A List of All My Sins

Thursday, September 29, 2016

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In Judaism, there is a prayer called the Ashamnu, an acrostic of sorts – or whatever the right literary word is. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance, we read the Ashamnu aloud, together, as a congregation, going through a literal ABCs of all our sins throughout the past year.

I relate to the Ashamnu & always find it to be one of the most compelling elements of the holiday – but I don’t always relate to the sins outlined in the prayer. This year, in the lead-up to the holiday, I found myself jotting down an Ashamnu of my own, specifically tailored to my own sins & mistakes. What would yours  include?

For the sin of projecting my anxiety onto others.
For the sin of boozing too much on the weekends.
For the sin of being cold during arguments.
For the sin of letting my apartment get so damn dusty.
For the sin of not exercising enough.
For the sin of occasional financial irresponsibility.
For the sin of gossiping with friends.
For the sin of being way too hard on myself.
For the sin of impatience & hurrying through life.
For the sin of not doing enough to fight for justice.
For the sin of not keeping in touch with those I love.       
For the sin of shelling out too much on lattes.
For the sin of not spending enough time with my mother.
For the sin of neglecting my plants so badly that they died.
For the sin of regularly oversleeping on work days.
For the sin of playing Pokémon Go at inappropriate times.
For the sin of staying quiet when I ought to speak out.
For the sin of not always knowing when or how to relax.
For the sin of taking too many selfies.
For the sin of indulging in trashy books & reality TV.
For the sin of eating unhealthy foods.
For the sin of vanity that compels me to buy $22 eyeliner.
For the sin of almost always wasting my leftover food.
For the sin of using social media to check up on my ex.
For the sin of coveting youth & not appreciating age.
For the sin of not pursuing Zen.

In the coming year, may we strive to do better & to be better. L'shanah tovah umetukah, may you have a good year & may you be inscribed for blessing in the Book of Life.
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Today's Been a Real Monday So Far

Monday, September 26, 2016

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I don't usually have any issues with Monday, not really. I like my job, & as such, I don't dread the start of the work week. Like, would I rather still be living in the weekend? Yeah, sure. But Monday & I don't have any beef.

Except today.

Today went pear-shaped right away, within the first few seconds of waking up - & it continued to move downhill from there.
  1. I woke up sweaty: Sorry if this is TMI, but lately I've been having very anxiety-ridden dreams, & I've woken up with rill bad night sweats. Apparently night sweats are symptomatic of lots of health issues, including anxiety - surprise! - but also, you know, cancer. So that's a little worriesome? And either way, it's gross as hell to wake up sweating through your clothes & sheets & to have to shower when you weren't planning to.
  2. I went broke overnight: I woke up to an email from Facebook saying that, because I had hit a $500 billing threshold paying for September's work ads, I'd been billed immediately, rather than at the end of the month. The problem? My work ads are currently billed to my personal debit card. Now my bank account is $255 in the red, & though my boss tried to expedite a reimbursement, I apparently cannot be repaid until Friday. The worst part? I had a meeting scheduled with the finance guy this afternoon to switch out my personal card for a business card.
  3. I split my pants: It's pouring rain & no warmer than 65 today, so I got to wear actual fall clothes. Great! I put on my favorite sweater & a new pair of black & white LuLaRoe leggings, then sat down to work. I quickly realized that one butt cheek was... very cold. The culprit: a huge, horizontal hole in my brand new leggings, resulting in bare flesh against wood. Good thing I noticed before I set out for my morning coffee, I suppose.
  4. I got soaked: Speaking of heading out for my morning coffee, it is, as I mentioned, pouring outside. I texted Mike to ask if we have an umbrella anyplace before realizing that we do - in my car. Super-helpful, past-Kate, thanks. The coffee shop is nearby, so I braved it &, you know, got soaked. I returned home with a latte, a yogurt, &, for the third time this morning, very wet hair.
It's now just a little after noon, & blessedly, the day seems to have evened out, despite the fact that I'm hundreds of dollars in the hole & down a pair of (leggings-as-)pants. I'm of the ridiculous & unscientifically based belief that bad things always happen in threes, which means I have two more to go today, though I suppose I could make the case that getting rain-soaked wasn't bad luck; I willingly opted into that one. So maybe I'm all set on today...

