This is my second winter in Minnesota but it still feels so strange this time of year. I miss living in Nashville and San Francisco where spring was already well underway come March. But I have to trust it'll stop snowing at some point and we'll see not only the ground but flowers, too. In the meantime, my friend's kitten Zoe has the right idea.
Read and Reading
Love, Hate & Other Filters (Ahmed) is first and foremost a good story but it's also incredibly powerful. Samira Ahmed deftly explores identity, racism, Islamaphobia, and culture through the eyes of Maya, a 17 year old American Indian. Maya’s wry observations and snark often made me smile. I was fascinated by the way she is most comfortable viewing the world by the lens of her video camera. She is a part of her surroundings, yet separate from them, whenever she chooses to film and this is sometimes driven by her art and sometimes to protect herself when she feels nervous. Maya is caught between her parents' expectations for her and her own desires. She's also aware of how she's different from her classmates by virtue of being brown-skinned and Muslim. The way Ahmed structured the novel was incredibly effective. While each chapter focuses on Maya, the chapters are separated by a page which centers on a crime, either still to come or the aftermath. The way she uses this to build up the tension is impeccable. Maya was such a great character and I loved her growth through the course of the novel. The ending was satisfying and I love imagining where Maya will go from here. I can't wait to see what Ahmed writes next!
The way Dhonielle Clayton writes about society’s relationship with beauty in The Belles was downright chilling. It was disconcerting to see how much the people of Orleans hated the way they looked and the lengths they would go to in order to achieve their ever-changing idea of beauty. Even more disconcerting to see how the Belles were treated, whether they're working on little rest or trying to avoid harassment or assault. There are big implications for our own society if we're willing to examine them. The power differentials that emerge were not what I thought they'd be originally and I really appreciated the way Clayton used them to illustrate her larger points. I loved how Clayton brought this world alive and how its ugly side emerged over time. I wasn’t overly surprised by the plot developments. This didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story but it did make me anxious that Camille wasn't picking up on the same cues. Camille could be reckless and rash, especially at the beginning when she doesn't know what palace life is really like, and this drove me crazy. But then I'd remind myself she's a teenager and she grew up sheltered and her only focus is on being a Belle so she's not going in as cynical and paranoid as she should be. The ending sets up book 2 for all kinds of interesting possibilities and I can’t wait.
Susannah Nix’s novels they make me so happy! I loved every part of Intermediate Thermodynamics. (The heroines all work in STEM fields in this series!) It made me laugh and cry! Typically I struggle when a character makes a lie of omission but somehow Nix made it work here and I think what helped is that the lie was not between the hero and heroine. I kept rooting for Esther to do the right thing and the consequences played out the way they should. Esther learns some big lessons and it happens in some bittersweet but ultimately lovely ways. Esther was so prickly and the way she softened over the course of the novel was so moving. And Jonathan was not without flaws but he was still the dreamiest and I loved how he took care of Esther. Esther resisted his appeal- in fact, was blind to it- at first and it was more than satisfying to watch her finally fall in love at last.
Take The Lead, a contemporary romance about a celebrity dance competition, was exactly what I needed. Fun, heartwarming, all about dancing and opposites attracting, I read with a smile on my face almost the whole way through. Stone could not be more of my dream man if he tried and Gina is basically my role model for working hard for what you want while keeping your integrity at the forefront. I absolutely loved these two together! I'm so impressed this is Alexis Daria's debut and cannot wait to read the next book in this series!
The tattoo philosophies, the vocabulary choices, the ease of Christopher and Ginger’s relationship in spite of everything they don’t say, all their cute interactions...I loved everything about Small Change! (Check to see if it's still on sale for Kindle! Only $0.99 as I write this.) Roan Parrish manages to explore some big issues, like sexism in the tattoo industry and bi-erasure, but never loses sight of the story. I adored Ginger's friends and how they've formed into their own family, especially in light of how awful her actual family is. I loved how Ginger and Christopher both own their businesses and how Christopher took care of Ginger by way of making her sandwiches. This is told from Ginger's perspective but her chapters are interspersed by Christopher's emails to his brother and these emails are so poignant and heartbreaking and real. Every part of this story's construction was spot on and I am so happy I read it.
Sometimes we read books at the precisely right time. I bought Divine Intuition (Robinson) more than two years ago after hearing the author's episode on The Lively Show but I didn't start reading it until last fall, just a chapter here and there. I’ve always been an intuitive person but this past year has been a hard season and I was hopeful this book would help me find some answers on what’s next. And it did, although not in the way I expected. This book and the practical exercises within reminded me I can still trust my intuition, even when things don’t turn out as planned. If you’re at all interested in how our intuition works, this is so worth reading. I’ll be returning to this book regularly in the years to come.
