On the Bookshelf Pt. 6

Summer has flown by much quicker than I anticipated, but there was plenty of time to be a bookworm. Below I’ve included some recent titles I’ve read, for you to consider yourself! What was your favorite novel of the summer? Share them in comments!

To start, I’m still not sure I liked My Dark Vanessa. It was a tug of war to get through. I guess this is a good book club title because there’s a lot to discuss. 5 pages in, I thought this was going to be nothing but problematic. Instead, it was just uber complicated. It explores the psychological impact of a clearly inappropriate student teacher relationship. I was shocked by the fallout at the end of the school year and surprised that Jenny was trying to be a supportive friend to Vanessa.
The plot only thickens from there, because she again pursued a relationship with Strane after she turned 18. While Strane was out of line to pursue a student, adults in a crummy relationship is a different story. The story alternates between 2000 and 2017, when Strane is accused by another student of abuse, in the “Me Too” era. And while Taylor’s story didn’t seem credible, can inappropriate conduct be construed as on par with physical abuse? I think it’s a disservice to combine traumas into a one size fits all explanation. But would Taylor’s story have held more weight because of Vanessa?
While I can appreciate the nuance, Vanessa was right to be reluctant, her relationship with Strane wasn’t cookie cutter. In her therapy sessions, she is made aware that the man she thought she loved abused her. I guess I was bummed out in the end because I felt like we only saw a partial breakthrough for Vanessa, with lots of questions left unanswered.

Psychotherapist Theo Farber becomes obsessed with Alicia Berenson, a painter who murdered her husband, Gabriel. She is placed in The Grove, a psychiatric hospital, and she has stopped speaking entirely. Six years later Theo applies for a job, expressly to meet the still silent Alicia, in hopes of treating her. The story of why proceeds to be unraveled. There were so many red herrings, I actually didn’t see the twist coming. I thought it was a character with almost no involvement, haha. The chapters were short and suspenseful like a Patterson novel. This mystery thriller is also in the works for movie adaptation!

I feel like I have been reading some heavy content lately, so this summer I wanted to get some books with lighter concepts. City of Girls was an offered title, and I’m so happy it was. It was like a novel combination of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with that anxiousness of Almost Famous. So it’s 1940 and Vivian is from upstate and according to her parents, loafing, so they send her to Manhattan to live with her aunt. Aunt Peg owns an underground theater where we get introduced to a band of characters. They are unconventional, hilarious and their story was as frivolous and dramatic as it was sobering and heartfelt. Even secondary characters like Mr. Herbert and Olive were charming. As the story goes on, America is on the cusp of joining World War 2 efforts, but Vivian fumbles in a faux pas, resulting in seriously unfair consequences (by today’s standard). She’s determined to live her life fully and we get to see her follow through and experience ups and downs as she, and the city, have to make changes as life goes on. This might be my favorite book I’ve read this year.

A vacation to Majorca sounds very nice about now and it was the perfect setting for The Lemon Grove. This was another more carefree title I was hoping would be an entertaining summer read. Jenn, the main character and narrator, made some odd observations in early chapters that were almost discouraging, but her character develops really well throughout the story. She and her husband, Greg, take an annual holiday in Deia, but she thinks the trip will be ruined when they are joined by Greg’s daughter, Emma and her new boyfriend, Nathan.
After an couple awkward lunches though, she finds herself attracted to her stepdaughter’s boyfriend. He was an opaque character, so the novel still felt a bit clunky at this point. However, after a close call on a family outing, the plot really picks up speed. It weaves around a sun soaked island, building up suspense in an exciting and detailed, but unaggressive manner, before it’s finale. I actually would have enjoyed another chapter or two!

First off, I was on Google almost every time I got to reading this novel. I have to say, the history of Bangkok is intense. There’s been government coups, resistance and tumultuous regime. The city’s name has been changed multiple times. Residents call it Krungthep, which is still a shortened moniker. Thai food is personally one of my favorite cuisine’s. It was surprising to learn it wasn’t more widely accepted until the 90s! One last fun fact, I also ended up going down another Google rabbit hole of the best Thai beaches and have now have a whole vacation planned haha.

