Welcome to the Longest Day of the Year

I absolutely love today because of a few reasons:

  1. Today is my mother’s birthday
  2. Today is the longest day of the year

I sometimes imagine what it must be like to live in the Arctic circle where they have the longest days of any place in the entire world and that’s because it doesn’t get dark. Ever.

But for those of us that live in a slightly bigger city (or adjacent), we only get one day of the year where the sun stays out for a little bit longer than it would any other day.

And you all know what I’m going to be doing; reading.

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If you haven’t noticed from my Instagram, I love being indoors. But B and I made it a point to get ourselves an apartment with a balcony so that we can spend some outside.

While not every reader is an introvert, I just happen to fit into the stereotype very well. I like my home and sitting on my green couch and staring out windows at the people enjoying the sunshine. Having a balcony really helps me to get my much needed Vitamin D without having to converse with other people or spend money on a ridiculously large cup of coffee.

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Also, the privacy gives me the quiet I need to get some reading done. Sometimes when I go to a cafe or to the park, I get so distracted by all the people around. I want to people watch and not be buried deep in the passages of a novel.

Have you ever experienced this? Have you ever wanted to spend time outside and find yourself stuck on the inside?

Well, if you have, I dare you to step outside for a little while today before the sun goes down on this beautiful day. Or, you can always wait till next year.

Happy Solstice, everyone!

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My favorite Brooklyn places to take bookish photos

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My husband and I are moving (definitely moving, not considering moving) to New Jersey in a few weeks and I’ve been thinking about all the different and new places I’ll find in our new neighborhood. Either for me to get coffee or lounge with my book or even to buy groceries or have dinner together. It’ll be tough at first as I check out different places, but what I’m hoping for is that go-to where the coffee is good, the baked goods selection is ample, and I can read uninterrupted somewhere that isn’t in my home or on the train.

Thinking about all the places I’ll see, I started thinking about all the places I used to go. To give you an idea of what part of Brooklyn I lived in, I was in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area and my workplace was in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn. I should preface this with “my favorite places where they sell coffee and treats and I can actually sit and read my book if I wanted to afterward.” Because there are some really beautiful places to take bookish photos, but they’re not conducive to reading. You’ll end up hearing the chatter of all the other people in a restaurant. The bookstores are too distracting with cute dogs walking by and humans walking by and people just generally in your face all the time. The bookstores in Brooklyn are also pretty tiny with not a lot of room to sit and read. They’re mostly there for you to get your book and go.

There used to be this hidden gem of a Barnes and Noble in Manhattan that I would always go to. I didn’t buy books there because oddly their selection was so limited that independent bookstore look like Amazon, but I did love to sit around in a nearly abandoned bookstore and read without distractions. Sadly, that Barnes and Noble did close and it’s probably because it was a nearly abandoned bookstore you can read in without distractions. Also, homeless people chilled in the reading areas. That’s New York living for you.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s check out the options I’ve got here in my lovely little neighborhood.

My Couch

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You’ve probably seen the green monstrosity that I call a couch. It’s my favorite place to sit in the entire apartment with only three working legs and the fourth being held up by books.

I’m a huge introvert and sometimes that means that I don’t want to leave the house or talk to humans or be around people I love (sorry, honey). Sometimes I just need to sit in my favorite spot on the couch and read. It’s also a great place to take photos if you set the mood right and there’s some great reading light. It’s also very cost-efficient since you don’t need to buy a $5 cup of coffee to sit on your own couch. Make yourself a cup of tea or do a late-afternoon coffee with a snack. Grab your fur baby and force them to cuddle with you. Invest in some beautiful blankets.

Most importantly, PUT ON PANTS. I’m a huge advocate for sweats at home, but if I’m taking a bookish photo, I really try to put some effort into the way the bottom half of my body looks. Once you’ve got all those necessities, you’ll be ready to take some cozy effortless photos of you just nonchalantly reading on a weekday afternoon. The photo above was an exception because it was the holiday season and who wears pants while they open presents?

Bakeri

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Bakeri is this beautiful little place right near my apartment. Every once in a while, I will pull myself off my couch and this is the go-to place for me. The tables are long and communal, so you need to share with other folks around you, but the vibe is good. Not a lot of talkers in that place and bonus points for not a lot of laptops. This place has no wifi, which is nice because you don’t need the Internet to read and it keeps those laptop squatters at bay. Pro tip: Find the place that doesn’t have wifi for a quiet reading spot. No wifi means less people wanting to stay and do stuff.

Bluestone Lane

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There’s a few New York based book bloggers that use Bluestone Lane as a means for bookish photos. I worked near one so I would head down for a quick coffee run and take a bookish photo. I will admit that I’ve been guilty of using other people’s drinks and coffee cups to take some cute photos, but for the most part the drinks are mine.

I don’t think this is the quietest place to sit and read, but it is good for some beautiful photos. The way food and drinks are served here have been really delightful and I always come back here for their coffee and teas. Also, they have some a pretty incredible matcha latte if you’re into that kind of thing.

