May Book Reviews


I’ve been on such a good roll with reading more lately. That’s partially because I went on  two trips to Cleveland last month and downloaded audio books to listen to on the drive using OverDrive. It’s also because I’ve been getting books out from the library and it’s honestly been great to have a deadline. That’s what I need apparently. I’m so excited to share these three books with you just in time for the long weekend. I would highly recommend all three. So I hope you can find a good nook or a sturdy lawn chair this weekend and read to your heart’s content.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. It’s very well written, has great characters, and an interesting story. It is an oral history of the creation, rise to fame, and demise of 70s folk band Daisy Jones & the Six. The creative struggles and sexual chemistry between lead singers Daisy Jones and Billy Graham are palpable. The format is really interesting because it’s sort of like reading instead of watching a VH1 Behind the Music documentary. It takes place many years after the band’s heyday and you’re reading each character’s point of view about how the story of their band unfolds. I don’t want to give too much away. Just know that it features the typical sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but also some really poignant moments. It’s apparently loosely based on Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks. I heard the audio book is very good because it’s more of a performance. A cast of actors brings to life the different characters. Also, Amazon is turning this into a TV series, so the sooner you read it the better.

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

This one is just plain funny. It features a series of essays by Sloane Crosley, author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake. This was the first of her books that I’ve read, and I have to say I like her sardonic and witty style of writing. She’s a self-proclaimed typical New Yorker, which you pick up from one of the first stories about hailing a cab for the airport. Her bemusement at the silly, random, and sometimes mundane aspects of adult life is something I can relate to. The stories range from becoming totally obsessed with and revengeful of a noisy neighbor to climbing a volcano without doing any research first and discovering along the way that she is not at all prepared. Sounds like something I would do! If you need a good laugh or a little snark, this is a good one for you.

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

This book really spoke to me. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that I have been trying to spend less and put less emphasis on stuff for the last year or so (see my post on starting a capsule wardrobe). But this takes it to a whole new level. In this book, Cait Flanders details how she got herself out of $30,000 in debt, quits drinking, gives away 70% of her belongings, and challenges herself with a spending ban. In the process, she learns what is truly important to her. I know the examples might seem extreme, but I feel like this book helped me look at spending in a completely different light. One of the most interesting questions she asks herself before buying something is, “Am I buying this for who I am now or some ideal version of myself that doesn’t exist?” I thought that was an excellent question to ask before buying something. I don’t know how many times I’ve bought things that were not ideal for my life right now and then regretted the purchase. For hundreds of little helpful anecdotes like that, this book is worth the read.

Beach Reading List

I am about to leave for the beach, but not without sharing the books I’m taking. This list may look like a “Beach Reads from Summer’s Past,” but that’s what happens when you’re in grad school. Now that I’m done with my MBA program, I have so much more time to read. I’ll start the list with the newest book first.

 The Swans of Fifth Avenue, Melanie Benjamin

This book was recommended to me, and I have to say that I am intrigued to find out more about the life of Truman Capote and the New York socialites he surrounded himself with. The back story is that he referred to these women as his swans. They shared all of their secrets with him and he became a part of their world until he betrayed their trust. It seems utterly glamorous and tragic all at the same time.

The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides

I am currently reading this one and so far I really like it. It chronicles the life of three college students in the early 80s who are all about to graduate. Each one has a different perspective on love and life, and it’s interesting to see each of them sort out their own philosophies as they come of age.

The Martian, Andy Weir

As you may or may not have guessed, this is the novel that the movie the Martian, starring Matt Damon, was based on. I thought the movie was really well done and entertaining and, therefore, I thought the book must be awesome considering most books turned into movies are better than the movie. Also, I just want to hear more of Mark Watney’s biting humor and, as a nerd, I want to read more about the science behind living on Mars. 

Weekend Round Up

How was your weekend? Mine was fairly uneventful, but I did get a chance to sit outside and finish reading When Breath Becomes Air. It’s the memoir of Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. In his book, he discusses what makes life worth living as a patient and a doctor who knows his time on earth has been cut short. It’s interesting because he asks the question from both a scientific and a philosophical perspective. What I found most inspiring was his and his wife Lucy’s decision to have a baby despite his terminal illness. In the end they decided,  “Life isn’t about avoiding suffering, it’s also about creating meaning.” Great words to live by. I found myself in tears by the end of the book. Watch an interview with Lucy here.

