A BOOK : Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin


I! Love! Books! Like! These!

I’m a fan of learning how people live the details of their life. What do you do when you put nail polish on? What’s your morning routine? Do you pick out what you’re going to wear ahead of time? Do you have an eating schedule?

I could listen to people talk about this stuff forever. Well, some people. Not everyone. ;)

Very much related to this, I LOVE books about habits– the every day routines and things we do that make up our lives. How do you choose what habits you want to keep and get rid of? How do you actually follow through?

Well, in true Gretchen Rubin project (most known for her book The Happiness Project read my post about it) she combines research, with personal story, with advice to create a book all about HABITS and how to go about forming them.

What I love THE MOST about this, is she never really tells you what habits you should form. She focuses more on the tools of helping you understand yourself the best you can in order to set yourself for success in creating these habits you are interested in creating.

Yes, her biases to some habits are SUPER blatant (low-carb eating for one), but the thing that she has learned in this path that she makes clear is that there isn’t one right way to do everything. A good habit is right for YOU.

While she doesn’t have a list of habits you might be interested in, due to the nature of how she talks about habits and the experiences she shares, you do get some good ideas of habits you might be interested in trying too!

I listened to this on audio, and she narrates it herself. She has a pretty clear voice and not very distracting. It’s a good one to listen to while you’re doing chores or driving. Because she’s trying to write a book that will help people with all different methods of living and functioning, some of it isn’t always directly applicable- but! Still interesting. :)

Also, in true Gretchen Rubin form she mentions A LOT about where she got her research from– not in a heavy handed way, but in a useful and storytelling way– so if you’re interested in learning more she definitely gives you direction!

Interested? Add it to your to-read list!

A BOOK : Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg


My only complaint about this book is that every time I say the title I sing it in my head to the tune of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” I’m sorry for passing that on to you!

Truly if you’re looking for a book to fit all of your Frozen needs, Did You Have a Family by Bill Clegg is definitely not the one for you. But if you’re looking for something that’s beautiful and heartbreaking and complicated, then yes- you will find that here!

In an instant, June’s boyfriend is dead. Her daughter is dead. Her son-in-law to be is dead. Her ex-husband is dead. They were all killed the night before her daughter’s wedding in her house, which went up in flames. She was outside of the house, and then was forced to watch it happen– engulfing her entire life all at the same time.

The biggest beauty of this Man Booker nominee is how the story is told. The town June lives in is small, where everyone thinks they know each other and gossip is rampant. The narration switches from people throughout the town, giving us their perspective on the situation and their own piece in this tragedy. We hear from June, her boyfriend’s mother, the florist, one of the town boys, and more. Slowly, slowly, slowly, the truth of that night unravels as the characters deal with answering the question, “What now?”

Even though much of the novel takes place in that town, a lot of it extends further– reaching toward the people have that have touched this tragedy before it happened, during, and afterwards. As a result we get this beautiful overarching picture of life and grief and time and connections.

The reading experience of this is quiet and unsure. It’s digging deep and sharing stories. It’s angering in the injustices and hopeful in the potential for mending.

Reading advice: If you’re going to read this one, I would advise reading it in longer chunks of time rather than dipping in and out. It takes a moment to gather you’re footing with the variety of narrators, but it’s worth it. It’s just such a fascinating way to get to know everyone and to understand the story– it’s like you’re starting from a helicopter and making your way closer and closer.

Interested? Add it to your to-read list!

Not sure how interested you are? Well, you might want to read this, if….

  • You like to read books from awards list, but get daunted by their heft. This one why a hefty subject and extremely skillful done, isn’t too long and has very accessible writing.
  • You like books about grief.
  • You prefer books with excellent re-read potential. There are so many layers to this one and there is so much you learn on the way, that it makes for a magnificent re-read.
  • You love character-driven pieces– pieces where it’s not so much about character growth, but about just exploring people as they are and as they were.
  • You like small town novels where everyone is connected and a very strong sense of setting.


