What I'm Into (June 2018 Edition)

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Book release bouquets 

June 2018 will forever go down as one of the most magical months of my life. My debut novel A STORIED LIFE went out into the world! I'm officially a novelist and also officially researching my next book. The reviews have been really positive and nothing beats hearing how much my story has resonated with someone. It's even better than I dreamed!

 

Read and Reading 

Susanna Kearsley’s novels build in the loveliest ways. I loved the way The Rose Garden examined Eva’s grief after the death of her sister and the way her found family took care of her. Plus, time travel! And intrigue! And a tea house that I wish was real so I could visit! Every part of this novel just plain worked for me.

 

I inhaled The Kiss Quotient! Could not put it down. Definitely a favorite contemporary romance of 2018! I just adored this one. It gave me so many feels. I still can’t believe this was Helen Hoang’s debut! I loved how she built her story. Stella and Michael were incredibly endearing characters. I loved how kind they were to one another and how they looked out for each other. Autistic econometrician heroine and Vietnamese-Caucasian escort hero- what’s not to love about this set up?! They have so much to teach one another. (Note: I’m neurotypical so I can't speak to the autism representation but this is an #ownvoices book.) 

 

Stalking Jack The Ripper (Maniscalco) lived up to all the buzz! I raced through this novel in a few hours, all because of the incomparable Audrey Rose. I loved that she cared about forensics as much as she cared about quality dresses. They’re not mutually exclusive and caring about how you look isn’t a negative, as she capably demonstrated. The mystery itself was creepy in the best ways- albeit bloodier than my typical books- and made me very glad I don’t live in Victorian-era London. The twists and turns kept me captivated, even though I guessed the big twist. It was such a compelling read, especially because of the character development and the way Audrey Rose chafed against societal expectations while defying them. However, as much as I loved Audrey Rose, I often wanted to strangle her. If there’s a serial killer on the loose, you don’t go to strange neighborhoods by yourself! I know it’s the title of the book but trying to actually stalk Jack the Ripper, especially on one's own, is more than a little naive and reckless. Still, I can't wait to read the next book in the series and see what more develops in her relationship with that dreamboat Thomas.

 

Librarian romance is my catnip! Bad Bachelor (London) was a fun and surprisingly moving read. It’s not perfect (heads up for bi-erasure) but it was filled with quirky, well-developed characters and backstories that made me want to know more. Reed and Darcy’s banter was on point (always the key to my heart) and I loved watching them go from reluctant colleagues to something more. I couldn’t put it down! 

 



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My reading goal for 2018 is to read a good chunk of my unread books. I decided not to make a TBR stack for June and I have to say the freedom to read whatever unread shelf book I want really agrees with me. I'm not going to designate a TBR stack for July either. Why not?

 

You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads

Currently reading: This Is Where You Belong (Warnick), Hot Mess (Belden), The Library: A Catalogue Of Wonders (Kells),  The Line Becomes A River: Dispatches From The Border (Cantú), Unclaimed (Milan), Children Of Blood And Bone (Adeyemi), Visions Of Heat (this PNR series is so good on audiobook!)

 

TV

The second season of Queer Eye is here! I've watched two episodes so far, which means I'm two for two on Episodes That Made Me Cry.

I started watching the comedy special Nanette on Netflix. I've been hearing such good things and I'm really impressed so far. I just need more time to watch! 

   

Music:  

Bad Wolves' cover of Zombie is giving me so much life.

Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.

 

 

Podcasts:

Sarah MacLean had two great interviews in support of her new book Wicked And The Wallflower, which I cannot wait to read. Listen to her on The Wicked Wallflowers Club and Heaving Bosoms.

I loved Zoraida Córdova's episode on Write Or Die! I'm a big fan of her Brooklyn Brujas series, which I read this past month. She's also an amazing romance writer.

Really grateful for Pantsuit Politics and their coverage of the families separated at the border.

Pop Culture Happy Hour had a thoughtful episode about Anthony Bourdain's death by suicide. (It's the second half of the Tony Awards And Remembering Anthony Bourdain episode.)

The oh so darling Lucy Parker was on Smart Podcast Trashy Books! It was so fun to hear her voice and learn more about her writing inspiration. She is a delight to follow on Twitter, FYI.

The Bias Series from Smartest Person In The Room has made for interesting listening and I would encourage you to listen to the whole thing if you haven't already. I thought Episode 34: Stop Saying "Down There" was especially compelling.