I just discovered the blog Well Plated. It’s a food blog complete with mouthwatering images, a healthy spin on most recipes, and a cheerful Midwesterner, Erin, at its helm. I tried my first recipe, Crock Pot Corn Chowder, as I was cleaning my apartment yesterday, and it was super easy. It didn’t require a laundry list of ingredients, which for that reason alone I give it two thumbs up. I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks scrumptious and it should last me well into the week, which means I have more time to sit outside on my porch reading instead of in the hot kitchen.

Oh and I tried bright-pink, barbie-style lipstick this weekend. It’s Maybelline’s Pink N Chic Matte Lip Color. I was inspired by a similar shade on Southern Curls and Pearls and just had to try it. It still feels a little like I’m in costume when I’m wearing it, but paired with the right bright accessories for summer like these turquoise tassel earrings, I think it can have its time and place.

Summer Reading List 2015

Every year my summer reading list is something I look forward to putting together. Perhaps its the years of participating in the Book IT! Program with the promise of greasy pizza that continues to motivate me like Pavlov’s dog. I ask my friends, consult the New York Times, NPR, Amazon — any place I can find a list — and head to Half Price books. Since I love a good book recommendation, I thought I’d  share with you three of the books I read/am reading this summer.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Ever since Parks and Recreation ended, I have been looking to fill that smart/irreverent comedic void in my life. Reading this book is kind of like listening to Lesley Knope talk. Its a little wordy and rambly, but the payoff is completely worth at the end of every sentence. I think this book has more jokes per square foot than any comedian’s biography I’ve read so far (Jokes per square foot is a rating system I’ve invented). It’s cool to read about Amy’s early years working on Upright Citizen’s Brigade and SNL as well as her time on Parks and Rec. I also appreciate her advice and thoughts on relationships, parenting, work and life in general.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
I was excited to read this book as it was a gift and came highly recommended. It was named either a Best or Notable Book of 2014 by a variety of outlets. The time and place is 1920s London right after Word War I. The main character Frances and her mother who once were considered part of the high class have to take in borders to make ends meet. The book goes on to take many very unexpected twists and turns and the characters become forever changed in ways they never imagined. What starts out as a story about two proper, high-bread women becomes a suspenseful page turner in the end. What I found most interesting was the undertone of how much war changes a society.

The Gatehouse by Nelson DeMille
This book is the sequel to Nelson DeMille’s book The Gold Coast. If you know anything about Nelson DeMille, you probably know that he has knack for sarcasm and suspenseful crime stories. The Gatehouse starts where John and Susan Sutter leave off after a murder, the mafia and tax evasion catch up with them. The witty banter and descriptions of incredible mansions and estates along the Gold Coast keep it a light read, while their continuous run ins with the mob and the eccentricities of this social class give it just the right amount of intrigue.

3 Spooky Books to Read in October

If I had to trace my love of scary stories back to some event from my childhood it would be the sleepover parties that my sisters and I used to host. We always seemed to be equipped with a flash light and the latest edition of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I think that will always be my favorite source for scary stories. 
As October is here, my need for something spooky is renewed. Here are three books that rate high on my spooky radar:
Real stories are sometimes the scariest. Capote tells the story of an actual quadruple murder of a farm family in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959. He traveled to Holcomb to interview investigators and local residents about the horrific details. I have never read it, but it is on my list if I ever build up the courage to read it. 

“Gone Girl,” Gillian Flynn

In Gone Girl, Flynn takes you on a wild goose chase as Nick tries to find his wife Amy who disappeared on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary. I read this book at the beach two years ago, and I can honestly say that I did not know how it was going to end until I read the very last page. It kept me engaged the entire time, leaving little breadcrumbs here and there. You think you know what is going on, but you just have to keep reading to find out what will happen. Definitely a page turner!

“The Shining,” Stephen King

In “The Shining,” you follow Jack Torrence as he takes a job in Colorado as a caretaker at a hotel that closes every winter. He and his family are expecting a peaceful time isolated in the mountains, but they soon find out that their stay at the Overlook hotel will be anything but peaceful. Danny, the son, starts seeing things and Jack starts acting not so nice. If you’ve seen the move, you know what I mean.

What are you reading this October? 

The Paris Wife

Have you read any good books lately? I recently read The Paris Wife, by Paula McClain, the story of Hemingway’s time in 1920s Paris told through his first wife Hadley’s perspective. It helps you imagine the romance of being in love in Paris and a writer. Using A Moveable Feast as a guide, McClain retells conversations recorded by Hemingway between himself and Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.  I first heard about the book through my Alma Mater, where McClain was an adjunct creative writing instructor. At the beach this past summer I read A Moveable Feast for context. McClain’s novel shows the glitz and glam of the roaring 20s but also the disappointment and frustration Hadley often feels. It’s a lovely story. Would you read it?