Woops Bakery

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Woops Bakery is a super cute place in Williamsburg with ridiculously photogenic tables and food. I go here from time to time and partake in their delicious macaron selection and good coffee. And if you get the setting right, then you can get some beautiful photos.

However, they do tend to get a bit crowded because it’s right off the Bedford stop (and if you’ve ever been to Williamsburg, you understand), so it’s best to go during the week.

One Girl Cookies

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One Girl Cookies is another great little coffee shop (and mentioned in a few YAs). They’re famous for their whoopee pies and great setting. Beautiful and large, this place sits right by the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge Park. You can settle in to their little seating area or you can take your coffee on the go and take some really beautiful bookish photos by the East River. This place does get crowded and sometimes there’s a photoshoot or a movie being made here, but when there isn’t, you can find yourself getting lost in your book for a few hours.

The last thing I want to say before I wrap up here is this: do what feels right for you. I know it’s easy to be tempted by the beautiful book photos you see on the Internet and with a little bit of elbow grease, you can take lovely photos of your current reads in your favorite setting without spending too much money or sacrificing reading time to the less-reading crowds.

I’ll be back in a few weeks with my new New Jersey digs, but for now let me know what your favorite bookish photo spot are!

New Reads from Scribner’s

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I recently got a package from Scribner’s Books with a couple of great reads publishing right now. Both of these books have already published this March and I’m super excited to get into them. Sadly, I suffer with “too many books in my TBR” syndrome.

However, if you have a chance, definitely pick them up or at least check them out.

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Title: One of the Boys
Author: Daniel Magariel
Publishing Date: March 14th, 2017
Synopsis: A riveting and emotionally harrowing debut about two young brothers and their physically and psychologically abusive father—One of the Boys is 176 perfect, stunning pages by a major new talent.

The three of them—a twelve-year-old boy, his older brother, their father—have won the war: the father’s term for his bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave their Kansas home and drive through the night to Albuquerque, eager to begin again, united by the thrilling possibility of carving out a new life together. The boys go to school, join basketball teams, make friends. Meanwhile their father works from home, smoking cheap cigars to hide another smell. But soon the little missteps—the dead-eyed absentmindedness, the late night noises, the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters—become sinister, and the boys find themselves watching their father change, grow erratic, then violent.

Set in the sublimely stark landscape of suburban New Mexico and a cramped apartment shut tight to the world, One of the Boys conveys with stunning prose and chilling clarity a young boy’s struggle to hold onto the dangerous pieces of his shattered family. Harrowing and beautiful, Daniel Magariel’s masterful debut is a story of survival: two foxhole-weary brothers banding together to protect each other from the father they once trusted, but no longer recognize. With the emotional core of A Little Life and the compact power of We the Animals, One of the Boys is among the most moving and remarkable debut novels you’ll ever read.

30201150Title: Next Year, For Sure
Author: Zoey Leigh Peterson
Publishing Date: March 7th, 2017
Synopsis: In this moving and enormously entertaining debut novel, longtime romantic partners Kathryn and Chris experiment with an open relationship and reconsider everything they thought they knew about love.

After nine years together, Kathryn and Chris have the sort of relationship most would envy. They speak in the shorthand they have invented, complete one another’s sentences, and help each other through every daily and existential dilemma. When Chris tells Kathryn about his feelings for Emily, a vivacious young woman he sees often at the Laundromat, Kathryn encourages her boyfriend to pursue this other woman—certain that her bond with Chris is strong enough to weather a little side dalliance.

As Kathryn and Chris stumble into polyamory, Next Year, For Sure tracks the tumultuous, revelatory, and often very funny year that follows. When Chris’s romance with Emily grows beyond what anyone anticipated, both Chris and Kathryn are invited into Emily’s communal home, where Kathryn will discover new romantic possibilities of her own. In the confusions, passions, and upheavals of their new lives, both Kathryn and Chris will be forced to reconsider their past and what they thought they knew about love.

Offering a luminous portrait of a relationship from two perspectives, Zoey L. Paterson has written an empathic, beautiful, and tremendously honest novel about a great love pushed to the edge. Deeply poignant and hugely entertaining, Next Year, For Sure shows us what lies at the mysterious heart of relationships, and what true openness and transformation require.

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Love, Life, and the Teen Dream

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Ah…young love.

Recently, a bookish friend asked me for some book suggestions. She was looking for teen romance novels for girls who are single and want to find love.

I obligingly provided her with a few of the authors that I loved (more on that in a little bit), but there was something I wanted address about the specific genre she was looking for. When I was a teenager, I desperately wanted the kind of love you can only get on the CW. That brooding dude with a mysterious past that’s good to you comes along to the school you’ve been sludging through the past three years and out of everyone he notices you.

It’s the same with these stories. You want to feel what these characters feel and how that one guy you hope will look at you does. 

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Here’s the funny thing about those stories; they’re not real. It’s work of pure fiction and when you go into reading a book about love, you should remind yourself that this is purely for enjoyment of stories. I know that these stories are beautiful and modeling your life a little bit off it is fun, but remember you are yourself and you’re in the middle of writing your own story. 

