31 July 2024

five things Friday: August TBR edition

It's that time of the month again... time to pick a new reading list! I read more than 5 books per month, but choosing a TBR list of 5 particular ones to make sure I get to has been a nice way to focus my reading this year - and also to broaden it, to make sure I am actually picking up some non-fiction or classics or diverse reads that I always mean to but then get distracted by some shiny new escapist read. Here's what I've got lined up for August:

Need to get some work done on my Modern Mrs. Darcy 2024 reading challenge, so the first two selections are based on that: A Nearly Normal Family (legal/domestic thriller) for the "a book in translation" prompt, and If Beale Street Could Talk for the "classic you missed in school" prompt (definitely wanted to make sure to pick a classic that was missed because it isn't typically taught in schools because of our lack of diversity in considering what is "classic" - not picking any old dead white guys here!). And then speaking of diversifying my mind, I was just given a copy of White Fragility, and I want to make sure I pick it up right away rather than let it languish on the shelf like "hard" non-fiction often does for me.

Finally, rounding out the month with a couple of YA picks: Dear Martin is the next blogger book club selection that Dana and I made, for our September 6 post (so you could join us!), and Running is a new YA read that I have the library Kindle version of, so I need to read it in the next 21 days before it disappears... but also I love the timely election topic!

And for a quick wrap-up of my July reading list: I'm 5/5 in reading all of them, and 3/5 in loving them. Americanah (review here), American Spy, and All Adults Here were all 4.5 stars for me. All quite different, all really well done. American Spy was a bit unexpected in the twist on the spy thriller, focusing on a single Black mother - so it might be more literary and playing with the conventions of the spy novel that thriller devotees might not enjoy as much, but I thought it was really interesting and well thought-out. And All Adults Here was Emma Straub doing what she does so well. Read it in 2 days and really enjoyed.

The others I didn't love quite as much - Dear Mrs. Bird (review here) was a little over the top in pluckiness, but still a nice change-up for a quick, light historical fiction read. And In Five Years just fell a bit flat for me. Reminded me a bit of some Taylor Jenkins Reid or Christina Lauren, which I love, but I think in this one I was partly bugged by the wealthy New Yorkers and it feeling a bit out of touch in that way (not necessarily the author's fault, but much as I love an escapist read, this just felt jarring for some reason), and overall while a decent way to pass the time, the book felt a bit forgettable compared to others in this genre that I have enjoyed.

So that was my July in books, and it looks like it'll be a good August in books too. How about you?



I think we're all feeling some nostalgia for times gone by right now, eh? Stuck home, thinking of how long stores were fully shuttered this spring, or how long it will be till we're comfortable shopping regularly again... But today have I ever got something for you to assuage those yearning feelings: a blog book tour! A great way to virtually learn about new books when physical book tours can't really happen - plus, it's for a novel that takes place almost entirely in a mall. Re-live your teenage years and normalcy, all at once!

Summary: In Megan McCafferty's new book The Mall, Cassie is just biding her time for one last summer in her small suburban New Jersey town, before she can finally go off to college in New York City and begin The Plan, the start of her real life. But the summer isn't going as planned: after she misses the end of high school thanks to mono, by the time she's back on her feet, her boyfriend has moved on and she's lost her position at America's Best Cookie. Now she needs to find a new job in the mall to avoid having to spend time with her detached parents who are , avoid the food court where her ex is swapping spit with his new girlfriend - oh, and help her estranged middle school best friend solve a real mall mystery: is there really a load of cash hidden somewhere in the mall, as employee lore has it?

What I liked: This book has 1990s nostalgia all over it, with the references, the mixtapes and scrunchie style, and of course the classic types of mall stores. I feel like I'm a couple years too young to really feel all of that, but it was still very enjoyable to have the book set in this era - the characters and their interactions just wouldn't have worked in another setting, and I loved that unique feel. And I loved how the story took place almost entirely within the mall itself, or in her parents' car on the way to be dropped off there, but it didn't feel like it was constrained at all - it's like a good sitcom in that way. The characters and dialogue would be great for a sitcom too. Plus I always love a main character who is so type-A and not exactly up on the "cool" scene (e.g., high school me...)