My reading goal for 2018 is to read a good chunk of my unread books so every month I'm designating several books to read. These were my picks for March.
Currently reading: This Is Where You Belong (Warnick), You Are A Badass (Sincero), Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality (McBride), Hot Mess (Belden), Toil & Trouble (ed. Spotswood and Sharpe), Love And Other Words (Lauren), The Preacher's Promise (Huguley), The Librarian And The Spy (Mann)
Season 3 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is on Netflix! I really don't watch TV anymore, not even my favorite shows, so I lost track of the last season. So happy I can (slowly) catch up!
Listening to Dermot Kennedy, as heard on Pop Culture Happy Hour's SXSW 2018 Wrap episode. There was so much good music on the episode and I need to check out more of the artists mentioned.
Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.
I caught up on Babysitter's Club Club! I'll now be able to finish out the show as they complete the series. Jack and Tanner have been in rare form the last several episodes, no more so than episode 101: Dawn and Too Many Sitters. Definitely NSFW but you will cry laugh.
Pantsuit Politics put out two episodes everyone should listen to: Gun Sense and Female Leadership with Shannon Watts (who founded Moms Demand Action) and Feminism and the Pro-Life Movement with Claire Swinarksi. The latter is an important example of how to agree to disagree. I really appreciated the conversation Beth and Sarah had with Claire and how they were able to find some common ground.
Erika Jayne came on Bitch Sesh and it was everything. She was so unexpectedly wise! It's a must for Real Housewives fans. Then listen to their episode with Roxane Gay. Roxane had some very astute observations and I hope she'll come back on the show again.
So much goodness on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books this month: #288 Tweeting About Romance History: An Interview with Elisabeth Lane of Cooking Up Romance, #290 The Art and Magic of Designing Book Covers: An Interview with Regina Flath (fascinating behind the scenes!), and #291 Encouraging Readers and Fostering Confidence: An Interview with Margaret H. Willison.
- Abby and Zoe were a delight to petsit for. I love staying at that house and took full advantage of all the natural light for bookstagram photos.
- Lois and I caught up at People's Organic. Those few hours flew by and I loved how many tangents the conversation went on.
- My friend Meg unexpectedly sent me a copy of a book I've been wanting to read. It was such a wonderful surprise to get in the mail!
- Similarly, Kelly and I got together and three hours later, we were no closer to exhausting all the things we wanted to talk about. But also, I would have sworn we'd only been talking for half an hour.
- Hermione came back to my place for a week and it was so nice to have a cat around again. It was rather disconcerting once she went back to her home.
- Skyping with my brother's family and getting to see my darling niece and nephew.
- I found out about COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch from Dame Sophie of Two Bossy Dames newsletter fame and I am here to tell you these things WORK. The patches are small circles and you put it on once you notice the pimple, leave it on for a while, and the pimple is gone when you take it off. Magic.
- Dinner with Annie and Marijke and getting to see sweet Foxy
- Karin hosted a St. Patrick's Day party, which was really an excuse for a few of us to catch up and have Leap Year on in the background. It was such a fun night!
- Marijke and I had a dinner and Enneagram night. Her cat Eddie proved to be quite helpful during the session.
- I won a giveaway from author AJ Pine in celebration of her fantastic book Second Chance Cowboy and received a copy of Jenny Holiday's One And Only in the mail. I wasn't expecting anything more so imagine my surprise when I received a bookplate in the mail the next day! Not only did Jenny Holiday send me the bookplate, she included a note with an anecdote about the personal connection she has to the area where I live. It just made me so happy!
- I updated my mug brownie recipe and I've made it more this month than I have the last two years.
- Baseball is back and the White Sox are off to a strong start! Let's go go go White Sox!
This is how it goes sometimes: I started A Man Called Ove over the weekend and while I can tell I’m going to enjoy the arc of his story, I just was not in the mood to read about a grumpy white man. So I picked up my other March Unread Shelf TBR book: The Nightingale. And it’s Kristin Hannah so it’s great and I’m going to love it but it’s also pretty heavy. So I put that to the side too and pulled up @alexisdaria’s Take The Lead on my Nook. It’s a contemporary romance about a celebrity dance competition and it was exactly what I needed. Fun, heartwarming, all about dancing and opposites attracting. Now I’m back to The Nightingale and all is right with the world.
(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)
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What have you been into this month?
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