While I wanted to be one of those girls that fell in love in high school, I actually fell in love for the first time when I was 21. And even then, it wasn’t the best romance of my life. It shook me that I didn’t get to have that experience and it shook me even more when the mental and emotional abuse kicked in. Where is my Happily Ever After there? But then a few years after that, I found a person who loves me for who I am and finds no fault in me and jokes with me and is real with me and it’s better than any love story I’ve ever read. 

Even though that’s only one instance of love and there are tons of people who love their high school sweethearts there are literally billions of people on earth. Don’t limit yourself to that one guy or gal.  

I guess you can call me a cynic, but I want to say this as a person who is a full grown adult and in love; focus on yourself. Focus on what makes you happy and what you enjoy. There’s no point in impressing someone who doesn’t find you impressive, so impress yourself. There will always be someone on the periphery watching what you do and falling in love with you for it. You do you. Continue to be your lovable self. There is life after high school and that’s where most people fall in love. 

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Remember, what do all of those YA stories have in common? No one is going after each other. That goes for both men and women and for every gender in between! You should fall in love with someone who loves you and not with someone who doesn’t know you exist. Be your quirky self and you’ll find that the one person you didn’t even realize was The One will come to you when the time is right. Don’t rush it. It’ll only lead to heartache.

When you fall in love, you fall. Don’t get pushed and don’t throw yourself at it. Let it fall and hopefully someone will catch you.

Now, time for some romance novels for you young loves out there to read and dream of when your time will come:

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Swing Time by Zadie Smith

I’ve never seen Swing Time in full. I’ve only seen the parts where Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dance. Their moves are so hypnotic and envious.

However, a frequent theme throughout Old Hollywood that no one really knows about is the awful hours, the struggles to support yourself, and the drug abuse to stay up through the days of filming. It must be even more difficult when you’re a dancer doing the same routine over and over again in order to get it just precise with your partner. On top of the dancing, you need to be acting. It’s all so much!

You don’t see those hours spent rehearsing and singing and dancing. All you see is the final product, which is the story of these two girls in Zadie Smith’s Swing Time. What do I need to do to be a part of this couple? How do I get to dance like that? Life’s a show until the final curtain falls. What happens next?

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com)

28390369Two brown girls dream of being dancers–but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, about what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.

Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, Swing Time is a story about friendship and music and stubborn roots, about how we are shaped by these things and how we can survive them. Moving from northwest London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Continue reading “Swing Time by Zadie Smith”

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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I’m letting you know now that this is going to be a long one. I put a little “recommendation” as a “tl;dr,” but I got a lot on my chest that I need to say.22822858

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com)

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Recommendation: Highly recommended, but just be aware of the emotional triggers (suicide, self-harm, sexual and verbal abuse, physical abuse). Also give yourself a fun book to read afterwards because this will stick in your brain like a piece of kale stuck in your teeth. You try and try to get it out, but it just embeds itself further into your gums.

My thoughts

I’m going to try and keep this as short as I possibly can. I don’t know how since this book has been leaving its footprints on my mind for the past few days.

I’m not the type of person to get really pounded down by serious stories. I’ve read many books about drug abuse, physical and sexual abuse, self-harm, and suicide. They’ve never phased me, but this book somehow was able to encapsulate all of those difficult and serious topics and place them into one character: Jude.

Jude is the culmination of every single emotionally deteriorated person in the world. Being a person who will admittedly lived a pretty charmed life, I can’t believe that someone like Jude could exist in the world. A high functioning lawyer with a huge bank load and a swank apartment in the West Village, but he self-mutilates, contemplates suicide, lived his childhood in the system, and was emotionally and sexually abused as a kid? Not to mention the additional emotionally draining episodes of his life that left him sad and alone? Honestly, he’s a contender for the “why does all this stuff happen in my life?” award next to Harry Potter (remember, almost every adult figure in his life somehow dies).

As I was reading the book, I kept asking myself, does a person like this exist? Could I stumble across some high powered corporate exec and also find out that he’s had the most tragic life hidden below all of that suit? Was it purposeful for Hanya Yanagihara to make one person suffer the most?

In all honestly, it felt like every single character suffered in some way. They’ve lost loved ones. They’ve dealt with substance abuse. They’ve been faced with the question of their sexuality. While in this world there’s a certain level of tragedy in everyone, at the same time I can’t imagine one person just being the universe’s personal punching bag.

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And yet Hanya Yanagihara writes this in an exquisite way. While the prose is pretty heavy and in some parts too descriptive, it’s almost poetic. Making poetry from personal tragedy is considered the fuel for art. People weren’t kidding when they said that the writing is so enticing it keeps you reading. It’s beautiful and not in that post-graduated-read-too-much-Hemmingway style, but almost simplistic. It was the difference of a $500 bottle of wine vs. the two-buck Chuck. While it’s not some fancy brand, it’s still delectable.