So if you know going in that the story is going to be a bit far-fetched and the tone quite snarky and snappy, you will be set up for success on just going along for a fun ride. And along the way, you'll also find a great coming-of-age story, while Cassie finds love and friendship and even herself in unexpected ways. (Love that it was especially about the friendship and the self-love, not totally focused on the romantic love.) And you'll for sure find yourself reminiscing about your own last summer before college.

astrill安装包"Less than five minutes into my triumphant return to the mall, I was targeted for assassination by a rabid spritzer from Bath & Body Works. Before the ambush, I was as happy as anyone making minimum wage could possibly be..."

"As Sam Goody Kissed me--sweetly, softly, tenderly--I had an acute awareness of what I can only describe as anticipatory nostalgia. For the rest of my life, I knew I"d always remember kissing Sam Goody whenever I heard this song, these words."

Recommended for: teenagers, fans of YA authors like Jenny Han with their sweet and naive but spunky heroines, anyone with 1990s nostalgia feelings - or who is just looking for a reading experience that will put a smile on their face right now

astrill安装 4/5 stars, delightful escapist summer fun

Thanks to the publisher for a free e-copy of the book; all opinions are my own.


blogger style: one item, two ways

Back with Everlane for this month's installment of Dana and my long-running blogger style series, we're both styling this very reasonably priced and very worth buying midi t-shirt dress.

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This dress has been on repeat for me this summer, as seen before, and I basically wear it the same way every time - I mean, it's cute on its own, and though it might be even cuter with a denim jacket, who has cool enough weather for that?! But then recently I remembered this little belt bag that I had ordered in anticipation of the spring-break-that-wasn't, because I thought it would be so perfect for touring around Savannah, to carry just the basics without weighing me down (and if you don't carry a big bag, the boys you're traveling with can't ask you to carry anything for them - ha!). The belt makes it into a bit of a different outfit - and the leather totally makes it count as a "belt" rather than a "fanny pack" which I am kind of scared of - plus it turns a no-pockets dress into one that has a perfect pocket for carrying the strolling around town essentials: a phone + our masks.

I feel lucky that we have plenty of open sidewalks, plus a whole college campus that is full of shady paths and currently no people, that we can walk and scooter ride without worrying about getting too close to anyone else - so that we can do it comfortably without needing masks. But I always feel better when I have it handy should the need arise!

See Dana's version here.

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24 July 2024

five things Friday: retail therapy edition

I've tried hard to find constructive ways to channel my pandemic feelings, but it's been several months, so a small bit of (online) retail therapy is just inevitable. Even if I'm not leaving the house, I can't deny the mood boost that comes from something shiny and new, like these 5 recent buys:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

All of the above very suitable for a mostly-at-home life in the summer time: cute bow scrunchies to jazz up the inevitable ponytail (it's hot out, and also my hair is getting sooo long!), as well as some comfy, cute, and (key!) washable astrill安装包 for walking around with Hendrik on his scooter. And then an irresistible at-home cozy option, in this leopard print sweatshirt on sale (this one is super similar if you're looking for a different size). Also, I have been reading a lot, and I have definitely succumbed to a few good Kindle deals in one easy click, such as this satisfying YA mystery.

The rug is for our alllllmost completed bathroom, which actually almost might trigger a need for therapy on its own. After another delay for being short on tile for the THIRD time, we are finally nearing the end. Near enough that I can pick out rugs, anyway, and I am loving this option.

How are you coping, retail or otherwise?



I just love when I find unexpected overlaps between entirely different books - and here is a pretty specific one: girls stepping in and taking over newspaper/magazine advice columns...in secret. Two books with this plotline might feel repetitive, except these ones are in such different genres (middle grade and historical fiction), that it just felt fun to find this similarity.