 

 

Highlights:  

  • I won a giveaway for Caraval, which I've been meaning to read for ages, and an ARC of Legendary from Paper Fury, one of my favorite bookstagram accounts. I can't wait to read them!

 

  • Drinks on Marijke's porch. Great conversation and the weather was perfect!

 

  • I went back to my hometown in the Chicago suburbs for book release week, which was one of my best decisions. Since I can work from anywhere, I might as well work there! 

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  • Running into Laura and Junice at Starbucks! I was taking advantage of the wifi and getting work done when who should appear at my table?! It was so fun catching up.

 

  • Traditional dinner at Portillo's. Even though there's a location or two in the Twin Cities now, I swear it's just better at home.

 

  • Pangaea Joy tea at Cafe K'Tizo. I love the sunny colors of the teapots and this was a delicious chocolatey coconut tea to try!

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  • Book Release Day!!! This was such a magical day. I wore my dress from Eshakti, which I adored. (The dresses are customizable and have pockets, y'all!) I went to Cafe K'Tizo in the morning and got my pot of tea while I caught up on all the social media mentions and promo stuff. I still cannot get over how the bookstagram and romance communities supported me that day. Plus, all my friends were posting about it. It was so much more than I ever could have hoped for! 

 

  • My best friend Erin and her kids took me out for lunch at Front Street Cantina...but at the Naperville location, since our usual location closed under strange circumstances. Same menu though so I got my usual burrito and was happy as can be. Then I stopped in at Adagio Tea and picked up some Irish Breakfast tea, since it was on the same block.

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  • Laura, Ellie, and Donna took me out to dinner at Cellar Bistro. We toasted to the book and laughed loud and covered every topic under the sun. It was the best way to celebrate!

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  • There has been so much positive feedback for A STORIED LIFE! Thank you to everyone who has let me know they've enjoyed reading it. If you wouldn't mind, would you take a minute to leave a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or any retailer that carries it? Reviews go so far in helping authors, especially self-published authors like me. Your review, positive or negative, only needs to be a sentence or two and it makes a big difference!

 

  • People are telling me they've requested my novel from their library and their libraries are actually ordering it!! This makes me downright giddy. I'm going to put together a blog post soon listing the libraries I know about so please let me know if your library has it.

 

  • Browsing at Prairie Path Books.

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  • Burger Social with Heather. She got me balloons! It was so much fun to catch up. Plus, they have the best Old Fashioneds there.

 

  • Mago with Megan. Amazing tableside guacamole and I got a tequila mojito that was perfection. Always so good to see my MFC!

 

  • Cornerstone Used Books. I got into trouble but there were so many books I've been needing to own and wanting to read!

 

  • My hair stylist remembered that my novel was going to be published. She must take notes on her clients or something! I was so touched when she asked about it.

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  • My dear friend Karin, whom I've known since we were freshman in high school, took me out for lunch at Good Earth and then we went to see the play Underneath The Lintel at Latte Da Theater in Minneapolis to celebrate my book release. It was a great, funny play about a librarian! Unexpectedly meaningful too. Then we got iced tea at Spyhouse Coffee. It was such a wonderful time. She is such a thoughtful friend!

 

   

    

Favorite Instagram:

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Breaking News: Woman Takes Library Books With Her On Vacation

Look. Until April I had NEVER traveled with library books and although there are some horror stories out there, many people thought this was silly so I threw caution to the wind and took one on my trip. Which I didn’t even get the chance to read but whatever. The point is the book was fine and I was fine. 

This time around I’m filling my beloved @overduepod tote with not one but three library books because I am wild and carefree! 😂 I’m heading to my hometown to celebrate my book release (ah!!!!!!!) and I cannot wait to be with my people. Do you travel with library books??

Joining @simoneandherbooks to share #awildbookishlife.

 

(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)

 

On The Blog:

Welcome To The World, A Storied Life!

 

 

What I'm Into
 

What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

1. This link-up will stay open for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Wednesday August 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.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

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 throughany purchase you make supports this site.


What I'm Into (December 2017 Edition)

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I have to confess I didn't have much Christmas spirit going into the holidays this year. It was hard to muster the enthusiasm after one of the hardest years of my life. But it was good to be with family and to see friends back home. There are glimpses of light when I look hard enough. Here's hoping 2018 is good to all of us.  

