5 Ways to Embrace the Plaid Trend this Fall + a GIVEAWAY!

How to embrace the plaid trend this fall

I’m so excited to team up with some lovely fellow bloggers to explore this fall’s hottest fashion trends, and don’t forget to take a peek at the bottom for a really fun giveaway! 

I really hesitate to call plaid/tartan a “trend,” because to me it’s one of those classics that never really goes out of style!

I’m not sure if it’s completely due to the wonderful phenomenon that is Outlander or not, but I don’t care. My closet is stocked with lots of items to embrace the plaid trend in several different ways! 

Work Wear 

How to embrace the plaid trend this fall

Dress (Similar options here, here, here)//Sunglasses//Shirt//Shoes (similar)//Pochette (similar)//Earrings//Brooch (similar)

This shift from Brooks Brothers Factory is technically a windowpane check, but in my opinion that still fits in the plaid trend. It’s wool, so I’d definitely only wear it during the fall, either styled like this with some fun accents or with a black blazer 

How to embrace the plaid trend this fall

 

As a Wrap

How to embrace the plaid trend this fall

Wrap (Similar)//Book//Sunglasses//Bracelets

There are a billion blanket scarf tutorials out there, and they’re all fantastic so I’m not going to try to write another one here, but rest assured that the plaid trend is still going strong when it comes to oversized tartan wraps! I keep this light one in my work tote to wrap up if it gets a little chilly. 

With Stripes

One Preppy Dress Styled 4 Ways!

Dress (Similar)//Scarf//Leggings//Sunglasses//Vest (Similar)

Ok, so this is technically still a blanket scarf, but I listed it separately, because as someone who is severely challenged when it comes to pattern mixing. 

But this is the EASIEST pattern to mix… plaid+stripes are cute, easy, and preppy. 

A Bold Skirt Fit for Blair Waldorf

How to embrace the plaid trend this fall

Skirt (similar)//Tights//Shoes//Top//Lipstick

I absolutely LOVE this wool plaid skirt from Brooks Brothers, it’s pretty loud, so I kept the other parts of the outfit pretty simple. But nature is anything if not bold this fall! My sister and I had to travel to Asheville, NC, for a little bit of a family emergency this week, and we were treated to some of the prettiest colors I’ve ever seen. Something about a kilt-esque skirt feels like Blair Waldorf to me, so I topped off the outfit with literally the only headband I own and some glossy lip color 😀

A Black Watch Blazer

How to embrace the plaid trend this fall

Blazer//Jeans//Boots (similar)//Top//Earrings//Sunglasses

I bought this Black Watch tartan blazer last year from JCrew Factory, wore it like crazy, and plan on wearing it like crazy this fall and winter (as soon as if finally gets cold and stays cold! Black Watch is one of the tartans anyone can wear… it isn’t reserved for members of a certain family, so it’s one of the most popular patterns out there! I love it because it is completely timeless (my mom has a very similar blazer that’s decades old) and because of the darker colors, it’s a little more subtle than other plaid items. This wool blazer is the perfect way to embrace the plaid trend if you’re a little nervous about letting your tartan flag fly.

I’ll get to the giveaway in a minute, but first, let me introduce you to the other fabulous women I’m collaborating with on this fun fall trend watch:

9 Fall Outfits To Copy Now (1)

From left to right, top to bottom:

Summer of Coffee With Summer//Kristen of A Classy Fashionista//Stephanie of She Saw Style//Kirsten of The Wandering Brunette//Jasmine of Jasmine Maria Blog//Molly of Miss Molly Moon//Liz (ME!) of Lizzy Is Dizzy//Anna of Five Foot and Fabulous//Elizabeth of Life of me, Queen B.

The Giveaway!

Ok, now to the really fun part! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Collaboration and giveaway!

We’re giving away an awesome beauty bundle of goodies that any lady would love, LOVE to have. Here’s the good stuff:

  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Eye Palette
  • IT Cosmetics Sunshine In A Compact (bronzer, blush, & highlight)
  • UD All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray
  • Eco Tools Daily Defined Eye Brushes
  • The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow Liquid Peel
  • Burnt Orange Bucket Bag from Ruche (sold out)
  • (Not pictured) A Surprise Gift Card

To enter, complete as many tasks in the Rafflecopter as you’d like. The more you complete, the higher your chances! The giveaway runs from 11/8 – 11/15 at midnight. This is U.S. only. The giveaway is not affiliated with any of the brands in the giveaway. Enter fairly! All entries will be verified before the winner is announced on the Rafflecopter form on November, 15th. Best of luck!