MUSIC: What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress by Sara Bareilles

Sugar, Butter, Flour…

Lately I’ve been living and breathing the Waitress soundtrack.

“What a mess I’m making.”

“I don’t know what I wish I had, but there’s no time now for thinking things like that I’ve got too much to do. We’ve got too much to do.”

The movie Waitress came to me at a crucial moment in life. The power of choosing something bigger than what’s in front of you– doing work that makes it feel like your entire life source is being sucked out of you (I’m being dramatic, I know :D)– daring to hope, but trying not to dare too hard– it was just one of those movies that hit me at the exact right time. Plus it has Nathan Fillion in it.

“I’m no good in the outside world because I feel too much and find it usually hurts.”

“I was wrong to believe that strength makes you strong.”

And right around that time I also fell in love with Sara Bareilles. There are just some singers that hold you together, and yet also tear you apart because they are singing all your unspoken fears and hopes and troubles out loud. There are some singers that help you breathe and help you dance. If you couldn’t tell, she is *definitely* one of those singers for me.

“And now I’m heavy, unsteady, but maybe I’m getting ready. This might catch fire, and char this ground. I might lift this up to only be the one who’s gonna get let down. Will I be enough to get this on its way to find some higher ground? Before the waters rush I’ve got to make a change or else I know I’ll drown. Baby look around. Door number two, I’ve already walked through. I wanna see what’s behind door number three.”

And now it’s 2015, and guess who wrote a Broadway musical and released the soundtrack of it singing a bunch of songs from the musical and guess who did a fantastic job with it and guess which musical she chose to write and if you haven’t guessed by now, well, get on it because I’m about to spill the already spilled beans. Sara Bareilles wrote Waitress as a musical, which will start showing late winter/early spring on Broadway.

“How am I supposed to operate, if I’m just tossed around by fate? Like on an unexpected date? The stranger who might talk too fast, or ask me questions about myself, before I’ve decided that, he can ask me questions about myself. He might sit too close or call the waiter by his first name, or eat Oreos, but eat the cookie before the cream?”

But what scares me the most, what scares me the most, Is what if when he sees me, what if he doesn’t like it? What if he runs the other way and I can’t hide from it? What happens then? If when he knows me, he’s only disappointed? What if I give myself away, to only get it given back? I couldn’t live with that.”

“He could be less than kind.
Or even worse he could be very nice, have lovely eyes.
And make me laugh, come out of hiding.
What do I do with that?
Oh, God.”

The album captures the essence of the movie and the main character. It’s upbeat and fun, but also SO heartfelt and provides so many gut punches. I’m not even sure how to describe it. I’m not really a musical person, to be honest and the songs I do like from musicals are generally the ballads or don’t have that… musical feel to it. I don’t know how to explain it. And some of these songs do have that sort of feel where you can see a bunch of people singing them and dancing to them, and others just sound like they could be on any old CD. It’s like this great mix.

“But dreams are elusive. the kind we’ve gotten used to is nothing I can feel, nothing I can hold, nothing I can have, nothing that I know. Dreams come and they go. …. but dreams are a soft place to land.”

“Heart, stop racing. Let’s face it, making mistakes like this will make worse what was already pretty bad. Mind, stop running. It’s time we just let this thing go, it was a pretty good bad idea, wasn’t it though?”

One thing I love about the movie is the main character is obsessed with making pies and she matches it to what is happening in her life. The theme carries through the songs as well– the words sugar, butter, and flour becoming a thread that keeps popping up in various songs at different points of the album. ALSO JASON MRAZ SINGS WITH SARA ON TWO OF THE SONGS. So that’s kind of neat :).

“Everything changes
My heart’s at the wheel now
And all my mistakes
They make sense when I turn them around
Everything changes
What I thought was so permanent fades
And I swear I’ll remember to say we were both born today.”

I didn’t share any of the lyrics from this one, but go listen to She Used to Be Mine. It’s a ballad that just knocks you off your feet.

I don’t know how or why this ended up being a little love entry to Waitress and What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress and Sara Bareilles. I feel like this album has been seeping through my pours, and well, it’s made it’s way onto this little internet space.

