Playing With Matches

August 4, 2018

Playing With Matches by Hannah Orenstein

I read too much these days to do in-depth reviews of all the books I read; it would take up all my time! But I wanted to do a special post for this one, since I know Hannah in real life and have been looking forward to this book for a long time!

Here’s the summary:

Sasha Goldberg has a lot going for her: a recent journalism degree from NYU, an apartment with her best friend Caroline, and a relationship that would be amazing if her finance-bro boyfriend Jonathan would ever look up from his BlackBerry. But when her dream career falls through, she uses her family’s darkest secret to land a job as a matchmaker for New York City’s elite at the dating service Bliss.

Despite her inexperience, Sasha throws herself into her new career, trolling for catches on Tinder, coaching her clients through rejection, and dishing out dating advice to people twice her age. She sets up a TV exec who wanted kids five years ago, a forty-year-old baseball-loving virgin, and a consultant with a rigorous five-page checklist for her ideal match.

Sasha hopes to find her clients The One, like she did. But when Jonathan betrays her, she spirals out of control—and right into the arms of a writer with a charming Southern drawl, who she had previously set up with one of her clients. He’s strictly off-limits, but with her relationship on the rocks, all bets are off.


I sat down with this book at the pool one Saturday afternoon and had finished it by Sunday evening. It’s a fun read with a lot of heart – a perfect read for summer time! I identified with Sasha in lots of ways: we’re both recent college graduates with journalism degrees trying to figure out our lives. Where we diverge is that Sasha lands a job at a matchmaking agency.

One of the most interesting aspects of this book for me is the matchmaking. It’s not something that we tend to think of as a career in 2018, but it’s a very real career. Sasha might not be a dating expert (as the summary suggests, she’s dealing with a lot of turmoil in her dating life) but she still manages to set people up. Who among us hasn’t imagined being the driving force in someone’s love story?

I really loved that New York is a character all its own in this book: every place mentioned in the book feels so real, and it’s easy to picture Sasha riding the train and flicking through Tinder matches for her clients or grabbing coffee and bumping into someone she thinks would be a perfect fit for one.

I loved how fresh and modern this book feels. Hannah really nails the realistic aspect of the characters; any one of them could be a friend of mine, and that’s what makes it so fun to read. Of course there’s more drama (and a great twist) than in my real life, but it’s realistic all the same. I also found the friendship aspect of this really important. Sasha and her best friend Caroline go through ups and downs, but they’re always there to support each other, and I find that both important and refreshing.

If you’re looking for an engaging read that will have you flicking through the pages as quick as you flick through Tinder or Bumble matches, this is the book for you!

Weekend Update 02 || Harry Styles Live on Tour

July 19, 2018

I wrote a sappy instagram caption last September about how Harry Styles’ solo career has influenced my life here in Los Angeles more than anything else. This is what I wrote:

If there’s one person who’s affected my strange, random move to Los Angeles more than any other, it would be Harry Styles. Not just because he actually started doing stuff when I got to the West Coast (his first song came out my third morning here) but also because he’s out in the world telling people to be brave and kind to others, and love whoever they love, and that it’s okay to be scared of trying new things, and it’s alright to stay home and watch rom-coms, and that not everyone’s going to like you so you should just do what you want to do instead of caring what they think. So to watch him on stage last night when I’m just shy of six months here was deeply emotional and I’ll never forget it. Thanks for the show, @harrystyles, and also for being a really great life inspiration.

I still stand by everything I wrote back then. I got to see him perform another show in Phoenix, AZ a few weeks later, and then I didn’t see him again until this past weekend. I bought the tickets last June, before I even saw him that first time. It happened this weekend, and it was the best, best time. I think people sometimes wonder why you’d go see the same artist multiple times in a year, but to me it’s a different show every time. The basic truth is that I feel like my best, most empowered, happiest self at a concert like Harry’s, and I want to capture that feeling as much as I can.

The opening artist was Kacey Musgraves. I really liked her! My seats both nights were alone, but my roommates and some of my other friends were in the audience too, so it didn’t quite feel like I was alone. I lucked out and had a great seat both nights – I didn’t have to look at the screen and I could see his actual face! That’s never happened to me before. Weirdly, my seat was in the same exact spot both times. Not weirdly, both nights were incredible. After the first night, a bunch of us went to Mel’s Diner to essentially process our feelings. It’s one of the only central 24-hour places around, so the restaurant was filled with people who’d been to the concert. Some of them were wearing merch and some of them I could just tell.

The next day, I had to bring my car in for a new tire, my roommates Liz and Bri hosted a picnic for their friends by our pool, and then we got ready and did it again!

The last show was a blast. He played the last song three times, like he didn’t want the show to end as much as we didn’t want it to. Notes to self: if you can go to the same show multiple nights in a row, do it, and if you can get to the last show of a tour, absolutely do it.

