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march book club 2018

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march 2018 book reviews

I’ve been reading more than ever the past few months. My boyfriend got me a Kindlelast 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.)

*Denotes that the publisher provided an ARC for review and honest feedback.

Note to Self: I really wanted to like this book. I really, really did. Great cover and I love the different media – between photos, essays, and poems, it seemed right up my alley. I wasn’t sure who the author was, but he makes it clear in the first couple of pages that I should – whoops, sorry about your ego. I did like the photos a lot and recommend reading on a color device or physical copy to really appreciate them if you do decide to read it. There was some pretty blatant John Green plagiarism going on, though, so I wasn’t a fan of that either.

When Breath Becomes Air: When my mom was in the initial stages of getting tested for a cancer recurrence, I picked up this book because it’s been so highly recommended and I knew the author died of cancer. I didn’t love the narrator so it was hard to really get into, but it’s a rare book that I would re-read physically after trying to listen to the audiobook.

Final Draft*: I really liked the slow unwind of this plot – the main character’s growth happens slowly over the book, which I really enjoyed. There’s not one impetus for change, there are several, and it’s believable that each change would affect Laila the way it does. The main character is a writer, and I also liked that there were parts of her stories woven in.

Other than that, I felt like the plot was a little bit confused. About two-thirds through the book, it felt like the plot changed, which seemed a little strange for me. It was also a little slow for me in the beginning, so it was hard to get into, but overall pretty good.

The Showrunner*: This was a really fun chick lit read that will be a perfect beach read. Focusing on three women who are producing an up-and-coming hit TV show, the drama between them, and what lengths they’ll go to to come out on top, there’s a twist toward the end of the book that I didn’t see coming. I liked the format of the book – entries from one of the character’s journals keeps the story moving along between scenes – and it will be great for summer vacations or road trips.

Good Clean Fun: I’m arguably not the target audience for this book, but I’ll listen to Nick Offerman say or read anything. This actually was a great memoir about the people he’s become close with because of woodworking, and I recommend it if you’re a Parks and Rec fan or if you’re into Wilco, as Jeff Tweedy performs some songs Nick wrote to accompany the book. And of course I suggest the audiobook for this one – there’s no voice more calming than Nick Offerman!

I’m Just a Person: Another book I picked up in the aftermath of finding out my mom has cancer. I love Tig Notaro, and I remembered the Fresh Air interview she did a few years ago talking about her now-famous set at Largo shortly after her diagnosis. I finally listened to that set while reading the book, and it’s so interesting how the delivery changes all the meaning. Listening to Live, the album released after the show, she sounds affable, not scared, and very funny. In the book, you hear her trepidation and fear, and they should definitely be read/listened to together.

August and Everything After*: This was a fun, easy read – a good palette cleanser between the more fact-based non-fiction I’ve been reading. The main character, Quinn, joins a band on drums, shows an aptitude for sound engineering, and stands up for herself when a boy tries to use her. YA could use more protagonists like her.

Choose Your Own Misery: Dating: This was a funny book that lets you assume different dating personas and swipe on through the book – it was really funny. First I answered as though I normally would in the scenarios, but I read through it a few more times trying to just make the dates and relationships as funny and ridiculous as possible, and the authors definitely rewarded that stance! This would be a really funny gift for any serial singles, or anyone trying to navigate the weird world of dating apps for the first time.

A Taxonomy of Love: Told through narrative, letters, emails, and chat logs, it’s a sweet love and coming-of-age story. It’s a little different from other YA romances – there’s a death and disability woven into the love story – and I liked seeing the main character come into his own, connect with his father, and get redemption after a misunderstanding lasting several years.

We Should All Be Feminists: One of my goals this year was to read more books by women, particularly women of color, and more books about feminism. This is actually taken from a TEDx talk Adichie gave, and brings up some great points. Being called a feminist shouldn’t be a bad thing – and we should all stand up and be proud to be feminist and demand equality.