How Neil Gaiman Gave Me the Courage to Call Myself a Writer

Like I mentioned in What I read in October, Neil Gaiman’s collection of speeches, introductions, and essays gave a great look into Gaiman’s personality and values. I also found it immensely encouraging as a writer and aspiring novelist (shhh, it’s a secret!). His Newbery acceptance speech and his speech on why libraries are important (daughter of a librarian here!) were some of the most inspirational pieces I’ve read/listened to in a long time. Reading and writing are a huge part of who I am. I’ve been both for nearly as long as I can remember. My mom taught me to read when I was 4, and encouraged me to start writing when I was 5 or 6. 

I have a stack journals filled with the dramatic overly-wordy musings of pre-teen, teenaged, and young adult Lizzy, and I’ve now been to write more than a million words professionally. But until the last year or so I’ve been hesitant, and maybe at little embarrassed to call myself a writer. 

Writers are tortured people who spill the darkest parts of their souls into 400 page books. Writers are well-regarded people whose works are published in newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Writers are people like Stephen King who, despite being one of the most prolific published authors in history, has dozens of stories sitting around because his publishers are afraid to put more than two of his books on the shelves every year. 

But Gaiman showed me something different. Writers are people who write. You don’t have to be tortured, you can be happy! You can enjoy writing! It is difficult, but you can take pleasure in the struggle. 

Maybe the most important lesson he taught me was that when sitting down to write a novel (shhhh…) you don’t have to know its ending. In fact, sometimes the only way to learn the ending is by writing it. 

Stepping out and calling oneself a writer takes courage–courage I’ve always had a hard time finding. Gaiman’s words helped me find that courage, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

Back on the Bookshelf: What I Read in October

What I read in October

It’s official! I smashed my reading goal of 60  for 2017 by more than 2 months! 

I read a ridiculous 12 books in October, which is insane for even me. 

So buckle up, because here’s what I read in October:

(Side note: I’m participating in #BlogLikeCrazy this month, so I hope you’re ready to hear from me a lot!)

The Graveyard Book

What I read in October 2017

Completed: 10/3/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

This was my first Neil Gaiman book. There’s a reason this book about a boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard won the Newbery AND Carnegie Medals for outstanding children’s literature. Though it is technically a children’s book, it was SO well written and SO different from other books I read as a child that I really enjoyed it. Reading it at the same time I was reading/listening to Neil Gaiman’s “A View from the Cheap Seats” (see below), made it all the richer to me. I have lots more by Gaiman on my to-read list now!

Recommended for: lovers of rich, original stories.

The View from the Cheap Seats

What I read in October 2017

Completed: 10/6/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

Like I mentioned above, this and the Graveyard Book have me eager to read lots more by Neil Gaiman. This collection of speeches, introductions, and essays gave a great look into Gaiman’s personality and values. I also found it immensely encouraging as a writer and aspiring novelist (shhh, it’s a secret!). His Newbery acceptance speech and his speech on why libraries are important (daughter of a librarian here!) were some of the most inspirational pieces I’ve read/listened to in a long time. Reading and writing are a huge part of who I am.

(I’ve rolled my full thoughts on this into a separate post, because this one is already too long and I have a lot to say.) 

Recommended for: writers, readers, humans.

A Court of Thorns and Roses

What I read in October 2017

Completed: 10/8/17
Format: eBook borrowed through Overdrive

This book/series was recommended to me by my dear friend Gina Luttrell. It was a light and easy read with a dash of smuttiness that I actually found refreshing to read. There’s a lot of heaviness in the world, and I spend a lot of time reading some heavy books. So I think it’s important to sprinkle some of what my mom would call “fluff” into my reading list.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is essentially a retelling of Beauty and The Beast set in an imaginary world of fantastically powerful faeries. The last two books in this trilogy are on my list, but I may or may not get to them this year. 

Recommended for: I feel like Twilight fans would really love this series. 

