The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo + The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake

February 2, 2017

Hello reader friends. Two book reviews for you today. As I’ve mentioned before, there is always some strange commonality between the books I read back to back that I only end up realizing when I go to write their paired reviews. This time it’s in the author’s names, something I realized only seconds ago.

Ms. Schumer’s book is, sadly, the last memoir I’ll be reading for awhile (focusing on fiction while writing fiction)–but it was a pleasure to read. The other Amy book is a brilliant work of fiction.

Their reviews below. As always, they are spoiler free.

Happy reading! And thank you to those who recommended these books!

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1. The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo.

If You’re Looking For: Humor, memoir, pop culture read

If You Like: Celebrity memoirs, the person Amy Schumer

My Review: I liked this book. It had enough funny parts and well written essays to make it worth my time and I was excited to sit down and read it every night. It wasn’t my favorite celebrity memoir by any means (its own genre now, it seems), but I like Amy and if you do too, I think you’d enjoy this book as well. You will not enjoy this book if you find Amy Schumer annoying, don’t enjoy celebrity memoirs, or think vagina jokes are for sinners. There isn’t really much more to say.

Their Review: “Beyond the many powerful and empowering takeaways of The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo—from loving the hustle to self-love—perhaps the most overlooked is that of a woman’s right to not only make mistakes, but to make art out of them.” –Salon

Quoted: I’m of the belief that in most industries, women have to work twice as hard to get half the credit. After putting in so much effort to make a good movie, it felt pretty demeaning when they called it a “female comedy.” This meaningless label painted me into a corner and forced me to speak for all females, because I am the actual FEMALE who wrote the FEMALE comedy and then starred as the lead FEMALE in that FEMALE comedy. They don’t ask Seth Rogen to be ALL MEN! They don’t make “men’s comedies.” They don’t ask Ben Stiller, “Hey, Ben, what was your message for all male-kind when you pretended to have diarrhea and chased that ferret in Along Came Polly?

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2. The Peculiar Sadness Of Lemon Cake.

If You’re Looking For: Strange fiction, great writing, magical realism

If You Liked: The Rabbit Back Literature Society

My Review: Before I tell you what I thought of this book, I’ll say this: I like a lot of books most people like and love a lot of books most people hate. The best example of this is my favorite book, Oryx and Crake by my favorite author, Margaret Atwood. Whenever I pass this book along to friends, the reaction is 20% “that was okay” and 80% “what did I just read.” And that’s okay! I stand by the idea that our reviews of books, tv, and movies are subjective and reflect nothing more than our little opinions and not some larger truth (this is me saying it’s fine to watch The Bachelor and love it). The Peculiar Sadness Of Lemon Cake has gotten very mixed reviews. A lot of readers say it is too strange. But I happen to like strange, and I loved this book. Simple, moving, and the kind of writing I can only dream of. Every thought is so clear and lovely that it’s almost as if Aimee wrote this novel over and over until each phrase reflected its exact meaning. Five out of five stars and added to my favorite book list. An outstanding work of fiction.

Their Review:  “Bender is the master of quiet hysteria. . . . She builds pressure sentence by sentence. . . . A little hiss of steam comes off the novel.” —Los Angeles Times

Quoted: I didn’t mind the quiet stretches. It was like we were trying out the idea of being side by side.

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Valentimes + Weekend Links

January 27, 2017

Hello oh faithful readers, a few things for this Friday morning.

First, this gorgeous planet print from Minted.

Framed art is a rarity in this house, and I fell in love with this print as soon as I saw it. A great addition to any gallery wall.

Other gems perfect for Valentine’s Day: these foil pressed map prints in the state you met (Virginia for us!), these custom silhouette prints of the kids you made, and these perfect pairs. Pick a pair of limited-edition art prints created by Minted’s community of independent artists for a great (and easy) gift for any Galentine or Valentine. Starting at $62 for two framed  5”x7”s.

PS:

This song from the Women’s March.

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An app that makes it easier to pester your congress members.

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This opening monologue from last week’s SNL.

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This incredible book.

Have a great weekend.

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Thank you to Minted for this sweet framed poster in exchange for an honest review. Use code BEMINE for 20% off foil Valentine cards and gifts and 15% off everything else Valentine related.
Expires at 11:59pm on 1/30.

