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july 2018 book club

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Even though I’ve been reading more than ever the past few months, this month I fell off a bit. After killing something like 50 books in the first five months of the year, I was just feeling burned out or overwhelmed by my list of books to read. There were several books that I utterly loved, though, so it wasn’t a total loss of a reading month! (Are they ever, though?)

My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading. This month was even more excessive than normal – a flight to California allowed for some dedicated reading time, and (finally) having really nice weather and setting up the patio office meant I just wanted to camp out with coffee and a book at all times!

Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year to increase our reading: 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 let lay!

Under the Harrow: This was the book Dani picked for me for our reading challenge, and I was so engrossed. I’m a little late to the mystery/thriller genre, but this was such a great pick. I’m typically pretty good at picking up on twists or surprises beforehand, but for the first time in this book I had absolutely no idea who did it. I read it in two days, so it’s definitely an engaging read.

We’re Going to Need More Wine: I like to listen to audiobooks while I’m working to keep me from getting completely sucked into my computer during testing, and I’d heard great things about this book, so I grabbed it from Libby when it came available. Gabrielle Union is a fantastic narrator, and it’s really lovely to hear about her life. She pulls no punches and the book begins with the racism she experienced growing up in school, continues to her experience hiding a friend who shot a cop, failed relationships and marriages, and even more. It’s no wonder this was on so many must-read lists.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

Tonight I’m Someone Else: A friend recommended this to me, and I really enjoyed it. A collection of essays from throughout the author’s life, there’s a lot of diversity. It’s pretty heavy and took me quite a few reads to get through, but if you like creative non-fiction, this is a great one to pick up.

Goodbye, Vitamin: I really really liked this book. The main character moves back home to take care of her dad whose Alzheimer’s is getting worse, which I can relate to. She’s fresh off a breakup, feels lost, and leaves her job to help her mom out and try to keep her dad’s life as normal as possible. Definitely recommend.

Big Magic: This book has been on my TBR list for awhile, and I grabbed the audiobook a few weeks ago. It’s a short book, and Elizabeth Gilbert narrates, and it hit upon a lot of beliefs around creativity that I didn’t even realize I have, like guilt and shame and esteem. Who knew? This is another one of the rare books I’m going to hunt a physical copy down to reinforce the concepts.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

#GIRLBOSS: I’m about seventy years behind on this one. I finally found a copy at Open Books during their 50% off sale and after sitting on multiple library wait lists for months, I grabbed the $3.50 copy. I really enjoyed this for a lot of the same reasons I liked Big Magic, like it’s okay to be a weirdo and creative and your message will still resonate with people! Some parts came off as a bit preachy to me, but not enough to make me stop reading.

Hey Ladies!!!: This book was hilarious. I read it on Scribd using my iPad, and pretty much read it in one day. It’s an easy read and even if you haven’t been included on an inane email chain about bachelorettes or weddings, you’ll still find it super funny. The illustrations are really good too. A fun one to flip through.

What are you reading this summer?

July 31, 2018
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june 2018 book club

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Even though I’ve been reading more than ever the past few months, this month I fell off a bit. After killing something like 50 books in the first five months of the year, I was just feeling burned out or overwhelmed by my list of books to read. There were several books that I utterly loved, though, so it wasn’t a total loss of a reading month! (Are they ever, though?)

My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading. This month was even more excessive than normal – a flight to California allowed for some dedicated reading time, and (finally) having really nice weather and setting up the patio office meant I just wanted to camp out with coffee and a book at all times!

Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year to increase our reading: 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 let lay!

Buffering: Other than scrolling past her show on the Food Network app, I knew very little about Hannah Hart before listening to her memoir. I really liked this book – she talks openly and honestly about her struggles as the daughter of a mentally ill mother and how that has shaped her life, both in childhood and as an adult. As someone who has gotten to caretake for older relatives, I related to parts of her story, and enjoyed the humor she infused throughout.