Chill, Monday. Is this how you treat your friends? No wonder nobody else likes you.
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When Celebrities Descend Upon the CLE

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

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I've had some pretty good celebrity sightings in my 32 short years. There was the time I ran into Jason Mewes from Jay & Silent Bob at a Starbucks. The time I sat behind Mila Kunis on a Southwest flight from Boston to D.C. And the time I realized I was sitting next to Maggie Grace at a Congressional hearing. Oh, & that time Katie Couric held the door for me at the Capitol. And also, notably, the time I was too chickenshit to introduce myself to my all-time favorite human, former senator & astronaut John Glenn.

But you don't really expect to see famous people in Cleveland, Ohio. It's a city, sure, but it's not, like, a glamorous, celebrity-filled, hotspot of a city. Maybe you'll catch a glimpse of Michael Symon at one of his restaurants or LeBron James visiting the local swimming pool (speaking from experience), or you might spy Usher & the Biebs as they take in a Cavs game... but celebrities on their own? Just, like, chillin' in Cleveland? Less likely.

Yesterday night, though, over Thai iced teas at Ty Fun in Tremont with my college friends Brittany & Jen, we spotted a celeb in the wild. A big celeb. Walking in the door, sitting just two tables away from us, there she was: Kate from Lost. Evangeline Lilly in the flesh, looking beautiful & casual & low-key in a flannel shirt & flip-flips. She settled in with a script & ordered a bowl of soup.

I can only imagine the looks on our facing - the highly embarrassing looks on our faces - as we realized who she was & confirmed with one another. As she slid into her booth & caught us staring, she gave us a small smile that said, "Yes, I know who I am," & went about her business (script, soup, et al). We tried to play it cool but in actuality spent a lot of time eavesdropping on her conversation with the server (she wanted her soup to be spicier)  & Googling why she was in Cleveland.

Turns out she's here to film a Netflix original TV show called Little Evil, co-starring Adam Scott... which means he's here someplace, too. Not that we spied on Evangeline Lilly or anything, but she seems to be staying at an apartment complex in my neighborhood, which has me wondering: Is she AirBnBing? Renting? Where does she go besides the Thai place? Does she want to have coffee with me? No? Damn.

After The Avengers & Fast & the Furious #58673632 filmed here, I'm excited to see Cleveland getting a little bit more play - in my small neighborhood, no less! - with another project filming within city limits. I hope our fair city is treating Evangeline & Adam well & that they'll spread the word to their fellow celebs that the 216 is where it's at. Or something. At the very least, I hope I didn't creep her out by staring a lot.
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The Story Behind My Big Modeling Debut (Yes, Really!)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

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One weekday morning at the start of the summer, I trekked out to Lakewood, a suburb of Cleveland, & arrived at the Old Screw Factory to meet my college friend Tara for my modeling debut. Yeah, you heard me: modeling debut.

OK, OK, it wasn't quite as fancy as it sounds, but it was still pretty darn fun.

This year Tara, ever the entrepreneur, launched the Bloom Beautifully Box, a bimonthly subscription box designed to help women focus on self-care. At $40 (though there's usually a discount available), it's full of goodies to get you to chill out & treat yo'self. She's only a few boxes in so far, but past products have included loose-leaf tea & a tea ball, fizzy bath products, & Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration, among others.

When she first launched the box & its accompanying website, Tara was using stock imagery, but as the business grew, she wanted to personalize it. Enter... me! She reached out to me & her friend Siobhan of The BeFree Project, asking if we'd be interested in doing a photoshoot for the Bloom Beautifully Box. Of course I said yes.