Women’s March 2017

January 23, 2017

By @mariandrew

This Saturday half a million men and women descended into the nation’s capital to show their support for women’s rights a day after President Donald Trump was inaugurated. There were zero arrests and zero violence. It was civil, polite, and crowded with 100% cooperation with police.

The marches were not confined to Washington. Women and men in cities around the globe marched in solidarity including Sydney, Berlin, London, Paris, Nairobi and Cape Town. Participation was high. In Los Angeles, organizers expected 80,000 people to attend. 750,000 people showed up. In Chicago, organizers canceled the march portion of their event for safety reasons because of an overflow crowd that reached an estimated 250,000. Half the town of Stanley, Idaho (population 63) came out in a snowstorm to march in peace and solidarity. In Lubbock, Texas, the second most conservative city in the United States, men and women marched during a dust storm.

It was the biggest inaugural protest in history.

My sister and I marched with my friend Liza in Philadelphia where 20,000 people were estimated to attend.

50,000 showed up instead.

My sister snapped this right before we got onto a train packed so full of women that we couldn’t let anyone on for the next 15 stops.

The vibe was positive, peaceful, and resilient. We marched next to men, women, and children of every color and every age. There was a lot of smiling, kindness, and camaraderie. There was also the overwhelming feeling of look at what we can do and where is the nearest bathroom.

Critics have questioned the intent of the march.

I marched because gender shouldn’t determine your paycheck. Because paid family leave benefits everyone. Because sexual assault should never be normalized. Because it’s not just locker room talk. Because I have two sons and a daughter. Because when women thrive, societies rise.

And yeah, I also marched because even though I believe life starts at conception, abortion rates are at an all time low because of affordable birth control and clinics like Planned Parenthood.

Despite what the internet may tell you, there was room for everyone.


It was a great day but it’s also just the beginning. If we’ve learned anything from this past year it’s to listen, pay attention, and move our feet. The greatest threat to peace and justice are not those who voted for Donald Trump, but those who didn’t vote at all.

Silence = approval.

We will not be silent.

You can find dozens of lists on what to do now that the march and inauguration are over. For me, it makes most sense to focus on a few specific issues and keep my ear to the ground for how I can help right here in my town.

This is also a great place to start.

Illustration by @kimothyjoy

On Saturday we marched as a message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world, that women’s rights are human rights. That defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

A heartfelt thank you to those who worked tirelessly to make these marches happen around the world.

As always, love trumps hate.

I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. -Audre Lorde

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Photo via The Women’s March in Philadelphia

 

PS: 

The last time I went to a march, Waylon was the size of a poppy seed and I needed exactly zero babysitters before hopping in the car to D.C. Times were tense then and they are still tense now.

From Jon Stewart’s speech six years ago:

“We hear every damned day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done. The truth is, we do! We work together to get things done every damned day! The only place we don’t is here (in Washington) or on cable TV!

But Americans don’t live here, or on cable TV. Where we live, our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done–not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.

Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often something they do not want to do! But they do it. Impossible things, every day, that are only made possible through the little, reasonable compromises we all make.

(Points to video screen, showing video of cars in traffic.) Look on the screen. This is where we are, this is who we are. These cars. That’s a schoolteacher who probably think his taxes are too high, he’s going to work. There’s another car, a woman with two small kids, can’t really think about anything else right now… A lady’s in the NRA, loves Oprah. There’s another car, an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter; another car, a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan.

But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief, and principles they hold dear–often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers’. And yet, these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze, one by one, into a mile-long, 30-foot-wide tunnel, carved underneath a mighty river.

And they do it, concession by concession: you go, then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go. ‘Oh my God–is that an NRA sticker on your car?’ ‘Is that an Obama sticker on your car?’ It’s okay–you go, then I go.

And sure, at some point, there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder, and cuts in at the last minute. But that individual is rare, and he is scorned, and he is not hired as an analyst!

Because we know, instinctively, as a people, that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together. And the truth is there will always be darkness, and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land.

Sometimes, it’s just New Jersey.”

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t march for human rights, call our representatives, or keep our eyes and ears sharp. It just means we are in New Jersey.

(Miss you Jon. xo)

PPS: In case you didn’t go on Saturday but wanted to, the protest is actually four years long so come on down.

Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy + The Girls

January 17, 2017

Winter is death, but books offer a small antidote. Two for you today, with another memoir and another novel review coming soon. Suggestions always welcome. Most of my library requests come from the comments in these book review posts.