“It’s addictive the minute you let yourself think,
the things that you say might matter to someone.

All of this time I’ve been keeping my mind on the running away,
and for the first time I think I’d consider the stay.”

So I hope by the end of this you’re listening to some of these songs, because they are just great. And fingers crossed I get to see the musical one day. :)

“My blurry lines, my messy life
Come into focus in a tied, maybe.
I can heal and I can breathe
‘Cause I can feel myself believe”

A BOOK : A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman

I think if you were to ask me what my favorite book I read this year was, I might have to say it was A Man Called Ove. I listened to the audio, and I have to say. If you decide you’re going to read this go for the audio if you can, if only because at the beginning of different chapters it starts with, “A man called Ove….” and for some reason that line repeated again and again throughout the book just drives home all of the charm this story had.

Because my goodness, is it charming.

It’s charming yet heartbreaking and at times goofy and heart warming, but still. So, so, so heartbreaking.

Basically A Man Called Ove is about a curmudgeon-y old man who lost his wife and now doesn’t want to live himself. He likes his systems and he likes his schedules and he likes his orderliness and he likes his rules, and so every day his days follow the same patterns. He does his morning neighborhood patrol and then essentially tries to end his life. Except. Life keeps getting in the way, as things in his neighborhood get a little nutty and of course, as Mr. Uber Controlling Neighbor he butts in or is forced into dilemmas whether he likes it or not.

While most of the story line exists in the present, it flashes into Ove’s past– his relationship with his father and growing up and how he met his wife. Ove is just such an endearing character. He sees a problem, he fixes it. He’s stubborn and certainly is very oblivious. He angers way too quickly, and I’m sure he would be someone I would be hesitant to interact with in real life, but in the end he has this soft core and tries to do good and has this humble way about life and work.

I’m trying to figure out what it was about this story I liked so much. I guess, to me it was oddly comforting. It feels like as close to a fairy tale as real life can get. There are all of the hardships and disappointments, but at the end of the day life keeps moving providing alongside the broken hearts moments of joy and healing and light.

Add it to your Goodreads TBR shelf HERE

Warning: the book does discuss suicide, so if this is a triggering topic you might want to tread carefully. If you want to learn more specifics so you can decide to read or not read, just let me know and I can let you know more details.

A BOOK : The First Bad Man by Miranda July

Do you want to go on a trip?



It will certainly take you on a ride.

I think Miranda July is one of my favorite authors because she focuses on the messy, awkward, gross, and strange moments in life.

In this book we have one of the most unique characters ever, Cheryl. Cheryl has kind of structured this weird life around herself. She lives in a house that came with a homeless gardener that she can’t find the ability to fire, but doesn’t want to be there when he’s there so she tries to leave the house before 7am when he arrives to avoid him and just drive around for 3 hours. She realized as a way to not accumulate dirty dishes she would only have one plate, one cup, and one set of silverware so she would have to immediately wash her current dishware. When she was little she met this young baby named Kubelko Bondy that she bonded with, and now she keeps seeing him reborn in different babies.

I could go on and on about her– she is this tangible living breathing mess of a person that has created this unrealistic view of the world that has filtered out onto the way she interacts with daily life.

I don’t even know where to begin to describe the plot. It’s essentially driven by Cheryl and her reintroduction to becoming a functioning human being again once her orderly life is thrown into disorder at the arrival of a house guest. All the while you’re wondering, what could Cheryl possibly do next?

I just re-read what I wrote, and it sounds like I didn’t like the book at all which is far from the truth. I am about 95% positive that I just have never read a book like this, which makes it a whole different experience. A fun experience and funny experience and yes, I did actually write “WHAT THE HECK” in the margin of my copy, but it’s just this incredible insight into a very interesting person.

This is strangely sexy in some parts, EXTRAORDINARILY NOT sexy in many other parts and just full of humans being humans and finding meaning where there isn’t meaning,and all the way through she is just so dang poetic and hilarious.