I walked away with a hoodie, a new water bottle, and no voice. We went out to a late-night dinner somewhere else, and I sat around and looked at the people I was with, super grateful for the whole weekend. I had the best time, and I can’t wait to save up money so I can do it again.

Weekend Update 01

July 9, 2018

I downloaded the HUJI app a few weeks ago. It’s the one that everyone’s been using to make their photos look like they came from digital cameras. It’s really cool. I like how artsy it feels; it’s no different than taking a bunch of photos with your regular camera app and then filtering them, but it feels cool and imperfect. I thought it’d be fun to start sharing my week through photos from the app every so often.

Have you used this app before?

The Good Side || Issue 03

July 6, 2018

It’s been a while since I did one of these posts! June was full of job applications and truthfully, a lot of stress and anxiety. My position is changing due to budget issues and so I’m on the hunt for a full time position at the moment. Life lately has looked like job applications before work and emails and phone calls to network after work is done for the day. The process is honestly really anxiety inducing and not fun, but I’m remaining confident that something good will pop up soon. What more can you do, really?

Good life events.

+ Last month one of my favorite things I did was to attend a free General Assembly class hosted by Molly Beck and Jen Glantz. I’ve known Molly for a number of years now from our previous lives on the east coast and last year I found out that she had moved to LA around the same time I did. It was my first time meeting Jen, but she was lovely. The class was about building your personal brand and taking one project and making it your own. I loved it. I’m scheduled to attend another GA class next week, this one about digital marketing.

+ I mentioned that I went to Santa Barbara to visit my friend Sarah last weekend. I went to school with her when I lived in Ireland in 2006, and we’ve seen each other a few times since then. The most recent time was in 2014, when I passed through Ireland on the way home from study abroad. She’s doing her PhD at USCB, so we finally pinned down a weekend for me to visit. I was only there for a night, but we had the best time visiting an outdoor brewery that serves 12 rotating flavors of 50 different cider options a night, walking around her campus, and catching up. It’s really weird and cool how life can unfold and you can suddenly find yourself living in the same area as an old friend!

+ I went to an orchestra performance of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the Hollywood Bowl last night! There was a live orchestra and they performed the music while the movie played. It was really incredible. I often work out at that venue on Saturday mornings, but it’s an entirely different atmosphere when it’s full of people. A friend posted yesterday that she had extra tickets, and I reached out to ask about them but they were too expensive for an impulse purchase. About an hour later another friend said (totally out of the blue) that she had a spare ticket, and fifteen minutes later the first friend reached out to say that she now had a free ticket. I’d planned on staying in, but it felt a bit like fate. I ended up going with the second friend (since she had asked first) and it was a blast.

Good reads.

+ I loved this interview with Joanna Coles, Chief Content Officer at Hearst. It was nice to read that she prefers picking up the phone to emailing people because she can read their mood (in a work context) because I totally feel the same way.

+ I went through a phase of being obsessed with Refinery29’s Money Diaries series, and I just read this one by a young woman living in LA on a $43,500 yearly salary. My favorite thing about these diaries is that you can see what people spend their money on, whether they make a similar salary to you or way more.

+ I’m obsessed with this Mara Wilson interview. She talks a lot about creativity and how it often comes in forms different than people expect, and the romanticization of the creative process is often detrimental to people’s creativity. I also liked what she had to say about the process differing based on the medium in which she’s working.

+ I thought of my roommate as I read this Girlboss article on balancing your side hustle with your day job. My roommate has a full time day job and then comes home and works a lot more on her side hustle of freelancing. There’s a million articles like this out there, but I liked that this one is straightforward and to the point.

Good podcasts.

+ I started listening to Hysteria, the newest podcast from Crooked Media. It’s a rotating cast of co-hosts, all women, based in LA and NYC. They talk about politics from a woman’s perspective, which is obviously important. I think this one brings me to peak political podcast saturation, but I think it’s important to support this one, so another one might have to go to make room for it!

+ I mentioned Jen Glantz at the beginning of this podcast, and she has a podcast called You’re Not Getting Any Younger. It’s based off the idea that none of us are getting any younger, so we should start pursuing the cool thing we want to do already! She interviews a new person each episode, and she and her guest talk about what they do, what they want to do, and what advice they have for Jen’s listeners. So far I’ve listened to the episode with Hannah Brencher and the one with Gaby Dunn. I highly recommend them both.

Fast facts.

+ I just took four ebooks out of the library in the last week, so I’d say my resolution to use it more than buying books is definitely working out okay! Bonus: no late fees.

+ The three shows I’m watching right now are The Bold Type, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Bachelorette. The three could not be more different, and I love them all.