Dear Sweet Pea
Speaking of good advice - right off the bat, I have to say that I recommend reading anything that Julie Murphy writes (astrill安装包, Puddin', Ramona Blue, her Instagram account, anything). So I heeded my own suggestion and pre-ordered her newest book last year, even though it's a middle-grade one, not usually my category. And what a delight. Patricia, aka "Sweet Pea," is a tween whose parents are going through an amicable divorce - but that just makes it stranger for her, as they try to set up separate homes two doors down from each other that look just the same, so that Sweet Pea will always feel at home. As she navigates her strange new family setup, along with missing a best friend relationship that has grown apart as they entered middle school and it's new "cool" group landscape, Sweet Pea also has a new project: helping her eccentric neighbor, Miss Flora Mae, with collecting mail for the weekly "Miss Flora Mae I?" advice column she writes in the local paper while she is traveling. And when Sweet Pea starts reading some of the letters and getting ideas of her own for responses, an amateur advice columnist is born - but what will happen when Miss Flora Mae comes home and finds out? Though a middle grade book, I think it's still a great read for adults, very sweet and spunky. Also though it's really great to see something that has a really relatable main character and deals with some true-to-life family and friendship issues but still is really fun and age appropriate for a tween-age girl to read and maybe see herself in a little bit too. A coming of age story that is big-hearted and funny, has just the right amount of drama with family and friend issues but still a lot of love in the relationships, and has a nicely diverse cast too.

4.5/5 stars, for fans of middle grade authors like Rebecca Stead, anyone wanting a smile, or 8-13 year olds, especially girls

Dear Mrs. Bird
With Dear Sweet Pea as the modern day, middle grade version of an amateur advice columnist, in this book we have the WWII era historical fiction version. Emmy Lake is a plucky, young 20-something making her way in wartime London: living with her best friend Bunty, working by day and volunteering as phone operator with the fire brigade during the bombings in the evening, always keeping her chin up and a stiff upper lip despite the bombings and shortages, like a good British woman should do. But what she dreams of is becoming a war correspondent. She's looking for the adventure, but also the desire to feel that she is astrill吧helping. So when she sees a newspaper job posting, she jumps at the chance - jumping in so fast, in fact, that she doesn't realize that she's actually taking the job of sorting through the mailbag at a flagging women's magazine, pulling "appropriate" letters for the advice columnist, Mrs. Bird, to answer. While the rather old-fashioned and formidable Mrs. Bird won't allow through any questions having to do with any form of unpleasantness or intimacy, Emmy starts to feel that these women who are writing in really do need help, and they deserve support as they do their best to support families and hold out hope during a war situation. So she takes on a risky little secret side project of answering some of the correspondence on her own... This is the type of story I could envision as a great Masterpiece miniseries, with the period costumes and the very era-appropriate turns of phrase. While I breezed through this quick read and enjoyed the pluck of the characters overall, it was maybe a little over the top in the earnest naivete of Emmy, and maybe trying a little too hard on the snappy 1940s dialogue (with a definite over-use of capitalizing words to denote Very Important Things [air quotes on that]). It reminded me in some ways of Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, with the young women working on the London homefront during the war and the sparkling dialogue - but that one sparked much more for me. astrill安装 recommend it. As for this one, it's reasonably enjoyable and jaunty; if you're looking for a little palate cleanser (particularly if you don't read a lot of historical fiction, like me) to change things up between books, it's worth a read. And short enough that you can do it in a few sittings.

3.5/5 stars, for fans of light-hearted historical fiction with plucky protagonists, or perhaps books that have sad moments but overall hope and heart, like Guernsey or Lovely War

21 July 2024

wearing lately: hometown pride

I realized recently that while I think of our house as our "new" one, versus our first one, actually we have now lived here as long as we lived in our Cincinnati house! A bit mind-blowing at first, but then again, we plan on being back in astrill安装包 for the long-haul, so meeting + surpassing our 5 years in our little Cincinnati house was of course bound to happen. And to mark the occasion, here I am sporting some evidence of my hometown pride:

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This tee was a spring acquisition that lets me show off my hometown pride and support a local business at the same time - I bought it from this fabulous little shop, Frances Jaye, that's a few blocks away from me, and had such great service that the owner even delivered it right to my front porch during lockdown. I love it for the local flair, of course (and they've got several Great Lakes/Midwest options if you're in the vicinity!), but it's also fun to find this vintage-style graphic tee as a little something different.