Murder, Lies and Cover-Ups*: For the “book about conspiracy theories” prompt, I was struggling until I saw this pop up in NetGalley. I was pretty pumped – five celebrity deaths and a study into the conspiracy theories behind them. It was… not what I expected. My first major problem was that the author says that Elvis was discovered by Sam Phillips at Sun Records – not true. Sam had repeatedly rebuffed Elvis and finally the receptionist Marion Keisker passed along a 45 that Elvis had recorded on his own… but I digress from this lesson in Powerful Women in the Memphis Music Scene. For four of the celebrities, the author does present some conspiracy theories – then he closes the book with Michael Jackson, which he doesn’t posit any conspiracies or murder theories for – he basically says that addiction killed him, which is true. (He also, oddly, includes part of a Conrad Murray interview where he talks about holding Michael Jackson’s penis. It’s an odd thing to include, and feels very unnecessary.) I don’t really recommend this.

Mother, Can You Not?: I’m listening to a lot more audiobooks with my new role at work, and I’m finding that pithy comedy or memoirs are the best to listen to. This book is based on the CrazyJewishMom Twitter account, and it’s voiced by the real life mother/daughter duo. I can’t relate, but it’s hilariously funny.

sMOTHERed*: I’ll do a longer review on this in a few months but I LOVED it. It was great to read in conjunction with Mother, Can You Not? because those two women would have a lot of things in common.

Everybody’s Got Something: With my mom’s recent cancer diagnosis, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and listening to books by survivors. I’ve always admired Robin Roberts, and her memoir reinforces that for me. Not only is it reassuring to hear about her medical journey, she also discusses losing her mom and the hospice process they went through with her – very similar to what we went through with my grandma. It’s a nice reminder that you’re never really alone.

Hot Mess*: Reading this has been interesting. It might have just been me, but I was taken on a real journey about Benji – he went from sounding like the dream, to the reader being very skeptical of him – or maybe it’s just that I’m pretty trained to look for addict behavior (thanks, Dr. Drew.) I did think it was a pretty good book, if a few pages too long.

What are you reading this month?

April 2, 2018

monthly roundup no. 7: march 2018

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It’s the end of March which means spring is officially here. That means it will finally get warm… right? RIGHT?! This long-lasting chill is making me crazy. Going through my Pocket this month shows me that I’ve been really career-minded lately, and this link round-up post is pretty indicative of that. Read on for some great resources to check out to build your employability and get organized (and also get clean teeth with really cute toothbrushes)!

Signature is one of my new favorite blogs, and their Memoir Writing Guide is awesome. I don’t have any grand plans to publish my own memoir, but past therapists have given me exercises to write about traumas and tough memories – this guide helped give me some more prompts on how to get started on this, and I love writing exercises.

I’m not a hypochondriac (said every hypochondriac ever,) but my family history of cancer has given me some pretty severe anxiety. Any weird ache or pain or ailment or symptom and I’m convinced that I’m the next in line for chemo. This post from WBUR on onco-anxiety – this specific fear I have is actually so common that it has a name – helps me realize that it’s a pretty valid fear for many.

Marisa Mohi is a Twitter friend-of-a-friend with a fantastic blog and super cute Etsy shop. I’ve been gearing up to clean and reorganize my office for literal months – this post with ideas on desk organization for creatives is what has finally gotten me off my butt to get moving.

Marlow is a new business and employment blog, but they already have promise. This article on expanding your network was really helpful – I’m very guilty of being a bit narrow-sighted in thinking that since I’m so happy in my current job that I don’t need to put effort into my career or brand (not to mention I get pretty nervous and awkward at networking events.)

Google’s Digital Garage is a really great free educational resource to work on your employment skills. I’ve been doing some of the digital marketing activities here, and they’re super useful! If you’re looking to career shift or even just build on your current job skills, it’s a really nice resource.

I’ve been a very long-time fan and reader of The Billfold, and current editor Nicole Dieker launched a podcast last fall called Writing & Money. I’ve ramped up my freelance pitching game lately, and this podcast has really helped me feel confident in pitches and stories! < If you have a LinkedIn profile and use any kind of software in your job, you could earn Starbucks or Amazon gift cards for adding reviews to G2 Crowd. They do apparently have a limit so even if you use a seemingly endless amount of programs, they’ll eventually put a cap on your rewards, but I used my Amazon gift cards from them (in conjunction with the ones I’m still loading up on from Swagbucks) to score some sweet new workout wear and running shoes. 

