Fall is in the air and I am glad for it! September turned out to be pretty great, mostly because I was out of town for most of it. When you're newly unemployed/you can work from home, you might as well travel, amirite? After how hard August was, traveling and getting to spend time with some of my favorite people was just what I needed. Some things are still hard- help me out here, Universe- but I was reminded I still have a lot of good in my life.
Announcement: November marks the 5th anniversary of this link-up. Can you even believe it?! In honor of the occasion, everyone who links up in November will be eligible for a giveaway. I'm not sure what the giveaway will be quite yet but it will be open internationally. Come back November 1 for the details!
Read and Reading
Wow, wow, wow!! I'm so glad Rachel McMillan told me to read The Alice Network (Quinn) because I would have missed out if I'd stuck in my "I don't read historical fiction" lane. This was such a fascinating, well-written novel. I've read a good deal about WWII over the years but I can't remember hearing much about lady spies before and certainly not that they'd been used during the first world war. Eve and Charlie were such compelling characters. We alternate between Eve's experiences as a spy during WWI and then looking for Charlie's cousin shortly after the end of WWII. We know all did not go well for Eve during her mission because of the state of her hands. (Her poor hands!) The tension builds as her flashbacks pull us further into her story and I was continually amazed by her ability as a spy and her courage no matter what she faced, as well as that of her counterparts. (This is partially based on a true story!) Charlie's story is interesting as well, particularly how limited women's options were at that time and especially if you were an unwed mother. I loved how strong the heroines were and I loved how they banded together with Finn. They were a special group of misfits and their relationships to one another developed in such lovely ways. Finn added a good amount of heft to the tale with his experience as a soldier and the aftermath of the war. I could swoon over the way he treated Charlie. If you haven't gathered by now, I positively loved this one. It was a great reading experience and I learned a ton. Kickass lady spies rule! I'll be reading more from Kate Quinn, that is for certain.
Rupi Kaur's work is simply stunning, as evidenced in milk and honey. I don't know how she says so much with so little. I'm excited to see how her poetry evolves in the coming years. Her next collection the sun and her flowers comes out October 3.
I am swooning with love for Hunted (Spooner)- the best Beauty and the Beast retelling I've ever read. In this version, Beauty is a hunter, Russian folklore is woven in, and the story explores the concept of what we want vs. what fulfills us. Yeva is such an incredible heroine. I loved watching the evolution of her feelings toward the Beast, from something to kill to someone to save. The chapters are written from Yeva's perspective but in between each chapter we hear from the Beast and this is written primarily in second person plural to great effect. This retelling had everything I love about Beauty and the Beast and none of the stuff I don't. The magical elements served only to move the story forward, as well as keep you guessing. There's a lot in here about intent and motivation that is wonderful but I was most moved by the idea of longing for something more and whether achieving that goal can ever satisfy us. What Yeva and Beast ultimately learn about their wants is something I'm tucking away for further pondering. If you love fairy tale retellings, track down a copy however you can. You won't regret it.
I binge read Chanel Cleeton's Wild Aces series over the course of a weekend. This was my first time reading Chanel Cleeton and I'm officially a fan. I definitely need to read more military romance if it's as good as this. From the moment Noah and Jordan met in Vegas in Fly With Me, I was hooked. Then Into The Blue and On Broken Wings surpassed all expectations. Cleeton doesn't shy away from depicting how hard the military can be when it comes to relationships and I felt all the angst each couple experienced as they tried to figure out what they meant to each other and whether the sacrifices were worth it. I also shed very real tears while reading each one because holy hell what the men and women connected to the military go through. (I have an idea of how this will serve the series but still, heartbreaking.) But more than that, I loved how each hero and heroine complimented one another no matter what difficulties they faced. I loved these characters so much and was just so happy by the time I finished reading each one.
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), What Happened (Clinton), The Lost Book Of The Grail (Lovett), It Happened One Autumn (Kleypas)
Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.
I've barely been able to watch So You Think You Can Dance (alas!) but I was happy to see who won.
Outlander is back!!! But I haven't had a chance to watch yet. Season 3 is based on Voyager, the third book in the series and my favorite. Hoping to download the Starz app now that I'm back in town.
Ina Garten was on How To Be Amazing With Michael Ian Black and it was everything I hoped it would be. I love how much she loves her husband and just her general approach to life.
Pop Culture Happy Hour had a marvelous discussion of Outlander, both the books and the show.
An Advertising Revolution: "Black People Are Not Dark-Skinned White People" on Code Switch. Such fascinating history and a great profile of Tom Burrell.
Smartest Person in the Room is back with a new series: Mind-Body. The first episode with a Pilates instructor was so good!
- I finished my novel revisions!!! Actually: I FINISHED MY NOVEL REVISIONS!!! It didn't happen in August as planned but I did it and I'm pretty happy with what I accomplished. It's back with my editor for the next round and now I have to start thinking about things like writing a synopsis and hiring someone to design the cover. Yessssss.
- I stayed with my parents for one night on my way to Nashville so naturally they took me to dinner at Portillo's. I usually get a hot dog but since I'd had Portillo's not too long ago, I decided to get the Italian beef this time around and it was so good and I can't believe how long it'd been since I'd had one. It's a good thing they're opening a Portillo's close to me.
- I visited Nashville for almost a week and it was glorious. I hadn't been back in a year and a half so it was just plain good to be with my people. Nashville has changed a lot since I moved away and so have I. I'm always going to miss that city.
