It’s Stitch Fix time again! You all know that I love Stitch Fix. Haven’t heard of it? It’s a personal styling service. When you sign up, you fill out a detailed style profile. Your stylist will pick out five items of clothing and accessories and send them to you for a $20 styling fee. You have three days to try everything on in the comfort of your own home. Send back what you don’t want in the handy dandy prepaid envelope they provide. If you keep at least one item, you get a $20 credit to cover the styling fee. Keep all five and get 25% off everything!
Each Fix comes with a note from your stylist. Here’s my note from my rockin’ stylist Kalesa. Before your fix is shipped, you have the opportunity to leave your stylist a note with any requests you may have. I try to leave my requests pretty general because being surprised is part of the fun. My note for this fix was probably my most specific so far. I told Kalesa that I have two weddings coming up this summer and would like some dress choices for those. I also requested Just Black jeans. I’ve gotten a few pairs in different styles from Stitch Fix in the past and I love them. They always fit perfectly. Lastly, I requested Margaret M pants. They come in a ton of colors and patterns and are so flattering. I have one pair in kelly green and wanted more because they look fab on me (if I do say so myself!) As you will see in the photos below, Kalesa did an awesome job fulfilling all my requests.
Let’s start with my choices of dresses to wear to the weddings. First up is the Cleokai Therese Shift Dress:
My second choice was the Gilli Adison Dress:
And lastly, the Pink Martini Indira Dress:
From the get go, I planned on only keeping one dress because that’s all I needed to wear to the weddings. I kept the Pink Martini dress. I love the fun floral print and the fit and flare fit. I also loved the Gilli dress but I couldn’t think of anywhere I would wear it. I’m trying to be more selective about what I keep and only keeping items that I totally love and will definitely wear. I’ve already worn the Pink Martini dress to Mother’s Day brunch and one of the weddings. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on it.
Just Black Dean Ankle Zip Skinny Jeans
I’ve gotten several pairs of Just Black Jeans from Stitch Fix and they all fit like a glove. (My top is from a previous Fix.) This pair has a zippered detail at the ankle:
These jeans fit perfectly but I already have a pair of Just Black jeans with a different color zipper detail that I got in a previous Fix so they went back.
Margaret M Emer Printed Crop Straight Leg Pant
OMG – I love these pants so much! The print is so cool. They will go with any solid color top. Definitely a keeper!
Even though I only kept two items from this Fix, I consider it a major success. I got two pieces that I LOVE and were exactly what I requested from my stylist.
If you decide to sign up for Stitch Fix, I would really appreciate it if you used my referral link. When you sign up for Stitch Fix, you’ll get a link of your own! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
July 5th, 2015 in
I Regret Nothing: A Memoir by Jen Lancaster
Release Date: May 5, 2015
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sure Jen has made mistakes. She spent all her money from a high-paying job on shoes, clothes, and spa treatments. She then carried a Prada bag to the unemployment office. She wrote a whole memoir about dieting…but didn’t lose weight. She embarked on a quest for cultural enlightenment that only cemented her love for John Hughes movies and Kraft American Singles. She tried to embrace everything Martha Stewart, while living with a menagerie of rescue cats and dogs. (Glitter…everywhere.)
Mistakes are one thing; regrets are another.
After a girls’ weekend in Savannah makes her realize that she is—yikes!—middle-aged (binge watching is so the new binge drinking), Jen decides to make a bucket list and seize the day, even if that means having her tattoo removed at one hundred times the cost of putting it on.
From attempting a juice cleanse to studying Italian, from learning to ride a bike to starting a new business, and from sampling pasta in Rome to training for a 5K, Jen is turning a mid-life crisis into a mid-life opportunity, sharing her sometimes bumpy—but always hilarious—attempts to better her life…again.
