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may 2019 book club

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Like years past, Dani and I are doing our annual reading challenge with new categories this year! Despite a super strong start to the year with books – maybe it was the gross weather that was driving me inside – I fell off a bit in March and April. This month, I did make a bit of a comeback.

I still love my Kindle – especially the feature that lets you check out library books – and Amazon’s Kindle First Reads have been really great lately too. (They offer six free books to choose from every month, so you can read them before release.)

Amazon also has another ebook hack I’ve found – I purchased a “Great on Kindle” book, which gives you about 75% of that purchase back for a future Kindle book purchase. I’ve been turning those credits for a bit and I’m pretty well stocked on my summer reads now!

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler: One of the recent Kindle First Reads picks, I started reading this while we were in Minneapolis, killing time while Evan was in panels and I was the “conference girlfriend.” It’s an okay book. The main character is a likable heroine, and her relationship with her daughter was great, but I felt like there were some strange plot choices. It was fine for a free read.

No Hard Feelings: A book by best friends about feelings and communication in the workplace, this was a book I DESPERATELY needed to read. The animations are adorable, and since it was a library book, I did what I often do with books I don’t own – I took pictures of relevant pages and passages I wanted to remember. With this book, though, I nearly photographed the entire thing. Pick this up for sure, but if you need more convincing, I did a full review of this book over on!

The Girl He Used to Know: This book was being recommended everywhere, and with good reason. I was completely hooked from the beginning. Split in two different timelines, it’s the story of a woman who reconnects with her ex years later – an ex who was the only person to ever really understand her. If you’re looking for non-neurotypical heroines, put this on the top of your list.

The Stranger Beside Me: Finally, I gave in to the hype and listened to this audiobook on Hoopla. Ann Rule narrates it, and the production of the version I listened to wasn’t great, but it’s a really comprehensive story of all the missteps and near-misses on Bundy’s spree. As a true crime fan, this is one of the best books out there.

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

Sadie: HOLY COWWWWW I LOVED THIS. I put a hold on it last summer, and I was so pumped to finally get it. It was SO worth the wait. Another split timeline book, one timeline is told in podcast transcripts by a man who is trying to figure out what happened to Sadie. The other timeline is Sadie’s experience. The multimedia put into it is great (the publisher released the podcast parts of the audiobook as an actual podcast) and I’m still thinking about the end of the book, weeks after reading it. Without giving too many spoilers away, I truly hope that Sadie got vengeance.

The Happiness Project: This book was one of the first “want to read” books I added on Goodreads all the way back in 2012! I like to listen to non-fiction books while working (they’re like the original podcasts), and this was a really nice one to listen to, especially in the mornings. Another Hoopla book that’s worth a read, if your library offers it!

The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks: Rob Sheffield is the king of music journalism, and his love of Stevie Nicks might even surpass mine. This Audible original, narrated by him, is a nice, fast listen – if for no other reason than Rob’s voice is so soothing and his love for Stevie and the Mac really comes through. (I feel like I also need to disclose that I’m lucky enough to call Rob my friend – just one more thing The Hold Steady has given me!)

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work: Written by the founders of Basecamp, I was hoping that this was going to be a book of tips on how to help implement “less craziness” in your current workplace. To a degree, that’s true, but parts of it just sounded like it was hyping Basecamp as the perfect company (which didn’t help my existing workplace envy!) It is a good, fast listen, though, and I’d recommend it.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Another super-hyped book, this one took me a LONG time to get into. I wasn’t really hooked until probably 70% of the way through the book, but I’m very glad that I kept on going. Usually I can see twists a mile away, but that wasn’t the case in this one. Another really great neuro-divergent character that’s worth a read.

Do you read non-fiction and career books? What have been your favorites lately?

June 1, 2019

ANG book club: spring 2017

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what book to read next

It’s been quite awhile since the last reading check in! I’ve been reading a lot these past few months – even more than normal. Something that was a bit different is that I found myself reading a lot of books that I ended up not really liking, or feeling like they were worth the time. I don’t actually read series very often because if I find halfway through the first book that I’m hating it, I’d feel obligated to finish anyway, and I started a series as well.

Anyway, there are enough words to share about the books – let’s get on with it!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: Rainbow Rowell and I have a complicated relationship. On one hand, she wrote one of my all-time favorite books. On the other, I couldn’t get through the book that everyone seemingly loved. Fangirl had been on my TBR list for years, and it was worth the wait. I liked that the main character had a complicated relationship with her sister and had a lot of responsibility in caring for her dad, and that she had a lot of growth throughout the novel.

I Am Here Now a creative mindfulness journal: I checked this out of the library and thought it was just okay. I took some of the exercises and set them up in my bullet journal, and I’d suggest doing the same. You save money and make it easier to redo them over and over.