+ I will eventually do a full post on this, but for the better part of the last year I’ve been using You Need A Budget and it has saved my life. You can get a free trial at this link (that’s an affiliate link, which gives me a free month if you sign up for it!) and I just love it so much. For the first time in a long time, I finally feel in the know about where my money is going.

Currently | July 2018

July 4, 2018

Happy Independence Day! I’m linking up with Anne at In Residence for her monthly Currently link up. I missed last month, but I’m back! I’ll have to do a more complete post at some point, but a lot has changed in recent weeks, mostly for the better. There’s also been a lot of stress and I’ve found that sticking to a regular schedule kind of sucks sometimes, but it does make me feel so much mentally clearer and better overall.

I’ve learned that I really need to commit to a 3x a week workout schedule at the least, as well as taking time offline and reading for a bit every day. Yesterday I ran 2 miles and did some reading, and it felt good to do both of those things for myself. Sometimes the things that are helpful for us are things we don’t want to do, but it’s for the best.


celebrating the fact that it’s the second half of the year! Today marks 15 months since I’ve moved to LA, which is bananas. I still love it here so much.

visiting Santa Barbara! I took a trip up there over the weekend to visit an old friend who’s in school. We had so much fun and I want to write a post all about it. It was just a one-night visit, but I had a great time. I’ll be going home to Boston in a few weeks and visiting Philadelphia on the way, and hoping to get to Martha’s Vineyard as well.

baking nothing! I’ve been trying to get back into cooking regularly after finding myself far too reliant on microwave meals, and it takes up more time, but it will be worth it. I made a big batch of muffins last month and froze some of them; I think I have just one left so I may make some more in the next week or so. I’d love to start baking more but I feel like so often 1) the ingredients are expensive and 2) the foods I want to bake are delicious but not the best healthy choice. Avoiding baking removes the temptation, for the most part. But I do find baking really fun.

wearing real clothes to work for the longest period in a while. My work is pretty casual, and in April or so I realized that I was wearing leggings and sweatshirts every day. I’m happy to say I’ve broken out of that cycle since then and I’ve been wearing “real clothes” all the time to work now!

loving summer weather, the fact that my Harry Styles concerts are just 10 days away, and that I’m going back to the East Coast at the end of the month!

What are you up to this month?

June 2018 Books

July 3, 2018

I read 5 books in July. I’ve fallen out of my reading routine a little bit, but I’m leaning into it. Goodreads says I’m only two books behind my goal, so I’m not as behind as I thought. Also: reading is supposed to be fun!

Because June is Pride month, I intentionally read books that had LGBTQ representation. this month. The representation might be small in some of these books, but it’s definitely there. I’ve avoided pointing this out in the books where applicable because of spoilers!


THE FEMALE PERSUASION by Meg Wolitzer
★★★★

Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer–madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place–feels her inner world light up. Then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.


Main thoughts on this: a good story but about 100 pages too long. I flew through the first half and it took so long to get through the second half. I liked the characters (or at least found something redeeming about each of them) and found this a decently interesting story. But I sort of felt like it was missing something. Maybe it was a bit too long. I read Wolitzer’s THE INTERESTINGS a few years ago and didn’t enjoy it as much as this one, which was more relevant to my life and interests. I loved the different depictions of womanhood and making your way in the world.


THE BOOK OF ESSIE by Meghan MacLean Weir
★★★★


Esther Ann Hicks–Essie–is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a reality television phenomenon. She’s grown up in the spotlight, both idolized and despised for her family’s fire-and-brimstone brand of faith. When Essie’s mother, Celia, discovers that Essie is pregnant, she arranges an emergency meeting with the show’s producers: Do they sneak Essie out of the country for an abortion? Do they pass the child off as Celia’s? Or do they try to arrange a marriage–and a ratings-blockbuster wedding? Meanwhile, Essie is quietly pairing herself up with Roarke Richards, a senior at her school with a secret of his own to protect. As the newly formed couple attempt to sell their fabricated love story to the media–through exclusive interviews with an infamously conservative reporter named Liberty Bell–Essie finds she has questions of her own: What was the real reason for her older sister leaving home? Who can she trust with the truth about her family? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to win her own freedom?


This book is a cross between 19 Kids and Counting (which I will shamelessly admit I used to be obsessed with) and Teen Mom, with a pinch of a wedding episode of The Bachelor. I loved Essie’s gumption in going after what she wants, and I loved that it read like a reality show. I found it hard to keep track of all the family members and wish that had been clearer from the beginning. I both loved and hated that it felt like there were a bunch of loose threads hanging at the end: it kept me reading for sure, but it annoyed me when I got to the end and couldn’t figure out what those things were supposed to mean. Sometimes I wonder if I take things too literally and don’t pick up on the subtext in books, you know? Overall though, this was a great read. Some of the themes are heavy (sexual assault, murder, cults) but I didn’t think of it as a dark book.