I arrived with my makeup done as well as my skills would allow & my hair looking damn fly, if I may say so myself. Tara had asked me to wear a light-colored top & jeans, but I didn't own any jeans (!), & nearly all my clothes are black, which presented a problem. I put on black ponte pants & a flowy white & grey top from Francesca's (even though I'm still mad at them), & I brought a couple alternatives along in case I hadn't hit the mark.

By the time I arrived, local photographer Kamron Khan was already on-site at Bella Ellie, a gorgeous, chic little boutique that sells restyled vintage jewelry, curated vintage clothing, & home goods. Once she'd set up the room just so, we got down to business - the fun part!

Kamron & Tara directed Siobhan & me as we opened & reopened Bloom Beautifully boxes, trying out a variety of facial expressions: "Look surprised!" "Look content!" "Look like your friend just gave you a gift!" I practiced looking much softer & kinder & more feminine than I think I usually do in real life. At one point, Siobhan & I got to talking & forgot we were even being photographed, which really broke the awkwardness as we tried to play BFFs for the camera.

And then, as soon as it started, it was over, & I was back at work, like any other day.

I confess that I am a little embarrassed by the final images themselves. Kamron is an incredible photographer, don't get me wrong. She did a great job! It's just so weird to see myself looking so... unlike myself, you know? It's hard not to be too hard on myself: I should've colored my hair, I could've had someone else do my makeup, I have double chins, I wish I'd worn something else... But I know I'm just being picky. In actuality, it's pretty cool that I got to do this, that my face is on this website selling a thing.

It was so much fun to push my boundaries & do something different & fun, especially to help a friend's company. Do I have a career in modeling? Yeah, OK, no. I know that. But I'm proud & excited to be one of the non-stock photography faces of a great, woman-run, Ohio-based small business.

Want to see the rest of the pics? Visit www.theselfcarebox.com, where you can see Siobhan & me get our model on and sign up for 15% off your first purchase. My fourth box arrived today; check out my Instagram for a look at what I think is Tara's best box yet. 

All photos copyright Kamron Kahn Photography & the Bloom Beautifully Box. Do not use without express permission.
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My New Favorite Way to Find My New Favorite Books

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

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I like reading. Maybe you've noticed? Growing up, I was one of those kids with my head under the covers & a flashlight in my hand as I devoured whatever book had my attention at the time, long after bedtime hours. When I was in middle school, my mom began pursuing her masters in library science; for most of my life, she's been a children's librarian, so I've spent lots & lots of time around lots & lot of books.

At the beginning of the year, I pledged to stop buying books. Why buy what I could so easily borrow for free from my local library? For the most part, I've stuck to that commitment, checking out hard copies from the Cleveland Public Library branch three blocks from my apartment & borrowing Kindle versions through Overdrive using the four library cards to my name.

But I started to miss having a small library of my own, too. Aside from my intentionally collected stack of Bret Easton Ellis novels, most of my own books weren't even ones I really liked. I cleaned out my meager bookshelf & donated more than two dozen books to my local Little Free Libraries (& a few more, recently, to this week's kickoff of Cleveland Book Week)... & wasn't left with much of my own.

Enter Book of the Month Club, a monthly subscription box... of books. OK, really just one book, unless you pay extra for more, but the gist is basically that at the start of each month, BoTM reveals five brand new, just released book choices, each reviewed & recommended by literary judges & celebrity guest judges (recently Andy Cohen & Allison Williams, for example). Based on your preferences, BoTM chooses which of the five it thinks you'll like best, but you can easily change your selection - &, if you'd like, add another (or any book from months past) for an extra $9.99.

Their books are thick, sturdy hardcovers with beautiful, colorful covers, each stamped with the BoTM logo to identify them as part of a collection. (Whenever I start reading one, I slip off the cover for safekeeping until I'm finished!) The BoTM site also includes forums on each book so you can chat with other readers. So far, books I've gotten from BoTM include Siracusa by Delia Ephron, Shrill by Lindy West, Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner, & most recently, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. And the company has a stellar Instagram presence.