I always enjoy checking in with Jen. After reading so many of her memoirs, I feel like she’s a friend. Speaking of her being my friend, she came to Kansas City a few weeks ago and I went totally fan girl on her. She had mentioned during her talk that one of her dogs is on Prozac. When I went through the line, I told her that if it made her feel any better, one of my cats is on Prozac. (For real!). In I Regret Nothing, she writes about her trip to Italy and I told her that I have also been to Italy. I could tell she was fearful that I would never shut up because she looked me directly in the eye and said firmly, “Thank you for coming.” What she meant was, “Get a hold of yourself and move along scary fan girl.” And I don’t blame her at all – I could have yammered on forever if not prompted to beat it.
This memoir is more introspective than Jen’s other books because it’s about her making a bucket list and then trying her best to cross off the items on it. Some stories, like the one about her attempting to ride a three-wheeled bicycle, are really funny. Other stories are not so funny, like the one about her Internet trolls. Which by the way, that’s another thing I wanted to talk to her about. I’ll just write it here since I’m sure she reads my blog every day. Jen, don’t let the trolls get into your head. They are pathetic individuals and giving them attention just makes them worse. You are awesome no matter what any anonymous coward online says. Do not feed the trolls.
This book had some really funny parts but overall was not as humorous as her other books. And I don’t think it was meant to be. As Jen is maturing and taking her life more seriously, I expect that her books will reflect that. And I’m fine with that because she’s my BFF and I still want to know what’s going on in her life, funny or not. If you haven’t read any of Jen’s books yet, I recommend starting with her first two – Bitter Is The New Black and Bright Lights, Big Ass – to get a sense of her biting wit and sarcastic yet sometimes clueless self.
I’m wearing my pearls because Jen always wears them! Does she look scared that I will stalk her in the parking lot after she leaves? She’s hiding her fear well.
Reviews of Jen’s memoirs:
Such a Pretty Fat
Pretty In Plaid
My Fair Lazy
Reviews of Jen’s novels:
If You Were Here
Here I Go Again
July 3rd, 2015 in
The Hope Factory by Lavanya Sankaran
Publisher: The Dial Press
Release Date: April 23, 2013
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Anand is a Bangalore success story: successful, well married, rich. At least, that’s how he appears. But if his little factory is to grow, he needs land and money, and, in the New India, neither of these is easy to find.
Kamala, Anand’s family’s maid, lives perilously close to the edge of disaster. She and her clever teenage son have almost nothing, and their small hopes for self-betterment depend on the contentment of Anand’s wife: a woman to whom whims come easily.
But Kamala’s son keeps bad company, and Anand’s marriage is in trouble. The murky world where crime and land and politics meet is a dangerous place for a good man, particularly one on whom the well-being of so many depends.
The Hope Factory chronicles the lives of Anand, a wealthy factory owner and Kamala, a poor maid who works in Anand’s household. The difference between the classes in Bangalore is striking. Kamala lives in a one room building without electricity or running water. She thinks that the fact that American housekeepers live in multiple room houses and even have cars is a myth. She desperately wants her son Narayan to stay in school and off the streets so he can have a better life than her.
I love books about India and Indian culture. This book was a reality check about the wide income disparity and heartbreaking poverty that exists in the country. The lives of both main characters were not romanticized. The characters had depth and even though they all had flaws I was able to empathize with most of them. The situations they were in had my stomach in knots – especially Anand trying to get more land to expand his factory. It’s a sign of great writing when it evokes such an emotional response in me. Even if you’re not as intrigued by all things Indian like me I think you will enjoy this book.
(I received this book courtesy of LibraryThing’s Early Reviews program.)
June 18th, 2015 in
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
Release Date: June 16, 2015
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I adored Kevin Kwan’s debut novel Crazy Rich Asians. You may recall that in my review of Crazy Rich Asians, I wrote that I hoped Kevin Kwan wrote a sequel. Well, apparently Kwan totally reads my blog because he did! If you haven’t read Crazy Rich Asians, you’ll probably want to read it first. You’ll get more out of China Rich Girlfriend if you know more about the characters.