WHEN KATIE MET CASSIDY by Camille Perri
★★★★

Katie Daniels is a perfection-seeking 28-year-old lawyer living the New York dream. She’s engaged to charming art curator Paul Michael, has successfully made her way up the ladder at a multinational law firm and has a hold on apartments in Soho and the West Village. Suffice it to say, she has come a long way from her Kentucky upbringing. But the rug is swept from under Katie when she is suddenly dumped by her fiance, Paul Michael, leaving her devastated and completely lost. On a whim, she agrees to have a drink with Cassidy Price-a self-assured, sexually promiscuous woman she meets at work. The two form a newfound friendship, which soon brings into question everything Katie thought she knew about sex—and love.


This is a well-written romcom on a topic that doesn’t get enough literary attention: what happens when you might not be as straight as you thought? This is one way it could go. I would have liked more info on the character’s backstories and motivations, if I had my way. I liked this more than The Assistants, Perri’s first novel, and its easy reading makes it a great beach read. I definitely don’t think it’ll win any literary awards, and I have some issues with the plot, but beyond that I would recommend it. It was fun.


THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Reid Jenkins
★★★★★

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.


I bought the audiobook of this one last summer, listened to 30% of it, and then decided I needed it in hard copy so I could read it again and lend it to friends. I loved it so much. Evelyn’s story is so intriguing, full of that Old Hollywood glamor that I’m so intrigued by. I loved it for Evelyn’s story of her life as an actress and falling in love with the most unexpected person and learning from your mistakes. It’s a book set in LA that doesn’t feel like the cheesy kind of LA book – since moving here I’ve somehow read far too many of those. I loved it.


THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS by Taylor Jenkins Reid
★★★

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl. Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.


I’d heard so much about it before I finally got around to reading it. While it absolutely had an impact and I’m glad I read it, I didn’t love this book as much as I wanted to! It’s emotionally gut wrenching in so many ways, both good and bad, all about family and identity and what it means to help your kids grow into themselves. I felt like it dragged on a little too long and the metaphors were too drawn out, but beyond that I’d still recommend it for sure.


In total this month:

Total number of books: five
Number of fiction books: five
Number of nonfiction books: zero
Books by people who are not white dudes: five
Total number of books this year: forty eight

May 2018 Books

June 4, 2018

I have no clue how I did it, but I managed to read FIFTEEN books this month. It’s crazy. This month is also the one I decided that I was going to start reading Kindle books from the library again. Honestly, a big part of why I didn’t is because I loved the image of my book stack at the end of the month. But after examining my finances and moving a million books into my new apartment at the end of last month, I decided not spending money on more books I’ll have to move again is more important than a complete book stack. I’ll still be buying books when they’re important to me, but I want to focus less on the aesthetic and more on saving money. Buckle up, because this is a long post!

THE ANSWERS by Catherine Lacey
★★★


We are introduced to Mary, a young woman living in New York City and struggling to cope with a body that has betrayed her. All but paralyzed with pain, Mary seeks relief from a New Agey treatment called Pneuma Adaptive Kinesthesia, PAKing for short. And, remarkably, it works. But PAKing is prohibitively expensive and Mary is dead broke. So she scours Craigslist for fast-cash jobs and finds herself applying for the “Girlfriend Experiment,” the brainchild of an eccentric actor, Kurt Sky, who is determined to find the perfect relationship—even if that means paying different women to fulfill distinctive roles. Mary is hired as the “Emotional Girlfriend”—certainly better than the “Anger Girlfriend” or the “Maternal Girlfriend”—and is pulled into Kurt’s ego-driven and messy attempt at human connection.


I bought this book on my birthday on the recommendation of the bookseller at the indie book store near my new apartment, Book Soup. I was a little bit hesitant but I decided I would trust her. I wouldn’t say that she was wrong in her description, but rather that the book just probably wasn’t for me.

CHINA RICH GIRLFRIEND by Kevin Kwan
★★★


It’s the eve of Rachel Chu’s wedding, and she should be over the moon. She has a flawless Asscher-cut diamond, a wedding dress she loves, and a fiancé willing to thwart his meddling relatives and give up one of the biggest fortunes in Asia in order to marry her. Still, Rachel mourns the fact that her birthfather, a man she never knew, won’t be there to walk her down the aisle. Then a chance accident reveals his identity. Suddenly, Rachel is drawn into a dizzying world of Shanghai splendor, a world where people attend church in a penthouse, where exotic cars race down the boulevard, and where people aren’t just crazy rich … they’re China rich.


This is the sequel to CRAZY RICH ASIANS, which I read last month. I bought it on a bit of a whim when I was finishing up the first one (we needed to get our parking ticket validated and I oh-so-bravely volunteered to make a purchase at Barnes and Noble to do so, such a sacrifice!) and I liked it! I can’t decide which one I liked more.