Why am I telling you this right now? A) Because I like spreading the word about things I like, & B) If you sign up for Book of the Month Club using my referral link & the discount code FRIEND50, you can get 50% off a three-month subscription. That's a month & a half free, which frees up some cash in your wallet... to buy more books, probably, if you're anything like me.

Fine, there's a C), too: If you use my referral code, I get a free book, & basically nothing makes me happier than free books - except reading them. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to read one of my Book of the Month Club books (Modern Lovers by Emma Straub) for my upcoming book club.
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How to Recover from a Crazy Weekend

Thursday, September 8, 2016

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How'd you spend your Labor Day weekend? I attended a huge, wonderful, joyful wedding in which Mike was a groomsman. For us, then, the wedding was a three-day affair, complete with a rehearsal dinner, the wedding itself, & a day-after brunch at the groom's family farm. We had a great time, but  I was feeling pretty busted come Monday.

So how do you recover from a weekend like that? I created my own little mini self-care ritual to get myself feeling back up to speed, mind, body, spirit, & otherwise. Here's what it entailed:
  1. Mind: Post-wedding, I slept for almost 14 hours. I didn't set any alarms, just let my body do its rest & recovery thing. 
  2. Skin: After a loooong shower to rinse the weekend away, I did a face mask to purify & rehydrate my skin... especially because I slept in some of my makeup!
  3. Hair: I treated my hair to an upgrade with a Shea Moisture rinse that has made my usually straw-like hair nothing but soft & silky. 
  4. Body: OK, here's the big one: On Tuesday, I did a juice cleanse to help my body reset itself after a weekend of pizza & booze. That's what this post is really about!

My one-day juice cleanse came from Cleveland-based company Garden of Flavor (#buylocal!) & included six raw, vegan juices per day, labeled with the order in which you should consume them: 
  1. Goji Pineapple (pineapple, goji berries,, apple, ginger, mint, lemon)
  2. Green Harmony with Probiotic Cultures (cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, romaine, apples, lemon, parsley)
  3. Mean Green (cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, romaine, lemon, parsley)
  4. Twisted Roots (carrots, beets, lemon)
  5. White Knight (cashews, agave, vanilla, cinnamon)
  6. Turmeric Tonic with Probiotic Cultures (Hawaiian turmeric root, ginger root, lemon, agave, cayenne, mint)
I worried about how the juices would taste: Would they be gross, or grassy?! The answer was a resounding no. These juices were, across the board, damn delicious. If you have trouble with straight-up, unsweetened green juices, #2 & #3 might be tough for you, but because I often order the Super Green juices from Starbucks, they tasted familiar & refreshing to me. And so healthy!

To my surprise, my favorite juice was Twisted Roots. I don't like beets at all, but somehow, this juice tasted very balanced & not at all earthy, as beets sometimes are. It was sweet & robust, & I was devastated when I spilled the last of it all over my floor (narrowly missing my white rug, thankfully!)

Other concerns I had upon starting: Six juices is a lot of juices in one day, especially for someone with a pea-sized bladder & some weird digestive issues, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that body-wise, it felt like any other day. Another concern was that I'd be hungry all day, but given that six juices is a lot of juices in one day, I was actually so full that it was tough to get through all of them! I did miss food, but that was mostly mental, I think, because I was definitely not actually hungry.

Full disclosure, though: At one point, on autopilot, I dug into cold Indian leftovers - rice, cashews, & yellow curry - & three bites in, I realized my mistake. Luckily, it was a pretty soft, digestible food that I don't think interfered with my cleanse - though my failure initially had me riddled me with guilt. I tried to forgive myself, given that it was my first try cleansing, but I'm still mad that I messed up!