As for the actual novel, it centers around one house that has had several residents across the passage of time. I would have liked to read a little more from Phineas, since he was the character from colonial exploration and it was such a different time. I loved Nee and Nok’s storyline. The sisters were beautifully developed characters and it was easy to see how modern times impacted them and how they lived. Honestly, I forgot about Clyde. He was introduced in the beginning of the book and then not mentioned until the end. I suppose it made sense, because he was an expat who finally returned to his homeland, but it felt more like a loose end being tied up rather than a significant part of the story. Take a cultural dip (within a fictional realm, of course) into one of the world’s most vibrant, evolving cities.

On The Bookshelf pt.5

I preferred The Mother’s more nuanced approach to it’s ending. Maybe because of so much violence in the novel, but I still enjoyed The Vanishing Half. The characters were richly developed, which is actually what kept me so intrigued as I was reading. Black twin sisters Stella and Desiree are light skinned so they can pass as white. And they run off from their rural Louisiana town to city life in New Orleans. But when one of them disappears, the other is lost. It’s not until several years after their coming of age that other characters closely linked to the twins make a discovery. The exploration of generational trauma, gender and racial identity was so impactful. While I think the characters found some relief in the end I’m not sure they could or would heal, which is what I found disheartening. Regardless, I look forward to future titles from Brit Bennet.

Reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was a wild experience for me. The US Mint announced it would stop producing pennies this year, but the characters in this semi autobiography lived on pennies in 1912. And it was so crazy to read about men’s flip commentary about their wives voting rights and several other political and religious ideas through Francie’s family and neighborhood. Aunt Sissy was so wild, I always enjoyed when she showed up. And, apparently pedophiles just roamed the streets back in the day and that was the first chapter Smith wrote when she began typing this novel. I really enjoyed Chapter 32, as Francie began writing, it was written into the novel by way of journal entries. Betty Smith crafted such a beautiful story using her own coming of age to perfectly encapsulate the period.

A book noir if you will, like a film noir, The Bluest Eye is a study of internalized white beauty standards. Set in Morrison’s actual hometown Lorain Ohio, a city east of Cleveland, after the depression, Pecola didn’t deserve anything that happened to her in this metaphor. It was heartbreaking this child believed her problems would stop if she had blue eyes. Interlocked stories starting with the kids, and moving onto Pecola’s parents really exposed how deep this unnecessary inferiority ran. Pauline became sympathetic, but Cholly and Soaphead lost my support, although the latter was intentional, to show how his black roots still impacted him. The former narration was sobering until the end. I wish one of the parents spoke to their daughters instead of one story being about vague potential “ruin” while the other was abusive. Perhaps unintentionally becoming a sign of the times, I strongly hope society has moved past not having tough conversation. Hate runs rampant, but love is stronger. This book has explicit language, but is powerful because of it.

So many people raved about The Paris Apartment and I was so amped up to read it. After reading around 40 pages though, I almost quit. I was just too curious about what happened to Ben that I picked it back up for another try. Holy guacamole people, there were so many twists and surprises after another few chapters! I was shocked at first by the final chapters, but pleasantly surprised with this novels’ ending. Since there were just a few characters, all involved with Ben, I don’t think I had an exclusive favorite. Each one had their own tale to unravel, but Jess was our steadfast heroine. If this one is on your reading list, it’s definitely worth it to be patient!

Travel to the streets of Lusaka, Zambia, and learn about walking the bowl. The authors shared that ‘a single child suffering is a tragedy, 1,000,000 is a statistic’, but I find that number to be astonishing. The authors and their team were in the field for over two years when the Ho Ho kid is murdered. It got the attention of the police, and four other orphan children were connected. It’s a miracle these authors were even able to follow this true story and come to a conclusion. They compiled 1500 hours of audio, field notes adding up to 700 pages, maps and illustrations, photos an background reports to create this book. I empathized with each kid, and found their backgrounds and futures fascinating, but Kapula was so resilient. I was pleased she found a little peace for herself.