SHRILL by Lindy West
★★★★

From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.

With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss, and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.


I met Lindy West at the Festival of Books last year, where she signed this book that I promptly put on the shelf and didn’t pick up for a year. My roommate Bri read my copy before I did, and then I figured I should probably get to it. Lindy has been dealing with trolls for basically as long as the internet has been around, and she struggled with them at first, and then decided she wasn’t going to put up with them anymore. She was going to keep doing her thing, no matter who didn’t like it.

I should warn that this book has crude language and discusses some heavy topics (the summary gives a bit of an idea of that) but if you can handle those things, this is a memoir that I think is worth reading. I really identified with Lindy’s struggles of body image, to the point where I said out loud “I don’t like this book” and wanted to stop reading – that’s how real it felt to me. I’m glad I pressed on, though, because this book is funny. It made me want to be a bit more courageous in the way I deal with struggle.

HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN by JK Rowling
★★★★

For twelve long years, the dreaded fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter’s defeat of You-Know-Who was Black’s downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, “He’s at Hogwarts… he’s at Hogwarts.” Harry Potter isn’t safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may be a traitor in their midst.


Every year I’ve intended to re-read the Harry Potter books, and I never manage to get past the first two or three. I’m hopeful that this is the year I’m finally going to complete that reread. It’s weird because I love these books so much, and they always hold a certain kind of magic, but there’s a weird sort of dread that comes from rereading them. It’s almost like I’ve read the firs one so man times that it seems like a chore to cmplete the reread, which is probably why I’ve gotten stuck so many times. I’ve read the later ones in the series far less times, and those are some of my favorites, so I’m hopeful about my ability to continue this challenge going forward. (Just keeping it real here today, I guess!)

THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater
★★★★

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little. For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.


This one is a reread too; it’s a series of four books, and I own the first three but have only read this first one. It’s a YA fantasy book that conjures up thoughts of old journals and dark forests and magic and cars that might break down at any moment – if this seems like some sort of aesthetic mood board, that’s because this book makes me think of all those things. I usually stay away from paranormal, but I’m excited to continue with the rest of this series for the first time.

TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN by John Green
★★★★

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.


Oh god, this book. I read it all in one day, on Mother’s Day, because when your mom lives far away and everyone else is busy, there’s not much happening. So I picked it up and read it with coffee on the couch, and then later I sat by the pool and read in the sunshine, and then I finished it that night in bed.

It is entirely fair to say that this book really stressed me out, but I loved it. It’s not plot-heavy (I actually have some issues with the plot, but I’m willing to let them go) but instead it focuses on Aza’s mental health and how she deals with it.

I’m noticing now as I’m writing this that the cover is a perfect depiction of the book. I wrote a little bit more about how this book affected me earlier this month, but I really just recommend you pick it up yourself.

SOURDOUGH by Robin Sloan
★★★★

Lois Clary, a software engineer at a San Francisco robotics company, codes all day and collapses at night. When her favourite sandwich shop closes up, the owners leave her with the starter for their mouthwatering sourdough bread. Lois becomes the unlikely hero tasked to care for it, bake with it and keep this needy colony of microorganisms alive. Soon she is baking loaves daily and taking them to the farmer’s market, where an exclusive close-knit club runs the show. When Lois discovers another, more secret market, aiming to fuse food and technology, a whole other world opens up. But who are these people, exactly?


The description on the back of the book is a little misleading – all of that stuff happens in the first fifty pages or so, and the rest of the book is about what happens next. (Maybe that’s what the back descriptions are for, actually, but I tend to want to know a bit more about the plot ahead of time.) This book is about the convergence of technology and baking, with some magical realism thrown in for good measure. It’s an entertaining read that I really enjoyed, but I find it hard to describe after the fact. It all makes sense while you’re reading, though, which is most important.

OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES by Abbi Waxman
★★


As the longtime local carpool mom, Frances Bloom is sometimes an unwilling witness to her neighbors’ private lives. She knows her cousin is hiding her desire for another baby from her spouse, Bill Horton’s wife is mysteriously missing, and now this… After the shock of seeing Anne Porter in all her extramarital glory, Frances vows to stay in her own lane. But that’s a notion easier said than done when Anne’s husband throws her out a couple of days later. The repercussions of the affair reverberate through the four carpool families–and Frances finds herself navigating a moral minefield that could make or break a marriage.


This one is probably best described as chick lit – it’s a family drama about neighborhood relationships and how they intertwine. I liked it ok but didn’t love it. There were parts that grated on me and parts that I found heartwarming. I appreciated it for its diversity of families and that it showed no matter how families look on the outside, nothing is perfect. It was told from the view of two women and one man, the primary caretakers for their kids, but there were a few instances when the kids’ perspectives were brought in. I wanted more OR less from the kids – either commit to the viewpoint or don’t, but with the way it was done I felt like so many loose ends were left hanging. I bought this from BOTM and it actually made me reconsider the types of books I buy in the future. This would be a good one to get from the library.