The outfit is just jeans + a tee, but when you've got a graphic tee (plus some cool sneakers), what more do you need to make an outfit an outfit?

Speaking of hometown pride - on a hotter day (hence the jean shorts vs. jeans) I definitely had to pull out this tee for a recent demonstration in front of city hall, encouraging our city council and new mayor to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance (going beyond just a "policy") to ensure housing protections for gender identity and sexual orientation, and employment protections for all groups (currently the city has no official protections for any: LGBTQ, women, people of color, elderly, etc.). In the midst of all that makes me feel pessimistic about the country right now, it was nice to be out with people wearing masks, distancing, and showing their support for astrill安装包who live here - and it was wonderful to hear that the council voted to take the first step in this right direction.

H's graphic tee pride is more about his love of Lego - but at least this one perfectly fit the occasion with its rainbow stripes!

Sharing on Style Six, astrill安装.

17 July 2024


I mentioned recently trying to remember to take some snapshots of some of our "new normal" during these covid-times. Right now I am honestly feeling quite pessimistic about things - the status in our country is a complete mess, and it doesn't have to be this way - but the bit of optimism in me is thinking about when someday it'll be interesting memories to look back on with Hendrik about how we did things differently during this time in our lives. Here are 5 things new/different/unique to the current era:


astrill安装so grateful to the librarians for coming constantly in and out of the building for us, because some well-placed requests (I'm looking at you, Lego Harry Potter compendium and Lego Movie Guide) have provided some fresh entertainment - and quiet time - after the library was fully closed for so many weeks. At our library, they have 4 parking spots with a bookshelf at the end; you call when you arrive, a masked librarian comes out and places your requests on the cart, and then you retrieve your items. Since we live so close, we walk instead of take the car, and we always wear our masks for safety and to show consideration to the librarians!

2. Grocery pickups: I haven't been inside a grocery store since early March - so weird, when I used to stop for groceries at least twice, usually 3 times per week. We use the local grocery chain's "pick" service to order our groceries online, and then they get put in our trunk when we pick them up. While we sit and wait, Hendrik usually entertains himself with the Lego catalog in the back seat. He seems to prefer this method to actually having to shop with me, and now that I'm used to it, I don't mind saving a bit of time in this realm myself.

3. Outdoor visits: meeting up with people outdoors (and still spaced out from each other!) definitely is the safest way to do it, so we are taking advantage of summer weather in that way. Dinners in Peter's parents' yard, beach visits with some of my extended family, and here a Starbucks drive-through run and coffee + chat time on my grandparents' lawn.

4. Online camps: I continue to be so impressed by (and grateful for) some educators' creativity and skills over Zoom. Hendrik has done a couple of online science camps with our local college with supplies that they dropped off on our doorstep; here, he is doing his Junior Ornithologist camp with the Cornell Ornithology Lab (an organization he is obsessed with, as a little bird nerd). On this day they dissected chicken eggs to learn about bird eggs in general. While we were bummed to have all of his summer activities cancelled, this camp was especially cool to find, because it's an opportunity he would never have had otherwise, since the Cornell Lab is located in New York.

5. Backyard bookclub: my bookclub is actually meeting more often than we used to - there are just 3 of us, and now we pretty much don't have evening commitments, so we can get together more often! Mostly on Zoom, but now that the weather is nice we are rotating backyards, with our hand sanitizer, distanced chairs, and great book chat.

Now that I've done this, I realize how nice it was to take a look at the positives of the situation, some different experiences or ways of connecting with people that might not happen otherwise - and as a salve to the terribleness of the news and my pessimism/anxiety right now, it turns out it was just the thing I needed today. I recommend it as a useful exercise if you're feeling the same way!
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