Back Talk: When Julie Buntin, author of one of my favorite books (Marlena), posted one of the shorts from this book to Electric Literature earlier this year, I knew I had to grab the book. The title short is phenomenal, and the stories range from two to 20 pages. Danielle is a fantastic writer, and though this took me awhile to get through, I definitely recommend it.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

Sharp Objects: I had never read anything by Gillian Flynn before – I know, I know, I’m behind the times. I picked her for one of our book challenge prompts (a local Chicago writer) but couldn’t hammer down which of her books to read. Dani helped me pick this one out, and it has everything I love – mystery, crime, mental health, Chicago, travel… you get the picture. It’s being turned into a TV series, and I can’t wait to see what they do with it.

The Hot One: Remember when Ashton Kutcher’s girlfriend died? I knew a bit of the story and was excited to read this when it first came out. It was…. not what I expected. The book is written by Ashley’s childhood “best friend,” and it becomes pretty clear pretty early on that the writer had some seriously jealous feelings about her. It’s full of victim blame, shame, and doesn’t put much onus on the actual murderer – really disappointing read, and I only finished it as a hate-read.

Natural Disaster: To say that I devoured this book is a gross understatement. Ginger Zee is from the same area of Michigan as me, and we had similar stories growing up. It was cool to watch her move from local stations to the Chicago market to finally Good Morning America, but her story proves that you never know what’s really going on behind a red lipsticked-smile. She opens the book talking about her depression – something brave and totally inspiring, and goes on to confess about a manipulative relationship that saw her calling the cops and an inpatient psychiatric stay before starting her dream job at ABC. I heavily recommend this book – it’s not a weather book at all, it’s a totally relatable memoir of what it’s like and how hard it is to work for your dreams while being unable to get out of bed for weeks at a time.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

Love Songs & Other Lies*: Between this book and August and Everything After, I’m not sure where the current girl musician trope in YA came from, but I’m here for it. I liked this book and it was an easy read to break my dry spell. There’s a small mystery in it, which adds some dimension, but I wish it was explored more – maybe an opening for a sequel!

Tell Me Lies: Tina said in her review of this book that fans of it would fall into a specific niche, but that people who love it would love it – and I loved it. It’s told from alternating viewpoints of two people in a relationship over several years of being together and not. The male is an entirely irredeemable character, and as someone who was in some pretty crappy relationships, I saw a lot of parallels (hence being the target for this book.) There’s a twist in I even I didn’t expect, and I really liked the full circle storytelling – I normally don’t like happily ever afters, but they worked for me here. I totally loved this book and I can’t wait to read more by Carola Lovering.

June 30, 2018
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best audiobooks ever

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best audiobooks

June is National Audiobook Month, which is great – I love audiobooks. Podcasts can be a fun way to pass time at work or on a commute, but audiobooks are just as great and educational. A few years ago when I was driving from Nashville back to my hometown in Michigan, I popped on Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid on Scribd, and it started two love affairs: one with audiobooks, the other with TJR. They can also be meditative – when I’m doing really repetitive tasks, or cleaning the house, it can be nice to have a narrative rather than back-and-forth gossip of a podcast or music. To celebrate this month, I’m sharing some of my favorite audiobooks!

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

Non-Fiction

For audiobooks, I tend toward non-fiction, especially memoirs. It’s a fun way to hear someone’s story in their own voice, in a way that’s a little different than just text on a page. Here are some faves:

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling: I listened to this last week in one workday and totally loved it. It’s Mindy’s second book, and in it, she dispenses lots of advice – from dating, self-confidence, the pressure on women to be thin, and the value of working hard. “Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse TysonWhat is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote (and narrates!) this book with quick answers to broad, big topics. It’s clever, it’s easy to understand, and it’s easy to turn on and off – he presents a lot of the information in easily digestible bites to fit into any schedule. I really liked this a lot, and it made me think a lot about the world and the universe.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler: Another memoir by a female comedian, this audiobook is awesome. Amy invites Seth Meyers to read a chapter, as well as Carol Burnett, and both are exceedingly funny. Plus, my friendo Craig Finn gets a shoutout – they went to college together in Boston. Small world. She dispenses a lot of advice about what it’s like to be a powerful woman, especially in male-dominated fields, and how she overcame the stigma of being too assertive.

