that it did throw a little bit of a twist on the typical high school romance story, but overall Rainbow Rowell’s books have been extremely hit or miss for me, and this is another that just didn’t land.
The Reminders: I’ve long loved Val Emmich – his Little Daggers album is still one of my most often played albums. I had looked forward to this book for awhile and got it when it came out, but didn’t get around to it until now. The story is very unique – told from the alternating perspectives of a young girl and a 30-something Hollywood actor – and I hung on it throughout.
The Hate U Give: I read this book over the course of a day and a half – I just couldn’t put it down. It was very well-written with characters you care about, actions that upset you, and I just found the story very affecting. There’s nothing else to say – this is one of the rare books that is deserving of all of its hype.
Hunger: I wanted and expected to love this book, but honestly, I didn’t at all. It felt unfinished and rushed – a friend described it as feeling like a first draft, and I agree. At one point I actually screamed out loud “sis, go to therapy.”
Blackout: Drinking memoirs are my book of choice, and this was good, but not as much of a standout as Drinking: A Love Story. I liked that it was different because so much of her story is actually absent and she had to recover it along the way, and there’s a whole chunk of my life that I’d have to hunt answers down in a similar way.
the witch doesn’t burn in this one: the witch doesn’t burn in this one is really excellent prose and poetry. The poems here inspire readers to fight the patriarchy and demand more than what women have been given in the past. It’s a quick read with excellent structure and formatting, and I liked it a lot more than the princess saves herself in this one.
Go: Very meh. I liked the message but it was a confusing read – maybe things were lost in translation but there wasn’t enough background for some of the Japanese or Korean terms used – Kindle First is a new find for me, and I can’t wait for the new month to try another book. Go fulfilled a prompt in our challenge I was struggling with, so I grabbed that for February. Liked the mystery of the girl. So much fighting.
The Assistants: This was my biggest disappointment of the month. It was nowhere near as good as I had hoped. I liked the story, and it was a fine chick lit read, but didn’t live up to the hype for me at all.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson: I love John Green, and this was a quick and fine book, but the end didn’t give me a whole lot of resolution. I’m also finding that I’m not the biggest David Leviathan fan – I’ve tried to read two other books he’s co-written and haven’t been able to.
In the tradition of The Emperor’s Children and The House of Mirth, the forgotten granddaughter of one of New York’s wealthiest men is reunited with her family just as she comes of age—and once she’s had a glimpse of their glittering world, she refuses to let it go without a fight.
When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.
Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth.
For me, the best part of the book was the character development woven throughout the book – there’s not a lot of it, because part of the story is how unlikable and shallow these people are. But the main character, Laila, starts out as sympathetic – she doesn’t start with the life she should have had, and you really love to hate her. After her mom dies and she moves to New York City to join the rest of her family, living with her spoiled brat cousin Nora, she starts to get engrained with high society and things take a turn as she gets deeper and deeper. Think sex, lies, and cell phone pictures.
There’s a twist toward the end of the story that I never saw coming (and I pride myself on predicting these things.) It did seem like it was just a touch too long – the first 2/3rds could have been combined a bit – but I did really like the ending and how things turn out.
This Gossip Girl-esque family drama is a really nice late winter read – get snowed in, fluff up the pillows, and spend the weekend in NYC with the Lawrences. Andrea Dunlop‘s voice is the perfect timbre for these characters, but at the same time, if those types of characters don’t speak to you… steer clear of this one.
I’ve been reading more books than ever the past few months. My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading.
Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.) Here’s what I read this month, including what you should pick up and what you should DEFINITELY let lay!
Marlena: This debut from Julie Buntin had been on my TBR since last May, and during our Brooklyn trip, two girlfriends were reading and raving about it. It’s easy to understand why – set in two timelines, it’s the story of a woman trying to unravel what might have really happened to her teenage best friend many years before. It’s really engaging and I struggled to put it down – it’s my favorite book of the year, and I can’t recommend it enough.
A Bad Idea I’m About to Do: Chris Gethard has long been one of my favorite comedians – his HBO special from last year, Career Suicide, is dark and funny, and I look forward to his TV show every week more than any other. I finally got around to reading this and it was just as hilarious – and the way he waxes poetic about a colonic made me want to get one, for the first time in my life.