 

Read and Reading 

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You know those books you love so much, you’re practically incoherent? I finished The Gentleman's Guide To Vice And Virtue (Lee) a few weeks ago and I’m still swooning. It’s an adventure story the likes of which I’ve never seen before. Progressive, fresh, feminist, and as fun as it’s funny. My admiration for Mackenzi Lee’s genius grew with every page of this rollicking tale. Monty is an absolute rake, one you despair over and cheer for in equal measure. Percy’s devotion in the face of his society-imposed limitations was inspiring. The character growth was stupendous and the plot twists had me dying to know what would happen next while not wanting the book to end. Monty and Percy’s love story is for the ages and what a magnificent ride it was getting there. Highly recommended. (If you've read this, we must discuss! I have so many thoughts about the way privilege, race, entitlement, attitudes toward the LGBT community, women's roles, etc. play into this novel.)

 

I started What Happened (Clinton) at the end of September. I thought I was ready to handle it. Then I cried my way through the introduction and first chapter. I had to take frequent breaks because it made me so sad. And then I would get even more angry about Trump. Then I would read HRC's policy ideas and imagine how wonderful it would have been, especially in contrast to what we're currently dealing with, and get sad all over again. Clinton is a great writer and it was a treat to experience her words again, no matter the emotional response they evoked. This was a hard but powerful book to read. I appreciated how she encouraged us to choose love and kindness and used the last chapter to discuss activism and what we can do as a country. We need to stay involved and resist and enlist where we can. It's hard to think about what might have been but I'm grateful to have read this book and thankful for her example. I'm still with her.

 

Penny Reid is my gold standard for smart romance and I’m thrilled to have found a new author to add to that list: Susannah Nix. Remedial Rocket Science introduces us to Melody, an IT worker who is passionately nerdy about her fandoms. Melody and Jeremy didn’t have the most auspicious beginning when they reconnect three years after hooking up. We learn very troubling information about Jeremy and I wasn’t sure he could be redeemed. But I believe in second chances and as Melody and Jeremy become friends, it’s clear he’s grown up a lot. He totally won me over! This novel was clever and refreshing and made me laugh out loud. 

 

I'm still gathering my thoughts about Celeste Ng's second novel Little Fires Everywhere. Suffice it to say it was phenomenal and I'll be retroactively adding it to my favorite fiction list for the year once my review is done.

 

Favorite Book Lists for 2017: Fiction and YA, Romance Novels, Nonfiction.

 

You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads

Currently reading: Write Naked: A Bestseller's Secrets to Writing Romance and Navigating the Path to Success (Probst),  Divine Intuition (Robinson), This Is Where You Belong (Warnick), You Are A Badass (Sincero), salt. (waheed), Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution And Triumph Of Modern Female Friendship (Schaefer), Tell Me More (Corrigan)

 

 

Podcasts:

I listened to Kristin Hanggi and Natalie Roy are just getting started on the Robcast twice. The first while I was driving, the second so I could take notes. So many great insights about intuition.  

Gabrielle Union Is Fed Up and I Can't Fix It: A First Responder and Heroin are both worthy listens from Death, Sex, and Money.

Pantsuit Politics has become a must-listen. I'm so grateful for Sarah and Beth's commentary on everything happening in our country.

Pop Culture Happy Hour's Our Hanukkah Special was fantastic! Love that they did this episode.

I've started listening to the bookish podcast Lit Up, mainly just going through the archives and downloading episodes of authors or books I like. I especially enjoyed Chapter 110: Rachel Khong on Family Matters & Food. I really enjoyed Khong's book Goodbye Vitamin and it was great to hear where some of her inspiration came from. 

I wish both Neil Patrick Harris and Octavia Spencer's episodes of Off Camera with Sam Jones had been longer! So interesting. 

 

Highlights:  

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  • I loved my time in Louisville visiting Anne, Will, and their family. While I've visited them regularly over the years, we usually just hang out at their house. It was so fun to explore more of the city. We got a lot of book-ish time in, from visiting bookstores to simply nighttime reading in their library. I sampled bourbon- Henry McKenna and Larceny were two favorites. And we relaxed and chatted about everything under the sun. I can't wait to go back!

 

  • My friend sent me a box of clothes she no longer wants and it was filled with glorious sweaters and cardigans. It was the best!