BACHELOR NATION by Amy Kaufman
★★★★

Bachelor Nation is the first behind-the-scenes, unauthorized look into the reality television phenomenon. Los Angeles Times journalist Amy Kaufman is a proud member of Bachelor Nation and has a long history with the franchise–ABC even banned her from attending show events after her coverage of the program got a little too real for its liking. She has interviewed dozens of producers, contestants, and celebrity fans to give readers never-before-told details of the show’s inner workings: what it’s like to be trapped in the mansion “bubble”; dark, juicy tales of producer manipulation; and revelations about the alcohol-fueled debauchery that occurs long before the fantasy suite.


I saw Amy speak at last month’s LA Times Festival of Books, and even though I don’t watch The Bachelor, I knew I wanted to read this. I actually don’t follow the show super closely so I’m not sure how much of this was already known, but to an outsider it was mind blowing. Obviously so much of The Bachelor is staged, but this brought to light a lot about how things work behind the scenes. There’s stories of contestants being encouraged to get drunk and stay up all night because the things they say when sleep deprived make for good stories. This is one I’d recommend getting from the library if you can; it’s a quick read that you probably won’t reread. Glad I read it!

THE LIGHT WE LOST by Jill Santopolo
★★★★


Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.


This book is written like a letter from Lucy to Gabe, so there’s lots of casual writing and use of the word “you”. If that’s not your thing, stay away from this one. I loved that it was told in different vignettes of different lengths; it felt more casual and informal. which would be true to the story. This is essentially the tale of two star-crossed lovers who never quite managed to get it together. I liked it!

THE ASSISTANTS by Camille Perri
★★★

Tina Fontana is the hapless but brazen thirty-year-old executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the all-powerful and commanding CEO of Titan Corp., a multinational media conglomerate. She’s excellent at her job and beloved by her famous boss—but after six years of making his reservations for restaurants she’d never get into on her own and pouring his drinks from bottles that cost more than her rent, she’s bored, broke, and just a bit over it all. When a technical error with Robert’s travel-and-expenses report presents Tina with the opportunity to pay off the entire balance of her student loan debt with what would essentially be pocket change for her boss, she struggles with the decision: She’s always played by the rules. But it’s such a relatively small amount of money for the Titan Corporation—and for her it would be a life-changer…


This was a fun story – who hasn’t dreamed about having all their debt wiped away in one fell swoop? It felt like it all wrapped up too neatly, but I was willing to ignore that for the sake of the story that came before it. Another good library book, and one that would make a great movie!

STRONGER by Jeff Bauman
★★★★

Jeff Bauman woke up on Tuesday, April 16th 2013 and he had no legs. Just thirty hours prior, Jeff was surrounded by revelry at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. The first bomb went off at his feet as he awaited his girlfriend’s finish. When Jeff awoke days later from hours of surgery, rather than take stock of his now completely altered life, Jeff ripped out his breathing tube and tried to speak. He couldn’t. Jeff asked for a pad and paper and he wrote down seven words, “Saw the guy. Looked right at me,” setting off one of the biggest manhunts in the country’s history and beginning his own brave road to recovery.


Jeff got both his legs blown off at the 2013 Boston Marathon (you’ve definitely seen the photo) and this is his story. It’s been 5 years since the bombing, and I no longer think about that day all the time anymore. I don’t think I could’ve read this book when it came out four years ago, but I was ready for it now. What I liked the most is that it was real and didn’t shy away from the hard stuff. Also the Red Sox feature heavily, which is right up my alley. I doubt this would ever happen but I would love to read a follow up.

THE QUEEN OF HEARTS by Kimmery Martin
★★

Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years.


I’d been wanting to read this for weeks, after seeing it all over bookstagram. That cover is gorgeous! Unfortunately that was basically the best part. It’s a bit like Grey’s Anatomy: medical and family drama galore, which is up my alley. I thought it was well told. What I didn’t like: there was too much medical jargon for me, and I found it hard to keep the two character voices distinct in my head. Once I found out what the secret was I pretty much stopped caring. This one is sadly pretty forgettable. I’m disappointed because I really wanted to love this.

HOW TO WALK AWAY by Katherine Center
★★★

Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment. In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect. 


In reading this book, I learned that I don’t love stories that involve someone trying to overcome some sort of life-changing injury that’s meant to be inspirational. This book was in the style of ME BEFORE YOU, and I just do not think those are for me in most cases. This was a fun read, but a little too cheesy for my taste. It falls into that beach read/chick lit category, which I do not at all feel guilty about loving. This was just one that didn’t work for me. I enjoyed the experience of reading it, but looking back it felt cheesy and predictable.