Slice Harvester by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf: I read this book after having it recommended by a friend of the author. Colin started a blog called the Slice Harvester a few years ago in which he set out to eat a slice at each pizzeria in Manhattan. His memoir talks about how the blog helped him get sober and meet the love of his life, so it serves as motivation too. I thought he was a little too uppity about New York City pizza, but it’s a fun concept for a book.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz: After seeing this book on Tone It Up Karena’s morning routine post, and it sounded like something I would really get a lot out of. I did, and it’s one I’ll revisit often to help recenter myself and my thoughts. I even got the companion book to use for extra mindfulness exercises.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven: I loved her previous book All the Bright Places, so I had equally high hopes for this book as well, since it’s gotten better reviews. I didn’t feel the same – I kept waiting for a payoff that never came. I did really like the opening section where she talks about her anxiety because it felt very true to the race your brain runs during an anxious bent.

We Are Okay by Nina Lacour: I loved this book and read it in one day. It’s very true to only child-dom, and the bits where she’s having to talk herself into staying present in other people’s happiness is something I relate to too hard. There’s a big reveal, a shift you don’t expect, and it’s another great book about how complicated family can be.

Dirty Rush by Taylor Bell: This was an impulse read when I saw the cover on Hoopla and liked it, but I don’t recommend reading it. Admittedly, I’m probably not the target audience for a sorority book, but I have a pretty tough skin and dirty sense of humor, and even I thought this book went a bit too far. There were a lot of crass words, and it was generally unbelievable.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han: Another book that’s been on my TBR list, I’m not a big series reader, so kept putting it off. I’m starting to see a trend in the types of YA books I’ve been drawn to – loner girls with complicated family structures and responsibilities. Go figure. These are nice, easy reads – great for your summer list.

Hold Still by Nina LacourHold Still is Lacour’s first novel, and while I didn’t find it as gripping as We Are Okay, it’s still very good. It tells the story of a best friend left behind after suicide and gives a really accurate glimpse into what someone might be thinking about before their death. I did try to read another book by Lacour, and I don’t know if it was because it was an eBook, but it didn’t hold my attention at all and I couldn’t get through it.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: A couple years ago, this was on every summer “must read” list, and it’s languished in my queue since then. It was charming enough: I didn’t always love how the male protagonist was written with his abrupt mood changes, and it felt like it could have ended a few times before it actually did, but it was a fine, fast read.

Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp: Part of me felt like I had read this before, but as I got into it, it didn’t seem familiar. The way she talks about drinking is something I don’t think a lot of people realize. When alcoholics quit drinking (no matter how low their bottom is) there’s more than just the physical withdrawal symptoms. They’ll also go through a certain mourning too – similar to the end of a fiery relationship.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler: Amy went to college with the lead singer of my favorite band, who gets a shoutout in her memoir. I listened to the audiobook and it was really charming, plus it included a great cast of characters.

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan: This book had lots of hot press when it was released a few years ago, and the first portion of the book (her fiction) was much better than the back half. I wish they’d opted for just fiction because her stories were fantastic, but I just didn’t care about the life and politics of going to an Ivy League school.

Take Your Life Back by Leah Davis: I did a full review of this book on how to begin transitioning into your location independent lifestyle. There’s a lot of value here including actionable steps to start your own remote career!

Crazy Is My Super Power by AJ Mendez Brooks: Former WWE Superstar AJ Lee competed and left wrestling before I got very interested in it, so I knew nothing about her going into the book (except that she loves dogs and lives in Chicago too.) This book is super motivational and if you’re the kind of person who makes excuses, her story will make you realize there’s no excuse not to fulfill your dreams. Plus, she’s a badass – being a woman in a male-dominated industry is tough, and she’s had no time for misogyny. Highly recommend.

Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins: This was impossible to get through. It started off well and the first few stories were definitely the bright spots. I’ll read the companion book this winter because I’ve heard it’s much better, but don’t pick this up expecting it will be an easy read.

A lot of these books are available on Audible and Kindle Unlimited, and listening to audiobooks is a great way to read more than ever! You can multitask (a friend of mine read a book while running an ultramarathon) so even if you think you don’t have time, you can still get through your “to read” list!

What are you reading this summer? I’m always looking for more suggestions!

July 3, 2017

19 gift ideas for high school and college graduates

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gift guide for graduates

It’s that time of year again – every May, high school seniors and college graduates prepare to head off on their next great adventure, and the people who love them try to navigate the best gift ideas for them. I’m a little further away from my graduations than I’d like to admit, but I like to think I have my finger on the pulse of what “the youth” need 😉 here are some ideas for both high school and college grads!


Packing up was always my least favorite part of college, whether it was packing to go to or leave from the dorm. Lighten your grad’s load with a virtual gift – Amazon Prime Student offers their Prime features plus special offers for students (and you can sign up for a free 30-day trial, just like regular Prime services) or gift an Audible subscription – whether they’re walking to class or driving to a new job, audiobooks are a great way to find time to read more.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had their phone die at the most inconvenient time. Whether the battery is draining while sitting in the library late at night or while exploring her new city, a Mophie phone case or external battery can be an absolute lifesaver.