I hope this list inspired you to try some of these titles!

Nothing To Wear? Get A Grip On Trends

Trends come from everywhere these days. Runways, in street style, and social media. The internet, popular TV shows, global trends, our friends, the clothing that is available to us inspire our personal style. We consciously and unconsciously dress a certain way to fit in or who we aspire to be. So surprisingly, at some point, our closets reflect these trends even if they aren’t obvious. A Stitch fix survey interviewed 2000 British adults and reports that people have an estimated $268.44 worth of unworn clothing. 31 percent of 18 to 24 year-olds report they’ve impulsively bought clothes because they were part of a fad, only to wind up realizing they didn’t like their purchase after all. 

Image courtesy of unsplash

Surveyors also indicated the claim to have nothing to wear six times a month! Dios Mio!

Surveyors also indicated they claim to have nothing to wear six times a month

British Stitch Fix survey

The survey continued to share 80% of respondents like to wear the same clothes repeatedly, even if clothing is unworn in their closet. At least we are saving ourselves time by utilizing what we like most. Wear the same thing, the argument goes, and you’ll have more mental energy to spend on decisions that matter.

Only six percent of adults say they’ve worn everything in their wardrobe at least once. Of the survey takers who report an excess of unworn clothes, more than half say it’s because they choose not to wear them because the items were buried under other clothes. In fact, 65 percent of adults say some of their clothes still had tags on them. Do it still count if I just bought a few things? I hope not!

photo courtesy of Pawal czerwinski, unsplash

Allow yourself 1 to 2 trendy items that will add to your wardrobe, not take up precious closet space.

Retail therapy is clearly fun, but since it’s noted that people develop favorite clothing they’ll re-wear until the stitches pop, know that mixing all kinds of style aesthetics is a favorite styling technique. It’s also a great way to use more of what we already have. We should always remember to authentically express ourselves no matter the trendy items of the moment! What you buy can add longevity your wardrobe, even as seasonal trends come and go. Always Consider sustainably made clothes for versatility. Don’t forget to check out my previous post on how to best care for items as well!

It can seem burdensome to adjust or edit the closet, but don’t think you have to miss out on trends. Start with a little research. Most major fashion magazines and even social media discuss trending items and styles. Allow yourself 1 to 2 trendy items that will add to your wardrobe, not take up precious closet space. I think being aware and understanding what we like as an individual can be what helps us stay creative or allow us to focus on something else.

I unapologetically skipped the Tiny Bag trend and didn’t miss a beat. I did however, treat myself to a purple cowboy hat last summer to embrace a Western look. I am window shopping for a cute pair of western boots to pair it with! The jury is still out on sweater vests. Since I live in an area that is warm year-round, I don’t have a large collection of cold weather gear anymore. I may reconsider it over the fall. How do you feel about trends? Do you gotta have ’em all or can you live without them?

photo courtesy of Felipe Galvin, unsplash

Quick Clothing Care Guide

To ensure that you can get the most out of your wardrobe, knowing how to properly care for those items is crucial. Some clothing can last a lifetime! Some don’t need to be washed as often as others, so becoming familiar with simple guidelines can help you to maintain your closet better. This is a quick general guide to start out. Types of fabric may need more or less care. Always check clothing labels for the best care guide.

Image courtesy of unsplash by artificial photography

After each wear:

•Hosiery-hand wash

•Swimwear-rinse out after each wear to avoid pungent chlorine and sweat and dirt stains.

•White clothing-wash with bleach, if garment tag suggests & lemon juice after each wear

Between 2-3 wears:

•Bras

•Pajamas

•Denim, 3-10 wears, or if stained and smelly

Image courtesy of unsplash by no revision

Weekly:

•Blazers

•Dress pants & skirts

•Sweaters, can be spot treated

•Dresses, as worn and possibly dry clean

Seasonally (1-3 months):

•Leather & suede

•Winter coats & jackets

•Hats, gloves and scarves, although I will wash gloves regularly throughout the season since they touch lots of surfaces aka are germ magnets.

