Just as July didn't really feel like summer in San Francisco the last two years, it doesn't really feel like summer in the Twin Cities. But I don't miss the scorching heat and humidity I'm used to. Give me 70s and 80s in the summer and I shall be content. Life is trucking along here, even as I continue to wonder what exactly is going on. I never thought I'd still be looking for full-time work nine months in. But I have no regrets. Quitting grad school was the right call and I still sense something better is ahead.
Read and Reading
I liked Goodbye Vitamin (Khong) right from the start but I had to adjust to the way Ruth was telling her story. The more I read, the more I was enchanted by her storytelling style and her asides. The family dynamics are complicated, part of why Ruth has stayed away from home for so many years. Ruth's relationship with her father was particularly interesting because she has not wanted to see him with anything but adoration, in spite of his actions and now in the context of his decline with Alzheimer's. Even though this could have been a heavy book, it's not. Ruth has a lot she's dealing with but she has a lot of unusual insights, which are often complimented by random facts. This makes for engaging storytelling, particularly the contrasts between her life and her dad's. This would make for an interesting book club discussion.
No one writes a book like Laini Taylor. Her mind must be a strange and wonderful place! (Side note: if you haven't read her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy yet, get on that!!) The world-building in her latest novel Strange The Dreamer sucked me in from page 1. This book is Taylor's ode to libraries and the love of books and stories permeates these pages. It is Lazlo's love for the written word that spurs on his dream of finding out what happened to the city now known as Weep, a city he's never seen but has heard stories about since childhood, a city that's no longer the same. He is drawn toward the mystery and becomes almost an expert on this city few people in his town care about. But this ends up being how he goes to Weep itself and this is where the story really takes off. Taylor's prose is beautiful and magical. She knows how to turn a phrase and it is always in service of moving the story forward. The symbolism is moving and serves the world-building. I loved thinking about dreams and nightmares and what's behind them- this particular element of the novel was incredible. She takes concepts you think you understand (good is good, bad is bad) and turns them on their head. Strange The Dreamer is book 1 of a duology. There is so much story there and I have no idea where Taylor will take us in its conclusion but I am here for it. I loved all of the characters and the cliffhanger in this one is a doozy but somehow I know (hope?) Taylor will not leave us wanting for long. She will find a way to redeem these threads and build them into a stronger story. I can't wait!
Joss and Braden's story in On Dublin Street (Young) absolutely stole my heart. They certainly had one of the most memorable meet cutes I've ever encountered! Particularly the second time they met. I'm giggling just thinking about it. This has cemented my fangirl status: Young's novels make me laugh out loud, they make me tear up, and they wrap me up in the story and characters. The plot is fresh and you can't help but root for the characters, even when they make a mistake. The character growth was incredible, for both Joss and Braden. They both had a lot to learn from each other and while there are missteps along the way, it rang true to life. I especially appreciated the role of Joss's therapist as Joss finally starts to confront her grief for the first time since her family died. It was an accurate depiction of grief therapy and I'm so glad it was therapy, in conjunction with her new community, that brings hope and healing to Joss. I listened to this on audio, which was a great choice. All those delicious Scottish accents, complimented by Joss's American accent. It made me want to take the first flight to Scotland and find a Braden of my own.
I haven't had a chance to review them yet but Penny Reid's Beard In Mind and Adriana Anders's In His Hands are out today and they are GLORIOUS. 5 stars the both of them and definitely favorite reads from this month.
I've always been fascinated by novels and movies about hostage negotiators. My hat is off to everyone who does this kind of work. When I started reading Never Split The Difference (Voss), I wasn't sure how much direct application it would have to my life and I was astounded by how much I learned. Chapter 4 on the role of No was a game-changer. And this is coming from someone who loves to say no! There are so many relevant applications, even for those of us not negotiating with terrorists or making business deals. Highly recommended.
Have you ever read a book and the author/subject's innate goodness leaped off the page? That was my exact experience while reading the Dalai Lama's The Art Of Happiness. I'm amazed by his philosophies and how he lives out his Buddhist faith. He is the real deal. If we could approach others with even an ounce of his compassion, we'd all be in better shape. I'll be reflecting on this book for months and years to come.
Currently reading: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander), Write Naked: A Bestseller's Secrets to Writing Romance and Navigating the Path to Success (Probst), Milk And Honey (Kaur), The Animators (Whitaker), Down London Road (Young), The Long Way Home (Penny), Beautiful Secret (Lauren)
I am full on obsessed with Kesha's new songs Praying and Woman. (Don't listen to Woman without earbuds if you're at work or around children.) After everything she's been through the last few years, her music sounds empowered and free and full of life. I'm here for it.
I'm working on a Spotify playlist of cover songs. It's going to be amazing!
Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.