- I stayed with my best friend Tracy and her family and I cannot get over how much her kids have grown since the last time I saw them. I used to see them at least once or twice a week and it is painful to only have the occasional FaceTime to see us through. I soaked up my time with my darlings. It's good to know they still want to hang out with Aunt Leigh, even if we're just piled onto the bed.
- Melissa and I met up at The Perch, just like old times. We always seem to be in sync in random ways and it was so good to catch up with her.
- My old coworker Lesley Ann and I had lunch at Chuy's. I didn't get to see her the last time I was in town so we had a lot to talk about. I haven't kept up with many of my coworkers from VCH but I'm glad Lesley Ann and I have stayed in touch. She's a keeper.
- I went to my first true love McKay books and found a treasure trove of awesomeness, per usual. I'm on a stricter budget these days so I had to put back several finds but still walked out with some preciouses, including a copy of my all-time favorite novel A Prayer For Owen Meany for $2 because my copy is still in storage and I decided I need to keep one on hand.
- My dearest Amanda and I had dinner at Burger Up (where I had the lamb burger, of course) and then we got doughnuts at Five Daughters. I had the vegan chocolate glazed and it was amazing. Best of all, Amanda and I talked for hours. It wasn't long enough- it never is- but we always soak up our time together. She is so good for my heart and soul.
- Fruit tea and a breakfast sandwich at Star Bagel with my old roomie Valerie. Best fruit tea in all the land!
- Tracy and I got to have a couple of hours together just us and I always savor when that happens. We went to Parnassus Books for me, where I was amazed by the store's expansion. They are using the bigger space well! Then we walked the Greenway for her. Friendship is about give and take, you see. ;)
- Abby and I met up at Ugly Mugs and the weather was nice enough for us to sit outside.
- I got to see my nanny baby and her parents! At 6 years old now, she is very much not a baby anymore and I'm so glad we've stayed in touch three years later. It's so much fun to see the person she's growing up to be.
- I went back to Five Daughters to get a doughnut, which was a good life decision. Then Kelley and I went over to bartaco and got drinks and some of the best guacamole I've ever eaten.
- Francie and I went to Fido for breakfast and I was pleased to see their Rishi tea selection has expanded. The Chocolate Cinnamon tea was delicious!
- Jessica and I had amazing salads at J. Alexanders. I cannot believe I never ate there while I lived in Nashville!
- I went back to Parnassus when I had a little bit of time to kill. I could browse there forever.
- Alece and I have established a tradition of cocktails at Pinewood Social and I like this about us. My Old Fashioned was top notch.
- Jennifer and I went to lunch at Edley's and I was relieved they still had plenty of brisket sandwiches. It's my favorite thing on the menu! Plus we got an order of fried pickles. Perfection.
- Crystal and I got tea at Frothy Monkey in Franklin and even though it was a cloudy, rainy day, it was nice enough to sit on the covered patio. Plus the High Garden tea is so good.
- Allison cooked me an amazing dinner and most of the produce came from her backyard. Her garden is amazing! We geeked out over the Enneagram and talked about everything under the sun and I completely lost track of time.
- I headed to Louisville to see Anne and her family. We got a late lunch, then browsed at Carmichael's Books, and did some work at VINT Coffee.
- I love the Bogels' new house! That library is something else, of course, but the whole house is lovely. It was wonderful getting to see the kids and Will again. I used to see them a few times a year when I lived in Nashville and while I've seen Anne since I moved away, I haven't seen her family so this was a treat.
- I helped Anne go through her books and she ended up with a huge stack to regift. So we took as many as we could around to four different Little Free Libraries. Consider us the bookish Sisters of Mercy. SO FUN.
- We ate amazing breakfast sandwiches at Blue Dog Cafe and Bakery. The tea service was darling!
- From there, I headed to Chicagoland to be with my family for festivities. My dad celebrated his birthday and my maternal grandfather turned 90! My brother, sister-in-law, and the kids were in town and I could not snuggle my niece and nephew enough.
- Ellie and I grabbed some writing time. We text about what we're working on fairly regularly and it was so fun to actually work at a coffee shop together. Plus, she let me take her to Prairie Path Books afterward.
- Erin and I sat in a park for a couple of hours just catching up on life. Gorgeous weather.
- Laura and I went to Maize + Mash so I could enjoy an Old Fashioned. I love that place.
- The way my nephew smiles at me. (I refuse to believe he smiles like this for everyone.)
- My hometown library always has books for sale in one of their corner annexes but I rarely browse because they never have anything I want. But while I was there using their wifi, I decided to look anyway and walked away with six books I've been wanting for only $6. Score!
- Megan and her family did a great job spoiling me as always. We had a lovely dinner together and it was great catching up with Al and the kids. The next day Megan took me to her farmers market, where I stocked up on honeycrisps and cider doughnuts. Then we had tea at Read Between The Lynes bookstore. (I have a lot to say about this cute bookstore. Post coming soon!)
- I got another Fix from Stitch Fix and I kept all five items! This is only the second time this has happened and it was glorious. I'm especially happy about the gorgeous leather tote they sent since I've been desperate to replace my beloved but falling apart purse.
- I have a new favorite tea in my life: Chai Green tea from Stash. It tastes just like regular chai but with less caffeine. I'm impressed!
- This article about my new hero/role model Linda Rodin
- I went to Colorado for my annual Somewheres retreat. My heart is full after time with my life council. It went way too fast and we surely missed the friends who couldn't be there. But there's something magical about being in the same room again. They love me so well and I am a better person for knowing each one. I didn't want to leave.
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:
I rhapsodized about my Favorite Retellings.
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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 Wednesday November 1. Our 5 year anniversary of linking up! Anyone who links up will be eligible for the giveaway.
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?
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