Plus, a fun fact from Greenpeace:
By doubling the lifespan of your clothing from one to two years can reduce emissions by 24%. Better clothing choices are good for you and the environment!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and found it helpful. Please feel free to share any of your clothing care tips in comments.

On The Bookshelf pt. 4

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Something about the fall makes me want to curl up under a pile of blankets surrounded by stacks of books. I try to read at least one classic novel a year, so I picked from Virginia Woolf’s collection. Side note, I had a teacher in high school who literally said there weren’t many books featuring female protagonists, then we proceeded to read Rebecca. And let’s not forget the Bronte sisters whom I didn’t read until college on my own time. And then there’s, Virginia Woolf, with her giant set of works, that I practically had a panic attack over trying to pick which one to start with! I’m bringing this up, because Charles Tansley was interested in Lily, then he told her women can’t write, women can’t paint. And guess what Lily did? Yep, she PAINTED. I take small comfort imagining him and Mr. Ramsay would be cancelled in today’s world. Anyway, I was glad I picked To the Lighthouse. I loved the symbolism of the sea and the lighthouses un-obtainability. Thanks to the helpful forward in the version I had, I also learned the Ramsay’s were actually based on her family in real life. After excruciating trivial detail at the dinner party,’Time Passes’ was such a shock in it’s shortness in tone and length using mere phrases to set up the final chapter. I enjoyed Cam’s perspective most, she seemed to have a modern day spunk about her.

My Body by Emily Ratajkowski

I did not think I would enjoy this book much. I don’t follow Emily on social media, or care much about the celebrity gossip she gets involved in. If there were a handful of inside stories of the fashion world, I’d be elated. A chapter in, I couldn’t put it down. I finished it in about six hours. The passion and apathy of these essays was wildly refreshing. I admired her honesty in Because hello Halle Berry and her strength in the final chapter. Her acknowledgement of overexposure allowed the mundane and extraordinary to collide effortlessly. These were excerpts of a fellow warrior and I appreciated this debut so much. Her early modeling story of driving to bookings guzzling coffee and blasting talk radio to stay awake and hoping it wasn’t in vain had me laughing out loud. Thanks for sharing the charm and struggles, Emily.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

I was a huge fan of True Colors and Winter Garden in high school. Of course, Firefly Lane was turned into a show on Netflix last year, but I hadn’t followed up on any fresh novels from Hannah in an embarrassing long amount of time. And there are plenty to chose from! Then one day, The Four Winds was sitting on the shelf at the library, mocking me. Set in the Great Depression, it was eery how similar events that unfolded then are parallel to events today. Elsa must battle inequalities to protect her family in an America no one recognizes. Her daughter, Loreda, was a spirited character whose ferocity counters Elsa’s quiet suffering poetically. Escape into this lengthy novel and empathize with the heartbreak and tenacity of excellently written characters.

Here is New York by E.B. White

It is just over 2,400 miles from Phoenix to NYC, and if it weren’t for this never ending pandemic, I would start walking there. This essay is a quick read, only about sixty pages and definitely worth a look. The intrigue and temperament this city is famed for is due largely to the residents who call it home. Even as a visitor, it was noticable how the neighborhoods differ. I found White’s mention of how his neighbor in 1948 didn’t want to leave his two block radius so humourous. He shared the grim flip side of the coin in this metaphor, and New York has had a pretty tough go, but I admire the resilience of this great place, even as it does, and is, evolving. It’s not the greatest city around for nothing folks!

Have you read any of these titles? I hope it was helpful if you are looking for new books to read. If you have any similar suggestions or books we should check out, leave a comment below!