Look at me actually watching TV again! It's all because So You Think You Can Dance is back. This season is shaping up to be the best yet. I'm not completely on board with the new role for the All Stars but we'll see how it plays out.
I could not stop laughing while watching Mike Birbiglia's comedy special Thank God For Jokes. Plus, there was surprisingly thoughtful commentary at the end.
Has anyone else been listening to Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty? Super compelling storytelling about a complicated man.
If you need to laugh: The Popcast presents The Nos of Weddings.
Loved listening to my friend Amena Brown on episode 88 of What Should I Read Next? She and Anne had such an interesting conversation about creativity.
I'm giving Revisionist History a try after strong recommendations and was fascinated by The Foot Soldier Of Birmingham. I haven't listened to any other episodes yet but I'm pretty sure I'll be going through the archives.
- My best friends Tracy, Erin, and I had a weekend in Chicago and it was so much fun. We had dinner at Maize + Mash in the suburbs where our old friend Mike works. The cocktails, food, and ambiance were top notch! We brunched at Bub City, shopped on Michigan avenue, and laid out at Oak Street Beach.
Maxi dress by eShakti
- We had an amazing dinner at The Allis. My cocktail had thyme in it and it was so refreshing. After dinner, we decided to get dessert at Little Goat down the street. I finally had the Fat Elvis waffles, which I always contemplate ordering when Erin and I go to LG for our annual Christmas dinner. They were perfection but so rich, I couldn't finish, which is saying something.
- I loved our time together. It was such a treat to be with them without their families. We laughed and reminisced and talked about everything and nothing. We quoted our favorite movies and trotted out all the inside jokes. I can't wait for next time!
- My cousin Adam bought my grandparents' house after Grandpa moved to a retirement community. I drove out to the farm to help Adam move more of his stuff over. It was great catching up with him, my cousin Zach, and Uncle Terry. I love when we can get together in smaller groups like that.
- Laura and I met for coffee. There aren't any Caribous left in Illinois so we don't have a usual spot to meet at anymore but we make it work. We sat outside and there were two different firework shows in the distance. It was perfect.
- Ellie and I met up at Northside Park so her kids could play while we caught up. She is just a wonder and I can never get enough of the ways our lives intersect, even while taking us in such different directions.
- Lunch at Front Street with Donna and Jill and then a stop for my favorite penny candy at The Popcorn Shop.
- Linda and I sat in the park next to the library and it was Real Talk all the way. So good for my soul. Then we topped it off by visiting Prairie Path Books!
- My friend Jen and her family happened to be back in my hometown the same weekend so we were able to meet up for drinks. Such a treat!
- Mom and Dad took me out for dinner at Portillo's. It's tradition!
- My hometown 4th of July parade. I had to drive back to the Twin Cities right after but I am always thrilled when I'm back for the parade. Even better: there were a number of floats and marchers speaking up for love and equality. Every year those groups grow bigger and their voices louder and it gives me so much hope.
- Tracy brought me some Olive & Sinclair chocolate. She is the best!
- Iced tea at Patrick's with a new friend
- Breakfast with friends at Annie's
- Helping Sarah and Thomas figure out their Enneagram types after a delicious taco dinner. It's a fair trade.
- The porch swing at Annie's house, where I sat every day after work while housesitting.
- #24in48 -- I did it!
- Winning signed copies of Penny Reid's Truth Or Beard and the ARC for Adriana Anders's new book In His Hands.
- Going for one last walk with Annie and Foxy before they moved away. I'm going to miss seeing them all the time!
- Two good friends from college live in Wisconsin so we picked a nowhere town that was halfway between us to meet up. It was so much fun! We went to Sand Creek brewery, ate incredible fried pickles at Mocha Mouse, and enjoyed the treats and hot drinks at Revolution Coffee. I hadn't seen Melissa and Danielle since before I moved to San Francisco so it was wonderful to be back together.
- Watching my friend's cat Hermione...at my house! Catsitting for someone else in your own home is the way to go. Plus, Hermione is such a sweetheart.
- Roommate bonding time over Thai food at Sawatdee.
In the Blogosphere:
You can find the best of what I've been reading at Storify.
(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)
On The Blog:
On the Leigh Kramer FB page, we loved this little known perspective about The Sound Of Music, geeked out over the forthcoming Psych movie, and shared 3 word Enneagram type descriptions. You also made me feel better about my To Read "stack" problem.
(The best way to see updates in your newsfeed is by liking and commenting on my posts regularly.)
What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:
1. Today’s link-up will stay open for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Friday September 1.
2. Link the unique URL of your post, not your blog's home page. Readers peruse link ups months after the fact and you want to make it easy for them to find your What I'm Into post.
4. Visit at least 2 other posts in the linkup!
What have you been into this month?
Disclosure: Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through, any purchase you make supports this site.