black is the new black

Anya St. Clair is living her best life. She has the job at a fashion magazine that she always wanted. She has a wardrobe to die for. All that’s missing is making fashion superstar Sarah Taft her bff.

Sara is one of those women who always looks her best. She is the princess of social media, never taking a bad selfie. She has the best of clothes, the best of friends, the best of everything. And Anya wants to be in her inner circle.

The problem? Anya doesn’t naturally fit in with Sarah and her crowd. So she has to work extra hard. And that is stressful. And sometimes she has to ease her stress through sessions with her therapist and brutal workouts that leave others battered and, occasionally, dead.

Amina Akhtar’s debut novel #FashionVictim is a hearty helping of obsession, aggression, and fabulous shoes. This snarky, darkly comic Heathers meets The Devil Wears Prada story is a wild ride of designers, parties, and blood with a hearty helping of insider info on fashion and the magazines that make it. I highly recommend this for its darkness, its chill, its setting, and its freaky main character. Anya St. Clair is the fashionista I’d love to be!

Galleys for #FashionVictim were provided by Crooked Lane Books through NetGalley, with many thanks.

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recently finished: Lies by T. M. Logan. Very twisty. Highly recommended!

currently reading: The latest mystery starring Lady Hardcastle, T. E. Kinsey’s A Picture of Murder. And Anne Lamott on hope, sharing Almost Everything she knows.

up next: still no idea. There is so much going on these days that I have almost no organization

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recently finished: Claw the System, a book of poems for the cat uprising. It’s adorable, and a must-have for all the cat fans out there.

currently reading: Lies by T.M. Logan. It’s a really well written thriller and I’m enjoying it a lot. I just need more time to sit and get through it. It’s a fast read for someone who has going on than I do these days. Also, still reading Anne Lamott’s Almost Everything. It’s beautiful and uplifting, and everything I need right now. Both of these are highly recommended.

up next: Excellent question. I got nothing. I mean, I have stacks of books. I just don’t know which one I’ll grab next.

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recently finished: I’m only about 30 minutes from finishing #FashionVictim, so I’m counting it. It’s a crazy ride through the craziness of the fashion magazine industry, and when I say “craziness,” I mean actual mental health issues. The main character, Anya, has issues with a capital I, and being inside her head is a trip.

currently reading: Anne Lamott’s newest, Almost Everything. Claw the System, a revolution for cats to stand up for their rights as the rulers of all they survey. And I just started T. M. Logan’s Lies, a bonkers thriller that I’ve heard everyone talking about.

up next: No idea. Things are a little crazy around here, and that’s going to go on for a while. We have a serious family illness to deal with, and that will take precedent over everything else. I’ll try to keep reading and posting, but we’ll have to wait and see how things shake out.

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recently finished: nothing new. Family drama toward the end of the week interfered with reading time. Don’t you just hate that?

currently reading: #FashionVictim, which is a little like The Devil Wears Prada meets Heathers. I am loving it! And I was able to snag a copy of Anne Lamott’s upcoming book, Almost Everything. The subtitle is Notes on Hope, and I was desperately needing some hope this week, so I started reading it. It’s beautiful and perfect, and I’m so glad that I took the chance to read this one early.

up next: Claw the System, a book of cat poetry. It’s by the man who brought us I Could Pee on This and I Could Chew on This (dog poetry), as well as many others. It should be lots of fun.

left or right

Maya Stark has been given the chance of a lifetime. She’s a speech therapist working in a mental hospital, and she’s still pretty new to the job. She knows her way around the institution, as she was a patient there when she was younger, and then an intern, and now that she has her degrees, she’s back to help the patients learn to use the words that they need to communicate their deepest fears and their wildest dreams.

And now she has a prize assignment.

Josiah Blackthorn and his son Lucas disappeared into the Boundary Waters ten years ago, never to be seen again. Boundary Waters is a particularly dense and wild part of Minnesota, up near the Canadian border. It’s frigid in the winter, and the odds of survival go down by the day and even more so by the night. So it was quite the surprise that Lucas showed up at a survivalist store, breaking in to rob it and inadvertently causing the death of one of the owners.