At the end of my cleanse, I felt healthy, rejuvenated, & full. It was a great experience that helped me reset my body for an autumn of better eating. My boyfriend has started making homemade pierogis, which complicates my resolve, but post-cleanse, I'm feeling a lot more committed to fruits, veggies, & my overall health.

Want to try your own cleanse? You can snag Garden of Flavor juices at stores across the country, including Heinen's, Whole Foods, & Giant Eagles throughout Northeast Ohio. You can also find them in cities like Washington, D.C., Chicago, & NYC - so go get your drink on, friends!

Thanks to the kind folks at Garden of Flavor for providing me with a one-day juice cleanse in exchange for my honest review. As always, all opinions are my own. Yes, I actually really loved this juice cleanse.
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19 Reasons I'm Excited for Fall

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

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It's no secret that summer & I aren't friends. But just as I very quickly & easily penned 19 things I dislike about summer, I can just as easily come up with 19 things I look forward to about autumn. Actually, I could probably come up with 19 more, if needed, because I really, really like autumn. And fine, it was 82 degrees in Cleveland today, but those two days of fall-like weather we had last week were enough to get me excited.

Here's what I'm most looking forward to:
  1. No more sweating
  2. That crisp fall air & the smell that accompanies it
  3. Actually wanting to go outside again (see #1 & #2) 
  4. Finally wearing my hair down again (see #1)
  5. Finally wearing boots, sweaters, & jeans again
  6. Flavors like cinnamon, maple, & salted caramel
  7. Warm, cozy, hot coffee drinks in all the above flavors 
  8. Warm, cozy, hot foods, like soup & casseroles
  9. Leaves changing color...
  10. ...& later, leaves crunching underfoot 
  11. So many festivals!
  12. The return of fall TV (I'm lookin' at you, Grey's Anatomy.)
  13. The High Holidays
  14. Getting off work for the High Holidays (a special working-for-a-Jewish-org bonus)
  15. My favorite holiday, Halloween, & all its accompanying festivities
  16. Significantly lower electricity bills
  17. The arrival of football season (Go Browns! Go Bucks!)
  18. Mike's birthday (especially because he's turning 30 this month)
  19. Going to Szalay's to pick out pumpkins & produce 
What are you looking forward to this fall?
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Things I Love Right Now (Pt. V)

Friday, September 2, 2016

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It's been awhile since I've done one of these, eh? I thought I didn't have enough new obsessions to pull together a list, & yet, here I am, obsessing aloud in list form. Here's a quick look at what I'm into these days:
  1. Pretty By Post: If there's one thing I love, it's sending snail mail to friends & family - & if there's another thing I love, it's subscription boxes. What's more perfect for me, then, than a monthly subscription service that sends half a dozen handmade greeting cards? And curated by a fellow Ohioan, no less!
  2. Starbucks Iced Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato: I hate ordering this because it's just so many words, & I can't help but feel douchey about it. Still, this is one of the most delicious drinks Starbucks has ever come out with, in my humble, Starbucks-loving opinion.
  3. Bachelor in Paradise: Should I be embarrassed about this? I'm embarrassed about this. I don't even like The Bachelor that much, so I have no idea why its epically trashy spinoff holds such appeal for me - & yet here I am, tuning in twice a week. I think there's some strange allure for committed women who don't necessarily miss their single days but who enjoy living vicariously through someone else's.
  4. Old Navy Metallic Pointy Flats in Light Gold Rush: I snagged these great flats on sale & can't wait to wear them with everything this fall. I would wear them to bed if I could. 
  5. LuLaRoe: I held out against yet another Internet business selling something that didn't appeal to me... until a friend sent me a free pair of leggings to try. Now, I never want to wear anything else, & I am trying my damndest to guard my wallet from repeated shopping sprees.
  6. ShineText.com: I signed up for these daily inspirational text messages after reading about them on another blog. Sure, I could just, like, look up my own damn inspiration every day, but who has time for that? Now I just wake up to it every day.
  7. Homemade smoothies: I'm back on the smoothie train with my favorite recipe: two handfuls of baby spinach, a banana, a red apple, some almond milk, & a scoop or two of organic peanut butter, blended in my little bullet blender. I'm never healthier than when I'm on the smoothie train.
  8. Pokémon Go: I've already confessed to this on the blog, & already, the enthusiasm is winding down - can I can an update, Niantic?! - but my love for this app persists. I caught a bunch of new Pokémon while in NYC, including a Pikachu! I just hit level 22 & am desperate to keep on keepin' on.
  9. Urban Decay lipstick: I snagged a $25 lip color for $9.99 from Nordstrom Rack, which sort of numbed the pain of not finding a dress too wear to an upcoming wedding. It's shiny, not matte like I'm used to, but I kinda like that, & it stays on alllll day.
  10. Franco Sarto Delancey Crossbody: I rotate between two purses - a tiny one & a Longchamp - so I'm not usually on the lookout for anything new. But I scored this beauty for just $20 on sale at Marshall's before my NYC trip, & it turned out to be the perfect size for travel. It's also a great pop of color for someone who's prone to neutrals. 
Tell me: What are you super-into these days? 
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What I Read in August