As always, reviews are spoiler free.

Happy reading. May warmth and sanity find you even on the most wintery days. I’m trying my best, too.

xo

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1. Hillbilly Elegy.

3.5/5 stars (Would recommend to some)

If You’re Looking For: Memoir, current events, the ability to reference what everyone else is reading

If You Like: Real life family dysfunction mixed with political and social commentary

My Review: It is going to seem like a cop out to not give my full reaction to this book (it is kind of a cop out), but in my experience it’s better to actually read the book before reading all the various critiques, controversies, and commentaries (there are plenty for this one). What’s important (I guess?), is that I enjoyed it. It’s interesting, engaging, and a window into a culture in America that is foreign to most. PS: You’ll have a long wait if you request this at the library, so special thanks to my friend Bethany for lending me her copy in time for our book club discussion.

Their Review: “What explains the appeal of Donald Trump? Many pundits have tried to answer this question and fallen short. But J.D. Vance nails it…stunning…intimate…” – 50% of the reviews

“I read this before it was popular. This has nothing to do with Trump. Isn’t the author a Republican? This book is offensive and inconsistent. I lived there and this is false.” – The other 50%

Quoted: Barack Obama strikes at the heart of our deepest insecurities. He is a good father while many of us aren’t. He wears suits to his job while we wear overalls, if we’re lucky enough to have a job at all. His wife tells us that we shouldn’t be feeding our children certain foods, and we hate her for it—not because we think she’s wrong but because we know she’s right.

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2. The Girls.

4/5 stars (Would recommend to a friend)

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, a good story

If You Liked: The Boston Girl

My Review: This is the story of Rose and Ruby Darlen, the world’s oldest surviving craniopagus (conjoined at the head) twins. When I first started reading their “autobiography,” I had to check several times to make sure it wasn’t a true story. Lori Lansens, HOW DID YOU DO THIS. How did you take the very rare premise of twin girls joined at the head and create a novel so believable that it’s almost unbelievable that it isn’t real. Truly funny, fascinating, and beautiful. A brilliant portrait of two very different people, connected by biology and sisterhood. Couldn’t put it down.

Their Review: “It is the true test of a writer’s mettle to create a convincing narrator, and Lori Lansens has done it not once but twice in her remarkable novel about conjoined twins. The two fascinating protagonists of The Girls live their lives together in every way, and yet nevertheless emerge with beliefs and desires all their own, and with distinct outlooks on their difficult circumstances. Lori Lansens is clearly a novelist with a very delicate touch.” – Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha

Quoted: If heaven is tolerant and writers are allowed (bunch of liars though they are), I wonder if they gather for coffee to ponder the prose they should have written instead.

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New Years Checklist

December 28, 2016

The week between Christmas and New Years is historically weird. Some of it’s the Christmas tree, just hanging out like the elephant in the room. And some of it is that even though the holiday is over, all our kids are still on break and asking for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at 9:30am.

Three days left of 2016. A few ways to pass the time.

1. Movies. A tiny morale boost: Amazon is offering a special promo right now where you rent any one movie for 99 cents. I think I am going to rent The Secret Life Of Pets tonight without the kids like the worst mom ever and eat all the snacks.

How: First find the movies that apply. Then click “More Purchase Options” and enter the promotional code “MOVIE99“. Once the promotional code has been applied, click “Rent Movie”.

Note: On site pricing will not reflect your discount, but your order history will show the promotional credit applied. Valid once per account. The credit expires January 23, 2017.

2. Music. Spotify has a deal right now where you can sign up for a premium account (NO ADS) for 99 cents for three months. This is an insane deal. Spotify and I don’t work together and I am not an affiliate of theirs, but I thought I’d let you know in case you love their service but cannot listen to one more terrible Home Depot ad. Kicking myself for signing up for last month’s ten dollar deal instead of waiting for this one. Anyways, you can find my playlists here.

3. New Year Reflections. Resolutions are often pointless, but I always appreciate the new beginning-ness of this holiday. A good time to look backwards and forwards and casually glance over gym membership fliers. This year I am looking less at gym memberships and more at the idea of separating my real job (writing) with my side job (blogging). No concrete ideas yet, just thinking out loud about ways to be even more annoying on the Internet.

Happy New Year, friends.

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