The Smear

What I read in October 2017

Completed: 10/8/2017
Format: Hardback bought on Amazon

I’m going to be honest, this book took me several months to read. I started it back in June when one of my clients was coming under attack, read the first half, then relegated it to the book pile on my bedside table until this month. The first half was very balanced, but the second half was a little more apologetic of Trump than I was comfortable with. All told, it really as an excellent look into the professionalization of smear politics through PR companies and complicit members of the medial. Next time you read something in the news about people you disagree with, remember that there’s almost certainly more to it. 

Recommended for: political animals, and those trying to decipher the news cycle.

Between the World and Me

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/11/17
Format: Audiobook borrowed through Overdrive

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s long letter to his son is a heart-wrenching look into the realities of being a black man in America today. It wasn’t an easy read, but it was a good one, and an important one. Our nation needs real healing, and I don’t think we can get there without a real understanding of what it is that needs to be healed. 

To get to that understanding, I believe white people (or like Coates would say, “people who who believe they are white”) need to sit, listen, and learn. 

Recommended for: all Americans praying for racial understanding and reconciliation.

Shoe Dog

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/13/17
Format: Hardback borrowed from a friend

Shoe Dog was recommended to me by my friend Blake who is one of the biggest sports fans I know. It’s a memoir by Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike about the beginnings of the company. The dude is now worth $24.1 BILLION, but for years the company struggled to make a profit. 

We kind of take Nike for granted now, but it almost didn’t happen… about 50 times. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but mostly I enjoyed Knight’s palpable love of his company and the small team who willed it into being.

Recommended for: if you have an entrepreneurial bone in your body you should read this book. 

Gods in Alabama

What I read in October 2017

Completed: 10/15/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

Gods in Alabama is about a young woman hiding a dark secret who flees Alabama after graduating high school. This book grew on me, honestly. I didn’t like it at first, it started too simple, too Alabama-hatey. But then it became more complex, so I kept chugging along. The author, Joshilyn Jackson, was born and raised in Georgia, and it really shows that she truly knows the deep south. You can’t fake being southern 😉 

Recommended for: fans of Gillian Flynn and other dark stories with a female protagonist/antagonist at the center.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/19/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This book was recommended to me by my sister-in-law and her husband, and was my first experience reading anything by David Sedaris. He was hilarious and dark and uncomfortable and un-PC and lots of things that I like. Not for the easily offended or squeamish, but a funny set of essays, nonetheless. 

Recommended for: people with a slightly warped sense of humor.

Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/20/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

This book was recommended to me by a friend who is a writer himself. People love to use both Churchill and Orwell like they like to point to out-of-context Bible verses to prove an argument. Both men were highly complex riddles wrapped in mysteries (if you’ll forgive the ripping off of ole Winston himself), and projecting our own contexts and beliefs to them is often a mistake. Yes, Churchill’s rhetoric and strategies were a big part of the Allies winning WWII… BUT… and Yes, Orwell was a socialist who fought against fascism… BUT… 

This compare/contrast book was an excellent look into the two men, what they believed, and how the first half of the 20th century made them into the historical figures they are. 

Recommended for: Wannabe WWII history buffs. 

The 100 Lies of Lizzie Lovett

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/26/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

I wasn’t crazy about this book. I only checked it out because it was part of last month’s Library-wide reading program. The main character is awful (by design), the plot is weird, there are completely unbelievable elements, and the resolution was awkward. It’s supposed to be a coming-of-age story, but the protagonist only barely grows. It’s only redemption was the message at the very end, but it was about all I could do to get to that point. 

Recommended for: not gonna recommend this one.

Leia: Princess of Alderaan 

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/18/17
Format: Hardback bought at B&N

I initially purchased this book because it is 1. considered canon, and 2. labeled “path to the Last Jedi” so I hoped it would give me some clues into what’s coming in the next movie. While I’m glad those are the reasons I picked it up, I’m glad I read it for a much more important one… It gives a really important look into why Leia is the strong, badass woman she is. 

A problem I’ve always had with Star Wars: A New Hope, is how Leia’s entire effing planet jut got blown up, and we skip right over it. She shows such little emotion, even though her parents and lots of the people she knew and loved just got annihilated. In the Original Trilogy she wasn’t the main character, and female characters in general weren’t given the depth they deserve. That is changing in the reboot, and I couldn’t be more glad. 