THE CIRCLE by Dave Eggers
★★★★

When Mae is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Run out of a sprawling California campus, the Circle links users’ personal emails, social media, and finances with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of transparency. Mae can’t believe her great fortune to work for them – even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public.


I saw the movie that stemmed from this book last May, just before my first day of work. I didn’t like the movie that much, but I’m happy to say I liked the book a bit better. I loved how this deals with technology taking over our lives I have a running with, which tracks my steps, mileage, heart rate, the hours I sleep, and much more. I have an app that tracks how much I read a day. I use a program that tracks how much I spend. Just between those three programs, I’m collecting an awful lot of data on myself. In lots of cases this data collection is useful – but what happens when it takes over our lives? That’s what this book is about. There’s a few awkward + uncomfortable sex scenes, and the characters sometimes feel a bit like caricatures, but beyond that I liked it!


In total this month:

Total number of books: fifteen
Number of fiction books: twelve
Number of nonfiction books: three
Books by people who are not white dudes: eleven
Total number of books this year: forty three

On Sadness + Anxiety

May 16, 2018

I just finished the book Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. I read all of it in one day on Sunday, between coffee on the couch and sitting by the pool in my new apartment complex and reading before bed. It’s about a 16 year old named Aza who tries to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a childhood friend’s dad with her best friend Daisy.

But it’s not really about the mystery. It’s more about her mental illness: her constant fears that she’s getting sick, that bacteria is invading her body, that she’s going to wake up one day deathly ill. There’s a constant loop in her head: you’re getting sick NO I’M NOT you are you are you are SHUT UP you’re sick sick sick BE QUIET what if you’re dying what if this is the end. 

That’s a paraphrase since I don’t have the book with me, but it’s a pretty realistic depiction of her thoughts. And let me tell you: they stressed me out because they were meant to, and because I identify with them.

I’ve had depression before, and back then it manifested as wanting to cry every day, feeling like I needed to sleep all the time, and walking around with the overwhelming sense that nothing I was doing had any real purpose. I was finished with college, living with my parents, and I didn’t have any real goals. It felt like there were weighted bricks around my ankles, keeping me stuck where I was, and I couldn’t figure out how to move. I saw a therapist who diagnosed me with anxiety and mild depression, and it was a relief to hear those words, like someone was saying there’s a name for this. You are not alone. With my therapist’s guidance, I started to feel better: there was value in things again, I moved to LA, I made a new life for myself.

And lately I’ve started to feel like the depression might be coming back.

At first I didn’t. It didn’t feel like before. On one hand, everything in my life is fine: I’m healthy, going to work every day, and I have people in my life to talk to. I recently moved in with two close friends, I ran a marathon, I’m fairly accomplished in ways I couldn’t identify two years ago when things felt really bad.

This time it’s different. I’ve been feeling down lately, the kind where I just want to go home every afternoon, curl up into a ball under some warm blankets, and take a nap. I want to be hugged, but I don’t really want anyone to touch me. I feel like I go to work every day and it’s like… pointless, almost. I’m not working out as much as I was before, which I know is a factor, but it’s a weird kind of spiral: I know exercising would make me feel better, but I don’t want to do it. I’ve been feeling more anxious than usual, checking doors a handful of times even though I know I’ve locked them, feeling a need to make sure I have things in order, the list goes on. I’d just been thinking of things as a weird sort of dissatisfaction.

I didn’t really catalogue any of this as depression until my friend asked me if it was “the weird sad unsettled dissatisfaction when you have clinical depression but aren’t having an #episode” and it hit me like a slap in the face, like Oh. So maybe that’s what that is. Obviously friends can’t diagnose you with anything, but we talked about my feelings further and I started to think, yeah, maybe. So I don’t know what’s really happening, and I don’t know if this post has a point, but I just wanted to say that it’s okay not to be okay, even if the not-being-okay is something I really struggle with.

I’ve been seeing a therapist for a couple months and I haven’t talked about this with any of her, in part because I think I’m really, really good at pretending things are fine when they’re not. In my head, of course things are fine, because why wouldn’t they be?

I’m not sure if this post has a point, really, other than to say: things feel hard sometimes, I’m going to keep going to therapy and moving my body and eating better foods and journaling. I wish that there was more openness in the world about mental health and going to therapy, and I’m here to say that doing that before genuinely changed my life, so there’s no reason it can’t again.

Further reading:

I started going back to therapy in the first place because of Rachel Dawson’s posts about it.

I know Hannah Brencher has written a lot on this topic, and everything she’s written is incredible.

I just read this piece by Vivian Nunez, who has written a bunch of posts since on the topic; everything I’ve written by her inspires me to love people more deeply and to be a better writer + human.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and this post was honestly pretty scary to write and will likely be 10x scarier to share, but I think it’s really, really important to talk about it. Please reach out to someone if you need help; it’s okay not to be okay. 