What’s on the Bookshelf, pt. 3

I’d been watching Hiking with Kevin and I particularly liked his interview with Tom Papa. He talked about his book, You’re Doing Great, and thought it’d be good for some smiles. It was a light read that helped me get through a funk I was in in July. I keep telling myself to trust the journey but I’m not totally convinced. But Papa’s book had some hilarious ideas, like the good old days were not, in fact, good. For example, hospitals were bad. All they knew how to do was cut your leg off. And he shared that Italians love life, but only because staying alive means you can eat more food. My only gripe is that he also said don’t do anything where you have to sign a waiver, but then the stories explaining why were funny. So every once in awhile go ahead and sign the waiver, just understand it might not be fun in the moment!

Paul asks, do you believe in the human heart? …not simply the organ…I’m speaking in the poetic sense. The human heart. Do you think there is such a thing?This was the crux of Klara and the sun. I’m not a fan of robot stories, and I especially didn’t like Klaras’ naivety that the sun could help her, maybe just because that’s what it’s like to hope. It bothered me the entire time, but I wanted to find out if it worked or not for her. As they said on Ted Lasso, it’s the hope that kills you! The story starts with Klara, an artificial intelligence waiting at the store to be picked and Josie wants her mom to buy her. Mom wants to get a newer model that was just released, but it’s obvious that Josie has bonded with Klara. Josie has been sick, so Klara wants to do anything she can to help Josie get better. Her innocence is endearing, I was even surprised all the humans were eager to help her. Even as it ends on a slightly depressing note, this novel will tug on your heartstrings.

Kristen Arnett’s debut novel, Mostly Dead Things was a recommendation from social media that I figured may be a gamble. At first I wasn’t really enthralled with Jessa, but I enjoyed the authors prose. Then I realized Jessa was an over thinker and I loved her perspective. Her father committed suicide in his taxidermy shop where he taught her the trade, and now the family is working through their grief. Jessa’s mom is posing the animals in the shop provacatively until an art curator sees it an offers her a showcase at her gallery. Mom was my favorite character and I was so happy she got a little redemption in the end. I’m still debating on Brynn, even though the book has been returned to the library. I get it, but also, wow. She really did that. Funny, dark and full of metaphor, this story and it’s characters will definitely captivate you with their eccentric life in Florida.

Black Sunday takes us to Lagos to explore the world of 4 siblings growing up after their father loses all the family’s money and the mom has to leave the country to get a job. I feel like saying anything else gives away the rest of it! It follows the siblings into adulthood, and I loved how the author followed up a storyline from one sibling in another’s chapter with their take on the experience the sibling had. It’s so strange that cultures can be so foreign yet so similar to each other. I felt bad for Abiyike in the end but mostly because I found her character to be the most hipocrytical. Each sibling had an incredible amount of pain that charged the novel with sadness, but they were strong, so I hoped they’d find success and happiness. I hope we get more works from Rotimi Abraham in the near future.

Well, This is Exhausting is the debut book from comedian/writer Sophia Benoit. I saw this on the local news of all places and that it was book of the month by Vogue, so I figured it’d be a good read. Like having a conversation, these essays are funny and real and definitely hit a nerve. I could follow along easily enough, although I did find it slightly irritating that the straight white cis male gaze was always to blame. Yes, the patriarchy is The.Actual.Worst. However, identity is a personal matter and it seemed this author experienced an identity crisis rooted in familial issue, rather than media being dominated by the cis male gaze. She repeatedly mentioned her own father’s struggles throughout his life and then faced some of those problems herself.

I 100% acknowledge media has powerful influence, but stories, characters and casts, even advertisement have vastly changed over 50 years. To her credit, I agreed that even female driven operations, like magazines, frequently offered crummy advice columns. The second half of this book really shined when she had more accountability and self awareness, especially after the chapter, I’m pretty sure my insatiable capacity for desire stems from the scholastic book fair. It was just a matter of sharing experiences and what she learned. No blaming anyone else or a broken system, just her experiences and how she dealt with it. But for the record, I thought I would be using a weekender bag a lot more too!

Bonus Review!


Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour was an album I played over and over over the last year. I was thrilled to hear she was releasing a new album, albeit that the subject matter would be in regards to her divorce. Star-crossed started strong and powered along, filled with reflection on all the little moments. Musgraves herself said it was a journey of heartbreak and healing. As a collection of pain, it was great. The instrumental elements cut deeply, however, there the lyrics didn’t quite hit the same caliber. I liked the nostalgia and vagueness, but I was hoping for at least one song that would have some bite and didn’t really find it. It’s definitely worth a listen if you’re shopping for new tunes.
Best song: What Doesn’t Kill Me
Song to skip: Cherry Blossoms

In America: A Lexicon of Fashion

We’re slowly getting back to regular programming in lieu of covid ruining all our lives, and that included a met gala this year! Postponed until this past Monday, September 13 in New York, we got a little dose of glitz back thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was surprised with the creativity, and the lack of stars and stripes. I guess if it seemed expected, most guests would shy away from it, but still. The theme has been taken pretty literally over the years, so it had me raising an eyebrow at this new interpretation. The New York Post called it hypocritical and a high end dud, with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez attending in a gown with tax the rich inscribed onto the back. But she paid $35000 for a ticket?? Doesn’t that make her one of said rich? I also thought Cara Delevingne’s bulletproof vest saying peg the patriarchy was kind of tired. I’ve included favorites from the red carpet looks in the slideshow below, I thought A$AP Rocky’s quilted overcoat was whimsical. It reminded me of the quilts folded over the back of the couch growing up and blankets my grandma crocheted. Billie Eilish channeled Marilyn Monroe, a Hollywood icon, and looked very elegant. I also smiled when I saw Ciara’s jersey inspired gown, nodding not only to America’s favorite sport, but to her husband as well. Obviously, not every look was a winner, so there’s also a few that fell flat in my humble opinion. Pick your favorites and share if you agree in comments.

Looks that were less than impressive are included below. Better luck next time, I suppose!

images courtesy of Daily News and Vogue

Easy Rosewater DIY

Summer is in full swing and here in Arizona, we’ve already gotten a big heat wave. I even have a little farmer’s tan going just taking the dogs for a 10 minute walk! After looking for some ways to get relief, I was excited to try my hand at making a cooling Rose water. It has been used for centuries in the Middle East as a beauty tool and has a multitude of benefits for hair and skin. It has antibacterial properties and many uses. The process is pretty simple, too!

Just make sure to pair it with moisturizer. Water attracts water, so even though it’s refreshing, it can start to pull water from the surface of your skin.


>A few spritzes can be used to prep skin for makeup, and even to freshen makeup after a long day.

>It can also help reduce redness or razor burns. Consider mixing witch hazel with your final product and use it as a toner.

>Mix 2 tbsp rose water with 1 cup water and run it through your hair before shampooing for silky strong strands.

>Or add it to a bath for a touch of luxury. Maybe even save some rose petals to sprinkle in with the bubbles!

>Lastly, make a bottle with pure aloe vera to use after a day of soaking up the sun.

Ingredients:
1c Fresh roses, red or pink, color will affect the final product.
1c Filtered or distilled water
1/4c Witch hazel
Sandalwood essential oil

Directions:
1. Separate petals from stems. About 2 flowers will yield 1 cup. Remove the seeds from the center and put in a saucepan. Add the water, only covering the petals.
Too much water and your product will be very diluted. Add witch hazel as well.

2. Bring to a soft boil, then cover the saucepan with a lid, turn heat to low and slowly let it simmer, about 30 minutes. The petals will lose all their color.

3. Turn off heat, keeping the cover on, and let the water come to room temperature. Then you can strain out the petal remains.

4. If you like, add letter stickers to a clean bottle. Then pour the water into the bottle. Add a few drops of sandalwood essential oil, to get a soothed and glowing complexion. Store for up to a week in the cabinet or a month in the refrigerator. I keep mine in the fridge!

5. Your homemade rose water is ready to use! I do not recommend eating this product, and avoid applying near your eyes due to the essential oil. Enjoy!