Lucas was taken to the mental hospital where Maya works, and he refused to communicate in any way with anyone. But on seeing Maya, there was a moment, a connection, that he refused every one else, so Maya was given the task of getting him to talk. She was the one chosen to help him find the words to talk about the last ten years, about how he had survived in the Boundary Waters, and maybe most importantly, what happened to his father. But she has secrets too, and they effect her work as much as his haunting eyes do.

Leave No Trace is the story of that connection and the journey that both Maya and Lucas have to take through their respective pasts to find their futures. Author Mindy Mejia, of last year’s Everything You Want Me To Be, is back with a twisty tale of past secrets, pain, and healing that took me on a crazy journey. I was captivated by this story, and I loved watching Maya’s and Lucas’s stories unwind as they became friends and then connected on an even deeper level. I couldn’t help but root for them as they made crazy, desperate choices and found their deeper truths amid all the buried secrets and family issues.

I highly recommend this thriller with its crazy roller coaster ride of emotions. It’s a lovely story of healing and coming home, and it will find it’s way into your heart, leaving traces all the way.

Galleys for Leave No Trace were provided by Atria/Emily Bestler Books through NetGalley, with many thanks.

cozy self-care

Make Yourself Cozy: A Guide for Practicing Self-Care is an adorable gift for a friend (or for yourself!) who is dealing with challenges in life, who is fighting mental health issues like mild anxiety or depression, or who just needs a reminder of the importance of quality self-care. With charming drawings and a wealth of ideas for physical and emotional warmth and healing, Make Yourself Cozy is the perfect start to a self-care bundle.

It’s filled with delightful drawings as well as interactive pages where you can add your own favorite self-care objects, write about your own feelings, and even draw your own cozy spots. And if that’s not enough, there are recipes and craft ideas, party ideas and potential getaways, houseplant suggestions and fashion ideas to fill your mind—and your life—with cozy thoughts.

Make Yourself Cozy is the second book by illustrator, designer, and creator of lovely cards and gifts Katie Vaz. Her first book was a coloring book called Don’t Worry Eat Cake (this is my life’s motto! except that I do sometimes worry and other times I eat pudding), and I’m already on board for her next book, out next year, The Escape Manual for Introverts. Her vision of life, which jumps off the page through her engaging illustrations as well as her gentle way of looking at life’s harsher moments, offers a soothing balm.

This book is the perfect antidote for a life that feels too loud, too demanding, or too harsh. So grab your favorite pajamas, snuggle under your softest blanket, grab your favorite hot beverage, and turn on your favorite soft music and open up this book to find the peaceful, cozy, warm, and inspiring self-care you so desperately need.

Also, eat more cake.

Galleys for Make Yourself Cozy were provided by Andrews McMeel Publishing through NetGalley.com, with many thanks.

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recently finished: I finally finished Leave No Trace, and it is bananas! It was a crazy, twisty journey, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

currently reading: I started listening to The Woman in the Window on audio, but the book is a little slow moving, and the audio felt like it was taking forever. I’ve switched over to ebook, and it’s moving so much faster. I can’t wait to see how it ends!

up next: Rose Levy Beranbaum’s new cookbook, Rose’s Baking Basics. It’s one of the cookbooks I’ve been most looking forward to this fall, so I can’t wait to dig in and see what she has to teach me. And trying to write up the several books I’ve read and haven’t been able to review lately. Let’s see if this is the week I can get back on track!

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recently finished: It was another week of family drama and hospitals, but I think (I hope!) that things are starting to calm down. My mother is doing well and is in a Skilled Nursing Facility, so she has people taking good care of her, and I think all the related drama is working itself out. Things are slowing down at work for a bit, so I should be able to catch my breath soon. I haven’t finished any books lately, but yesterday I did read a short story by Jane Corry, The Killing Type, which I greatly enjoyed. If you’re a Kindle reader, it’s free on Amazon.

currently reading: Still in Leave No Trace. I think I’ll finish it this week. I’m still liking it a lot, and I can’t wait to see how it ends. I’ve also been listening to Uncommon Type on audio at work. When things are stressful, why wouldn’t you want Tom Hanks to read you a story? I certainly do, and I don’t want to rush this one at all.

up next: Ummm. I don’t know. There are too many books! (Not really, but I feel so fortunate that I have so many amazing choices!)