BTW Last year after Carrie Fisher died I wrote this column about Carrie/Leia. 

Recommended for: Star Wars fans of all genders and ages!

The Celestine Prophesy

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/31/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This book was recommended to me by badass mom Sara White. This book was a little more “woo-woo” than I would normally enjoy, but I ended up actually learning some good things from it! It’s a Dan Brown-esque adventure novel in which the author reveals 9 “insights” about how mankind can ascend to a higher state of being. It talks a lot about vibration and that kind of thing, but at the core there’s still a lot for a skeptic to take from it. 

Recommended for: Religious folks who are open-minded about how to become a better person.

Phew! That’s what I read in October. Any suggestions for November? 

Leopard Print Tall T-Shirt Dress: I’m Seeing Spots!

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

T-Shirt Dress // Vest (similar) // Shoes // Necklace (Similar)

I love a comfy t-shirt dress, especially when it is actually long enough to cover my 6-foot frame! 

As such a tall lady, it’s often hard for me to wear dresses that are supposed to hit average height people above the knee. Above the knee on a 5’4 woman is halfway up the booty on me! 

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

So when brands like Old Navy sell cute clothes in Talls (or longs… some brands name them differently!), I always do a little cheer. 

I have this exact dress in several other colors (grey, black, navy+polka dots, and flame red stripe) and they make up a significant portion of my mid-week semi-casual wardrobe. 

Bonus: I think I only paid about $15 for each of these dresses. For real.

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

I also love this outfit as a “transition” look. 

But let’s be real, transition outfits are code for “I really want it to be fall, but I live in the deep south and it’s still hot as blue blazes here.” 

This sleeveless blazer/long vest thing I got last summer at Marshall’s is just the ticket for adding a layer of dimension, breaking up the wall of Leopard print, and providing pockets! 

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

Back on the Bookshelf: What I read in September

What I read in September

What I read in September

Work slowed back down a little bit, particularly in the second half of September, and that’s definitely reflected in my reading pace. 

This month I was able to read 7 (!) books, to bring my total for the year so far to 49 (!)!!!

Now I’m only 11 books away from my goal for 2017 🙂 

So, here’s what I read in September:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Completed: 9/4/17 
Format: eBook through Overdrive

Y’all, this is one of the best books I’ve read all year. Told in the narrative non-fiction style, it documents the illness of the African American woman Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells have been used to test develop scores of cures and treatments to other diseases. HeLa cells, as they are known, are used every day all over the world, and are famous for their ability to continue multiplying, despite the fact that their “donor” died 66 years ago.

In fact, the slice of Henrietta’s cervical tumor that birthed the cells was taken from her without her permission, and her family has never seen a penny of the proceeds from all the medicines they enabled. Instead, the Lacks family continues (at least at the time of the book’s writing) to live in poverty in rural Maryland. This book was heartbreaking and inspiring, and really made me think. 
Recommended for: Everyone. Just read it.

The Space Between

Completed: 9/7/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

This Outlander Novella (because it’s a novella if Gabaldon only writes 200 pages!) follows  Michael Murray, the second son of Ian and Jenny Murray, and Joan MacKimmie, Jamie’s step daughter, through a journey to France.  Oh, and the infamous Comte St. Germain makes a significant appearance. We learn a lot more about his… powers… It was good! Well, at least it got me through the last few days of #Droughtlander!
Recommended for: Outlander fans

The Girl who Played With Fire

Completed: 9/9/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This is the second book in the Millennium Series (the first is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I read last month). It continued in the tradition of its dark thriller predecessor. We learn a lot more about Lisbeth Salander’s history, and why she became the damaged genius she is today. The book ends dead in the middle of the plot, so you definitely have to read the third book in the series! 

Recommended for: those who enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Mapmaker’s Daughter

Completed: 9/12/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

Oh wow, another great one! This novel follows a young Jewish girl living under persecution in 15th century Spain (the birthplace of the inquisition, which tried thousands of Jewish families). I will never cease to be amazed and humbled by the resilience of the Jewish people and faith. I also loved the reminder of how important women really are in Judaism! In a day when tolerance is waning on every side of the aisle, it was a stark reminder of what oppression looks like and why we must fight it. 