22 Questions for Bookworms

May 14, 2018

My Book of the Month picks for May!


I’m borrowing this idea from Rachel, who is one of the only people I follow online who’s a bigger bookworm than me; feel free to join in if you want!

HARDBACK OR TRADE PAPERBACK OR MASS MARKET PAPERBACK?

I love hardback best of all! My second choice is trade paperback. However, just having moved apartments, I can say that hardcovers are heavy and books are a pain to move and I probably should start using the library more.

AMAZON OR BRICK AND MORTAR?

I think I’m about 50/50 on shopping at each. There’s something so nice about placing an order for a few books on Amazon, but there’s also something special about walking out of the store with books in your hand.

LOCALLY OWNED BOOKSHOP OR BIG NAME CHAIN STORE?

Local! There’s a number of independent brick and mortar bookstores here in the LA area that I adore – Book Soup and Skylight Books are two. Though I will say a few weeks ago I bought two books at Barnes and Noble.

BOOKMARK OR DOG-EAR?

I don’t tend to do either! I lean toward bookmarks though.

ALPHABETIZE BY AUTHOR OR ALPHABETIZE BY TITLE OR RANDOM?

Totally random! My bookshelf organization makes some sort of sense in my head, but there’s no real organization to speak of.

KEEP, THROW AWAY, OR SELL?

I keep most books unless I really didn’t like them and will never read them again. I just donated a few such books to Goodwill during my move. I’ll also give books away to friends.

KEEP DUST JACKET OR TOSS IT?

Keep. I hardly ever take them off.

READ WITH DUST JACKET OR REMOVE IT?

Always leave it on!

SHORT STORY OR NOVEL?

Novel. Short stories are great but I rarely read them.

COLLECTION (SHORT STORIES BY SAME AUTHOR) OR ANTHOLOGY (SHORT STORIES BY DIFFERENT AUTHORS)?

I used to be really into anthologies! These days I don’t tend to read either.

STOP READING WHEN TIRED OR AT CHAPTER BREAKS?

Chapter breaks.

“IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT” OR “ONCE UPON A TIME”?

Once upon a time.

BUY OR BORROW?

I wish my answer was borrow (and so does my wallet) but I tend to buy more often than not. I figure there are far worse things I could spend money on.

NEW OR USED?

Usually new, though I love and adore a great used bookstore.

BUYING CHOICE: BOOK REVIEWS, RECOMMENDATION OR BROWSE?

Browse, or buy it cause I saw it on Instagram and I loved the cover.

TIDY ENDING OR CLIFFHANGER?

Ooh, it depends! I like both, if they’re done well.

MORNING, AFTERNOON OR NIGHTTIME READING?

All of the above.

SINGLE VOLUME OR SERIES?

Single, though there are a few series I’ve really loved.

FAVORITE SERIES?

Is it cliche to say Harry Potter? I don’t care. Harry Potter.

FAVORITE BOOK OF WHICH NOBODY ELSE HAS HEARD?

I can’t think of one cause I get most of my recommendations from online, but Castle of Water is a book I definitely don’t hear about enough.

FAVORITE BOOKS READ LAST YEAR?

I wrote about them here! It’s weird to read that list back cause I’m not sure I would’ve put all of them on there now, but I still highly recommend them all.

FAVORITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME?

Oh god, I don’t have a list for this one. You can find my Goodreads here. Favorites from browsing that list: Dark Matter, Small Great Things, The Mothers, Station Eleven, My Sister’s Keeper.

April Books

May 4, 2018

I read precisely ONE book in April, and it was Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.

April was a weird month for me – I was sick for the first week and missed a few days of work, and then I was looking for a new place to live, and I wasn’t exercising at all, save for two times I made myself go running. I felt out of my routine, and because of it my reading time fell to the wayside. I did also read half of The Hate U Give, but I haven’t finished it yet. In short, April was weird, and my reading suffered, but it’s okay.


When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.

On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.


I bought this for myself for my birthday after hearing there was a movie coming out, and I liked it a lot! It took a little bit to get into, and there’s about nine million characters so it can be hard to keep track of them all, but it was a fun comedy. Honestly, there was a lot of info-dumping and name-dropping of brands (which I think is the point) but once I got into it I was easily flipping pages.

I liked reading about Rachel discovering just how wealthy Nick’s family is and trying to adapt to that situation; she was really thrown off the deep end and it was fun to watch her deal with it. I look forward to the movie! I’ve already bought the second one and I started it yesterday.


In total this month:

Total number of books: one
Number of fiction books: one
Number of nonfiction books: zero
Books by people who are not white dudes: one
Total number of books this year: twenty eight