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recently finished: Nothing. It was a rough week. My mother has been in the hospital, so I haven’t gotten much extra done.

currently reading: Still reading Leave No Trace, and I am enjoying it immensely. I definitely recommend this one!

up next: Fruit of the Drunken Tree, a surprise gift from Doubleday, and one of those books that everyone is talking about right now. I can’t wait to jump in and try it!

feet and friendship

Hugo and Boone are best friends. Their friendship is unique, because Boone is a human and Hugo is a Sasquatch. But when they grow up, they want to be cryptozoologists, which is just a fancy word for someone who is friendly with monsters. So having that in common makes them perfect friends.

When Hugo gets a new Monster Detector in the mail, he is excited to go out and look for monsters, although he’s a little scared too. The unknown can be scary. But then Boone showed up at Hugo’s school, The Academy for Curious Squidges, and they see a real, true, genuine Green Whistler!

Hugo and Boone chase down the Green Whistler, not knowing what they were going to do when they catch it. But together, they weren’t afraid. They realized that they would know what to do when the time was right. Plus, they had each other. Friendship makes any adventure better.

Big Foot and Little Foot: Monster Detector is just as adorable as it sounds. With themes of exploring the meaning of friendship, accepting differences in others, and learning to discern the truth from rumors, Ellen Potter’s charming chapter book for 6-9 year-olds is a fun adventure that can be enjoyed by monster lovers of all ages. And Felicita Sala’s illustrations add even more fun and whimsy to this second book in the series.

I highly recommend this fun little Sasquatch book for early readers and their parents.

Galleys for Big Foot and Little Foot: The Monster Detector were provided by Amulet Books, with many thanks.

a deep dive into the start of hospitality

When the Savoy Hotel opened in London in the late 1800s, it quickly rose to fame as the most luxurious experience in the world. Well known hotelier Cesar Ritz was hand-chosen for his attention to detail and his devotion to his guests to run this largest and most opulent hotel by financier Richard D’Oyly Carte. And Ritz then hand chose the finest chef he knew to accompany him, Auguste Escoffier.

Ritz ran an impeccable hotel, and Escoffier ran the most organized, professional kitchen that existed at that time. In fact, you can still go into any luxury hotel and see the details of perfection that were handed down from Ritz, and you can go into any modern professional kitchen and see the imprint of Escoffier’s pristine attention to detail and organization. Their ideas birthed an industry and brought a level of luxury to the middle class that most people had never been able to experience before.

Luke Barr, author of Provence, 1970, is back with another flawlessly researched book that takes a look at a moment in history that changed everything that came after. In Provence, 1970, he showed how American cuisine came to be, and Ritz and Escoffier shows how two men taught us all how to live our best lives, lives where the details make the difference between an average experience and one that make us feel like royalty.

With stories of history and scandal, royalty and wannabes, romance and betrayal, Ritz and Escoffier shines a light on a time in history where decadence became a lifestyle and modern luxury became a tangible reality for almost anyone. The pages of this book are filled with lavish dinner parties, rumors of love affairs, scandalous spending, backstabbing, double-crossing, stealing, egotism, entitlement, lawsuits and disgrace.

A fascinating look at a unique time in history, Ritz and Escoffier takes you back in time and shows you all the hard work that goes into the extravagance of the hospitality industry from the opening of a hotel to running it like clockwork through all the surprises and challenges that come up during its operation. Luke Barr’s exquisite prose, audiobook melodically narrated by Stephen Rudnicki, brings the city and the time and the hotel to life in a way that makes you feel like you can see the flowers right in front of you and smell the amazing aromas of Escoffier’s kitchen. I know that I will never see the hotel industry the same way.

Galleys for Ritz and Escoffier were provided by Crown Publishing through NetGalley, with many thanks, but I bought the audiobook myself, thanks to Audible.