What Made Maddy Run: At the risk of using a trope, I found this story breathtaking. I first heard about Madison Holleran in Kate Fagan’s 2015 Split Image piece on ESPN.com. When I saw that she was writing a full-length book about it, I knew I’d have to read it. It’s heartbreaking that Maddy didn’t feel like she had a way out, but it’s a feeling that’s way too familiar, and her story in particular shows that mental illness doesn’t discriminate.
Heist Society Series, Book 1 and Book 2: These were fast, fun reads. Dani had suggested I read them a while ago, and they fit two prompts for our challenge. Nothing super remarkable about them, but nice palette cleansers between heavier, meatier books. (The first book is on Prime reading, too, which is nice if you’re a Kindle user!)
The Spectacular Now: Oh boy. I don’t have anything nice to say about this at all. I used this to fill my “a book that’s been on your to be read list for too long,” and had actually looked forward to it. No one should read this book. I actually found it to be really harmful and problematic. There’s absolutely nothing redeeming about it. The (male) main character is a 16-year-old womanizing alcoholic, which they don’t mention in any of the marketing for the book. I only finished it because I felt like I had to – I was just waiting for something to make it better, and it never came. It’s up there with the James Franco mess that, upon finishing, I had to get out of my house immediately.
Violet & Claire: This was for our “book you’ve read before” prompt. Of all the books I’ve read, I’m not sure why I picked this one. It’s obviously not meant for a 31-year-old to read, but I guess I just wanted to relive my grade 6 book choices. It’s just really trite and about as unrealistic as you can get, which is probably the point, but a high schooler getting a movie deal? Not in a million years.
What have you been reading this chilly January? Leave your book recs below!
Winter is categorically the worst, but as always, there are some good things to find in it. Here are a few things I’ve been enjoying the last few weeks!
I’ve wanted to take a development class for awhile, so I recently signed up for Skillcrush’s Front End Dev blueprint. Class hasn’t started yet, but I’ve poked around a little bit to check out what the dashboard and interface are like, and I really like how it seems to be structured and laid out.
It’s no secret at all that I love The Hold Steady – if you don’t know that, you’re probably new here. Last month they put out their first new tracks since 2014, and I was so happy hearing them that I cried in my car so hard that my eyes were all puffy and ugly when I walked into my grandparent’s house. When my mom asked me what was wrong, all I said was “new Hold Steady,” and she understood. “Entitlement Crew” is particularly great, and the album artwork is really fun.
Last year I got very into spoken word poetry, particularly Button Poetry videos. During a binge, Olivia Gatwood’s “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” came on, and I fell so in love with it and her that I ordered her book New American Best Friendright away. It includes some poems you can find easily online, but some new ones as well, and they’re all gems.
I missed out on Happy Endings in its first run, but The Mindy Project made me an Adam Pally stan, so boyfriend popped this show on one night. It’s hilarious, and it takes place in Chicago – another big bonus. If you need something to fill the Mindy Project or Parks and Rec-sized hole in your heart, give this a try.
My now-boyfriend told me about Sleep With Me a little over a year ago, pre-dating status, and I’ve tried it off and on since then. If you ever struggle with falling asleep, or have racing thoughts before bed, pop on one of these episodes and let Scooter soothe you to sleep.
Amazon’s new Amazon Prime Samples program is super cool. For $2-$4, you can order smaller quantities of things you’ve wanted to try – mostly food and beauty products. Then that money is applied to a future purchase in the same category – it’s a little like a buy one get one free deal, and I’ve totally stocked my protein cabinet from them!
Yes, I 100% took a screenshot for proof.
Another discovery that I’m late on: 2048. Have you guys played this?! I missed out on it when it was first super popular a few years ago, but now I’m super obsessed. I’ve beaten the classic game once, and on my iPhone, I constantly have a round of City 2048 going.
I’ll finish out with a blog. A friend of a Twitter friend, Tina, runs a book blog called TBR Etc. that I’ve been super into. I’ve picked up some great recommendations from her already, and I look forward to finding even more. If you’re a book nerd, check her out for some serious book goalspiration!