Recommended for: Lovers of historical fiction with strong female characters.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Completed: 9/20/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This is the last book in the Millennium Series that was actually written by Stieg Larsson, who passed away suddenly in 2004. There have been others written after the original trilogy, but I’m not sure I’m going to read those. This continues to be dark and action packed. A necessary read if you made it through the 2nd book!

Recommended for: people who read books 1 & 2!

Devil in the White City

Completed: 9/23/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

This was another interesting narrative non-fiction book! I put it on my list because my favorite podcast, No Dumb Questions, is discussing it in an upcoming episode, and I didn’t want to miss out on the fun! These two side-by-side stories follow the creators of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. It was a good reminder that there’s a lot more history in our nation than we learn in school, and lots of it isn’t pretty!

Recommended for: people who enjoy narrative non-fiction and really interesting American history. 

Tuesdays with Morrie

Completed 9/25/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

I really enjoyed this short but emotional read about a college professor who reunites with a former student while he is (spoiler alert) dying from ALS. Having lost several significant people in my life over the last year and a half, several of Morrie’s aphorisms really resonated with me. Parts were a little trite, but at the end of the day so many people say the same things about the end of life not because it’s easy to say, but because it’s true. 

Recommended for anyone struggling with the loss of a loved one.

Hot as Blue Blazers

Blue Blazers Red Lipstick

Blue Blazers//Jeans//Clutch (Similar)//Shoes (Similar)//Earrings//Sunglasses//Lipstick

It’s officially that time of year where I am willing it to be cooler via my fashion choices. 

Is it working yet? 

I tell you what, I’ve lived in Alabama my entire life, and somehow every year I get fooled into thinking September is fall. Silly me! 

I love this Blue Blazer from J.Crew Factory. I believe I got it for about $60 after keeping my eyes on their sales. It’s light enough to wear now with a silk or cotton top underneath, but later when it’s cooler I’ll layer it over a cashmere sweater or with a cozy blanket scarf. 

I’ve been wearing A LOT of navy and white with pops of red lately. It’s such a classic color pairing, and I feel like I can easily adopt it into one of those “uniforms” you read about bosses wearing to make their mornings easier. 

Blue Blazers Red Lipstick

Maybe my favorite pop of red is this Chanel Double Intensité in Daring Red. It’s long lasting formula that I have in four different colors (Check out my review of their Milky Blueberry color from last year). 

 

I’ve been searching for both the perfect blue blazers and the perfect red lip for quite a while, and I’m glad I’ve found them both just in time for my favorite season!

Back on the Bookshelf: What I read in July and August

What I read in June

So I’m running a little bit behind on these, so what? 😉 

Work has been absolutely loco the last couple of months, but I’m excited about moving into this next season of my life and career where things might just be a little bit less hectic. 

Keep a look out for some fun content to come soon!

But in the meantime, here’s what I read in July and August:

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

Completed: 7/6/17
Format: Hardback from the library

This one was recommended to me for people who like Outlander. It was similarish in that there’s a time traveling heroine, an unconventional love story, and some very sad undertones, but it was a VERY different type of time traveling story. I enjoyed it, and it was short enough to read in just a day or two (unlike Outlander novels, which are HUGE). In a brief synopsis, Greta Wells undergoes an experimental treatment for depression after her twin brother dies of AIDS. The treatment sends her to other timelines where she and her loved ones are living their lives in other eras. In two of the timelines her brother, who is gay, is still alive but living in the closet. Every time she travels so do her counterparts in the other timelines, and each of them finds something they love about their new place in time. 
Recommended for: People who enjoy unconventional love stories. 

Rumsfeld’s Rules

Completed: 7/12/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

Donald Rumsfeld is controversial in some circles, but it’s hard to deny that in terms of civil service, he’s seen more than most. During his decades in the public and private sectors he became known for collecting witticisms and words of wisdom in a folder along the way. There were too many good ones to count. Regardless of how you feel about Rumsfeld you should read this book if you’re interested in American politics.
Recommended for: People who aspire to have any type of career in politics, the military, or the public sector. 