 

  • The globe ornaments at World Market

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  • Rikki and Michaela from The Ardent Biblio organized a book exchange and I was delighted by Rhode Read's thoughtful selections for me. She sent me a Little Free Library book that turned out to be a vintage romance novel (score!) and a copy of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, a book I loved but did not own. Her thoughtfulness blew me away!

 

  • Tea and conversation about the Enneagram and intuition with Kelly at The Good Earth

 

  • Christmas with family

 

  • My cousin addressed my Christmas card with Favorite. I now have proof that I am the favoritest of all the cousins! 

 

  • Being back in my hometown, which means time with good friends and stopping by as many of my favorite places as possible.

 

  

Favorite Instagram:


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Do you want to build a (book) snowman? 

 

(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)

 

On The Blog:

All my tea recommendations: Tea For You And Tea For Me: A Tea Lover's Guide

 

 

What I'm Into
 

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 Thursday February 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.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

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 throughany purchase you make supports this site.


What I'm Into (October 2017 Edition)

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Fall has fell in the Twin Cities and it's been glorious. The changing colors of the leaves repeatedly lured me outside to go on walks and take billions of pictures. I'm not happy it snowed a few days ago (TOO SOON) but I'm glad we had a few weeks of unrestrained beauty beforehand. The Midwest does fall right.

This month marked one year here and my feelings toward this place are complicated and vast. As I shared on Instagram, I have often returned to David Whyte's poem The House Of Belonging (from the collection by the same name.) Even on the blackest days in this year of uncertainty, I have strived to remember that today could be the good day, that life is still filled with possibility, that things could come together at any moment, and I have given thanks for the friends who remind me who I am and what I have to offer. I don't know how this chapter in Minnesota will unfold but I wrap myself up in David Whyte's words and trust, at the very least, I'm making my way. 

 

5th Anniversary Giveaway Details: 

November 2012 I shared the first official What I'm Into linkup post, unsure if anyone would play along. But people did and they've continued to do so! I can't believe this linkup has been happening for 5 years now. What a crazy ride it's been. Thank you to everyone who has linked up, whether you've done it once or every month. It has been so much fun to read your posts from month to month and see how you've made it your own.

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is link up your What I'm Into post before the linkup ends November 8. 

Prizes:

  1. A box of my favorite things, including one of my favorite Book Of The Month selections, FrostBeard Studio tealights, a pouch generously donated by LoveFeast, and a few other odds and ends. This is for US entries only.
  2. Ebook (up to $9.99) of your choice. This is open to everyone. 

 

 

Read and Reading 

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Without a doubt, I am Charlie Lovett's target audience. His novels serve as odes to bibliophiles and I cannot resist literary origin story mysteries. Such is the case with his latest The Lost Book Of The Grail. I don't know much about Arthurian legend or the Grail beyond what I've gleaned from, say, Indiana Jones and The Sword and the Stone but that didn't matter. Everything about this novel satisfied me, from the central mystery of Ewolda to the points it raises about technology to the themes about doubt and faith. The tie-in between the Grail and faith was quite moving. I only wish I could spend time in the cathedral library myself and been there to discover its secrets. If you're a book nerd like me, do give Lovett's novels a try. They transport me to magical places and I can't help but smile while I'm reading because of how evident Lovett's love of literature is.


While Turtles All The Way Down (Green) wasn't quite what I expected, I really enjoyed what I got. This is one of the finest renderings I've seen of OCD and in a teenager no less. We are deep in Aza's mind as she contends with what she calls her "invasives" and the way her compulsions spiral down so that she's not quite fully present with her surroundings or circumstances. But there's a lot of love in this story, as well. Aza's friends and mom look out for her, they figure out how to be present to her pain and anxiety and they stick by her, no matter how many other people would bail. Time and again, it is Aza's mother or best friend who bring her back to the present. The depiction of OCD's treatment and the struggles in getting healthier was top notch and I'm so glad Green chose to write about this, as well as some of the unusual ways it can impact relationships. Other things I loved: the way Aza talked about her car Harold, Davis's interest in astronomy, Daisy's Star Wars fan fiction, the underground art show, the use of story and fiction as a framing device. (I really liked Green's interview on Fresh Air.) 