What’s On The Bookshelf Pt. 2

Hello there, I hope you have been having a lovely spring. It’s it the triple digits just this week. I have been making yummy smoothies in the mornings and taking the dogs on long evening walks. I think mango, papaya, pineapple, strawberry and ginger with OJ and coconut milk has been the recipe winner if you were wondering. I also recently dined in a restaurant for the first time in ages, and a future life goal is to dine al fresco more often. Finally, I plan to get vaccinated this week!

I’ve got some more titles for you to add to your reading list! Did you enjoy any from my post back in January? I was pretty pleased with each of these new novels. As the days warm up and its safe to take a stroll around the park, why not grab a lemonade and take a book with you and enjoy a sunny, breezy afternoon. I think my fellow readers would appreciate any of these tales and I hope my reviews can peak your interest. Of course, feel free to leave your own thoughts on these picks or another good option in comments.

Agent Sonya by Ben Macintyre

I love a good spy novel and that this one was based on a true story had me giddy with every turning page. It almost made becoming a communist sound fun, that’s how inspiring agent Sonya was. This one was about Ursula Kuczynski Burton, who actually worked with Richard Sorge in her early spy days. He was the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Travel around the world, from Shanghai to Switzerland, and dive into the spy network of World War 2. Make radio transmitters and cakes with Ursula while dodging MI6 and getting the kids ready for school. This is a thrilling tale and history lesson all in one that won’t disappoint. Macintyre penned a masterpiece here.

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

Hillbilly elegy an interesting perspective that hit close to home since I grew up in the Rust belt.
While some experiences were familiar, others were foreign. An insight to Americas working class, voicing concern at the community level over blaming the government seemed like a reasonable argument. I didn’t think it was a culture in crisis, however, it seemed more like a shift in attitude was necessary. But upward mobility requires delicacy, as it isn’t as simple as it seems, often coming at a steep cost, financial and emotional. I appreciated a young writer’s perspective, in sharing life experience, particularly the impact of his adolescence, then in obtaining a career. Final thought, grandparents rule.

The History of Love by Nicole Kraus

The History of Love was a short tale about Leo, who survived a Nazi invasion of his childhood town in Poland. After surviving in the woods for 2 years, he went to New York City to work with his cousin. He wrote a novel that he thought never got published, but 1000 copies were printed, inspiring a young couple. They named their daughter after the main character, Alma. She wants to find her mother a new boyfriend after her father passes, and makes a discovery after her mom is hired to translate the history of love. Leo and Alma slowly work towards meeting to fulfill their goals. I enjoyed each characters point of view, especially Alma’s little brother. It was a cute story, though a little heartbreaking at the end. And yet. Left me hopeful.

Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor

Hurricane season was a tough novel to work through. Everyone wants to know who murdered the witch. Secrets, poverty and hopelessness are only a few adversities the characters face, but handle it with resilience. Broken into eight parts, I was actually surprised this took me awhile to work through. It was worth the read, but this wasn’t a book you could read a chapter here or there. An entire page might be one sentence and its packed with information you will want to know.
Lastly, I’m not one to scoff at strong language, but combined with the rough topics it emphasizes, it got downright brutal. I had to put the book down a number of times through Norma’s story. After exploring the violence in this community it was almost numbing to make it to the last few pages where the only escape is death.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Artist way is a book of daily affirmations broken into monthly sections for one inspirational message everyday. Some really hit home for me while others fell flat. November held the most moving words personally! This wasn’t a book to curl up with and dive into, either. I tried to read it by month, and my head was spinning by the time I got to March. There are enough pearls of wisdom that make it worth perusing, just make sure you take your time.