Valkyrie: the Plot to Kill Hitler, by Its Last Member

Completed 7/13/17
Format: Hardback borrowed from the library

This is the story of Philipp von Boeselager, one of the participants in the most famous assassination attempt on Hitler. It follows him and his brother through their childhoods, the early portions of WWII, and the formation of the plot. I think it’s really easy to see the people of Germany in that era, particularly those in the military, as a monolith. But this true story shows that there were people there from the very beginning asking questions and doing everything they could to stop one of the most evil men in world history.
Recommended for: Those who are interested in WWII history, and who want an authentic look into heroism in the face of long odds. 

French Women Don’t Get Fat

Completed: 7/14/17 
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This was an interesting one… The title caught my eye while I was browsing Overdrive for something to listen to while I was driving for work. This highly unscientific self-help book written by Mireille Guiliano, the CEO of Vueve Cliquot, had some good advice about savoring your food, finding the elusive joie de vivre, and not overindulging in junk. There were a few good recipes, and lots of fun anecdotes about how Mireille struggled with her weight when she first moved to the United States. As someone who has always 1. loved food, and 2. wished she could look more like a European waif, I’ve found some success in implementing her strategies! 
Recommended for: Women who want to embrace a more French way of eating.

Ok, so now you might notice that despite my strong pace in July, I didn’t complete a book again until midway through August. Life happens,  y’all. This slow down means I’ll have to read at least 4 books each month until the end of the year to reach my goal of 60 books in 2017. (Spoiler alert, I’ve already read 6 in September, so I’m feeling pretty good about it). 

Ok, now on to August:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Completed: 8/11/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This book/series has been on my list for a long long time. I love thriller mysteries, and this one pretty much defines an entire genre (Scandinavian Crime Fiction). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was published in 2005 and has been adapted into film twice once with Daniel Craig playing protagonist Mikael Blomkvist. It is full of some very dark themes, so if you’re uncomfortable with depictions of abuse, rape, and murder, this probably isn’t the one for you. 
Recommended for: Thriller fans or people who have seen the movie.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Completed: 8/23/17 
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This memoire by funny lady Mindy Kaling resonated with me for so many reasons. She is smart and nerdy and hilarious, but never quite feels like she fits in. Mindy plays Kelly Kapoor in the Office, one of my favorite minor characters ever, but that’s not who she is… even though she wrote the part for herself. I loved getting to know the real woman! I also loved learning more about the process behind writing my favorite sit-com of all time. This was a fun and easy diversion from one of the busiest months of my life so far.
Recommended for: Fans of Mindy and The Office, or just young women who need some help being themselves in a world that doesn’t always reward women who march to their own beat.

The Circle

Completed: 8/20/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

I read this book because I thought the trailer for the movie looked really compelling, and is chock full of HUGE name actors and actresses. I mean come on, Emma Watson and Tom Hanks in the same movie? Sign me up! But the movie flopped, more or less, and I understand why. I *liked* the book, but it read like someone’s first novel (as an aspiring novelist, I can’t hate too much… but I was hoping for more). There were some weird jumpy places, and things that just didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I was left feeling like the story could have benefitted greatly from a really good editor. Still, there was a good message about how oversharing on social media can change your brain, and what that could mean for our society. 
Recommended for: people who want a reality check on the potential consequences of social media. 

Well, there’s what I read in July and August! What should I put on my list next?

 

What I read in June

What I read in June

Whew, July was crazy. 

So this is a little late. We’re just going to move on. OK? ok. 

So, without further ado, here’s what I read in June:

The Imperial Wife

Completed: 6/3/17
Format: Hardback from the library

For some reason we learn a relatively large amount about French and British royalty, we don’t talk much about the extents of the Russian empire and how its emperors and empresses influenced western culture. Likewise with art! This historical fiction book goes back and forth between a modern-day Russian art expert and the young Catherine the Great of Russia. Learning more about Catherine the Great was extremely interesting, and the book was well written and original. 

Recommended for Phillippa Gregory fans.

Being a Dog


Completed 6/13/17
Format: Hardback from the library

Oh this book! It was so full of interesting facts about dogs and how they use their incredible sense of smell to explore, interpret, and enjoy the world around them. It gave me so much insight into my own two pups! I really really enjoyed it and have added some of Alexandra Horowitz’s other books to my to-read list.