Grammarly premium is a great gift idea for anyone (and it’s no secret that I love it). The free version corrects your spelling and grammar, but the premium version makes suggestions on formatting, word choice, and even more – it will make his writing much stronger, whether it’s in Freshman English or the boardroom!

A first aid kit is probably not on your grad’s list – which makes it an even better gift idea. I love this one from Amazon – it’s packed full of stuff and the fabric storage bag means it’s going to be durable no matter where it’s stored. It’s also great to toss in a car trunk or weekend bag.

You can never have too many throw pillows – the more whimsical, the better. I’m a huge fan of this one from Look Human (much to my roommate’s chagrin.) Get something playful for their dorm or new living room, or opt for something a little more discreet.

No matter if they’re leaving their parents house or the dorms, they’re sure to have walls that need decorating. Head over to Etsy and find some artwork inspired by their college to keep their days on campus close to their heart, or show their burgeoning pride!

I never thought that I would lust for a backpack as an adult, but here I am. Quality backpacks are pricey, but totally worth the investment. High school grads might like something whimsical by Vera Bradley, or consider a Tortuga backpack for college grads (perfect for travel or the daily city commute.)

High School

Subscription boxes are super fun, and there’s one that’s curated just for college students. Campuscube lets you send themed care packages – maybe he’s stressed about exams coming up, or her first birthday away from home is coming. Or maybe you just want to send an unthemed box her way – there are options for both boys and girls. (I’m especially into the Sunshine box for her – that Flamingo cup holder though!)

If your grad is anything like me, I just guzzled down coffee in college (so really, nothing different than a normal day now.) I love these “long distance” mugs, and they can be customized so no matter how far from home she is, she’ll always have a reminder.

Sunscreen is super important. Your grad might be spending more time outside than ever, especially living on campus and walking to classes and anywhere else. Gift her some SPF – it’s something most people out on their own for the first time might not think to put on their list. My favorite is Sun Bum (and not just because of the fun name and great packaging!)

Another thing that newly independent grads might overlook is toothbrush and toothpaste – help them out with a subscription service like BOKA, which will send a dental care package every few months!

Dorm rooms can feel so stale and institutional. Using cute lighting can help tint the walls to make them feel less dull, and introduce some warmth to the room. I’ve had a sea salt lamp for a few years and love the added health benefits they tout, but no first year dorm room is complete without twinkle lights.

Bullet journaling can be a great way to organize your life, but it can also be pricey to get started. Set her up with a notebook and some pens – or if she’s not the crafty type herself, the Passion Planner will help map out her classes and stay on track with homework and social activities.


It’s really easy to get down on yourself after graduation during the seemingly never-ending job hunt. You Are Doing a Freaking Great Job from Workman Publishing is something she can turn to on those days when she’s not feeling so optimistic.

Get a four-piece coffee pourover set: it includes everything your grad needs to make a great cup of coffee, like a coffee maker, grinder, kettle and matching travel mug!

Whether she’s working in an office setting, living the remote life, or even navigating the part-time world, a crossbody bag like this from Free People will carry all her essentials, whether it’s her laptop, change of clothes, or padfolios.

I love candles – they’re so calming, and they give off a great ambiance. No matter what kind of scent your grad likes, it’s easy to find something that fits (even if it’s a candle that gets tucked away in a dude’s bathroom. In that case, PLEASE HEED THIS GIFT SUGGESTION!)

In theory, graduating from college should also mean moving on from red solo cups, so upgrade their cocktail game with some fancy rocks glasses. Sisters of Los Angeles has the cutest stuff, and you can mix and match cities to pay homage to a hometown, college town, and brand new city!

Graduation should mean a skincare upgrade as well, and Glossier is a line I’d love to try splurging on. Their packaging is even so cute you won’t want to hide it away in a medicine cabinet, and the reviews are consistently great.

May 12, 2017

Taylor Jenkins Reid: a love letter

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taylor jenkins reid

In addition to podcasts, I also really like to listen to audiobooks while I drive – especially for the longer trips I have to make. Being able to start a book and finish it in one sitting helps make the trips a little more bearable for sure! Earlier this spring I discovered Taylor Jenkins Reid when I saw a book on Hoopla with a cover I really liked, an interesting title (Maybe in Another Life), and a synopsis that grabbed me:

At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan. Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan? In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her.

I listened to the entire book and was rattled by it by the time I got home – without spoiling too much (because you really should read it for yourself) it made me think a lot about the hundreds of decisions I make each day and how each one impacts my life. Since then, I’ve read all four of her books (and discovered that she’s also contributed to my favorite blog, The Billfold!) and enjoyed every single one, so this installment of book club is dedicated to my girl crush, TJR.

Read more…

November 16, 2016