***This review will have spoilers for Crazy Rich Asians.***
On the eve of her wedding to Nicholas Young, heir to one of the greatest fortunes in Asia, Rachel should be over the moon. She has a flawless Asscher-cut diamond from JAR, a wedding dress she loves more than anything found in the salons of Paris, and a fiancé willing to sacrifice his entire inheritance in order to marry her. But Rachel still mourns the fact that her birthfather, a man she never knew, won’t be able to walk her down the aisle. Until: a shocking revelation draws Rachel into a world of Shanghai splendor beyond anything she has ever imagined. Here we meet Carlton, a Ferrari-crashing bad boy known for Prince Harry-like antics; Colette, a celebrity girlfriend chased by fevered paparazzi; and the man Rachel has spent her entire life waiting to meet: her father. Meanwhile, Singapore’s It Girl, Astrid Leong, is shocked to discover that there is a downside to having a newly minted tech billionaire husband. A romp through Asia’s most exclusive clubs, auction houses, and estates, China Rich Girlfriend brings us into the elite circles of Mainland China, introducing a captivating cast of characters, and offering an inside glimpse at what it’s like to be gloriously, crazily, China-rich.
China Rich Girlfriend picks up about two and half years after Crazy Rich Asians ended. Nick and Rachel are finally getting married, assuming Nick’s meddling mother will stay out of the way. They are also searching for Rachel’s birth father, which brings them to Mainland China. If you though the ultra wealthy class of Singapore in Crazy Rich Asians was over the top outrageous, you haven’t seen nothin’ yet! China is all about new money billionaires who have it and want to flaunt it unlike the discreet rich in Singapore. As unfathomable as some of the things the billionaires in this book do, they are actually true to life. Kwan spent time in China researching this book. He has said that he actually had to tone some of the crazy things the wealthy do because even though they actually happened, they would not be believable to the reader.
In addition to catching up with Rachel and Nick, we also get to see what Michael and Astrid and Kitty and Bernard have been up to. A whole new cast of characters who live in China and Hong Kong are introduced as well. My favorite new character is Corinna, a consultant who helps new money Asians integrate into the billionaire class. She teaches them how to act and dress refined and lets them in on insider information like which hotel is the right one in which to have high tea and that one refers to the Mandarin Oriental hotel as simply “the Mandarin”. I think the funniest part of this book is the memo she sends to a new client outlining everything she must to do fit in with the ultra-wealthy. She gives her a reading list with books like Pride and Prejudice and Anna Karenina on it. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen is on the list but crossed out! I’m going to assume that means that Kwan thinks Franzen is as big of an ass as I do.
As always, I must point out any references to Unitarian Universalism since they are quite rare in popular culture. In this book, a character says, “I didn’t really care for that we-are-all-nature Unitarian minister.” So funny!
I didn’t think this book was quite as good as Crazy Rich Asians but I still liked it a lot. Kwan uses footnotes in this book in the same way he did in Crazy Rich Asians. They are informative but also sometimes so droll I was laughing out loud. If you enjoy comedies of manners and laughing, this book is for you. Kwan has said he originally planned Crazy Rich Asians to be the first book in a trilogy. I hope he sticks to his plan because I want to visit these characters again.
(I received this book courtesy of Amazon Vine.)
I am excited to giveaway a copy of the audio book The Hollow Ground by Natalie Harnett in celebration of Audio Book Month! Just fill out the form below by 11:59pm CST on June 15, 2015. Good luck!
“We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at your feet.”
The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced 11-year-old Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the black lung-stricken Gramp. Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the “curse” laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires. The weight of this legacy rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, decades-old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet.