Recommended for: Dog lovers and people who enjoy narrative non-fiction.

Belgravia

 

Completed 6/17/17
Format: Audiobook from Overdrive

Do you love Downton Abbey? Then you’ll love this book! It has all the intrigue, class tension, and historical fascination of the hit PBS series. It was a pleasure to listen to on audiobook, too!

Recommended for: lovers of Downton Abbey, duh. 

The Underground Railroad

Completed 6/20/17
Format: Hardback from the library

Phew. This was a tough one. Anyone with a romanticized view of slavery or the pre-Civil War south should really read this. It was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for a reason. 

Recommended for: everyone.

Forty Autumns 

Completed 6/29/17
Format: Hardback from the library

This might have been my favorite book in June. Another thing we don’t really talk about anymore in the US is just how shut off East Germany was for forty years. This is the true story a young woman who escaped from the communist regime and made a life in the West, as well as the story of the family she left behind. Two sisters and their daughters separated by an oppressive government. Heartbreaking, but with a happy ending, and so well written!

Recommended for: Cold War history buffs and lovers of narrative non-fiction.

 

In Thankfulness for my Grandmother

On Monday July 31st, 2017 for the first time in 96 years, 9 months, and 11 days the sun rose over the Earth and my maternal grandmother Ruth didn’t live here. 

And I once again find myself praying for peace for my family in a time of loss. 

But this time around it’s different. This time I feel an abiding sense of thankfulness. 

My last and longest living grandparent, whom we called Dew, was born in 1920, went through middle and high school in rural North Carolina in the height of the Great Depression, and graduated from college in the middle of WWII.

She didn’t get married until she was almost 30, and didn’t have her first baby until she was 31 in an age when women just didn’t have their first babies at 31. Her youngest, my own mom, was born when Dew was 36.

She was a working mother, in an age when most moms gave up their careers when baby was born, teaching high school English for decades. So beloved by her students was she that one of them sewed a quilt for her, embroidering her name and a note of thanks into the corner. We still have that quilt today. 

Just a few months ago we were wheeling her around Deerfield, the retirement community in North Carolina where she spent her last 17 years, when a gentleman who also lives there began telling us about how Mrs. Smith had been his teacher in high school. “Mrs. Smith was the most beautiful woman in the world,” he told us. “Imagine my surprise when I saw her again here. She’s still the most beautiful woman, you know.”

Dew was widowed at 58 when my granddaddy died. She never remarried, and she wore her platinum engagement and wedding rings until her last day. 

She was one of those people who instantly commanded respect and affection from the moment she walked in the door. Had she chosen to enter politics she would have been a force to be reckoned with. 

Which reminds me—she was a liberal democrat in an age when “nice” southern ladies might have been democrats, but they certainly weren’t liberals. The first time I heard the term “bleeding heart liberal,” was when my mama used it in reference to her. 

She was one of those folks you really really didn’t want to disappoint. 

In short, she was a little bit of a hardass. 

And I have no doubt that she’s a big, stiff-upper-lipped part of why I am the woman I am today. 

And that’s why the prevailing emotion I’m experiencing in the wake of her passing is thankfulness. 

When my dad and father-in-law both died last year one of the biggest sources of grief and anger was the feeling that something had been stolen from me. Stolen from my husband. Stolen from our future children. Stolen from our moms and siblings. 

But from Dew we wrung out every drop of wisdom and guidance, every witticism and every criticism. All 96 years, 9 months, and 11 days’ worth. 

For my siblings and me Thanksgiving and Dew are synonymous.

Every year of our childhood she and my great-aunt Nancy would spend the holiday with the rowdy and rambunctious Robinson clan. 

Mom would scrub our faces and remind us of our manners, and (probably) pray to God we wouldn’t do anything too embarrassing in front of her mother. Even my notoriously-rebellious-brother-who-shall-remain-nameless always did his best to put his napkin in his lap, take small bites, and refrain from cursing at the dinner table when Dew was there. 

We’d set the table with fine linen and wedding china, dress in our Sunday best, and daintily sip sparkling grape juice out of mom’s precious crystal, all the time hoping we were making her proud. 

At her memorial service over the weekend—a service she planned to a letter several years ago—we were given even more insight into who our grandmother was. 