 

The Hate U Give (Thomas) gets all the stars! It went ahead and exceeded my admittedly high expectations. The writing was both crisp and vivid. I could clearly picture every scene and I'm not surprised this will be turned into a movie. Starr's POV was powerful, especially as she grappled with her grief over her best friend's murder and her place in the two worlds she straddled. She's too Williamson (her private school) for Garden Heights (her neighborhood) and too Garden Heights for Williamson and there's a lot of code switching that happens depending on where she's at. Her perspective was one of the best parts of this novel and I loved the way she grew as a character, going from witness to eventually speaking out and beyond. This has been described as the YA novel about Black Lives Matter. Thomas does nod toward other people of color who were killed by the police and their respective cities' responses, particularly Michael Brown and Ferguson, but the story of Khalil's murder is unique. By making Starr the sole witness, we as readers have a unique experience as well. This was moving and timely and I hope to God more and more people read it because we need to absorb its message. If we're white, we have got to examine our privilege and do whatever we can to dismantle systemic racism. There's no excuse. If this is what Angie Thomas can accomplish in her debut novel, I look forward to seeing what comes next in her career.

 

After reading Michael Twitty's blog a few years ago, I had a feeling he would eventually get a book deal and I'm so glad he did. In The Cooking Gene, he effortlessly blends the history of Southern food with his own family genealogy and the result is both instructive and illuminating. Twitty knows how to tell a story and I was impressed with the way he wove together genetic testing, plantation reenactments, racism, and the origins of beloved recipes. His perspective is well worth your attention, especially as he illustrates the difficulty people of color face in researching their ancestry. At times he loses the narrative thread or perhaps the book could have been structured differently to accommodate the meandering lanes he goes down but the content is stellar. I'm looking forward to whatever culinary history Twitty serves us next.

 

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander) is one of the most important books I've ever read. I read it slower than usual, reading a few pages here or there, setting it aside for a few months before reading half a chapter. There was so much to digest and it brought up complicated emotions, mostly anger over the plight of people of color and hopelessness over how it can ever change and then sadness because I'm a white woman who benefits from this nation's systems. But it's imperative for us to lean into this conversation. We can't afford not to. Reading at a slower pace allowed me to internalize Alexander's points. Much of the information wasn't new to me- I used to be a social worker and we discussed this regularly in grad school- but the way Alexander established her case blew me away. She laid it out clearly and succinctly. I was particularly impressed by her points about affirmative action. She doesn't have all the answers of how we move forward but I thought the suggestions she had and the questions she asked were fair. Now it's up to us to do something about it. This is a must-read for everyone, especially politicians, teachers, and prison wardens/guards.

 

You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads

Currently reading: Write Naked: A Bestseller's Secrets to Writing Romance and Navigating the Path to Success (Probst), What Happened (Clinton), Divine Intuition (Robinson), The Heart's Invisible Furies (Boyne), Managed (Callihan), American King (Simone) 

   

Music:

John Legend and Cynthia Erivo's cover of God Only Knows. Perfection. 

Leon Bridges: Tiny Desk Concert 

Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.

 

 

Podcasts:

The Decision is a must-listen for sports fans of all kinds. Alex Kapelman tries to decide if he should stick with the Knicks, who have broken his heart time and again, or if he should become a fan of another team. I was fully invested in the outcome. The genius of the show is how some of the guests couldn't make an argument for Alex to root for their team. Because, as one guest said, fandom is really about nostalgia plus the hope of a future possible win. I'd never thought about that before but doesn't it make sense? I also really appreciated the discussions on the politics of the NBA, from Black Lives Matter to who should pay for stadiums. Truly thoughtful and insightful. Listen to episode 1, then you can pretty much go in any order for 2-31. (Some of my favorites: Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, and Seattle SuperSonics.) Save 32-35 for last. Enjoy!

I've been enjoying #AmWriting With Jess And KJ. I commend it to fellow writers.

DeRay McKesson's interview on How To Be Amazing With Michael Ian Black.

I have admired Paralympian Mark Zupan ever since watching the documentary Murderball (which I believe I first heard about after he appeared on Miami Ink) so I was super excited about his interview on Smartest Person In The Room.

My name came up on Pantsuit Politics! I was tickled when a friend told me she heard my name on this episode and even more tickled to be described as an Enneagram expert. (That part of the discussion starts about 20 minutes in.) Sarah shares about the Healing Attitudes and I must clarify I did not come up with that helpful tool. It's from Rizo and Hudson's The Wisdom Of The Enneagram. But back to the episode- anyone who's trying to understand where people are coming from in these divided times will want to listen. I'd also suggest listening to my episode on The Lively Show, where we really press into the Enneagram and how it can help us understand one other.