Inspired by real-life events in Centralia and Carbondale, where devastating coal mine fires irrevocably changed the lives of residents, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut with an atmospheric, voice-driven narrative and an indelible sense of place. Lovers of literary fiction will find in Harnett’s young, determined protagonist a character as heartbreakingly captivating as Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
©2014 Natalie S. Harnett (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
What the Critics Say
“Harnett’s deeply atmospheric historical novel of the harsh old mining life captures the despair of a family at the mercy of the earth’s elements and their own worst impulses.” (Booklist)
“Brigid is no ordinary hard-luck heroine; her voice rings true, offering a matter-of-fact telling that never falls into self-pity or melodrama. Set against the 1960s Pennsylvania coal mine fires, this debut novel is a dark and rewarding read.” (Library Journal)
“Narrator Luci Christian’s youthful charisma provides a natural portrayal of preteen Brigid Howley, who is struggling with family secrets in a poverty-stricken coal town in the 1960s. Christian’s clear, delicate voice belies the girl’s impoverished upbringing and poor education–but does depict Brigid’s naïve hopefulness amid her family’s wretched circumstances.” (AudioFile)
Listen to a sample clip:
NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson
Published In: 2009
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of the most influential books about children ever published, Nurture Shock offers a revolutionary new perspective on children that upends a library’s worth of conventional wisdom. With impeccable storytelling and razor-sharp analysis, the authors demonstrate that many of modern society’s strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring–because key twists in the science have been overlooked. Nothing like a parenting manual, NurtureShock gets to the core of how we grow, learn and live.
Nurture Shock’s basic premise is to take traditional parenting techniques and ideas and turn them on their heads. For instance the first chapter, called The In Inverse Power of Praise, is about how over praising children can have the opposite effect of what the parent intended. The child’s performance may actually decrease. Each chapter cites studies and research the authors have uncovered to support their conclusions. Most of the authors’ assertions make total sense after they explain the research that’s been done on the subject in question, even though it contradicts conventional wisdom.
My favorite chapter, that I think every parent should read, is Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race. I have long railed against the notion of color-blindness being a sincere or realistic perspective and this chapter helps explain why. When parents don’t talk about race, it leaves children confused and often thinking any mention of race must be bad because their parents never talk about it.
This book is more about how children’s brains work and doesn’t have that many specific techniques that a parent could just lift out of the book and put into practice. However, if a parent has a better understand of how her child’s brain works and what her thought processes are, then she will be better able to come up with ways of dealing with her child that works for her family.
I think this is definitely one book every parent should have in his/her arsenal.
May 29th, 2015 in
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Released In: 2011
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.
She has seen both these dreams come true.
At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.
Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.
Tina Fey’s memoir is seriously funny. It’s essays about various events and times in her life, not a linear biography. Some dirt is dished, which you know makes me happy. There’s quite a bit on how she came to play Sarah Palin on SNL and what it was like to meet Sarah Palin in person. She’s also not afraid to talk about how woman are treated differently than men in the entertainment industry and not for the better. I was surprised in how much of the material in her book was about the unequal treatment of women in life in general. It was insightful and made me think and laugh at the same time.
She also talks about her personal life, including how she got the scar on her face which I have always been very curious about.
I listened to the audio version which was read by her. Of course that made the book even funnier. My only problem with it was that every once and a while she would rush through a punch line in a muttering voice and I couldn’t understand what she was saying. There is a PDF that goes with the audio version so you can see the photos that were in the book which was nice.
This is a hilarious celebrity memoir. I definitely recommend listening to it.
May 27th, 2015 in
The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation by Melissa Rivers
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Release Date: May 5, 2015
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Joan Rivers was known all over the world—from the Palace Theater to Buckingham Palace, from the bright lights of Las Vegas to the footlights of Broadway, from the days of talkies to hosting talk shows. But there was only one person who knew Joan intimately, one person who the authorities would call when she got a little out of hand. Her daughter and best friend, Melissa.
Joan and Melissa Rivers had one of the most celebrated mother-daughter relationships of all time. If you think Joan said some outrageous things to her audiences as a comedian, you won’t believe what she said and did in private. Her love for her daughter knew no bounds—or boundaries, apparently. (“Melissa, I acknowledge that you have boundaries. I just choose to not respect them.”) In The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief and Manipulation, Melissa shares stories (like when she was nine months old and her parents delivered her to Johnny Carson as a birthday gift), bon mots (“Missy, is there anything better than seeing a really good looking couple pushing a baby that looks like a Sasquatch who got caught in a house fire?”), and life lessons from growing up in the Rosenberg-Rivers household (“I can do tips and discounts and figure out the number of gay men in an audience to make it a good show. That’s all the math you’ll ever need.”). These were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to life in the family that Melissa describes as more Addams than Cleaver. And at the center of it all was a tiny blond force of nature.