It was a wonderful surprise to hear that the same high standards and stubborn grace she imparted on her children and grandchildren throughout our lives she also expected from those in her community. 

“Ruth was someone who had a deep conviction of how things ought to be,” her longtime pastor and friend Rev. Susan Sherard shared in her homily. “And if something wasn’t as it ought to be, she let you know.”

We heard stories about the radical generosity and hospitality she showed hikers along the Appalachian Trail, and the efforts she went to to strengthen her small community and church. 

There was no waiting around for someone else to do it. If there was a need, she filled it. She set the bar high, and people around her rose to meet it. 

Universally loved, respected, and just a little feared, Dew was the matriarch. 

Strength and grace. 

Steel and magnolia. 

And God, am I thankful she was my matriarch. 

What I read in May

Well, June is almost over, but I don’t care, I have a mission!

Last month I read/listened to 5 books! As of the end of May I’ve read 30 total, putting me an entire month ahead of my 60-Books-in-2017 goal 😀 

On this May’s list are several recommended books from friends and fellow bloggers, as well as the odd picked-it-at-the-library-because-I-liked-its-cover choice. AND as a bonus, this month comes with a podcast recommendation! 

Hallelujah Anyway – Anne Lamott

Completed: 5/2/2017
Format: Hardback from the Library
Anne Lamott is one of those writers who knows how to weave words into knives that cut you to the bone. In a good way. A recovering alcoholic and non-traditional progressive Christian, her essays are always a joy to read. Hallelujah Anyway was very very good. BUT if you want to get the flavor of the book without having to read it, please watch her TED Talk “12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing.” It’s funny and honest, just like Anne. Even if you do want to read the book I highly recommend the TED Talk. Just be prepared to get sucked down into the rabbit hole that is TED.
Recommended for people who love Jesus but cuss a little.

Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn

Completed: 5/4/2017 
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

From the author of Gone Girl, Sharp Objects is dark and captivating. There are several twists and turns, and it’s not exactly a happy ending kind of book, but it was immensely entertaining. As a fan of murder mysteries in general, I really liked it.    

I can’t say much more without giving away some things, but those who have read/seen Gone Girl will be happy with this story!

Recommended for lovers of really dark murder mysteries and other Gillian Flynn books.

How the Irish Saved Civilization 

Completed: 5/21/2017
Format: Hardback from the library

While all of western civilization was crumbling during the fall of Rome, a group of monks in Ireland originally established by Saint Patrick worked to copy and preserve the learning of the Roman Empire. Without those monks we might not have Plato or Aristotle, or Homer, or Euripides.

In short, without those humble monks, we wouldn’t have the classics. We wouldn’t have the academic basis for the Declaration of Independence, or for modern republics and democracies.

Saved the civilization, indeed.

Recommended for history nerds.

Ready Player One

Completed: 5/24/2017
Format: eBook through Overdrive

SO. NERDY. But very very good! This was 100% my favorite read of May. Set in 2044 when the world has gone to crap and everyone takes refuge in the OASIS (think virtual reality on steroids), a billionaire’s death leads the whole world on a massive digital treasure hunt. The designer of the hunt was raised in the 1980s, and the book is riddled with 80’s trivia and memorabilia. 

There were several things that were a tad over my head, but over all it was fantastic, and made all the more fun by a TWO AND A HALF HOUR LONG EPISODE OF MY FAVORITE PODCAST!!!

No Dumb Questions is hosted by Smarter Every Day’s Destin Sandlin (who happens to be from Huntsville, AL) and Matt Whittman who runs an excellent YouTube channel called The 10 Minute Bible Hour.

They are where I originally heard about the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed their chapter-by-chapter analysis.

Recommended for fans of geeky dystopian novels.

The Summer Before the War

Completed: 5/31/2017
Format: Audiobook via Overdrive

This book was really very good, but WWI stories always make me a little sad. So much loss over basically nothing! Set in the English countryside in the months before the launch of the Great War, The Summer Before the War is laced with Downton Abbey-esque intrigue and interclass conflict. It was a good reminder of how far society has come in so many ways in the last century. 

Recommended for fans of Downton Abbey and Belgravia.

That’s it for what I read in May. I’ll be back in just a few days with June’s list.