Good Clean Fun by Nick Offerman: Seeing a pattern of specific non-fiction books I like? This was a random pick for work one day – I don’t have a particular interest in woodworking or construction, outside four years of high school theatre – it just seemed like a good workday listen. His voice is almost meditative – very calm, soothing, and would be a really great bedtime story, or even to pop on to calm anxiety.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore: I learned about “the radium girls” a few years ago from a Buzzfeed long read. In the 1910’s, many women in New Jersey took great jobs painting on watch faces – without any knowledge that they were being poisoned by radium, not knowing what consequences they would all eventually face. This book chronicles their story as well as the worker’s rights and labor laws their experience changed.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby and Hoopla– see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

Fiction

When listening to fiction, I look for books with multiple actors – it really helps me picture the action, and helps keep things straight! Plus, it’s more like listening to a fiction podcast, which is something I’m exploring more and more lately.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffery Cranor: I’ve wanted to get into the Welcome to Night Vale podcast for quite awhile, but was never sure where to start – when I saw their first book on Libby, it seemed like a great way to jump in. It’s a really unique story, and I loved the way it built and resolved. The narrator is excellent – he also hosts the podcast – and it’s plenty long, if that’s something you’re looking for!

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: To be fair, I haven’t actually finished this one yet. But I absolutely love the large and varied cast of voice actors, including Nick Offerman, Carrie Brownstein, Ben Stiller, Rainn Wilson, Kat Dennings, and even more – it makes it feel almost like an old-time radio show, with each character having their own voice. This was also the 2017 Audie winner, and it’s easy to understand why! Historical fiction is a very difficult genre for me to get into, and the way this audiobook is done, even I am enjoying it.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus: This is a bit of a long listen, which could be a good thing if you really want to get invested in the characters. The story of a high school murder mystery, someone dies during after-school detention, and the search to reveal who was really behind the death. This book also features multiple voice actors, so it’s easy to keep the characters straight – important for listeners who might otherwise get confused by dialog in fiction audiobooks.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: Admittedly, this book hasn’t come through my library holds yet, but I can’t wait to listen. Another nominee for the 2017 Audie Awards, the preview sounds great, and the book has widely gotten great reviews. Queue this one up on your phone for poolside listening and skip squinting at a book or eReader!

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I can’t finish the list off without a nod to what made this such a compelling listen for me. Voiced by actress Julia Whelan, the story is wonderful, but Whelan’s performance adds a lot to the story. It’s told in a dual timeline, from the point of view of Hannah Martin. Whelan changes her voice for each timeline to accurately reflect the person Hannah is, and what she’s going through, in each. If this book doesn’t sound up your alley, keep your eye out for anything narrated by her – she’s really wonderful and narrates the best audiobooks!

What do you think are the best audiobooks? What ones are your favorites? I’m always looking for new things to listen to during work or on the road!

June 11, 2018
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may book club 2018

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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. This month was even more excessive than normal – a flight to California allowed for some dedicated reading time, and (finally) having really nice weather and setting up the patio office meant I just wanted to camp out with coffee and a book at all times!

Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year to increase our reading: 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 let lay!

My Own Devices*: My queen Dessa wrote a memoir. And what an amazing story it is. I’m going to do a full review post on this eventually, but I’ll just say that if you’ve ever struggled in moving on from a breakup, this is a really fascinating read. It is absolutely the best book I’ll read this year.

The Pisces*: When I first read the summary of this book aloud to Dani, I thought there was no way I’d ever read it, but the book buzz got to me and I picked it up on Netgalley. This book was sexy, but I hated the main character. Which was possibly the point, but there was nothing redeemable or likable – maybe it’s because I felt too close to it, having someone similar to Lucy in my own life. Wouldn’t really recommend this one.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): This was a random pick from boyfriend’s Audible account, but I ended up liking it a lot! It was really interesting to hear her backstory – I don’t know very much about Felicia Day, but I loved hearing about her weird upbringing, being in college and loving both math and music, and then how she turned her video game love into a TV show on her own terms. This would be a good one to read or listen to when you’re feeling like you’ll never reach your goals.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?: Yep, finally. I was super behind on this train, despite borrowing it from a friend a few years ago. I listened to the audiobook of this, primarily on the plane to and walking around LA, and there were parts that were just fall-down funny. On the off chance that there’s anyone who hasn’t yet picked this up, Mindy narrates the audiobook with some special guest appearances, and it’s a really good palate cleanser.