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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If I felt like I didn't do enough reading in July, I certainly made up for it in August, with a new record: 10 books! This is due partly to the fact that I spent four days at a cabin in the woods sans wifi, where I plowed through about a book a day, & due partly to the fact that a few of these were very easy reads (see: an ebook by a former People staffer). August ran the gamut from frivolous (see: the memoir of a Bachelorette contestant) to serious (see: the memoir of a mass shooter's mother), with lots of character-driven novels & quirky personal essays in between. Oh, yeah - and a Harry Potter book! Let's get to it, shall we?

Red Carpet Regret: Confessions of a Cynical Celebrity Journalist by Sara Hammel

The author, a longtime freelancer for People magazine, recently quit her job in a spectacular, headline-making way, by writing a long letter about all the ways the magazine has changed for the worse during her tenure. While this short Kindle mini-memoir does provide a fun & sometimes juicy look into the world of celebrity "journalism," I was continually distracted by how poorly it was edited (so many typos). Moreover, it was clearly blatant promotional tool for the author's new novel (so many references to it), which felt insultingly PR-driven & frankly just tacky. ★★☆☆☆

The Girls by Emma Cline

A Book of the Month Club read. This one has a fascinating premise - about a woman who falls in with a cult - but the writing was so pretentious & overwrought that it was nearly impossible to like. We get it, Emma Cline, you've got a massive mental thesaurus & a way with analogies - but did you need to use all of it in this one little book? Tempted though I was to abandon it, the story kept me compelled, & the ending was mostly satisfying. Still, the language was so flowery & all the characters so pitiful that when I got to the last page, I just felt a mixture of exhaustion & relief. ★★☆☆☆

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Oh, how I wish this had been a "real" Harry Potter book, but still, it was enough to re-enter this world even just for a moment, in whatever form Rowling allows us. The fact that it was shared as a script made it easier for me to overlook major plot holes & my overall negative feelings toward the use of time travel as a literary device. I loved returning to Hogwarts & spending time with so many old friends - as well as meeting some new ones. ★★★★☆

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman by Nora Ephron

Stole this book from my mom's bedroom; apparently it came from a Borders of long, long ago (RIP). This is a quick, easy read of short essays by the incomparable Nora Ephron (also RIP), the brilliant & insightful writer of You've Got Mail & other such gems. Topics touch on stereotypically female elements of life, like vanity, housekeeping, dating - all from a witty, feminist perspective. Ephron was in her late 60s when she wrote this, so don't expect it to be quite as progressive as you'd like, but it's still a wonderful, charming book. ★★★★★