In The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief and Manipulation, Melissa Rivers relates funny, poignant and irreverent observations, thoughts, and tales about the woman who raised her and is the reason she considers valium one of the four basic food groups.
This book is a series of essays about Joan and Melissa. Overall, they are funny and poignant. But oh my lord. Melissa Rivers is not funny. Her supposedly funny metaphors and similes fall flat – flat as a pancake. (See what I did there?) The other thing that made me uncomfortable was Melissa telling us which celebrities Joan personally didn’t like. It doesn’t seem classy and I don’t think Joan would have done that if she were alive. I mean sure she skewered people as part of her act but she never just came out and said, “I don’t like Ben Stiller because he doesn’t have good manners.”
Although I inwardly groaned at Melissa’s attempts at humor, I did enjoy learning what Joan Rivers was like a person, mother and grandma. I think Joan Rivers fans would enjoy this book.
(I received this book courtesy of the publisher.)
May 26th, 2015 in
Hey guys – remember how I participated in the GYPO Spring Challenge and loved it? Now it’s time for the Summer Challenge! Registration is already open. Here are the important dates:
Summer Style Challenge Important Dates:
- Early Bird Registration Opens: 5/22
- Regular Registration Opens: 5/28
- Shopping List Release: 6/4
- First Outfit Release: 6/14
Early bird registration is $29. After that it’s $39. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. Click here to sign up. Hopefully I’ll see in the challenge Facebook group!
May 24th, 2015 in
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
Release Date: January 17, 2013
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Scientology presents itself as a scientific approach to spiritual enlightenment, but its practices have long been shrouded in mystery. Now Lawrence Wright—armed with his investigative talents, years of archival research, and more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—uncovers the inner workings of the church. We meet founder L. Ron Hubbard, the highly imaginative but mentally troubled science-fiction writer, and his tough, driven successor, David Miscavige. We go inside their specialized cosmology and language. We learn about the church’s legal attacks on the IRS, its vindictive treatment of critics, and its phenomenal wealth. We see the church court celebrities such as Tom Cruise while consigning its clergy to hard labor under billion-year contracts. Through it all, Wright asks what fundamentally comprises a religion, and if Scientology in fact merits this Constitutionally-protected label. Brilliantly researched, compellingly written, Going Clear pulls back the curtain on one of the most secretive organizations at work today.
This book is not only a comprehensive history of Scientology but also a biography of L. Ron Hubbard. It’s amazing that Hubbard went from an author of pulp science fiction novels to the founder of a major religion/cult. I had to wonder if Hubbard was mentally ill and really believed the stories he told about alien overlords ruling over humans millions of years ago. Or was he intelligent and calculating and knew he could make a ton of money off of his ideas?
The aspect of Scientology that was most surprising to me is the horrific abuse that the non-celebrity members endure. They are punished for various transgressions with being made to perform horrible tasks or imprisoned in unspeakable conditions. I had to wonder how this imprisonment is legal. Why don’t the members who have escaped file charges against those in the church leadership. Partly, it’s probably because the church has so much money that they can literally destroy your life if you speak out against them in any way. I was stunned that an organization in the United States can get away with the things they get away with. Their behavior is that of a fascist dictator.
Paul Haggis (director of the movie Crash) was a Scientologist for 35 years before he finally left the church. His perspective on why a seemingly smart person would remain in the church is insightful. I wanted to read more about other celebrity Scientologists. There is a lot of information on John Travolta and Tom Cruise but not much on anyone else. I have to wonder if the celebrities in the church know about how the rest of the church works – the imprisonment, child labor, etc. Are they so brainwashed that they will make excuses for what the author has uncovered? If they choose to remain in the church, I think they have a responsibility to work to reform it and put a stop to the abuse. I’m sure if they threatened to stop the millions of dollars they donate, the leaders of the church would stand up and take notice.
This book is very well-researched, especially considering the fact the church is so close lipped about what goes on behind closed doors. Wright was able to interview several of the former church leaders who have defected over the years. If you want to know the truth about Scientology, this book is your best bet.
May 13th, 2015 in