 

 

Highlights:  

  •  Caribou with JJ in the Denver airport before we caught our respective flights home

 

  • Regular phone calls with Tracy

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  • $5 well spent at the library book sale

 

  • A helpful fiction writing webinar

 

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  • Finding new-to-me Little Free Libraries in town

 

  • Getting the ins and outs of self-publishing from Kevin Hendricks. My mind is still spinning.

 

  • Green curry chicken at Nong's Thai and good conversation with Lois

 

  • The random books one finds while volunteering at the library. For example, learning there are books about knife making and way more than I believed possible about puppetry.

 

  • Karin and I went to TeaSource for the first time and it was so lovely to sip on Gingerbread Orange tea (which smelled like fall) and catch up.

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  • Addie and I had a writing date at Buffalo Books, which has a small cafe tucked in the back. I got a lot down and then we got to browse the bookstore. Pretty much a perfect morning.

 

  • Lunch at French Meadow Cafe with Sarah, where we cracked up over remembering how we met: she's friends with someone who reads my blog. But I've never actually met her friend! I totally forgot that's how we first connected.

 

  • I saw Ian Cron talk about the Enneagram for the Faith & Life series. Afterward, he signed my copy of The Road Back To You, which is the most readable of the Enneagram resources and a great place to start if you're trying to figure out your type. I would love to talk Enneagram (and debate who is the more unique Four) with Ian someday. If you're in the Twin Cities, keep an eye on the Faith & Life speaker list. They bring in great people!

 

  • I Skyped into my old book club in San Francisco to join the discussion for Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. It was so good to see everyone's faces and be a part of the gang, even in a limited constricted to a screen kind of way. I've really missed being part of a book club.

 

  • Fun and random Little Free Library story: About a decade ago, when I was still a hospice social worker, I would read to a patient at an assisted living facility (usually true crime or romance, always her pick) when I visited. I was reading a JD Robb book to her but she died before we finished the story. (Not during the visit. In between visits.) It was her book and I hadn't paid close enough attention to the title so I couldn't find it on my own, though I did check at the library every so often. I've never forgotten the story, however, and I've always been curious about how it ended. I stopped by a new Little Free Library over the weekend and noticed the JD Robb book in there straightaway. The odds were slim but I read the synopsis AND IT WAS THE BOOK. I will finally know how Origin In Death ended and I am so happy. It will also likely lead to me finally reading that whole series but I shall not complain.

 

Favorite Instagram:

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“Reading was her great love.” Never were truer words spoken. I’m looking forward to reading John Green’s new novel! 📚 

 

(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)

 

On The Blog:

The Question Single Women In Their 30s Ask Each Other (Based on the response, it looks like we need a wider conversation on this important topic.)

Book reviews: Code Girls 

 

 

What I'm Into
 

What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

1. Today’s link-up will stay open for one week. Anyone who links up this month is eligible for the 5th anniversary giveaway. The next What I'm Into link up will be Friday December 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.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

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 throughany purchase you make supports this site.


What I'm Into (August 2017 Edition)

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Prior Lake 

August, I'm not sure I liked you very much. There's a lot I don't write about publicly but suffice it to say my stress level is at an all-time high. If that wasn't enough, we've had the threat of an attack from North Korea, the evil of white supremacists in Charlottesville (and the white folks still somehow rationalizing it away), and the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. It's enough to make me want to bury myself under a mountain of books and never come back out. But that would be the luxury of privilege so I'm figuring out where and how to stand with my community. 

In times like these, writing a What I'm Into post can seem trite or silly. I have come to find these posts serve as a touchstone, reminding me no matter what difficulties I face in my personal life or the world experiences, there are good moments as well. Sometimes it's hard to find the silver linings and they don't always balance out the hardships but all hope it not lost. We're making our way. I believe this much is true.