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

I was very excited for this new novel from Elena Ferrante because I was completely captivated with the Neopolitan Novels. The Lying Life of Adults had a much slower pace to it, but still carried plenty of intrigue. It took awhile to read, only because I found it hard to concentrate through almost every chapter. The relatability would remind me or trigger memories from when I was 12 and I’d get distracted from my reading. Turns out teenage angst is universal. Haha. But I did enjoy Giovanna’s coming of age story, the domestic background of drama and the way it was shaping her opinions. I felt her frustration, isolation, disgust and hope. I especially got a kick from the twist ending that offered her total control and the promise she made to herself as she left home. Lies are an art form in this story but what the lies were tended to be less important as to how the lies were told. Each character had their own reasons and purposes, but I felt like it impacted Giovanna greatly as she grew up and had to decide for herself whether or not to follow a pattern of behavior she saw in her parents and her aunt, even her friends.
I was also relieved that the bracelet’s symbolism was explained more plainly than the dolls from My Brilliant Friend. It was passed from character to character, gifted, taken or traded until it did finally wind up again with whom I believe was the rightful owner. If the origin story is correct that is, and it might not be, since there are lots of lies attached to it. Ferrante rips apart idyllic life and still finds a way to inspire hope, and I love her for that.

The accuracy

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Someone needs to rob a bank and then takes hostages across the street at an apartment viewing. Then the police have to call Stockholm because they aren’t used to such crimes being committed. A rational person doesn’t rob a bank. But if they needed to you might be able to understand. They certainly shouldn’t take hostages, but you can understand from the events how it came about. Or maybe you won’t understand. Life is like that. This is an odd hostage situation anyway. Also you should know I’m not doing a great job writing my review using the authors prose, but it’s been fun. My favorite line in this novel was, ‘you don’t fall in love with gender, you fall in love with an idiot’. There were lots of idioms like that throughout the story, but I made sure to write that one down.
It was 340 pages and took me about 2 weeks to read. My goal was to read 20-ish pages a day and though I wasn’t totally invested at first, but the chapters peel back layers like an onion. Before I knew it I was 100 pages in and couldn’t wait to find out what happened. This is a great title choice to add to your reading list!

Top Red Carpet Looks From The Oscars 2021

The 93rd Academy Awards finally arrived April 25 in Los Angeles. It’s exciting to have an event back on the calendar, after some delays, especially since I have enjoyed many movies throughout the pandemic. Did you see any nominees this year? Did you have a favorite? I really enjoyed Promising Young Woman and Minari. Did your favorite win an award? Nomadland is on my list of movies to watch since it was this years winner!

Besides the movies, we know the fashion is a showstopping spectacle of the event. After a year of fashion unfortunately being restyled for comfort, if not left on the back burner, our beloved celebrities were ready to dress up and I am here for it. Sadly, the red carpet was so well done, I didn’t find much attire to critique. However, I hope you enjoy a fresh red carpet full of beautiful gowns and sharp suits to admire or inspire you to dress well.

Left, Viola Davis in Alexander McQueen. Right, Reese Witherspoon in Christian Dior. Both gowns had a gorgeously intricate bodice. Do you prefer the princess waist of Viola’s gown or the belted empire waist Reese donned?

Left, Chloe Zhao, winner of Best Director for Nomadland, and guest. Right, Leslie Odom Jr.

Left Daniel Kaluuya, winner of Best supporting actor in Judas and the Black Messiah, in an all black ensemble. Right Zendaya in cutout Valentino couture.

Left, Regina King in custom Louis Vuitton. Love those bold sleeves! Right, Questlove rocks gold Crocs. Comfort attire is here to stay!

Left, Tyler Perry in a sophisticated velvet blazer. Right, Sasha Baron Cohen and Isla Fischer attend a screening of the oscars in Sydney, Australia. Bowties for the win!

Left, Angela Basset stuns in red Alberta Ferreti gown. Right, Carey Mulligan wows in golden gown by Valentino.

Left, Margot Robbie in a modern number from Chanel Couture. Right, Elvira Lind color coordinates a face mask for a fashionable statement.

Left, Youn Yuh-jung, winner of best supporting actress for Minari, in Marmar Halim and Chopard jewelry, with Han Ye-ri in Louis Vuitton. Right, Rita Moreno in strapless plum mermaid gown. Pockets for the win too!

I believe this year, we really saw such amazing, modern fashion. Did you have a favorite outfit from the Oscars? Share your thoughts in comments!

Images courtesy of Vogue