Local Girls by Caroline Zancan 

I haven't read a book like this in a long time, the kind that feels compelling & creative but accessible at the same time. It flashes between past, present, & future, telling the story of four friends' rocky relationship, the kind all of us experienced in high school - the kinds that mean so much in the moment but inevitably fall apart with time. It simultaneously tells the story of two turning points in their friendship - their falling out with one of the four, & a brief reunion at a bar one night, where they meet a major movie star on what turns out to be the last night of his life. This is what I'd hoped The Girls would be like, but Zancan delivers it in much more relatable, enjoyable terms. ★★★★☆

It's Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak into Happily Never After by Andi Dorfman

How embarrassed am I to admit that I read a book written by a Bachelorette star? Oh, but I did. My newest guilty pleasure is Bachelor in Paradise, & when a new arrival joined the show, this book became a topic of conversation for all it says about him. Yes, I fell for the marketing. Yes, it was largely an annoying & terribly written waste of time. Yes, Dorfman's ghostwriter appears to be a 17-year-old valley girl. But it was still juuust juicy enough to keep me reading until the end. Hey, I'm a woman of varied tastes. ★★☆☆☆

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

This was a Book of the Month Club book that I didn't buy but was intrigued enough to borrow from the library before my trip. It's a Clue-style whodunit meets The Girl on the Train, the story of a PTSD-suffering insomniac journalist who drinks too much. While on assignment on a state-of-the-art cruise ship, she witnesses a murder - or did she? All passengers & crew are accounted for, so no one believes her. The pacing felt off to me - I wish there'd been more lead-up to the initial reveal - but overall, a well-told mystery that didn't so much keep me guessing who did it so much as it kept me wondering what would happen next. ★★★★☆

A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

Like the rest of the world, I've long been interested in the Columbine shootings, researching them & learning all I can about both the victims & the perpetrators. I was surprised to find that one of the shooter's mothers had written a book, as both families have been notoriously quiet through the years. This was a painful, powerful memoir about a mother's struggle to grieve for her dead son - who she knew as a sweet, thoughtful teen boy - while fighting through oppressive, overwhelming guilt & grief for the community she loves. An absolute must-read. ★★★★★

Agorafabulous! Dispatches from My Bedroom by Sara Benincasa

Is it terrible that the first thing I thought of is what an ironic last name the author has, for being an agoraphobic? Like, "Been in casa"? No? Just me. OK, OK. Anyway, this is a really incredible look at mental illness - how it comes about, what it feels like, how someone comes back from it. Benincasa, now a comedian, was so agoraphobic at age 21 that she was afraid to leave her bedroom & thus urinated in cereal bowls that she hid under her bed. It's a memoir, but it's so readable that it almost feels like a novel. ★★★★★

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

I got this book for free from Book Bub & wasn't expecting much of it, but it turned out to be a great summer novel, easy to read but detailed & complex in its character development. It's about a small Southern community thrown into disarray when a young boy nearly drowns in the local pool; alliances are made secrets & secrets are revealed. Though I found many of the twists to be predictable, they were told in such a way that I was still thrilled to see them unveiled. ★★★★★


Oh, & one more! I read this book in one sitting in July but somehow forgot to include it in my July roundup (I guess I know how; see review). Here's my quick take on this quick read.

Sia by Josh Grayson

Terrible. Why did I read the whole thing? In my defense, at least it was quick, but it certainly wasn't painless. This YA fluff read taps into an ages-old trope - the main character has amnesia! - but it's so poorly done it's neither believable nor likeable. SO MUCH happens, in addition to the amnesia: An abduction attempt! Homelessness! Theft! Love! Friendship drama! Alcoholism! A film deal! Was this written by a 15-year-old on speed? It would've gotten an A+ if it were written as a high school project, but as a published novel? GTFO. ★☆☆☆☆

Comment to tell me what you're reading! Then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch & see what I've read in months past.

Please note that my "What I Read in..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but please also don't judge me too harshly for including them.   
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