 

 

Read and Reading

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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (Honeyman) cracked my heart right open. I haven't encountered a character like Eleanor Oliphant in a long time. She lacks emotional intelligence, keeping to herself at work and living an otherwise solitary life. It was painful to read in places, seeing just how unaware she is of her social ineptitude. Then there's the glimpses of something tragic in her past, something that might explain why Eleanor is the way she is. In spite of all this, I could not help but root for Eleanor. I wanted her to wake up to the beautiful world around her and to heal from whatever happened to her. Eleanor is the kind of character that demands a response. I laughed, I cried, I groaned, and I might have even cheered out loud for her. Cannot confirm or deny. Gail Honeyman packed a punch with this novel. It's the best novel I've read so far this year and that's saying something, given the amazing novels I've already read. 

 

The Animators (Whitaker) is a beautiful, haunting, and bittersweet portrayal of friendship. Sharon and Mel's friendship is singularly unique. It is co-dependent and hard and wonderful in the way I imagine many friendships are when it is also mingled with partnership at work. The plot was fresh and unexpected. I simply could not have guessed the places Whitaker would take these characters, which never failed to elicit a big reaction from me. Like I'd gasp out loud or shake my head or simply tear up. It was tough to read in places because of how heartbreaking it could be. It reflected how gritty life can be, as well how complicated family dynamics can be. It was hard to see the way we can wound the people we love best. Sharon was not the easiest to read about either because of her passivity and ability to deny the truth in front of her. It's the kind of character that usually drives me crazy but there was something so compelling about her and about Mel as well. I could not look away. But there was something so raw about her relationship with Mel and what they brought out in each other. As much as I wanted them to be more honest with each other, especially as certain developments arose, I understood the tenuousness that can occur with someone who has known you for ages and yet maybe doesn't fully know you now. It's subtle but the way this played out through the story had me holding my breath. I wanted to root for Sharon. I wanted to watch her grow and while it took some getting there, the payoff was worth it. I'll be reflecting on this one for some time to come. This would be perfect for book clubs.

   

An Extraordinary Union (Cole) may be the only Civil War book/series I'll happily read and recommend. It's written by a woman of color and the heroine is a freed woman posing as a slave in order to spy for the Union army who is drawn to the white man posing as a Confederate soldier who is also a spy for the Union. That was enough to convince me to give this historical romance a chance and I'm so glad I did. Elle is based on a real person and I loved getting to experience this time period through her eyes.

 

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House (Mastromonaco) is an enjoyable behind the scenes look at Obama's presidency, as well as his stint as senator. I learned a lot about just how campaigns are run and the many people- and details- that go into it. I'm truly impressed with what Mastromonaco was able to accomplish and that she stayed in politics for as long as she did. She also has some wonderful career advice blended into this memoir, some of which I wish I'd heard when I first started my career as a social worker but still comes in handy now as I head in other directions.

 

There was so much I loved about What To Say Next. Julie Buxbaum has an uncanny ability to write books about teenagers and hard situations that are compulsively readable. There were certainly moments when my heart ached for the characters but the majority of the novel, I read with a smile on my face. That's a gift! David and Kit were such compelling characters, particularly David whom we learn has Asperger's (although he also sets the record straight since Asperger's has been folded into the Autism spectrum in the DSM-V and is no longer a diagnosis.) Along with grief, Buxbaum also delves into cyberbullying and this section of the book made me so glad social media wasn't around when I was in high school. David and Kit give so much to each other and it was wonderful to see them become friends and then something more. There are two major things that happen toward the end that caught me off guard, one of which was a bold plot choice and I'm not sure if the threads were there throughout the novel to support it. But it propelled us to some resolution and I liked where we landed overall. Not quite as good as Tell Me Three Things but it had everything I love about Julie Buxbaum's work. 

 

You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads

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 Chronicles Of Harris Burdick (Van Allsburg), The Alice Network (Quinn), The Reporter's Kitchen (Kramer), The Queen And The Cure (Harmon)

   

Music:

New discovery: Natalie Taylor

Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.

 

TV

So You Think You Can Dance is my bright spot on Monday evenings. I'm rooting for Logan, Koine, Lex, and Mark but the whole crew is so great.

 

Podcasts:

An important episode to listen to in light of recent protests: Armed Militias and The New Protest Landscape on Fresh Air.

I was fasciated by This American Life's We Are In The Future. I didn't know much about Afrofuturism before listening but it filled me with hope and I'm not even the movement's target audience.

I listened to seasons 1 and 2 of Revisionist History and it absolutely blew me away. I had listened to one episode in July, which was enough to convince me to binge my way through the rest. Well worth listening to and particularly timely given current events.