Dark Matter: Another one I’m a few years behind on, but HOLY COW WHAT A BOOK. I could barely put it down, and then shouted extensively for my boyfriend to read it and he finally acquiesced. I don’t read a lot of science fiction, which I think this technically is, and it’s a little bit in line with my Maybe in Another Life obsession. If you haven’t read this yet, put it on your list and read it next.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

We Were Liars: I liked the slow reveal of this book, but something about it didn’t hit for me. It’s a YA, which I love, and I’ve never read a mystery in that genre. In We Were Liars, you don’t really realize that it’s a mystery until the character starts to have some memory restored from her amnesia. I used this for our unreliable narrator prompt.

The Wife Between Us: I can’t think of another book this year that had as much buzz as this one, so when my library hold came through, I dove in full speed. It was… not a book I would recommend. About 60% through the book when it starts to be clear what’s happening, I was having a lot of thoughts about trust and control and emotional manipulation in relationships – this is something I think about a lot anyway lately, so maybe I’m just more in tune to it. If you’re a person with baggage around that, maybe skip this book until you’re a good many years of therapy removed. I think the epilogue unraveled the rest of the story. I wish the beginning had been a little more clear and obvious what the viewpoints were. I did like how everything wrapped up and connected but absolutely thought that final twist was unnecessary and really hurt my opinion of the book as a whole.

Pivot Point: Another book I read mostly in LA, this was less of a casual pool book. Pivot Point is YA, and a little bit more in the fantasy realm than I typically delve, but it was suggested for fans of Maybe in Another Life, so you know I was on it. I really liked it a lot, though I think it could have had better character development for some of the secondary characters. It’s a double timeline, and really easy to read.

Split Second: The sequel to Pivot Point. I didn’t like it quite as much, but I liked spending more time with those characters.

The Myth of the Nice Girl*: I loved this book, and am going to do a full review post on it. Being nice is something that I struggle with often, especially in a male-driven tech environment. This book helped me work on my communication skills so that I can still be assertive while still making connections with my co-workers. I’ve always been very empathic, and The Myth of the Nice Girl helped me see that in business, this can be an asset rather than a downfall.

The French Girl: Earlier this year I’d been hearing about this everywhere in the book blogopshere, so I was excited when my hold finally came through. I really liked this. It wasn’t the typical over the top thriller or mystery, and I liked that as you read, there were a lot of plausible culprits for the crime. I also liked that there was a happy ending for everyone that deserved it, unlike many other books in this genre.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

You Are a Badass at Making Money: This had been on my TBR for awhile, so I grabbed it before my Scribd trial ran out. I really like Jen Sincero’s woo woo, and working on my money mindset is something I’ve needed to focus on. The book definitely helped, and I want to read the physical book as well to reinforce the lessons.

Tell Me Three Things: This was a cute book. It was basically what I had wanted Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda to be. In this book, a new kid starts getting emails and IMs from a mystery student – they connect, and it helps her adjust to her new school. I liked this one a lot more than Simon – the main character was charming, you understood why she was struggling, and I wasn’t sick of her voice and stupid decisions by the end.

Belly Up*: Short story collections are hit or miss for me, and this one ended up being a little more challenging than I thought. The description sounded right up my alley – mediums, ghosts, and psychics! – but it fell flat for me. Some of the stories were hard to read because of their structure, but some of them I did really like (the ones that were actually about mediums and ghosts, go figure.) If you’re a fan of short stories and unique voices, pick this one up.

PBS’ Great American Read just started, and there are a few books on that list I’ve been meaning to pick up, so I’ll read along in June, and continue to make a dent in my Netgalley backlog!

What did you read this month? Anything you’re looking forward to coming out this summer?

May 31, 2018
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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 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.)

*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.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

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.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

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
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