The Student Loan Refinancing Blueprint: I’ve been thinking for awhile about refinancing my student loans. This post from Comet broke down a lot of the remaining questions I had and helped guide me through which of my loans (if any) would be good candidates for refinancing. I also found this student loan spreadsheet from Student Debt Warriors which made me confront all my outstanding debt and really break it all down – something I’ve pushed off and ignored for years.

And now for something completely different, BF subscribed us to Quip a few months ago. I’ve never had an electric toothbrush before, so it’s a whole new world for me, but I really love the toothbrush and the toothpaste is super good. The brush has a built-in timer with notifications every 30 seconds so you know when to switch sections of your mouth, and my teeth are the cleanest they’ve ever been.

Do you read a lot of business or employment articles? Share your faves with me – I love to read career-related posts!

March 30, 2018

tidying tech: digital spring cleaning

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Spring is here, finally. In addition to cleaning the house, purging the closet, and other seasonal cleaning, it’s also a good time to do a cleanout of your digital life. It’s easy to let things pile up in your email, on your phone, or in your download folder, which slows down devices and can even affect things like data safety and security. This type of tidying is probably my least favorite thing because I’m notoriously awful at emptying my inbox. While taking breaks from the physical aspects of spring cleaning the apartment, here’s a list of spring cleaning tasks for your digital life as well!

  • Clear tabs in your browser: That’s a live look at what my browsers look like at any given moment, and to be honest, this is a look even after I’d closed out of many. If you’re a culprit of this too, take a second to close anything you opened to read later – I like to use Pocket to save those links – and close out anything past or completed. Take a minute to go through your browser extensions as well. If there are any you aren’t using actively, removing them can speed up your browser and even protect your data (unsupported extensions can be hacked. Keep your information safe by revoking access to unsecured apps.)
  • Clear your saved bookmarks: I can’t be the only person who has managed to import decades worth of bookmarks from computer to computer. Most of the things in my bookmark menu are not only not anything I need to use anymore, but they probably aren’t even live websites anymore. Time to clear it out and make things I actually use regularly more accessible.
  • Hit Inbox Zero: For years, inbox zero has been my white whale. I aspire to it, and I can never quite get there. I use, but even my daily Rollup is a mess (not to mention the thousand or so mailing lists I haven’t rolled up yet.) Merlin Mann first popularized the Inbox Zero practice, and his way of thinking about inbox and email is helping me archive and clear out the junk.

While you’re spring cleaning, think about doing a quarterly review as well!

  • Delete old files from the cloud: Google Drive, Dropbox, pCloud, and other cloud services are great for backing up files, but harder to keep organized. In looking for a copy of my resume to update the other day (holla promotion, not-so-holla hunting down a current resume) I was faced with some that are over ten years old. Time to clean out all the old versions, past cover letters, and archive the college assignments you don’t need anymore.
  • Update your resume and portfolio: After locating your most current resume, take a look at it to make sure your duties are accurate for your current job and make any changes to your portfolio. You never know when you’ll need to brush it off, and there’s nothing worse than needing a presentable resume and having to rush around to update it.
  • Empty your downloads folder and recycle bin: In my job, members often attach files that I have to download for review – and I never remember to clear the folder on my computer. Check through your downloads, properly save and archive those you want to keep, then recycle the rest. Like the recycling bin in your house, clear that out as well.

What steps do you take to clean your home or digital life? Is spring cleaning something you look forward to, or do you dread it every year?

March 21, 2018

winter favorites 2018

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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.

What are you into this chilly winter?

March 6, 2018

february 2018 book club

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february book reviews

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.

She Regrets Nothing: I did a full review of this book, but if you liked Gossip Girl but wish it was a little more grown up, this is the one to pick up.

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.

What were you reading this month?

March 1, 2018