I finished the archives of How To Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black. Favorites from those episodes: Harlan Coben (a must-listen for writers!), Valerie Plame, Dan Savage, Audra McDonald, Baratunde Thurston.

Code Switch: The Unfinished Battle In The Capital Of The Confederacy.

How I Built This is a new discovery. I've been struck by just how much luck is involved in most of the founders' success. At any point, their businesses could have failed but they didn't. Favorite episodes: Instagram: Kevin Systrom & Mike Krieger, Samuel Adams: Jim Koch, Southwest Airlines: Herb Kelleher, Drybar: Alli Webb.

 

 

Highlights:  

  • Lunch at Pizza Luce with Claire. We didn't have nearly enough time to talk but my beloved muffuletta sandwich hit the spot.

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  •  I started volunteering at the library!!! This has been the best thing. I volunteer for two hours once a week at the branch by my house and those hours fly by. It shouldn't be as much fun as it is- after all, I'm just shelving books and finding the ones people have reserved- but I suppose it's further proof of why I want to work there. It feels good to be in my element and give back to my community.

 

  • A few months ago I discovered Nature's Bakery Fig Bars, which are dairy-free breakfast bars. They are seriously so good! Strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry are my favorite flavors. They also have a brownie version, which makes for an excellent dessert.

 

  • Kelly and I went to a farmers market and then had breakfast at L'Etoile du Nord, which is the most darling place. They gave me a giant mug for my tea and the food was amazing.

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  • Then Kelly drove us across St. Croix Crossing, a brand new bridge which connects Oak Park Heights, MN and St. Joseph, WI. The project was apparently a long time coming. I loved the design and never would have guessed it hadn't been there for years because of how seamlessly it integrated with the landscape. 

 

  • I somehow amassed $300 in credit for Stitch Fix (did everyone sign up ages ago and get their first fix at the same time?!) this month so I requested my first Fix in about a year and a half. They sent me two amazing shirts (the other 3 items didn't work out for various reasons) so I requested another Fix for next month. Thanks to everyone who used my referral link!

 

  • I got to spend time at my friend Chris Ann's new home on the lake. It is so beautiful out there and I had fun going out on the boat and then tucking into an amazing meal cooked by her husband. So great to have a night catching up with Kelly, Chris Ann, and her family.

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  • I went back to my pixie cut! It's not exactly the same as the haircut that started it all 4 years ago but it is just as sassy. I've enjoyed playing around with the length and having a "longer" shorter cut the past year but it feels good to have it be really short again.

 

  • I didn't get to go outside for the solar eclipse- I was at work and it was actually cloudy and rainy that day- but I watched it on NASA's website which was pretty neat.

 

  • I took care of Hermione the kitten again and it was so lovely to have her purring next to me whenever I was home. She's such a sweetie.

 

 

  • I've been hard at work on manuscript revisions. My goal was to have it finished by the end of this month and I'm not quite there but I am making good progress and hope to finish it this weekend. Then it'll be back to my editor for one more round and I'll have to start figuring this whole self-publishing thing out. Yay!

 

  • The particular shades of pink and orange of the sunrises I've seen on the way to work the past few weeks.

 

 

Favorite Instagram:

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I love my library.

 

(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)

 

On The Blog:

I've been weary and this could have been the proverbial last straw But I Wasn't Alone.  

Book reviews: The Dream Keeper's Daughter, Beard In Mind, The One That Got Away 

 

 

What I'm Into
 

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 Monday October 2. 

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.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

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 throughany purchase you make supports this site.


What I'm Into (July 2017 Edition)

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Oak Street Beach, Chicago 

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

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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.

   

You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads

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)

   

Music:

New discoveries: Phildel, Jacob Banks, GoldFord, Lights, Jessica Allossery, Tall Heights

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.

 

TV

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. 

 

Podcasts:

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. 

 

 

Highlights:  

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  •  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. 

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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.

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  • 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!

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  • 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.

 

 

  • 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.

 

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  • Going for one last walk with Annie and Foxy before they moved away. I'm going to miss seeing them all the time!

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  • 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.

 

 

Favorite Instagram:

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If that doesn't sum up the last 9 months...  Things are looking up, I swear.

 

(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)

 

 

 

What I'm Into
 

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.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

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 throughany purchase you make supports this site.