ALSO. My favorite part of July’s writing is how often she’ll have just these great chunks of writing.

Two favorites:

“I kept my arms around him and he looked at me and I looked at him and he looked at me and I knew that he loves me more than his mother and father and that in some very real permanent way he belonged to me. Because I was only nine it wasn’t clear if he belonged to me as a child or as a spouse, but it didn’t matter. I felt myself rising up to the challenge of heartache.”

“Then I realized that we all think we might be terrible people. But we only reveal this before we ask someone to love us. It is a kind of undressing.”

“When things really flow, my days become dreamlike, no edges anywhere, none of the snags and snafus that life is so famous for. After days and days alone it gets silky to the point where I can’t even feel myself anymore, as if I don’t exist.”

“But my voice was too quiet, it didn’t leave my head.”

So! Add it to you Goodreads TBR HERE!

If you haven’t read her set of short stories No One Belongs Here More Than You I definitely suggest it if any part of my rambling peaked your interest in July. It’s a good starter to her writing, especially if you aren’t looking for quite as many WTF moments.

A BOOK : Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry

I have decided to play the fun game of BLOGGING. Again. There is something about life toward the end of November and beginning of December where too much is happening and of course the only solution is to add “TRY TO REGULARLY BLOG” into the mix.

I am feeling nostalgic to online mediums, because this week I am traveling to another state to meet an online friend I’ve been friends with for 10 years for the first time. I am strangely super aware of this before period, which makes me want to leave snippets of documentation around. This time next week I will be the same me, but I will be the me that has took a new chance and tried a new thing and finally connected with someone I care super duper a lot about.

Plus, it’s one of those things that if present Jenny told past Jenny she was doing this she would be completely stoked.

AND, in discussing her city with me that it is known for it’s coffee culture and craft beer. Yes!!

Writing about meeting her is NOT what I meant to do here. However, since we’re on the subject of connecting with people let’s talk about Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry.

My reading back story: I read this book SUPER fast for a book discussion I attended. I don’t particularly like books about the circus, I am very hard on/wary of books that have multiple narrators where you don’t immediately see a connection, and generally historical fiction isn’t my go-to. So truly, if it weren’t for an outside source compelling me to pick it up, I most likely would have missed out on Church of Marvels. As a result of my reading swiftly, I am sure I missed a lot, but what I got was pretty great.

My thoughts: It’s very lyrical in a way, swirling around the stories of a few people in New York, 1895, to make connections between the characters that you do and don’t expect. The writing takes a role of a video camera, pulling in close during certain scenes and jumping back in others. As a result, there ends up being tons and tons of details and layers. I think what impressed me the most was how much story there was behind each and every character, whether it was fully addressed or not.

A few plot details: The story jumps from a few different narrators. The main story line is Odile searching for her twin who has gone missing after the death of their mother. Just beyond her is Alphie, a woman just barely scraping by, and Sylvan, a very poor orphan boy who has found a baby. While the mystery of the disappearance of the sister is driving the story along, this is by no means hurried. It plods slowly, taking time to explore the gritty, dirty, harsh world and the little bits of light the characters shine out into the world.

This part is going to be vague, but I think what surprised me the most was how Leslie Parry brought in gender, but LOVE how she did it. ALSO, I think Mrs. Bloodworth was my favorite character. She’s just so dang interesting, and I love that Leslie Parry went into her line of work a little bit.

Basically, the characters are complicated and interesting and plentiful. There are a lot of moments where you want to yell “WHAT THE HECK?” to a friend, yet at the same time a lot of introspective moments or sentences where you want to mull over in your head by yourself.

If you’ve read it, let me know! I’d love to hear what you thought. It certainly makes for a fulfilling and wide sweeping discussion!

Add it to your Goodreads page HERE.

A FILM : Avenue Montaigne (2006)

This evening I watched my first film in a foreign language to me: Avenue Montaigne (2006).

It’s a French film with English subtitles centering around a younger woman named Jessica. She is wide-eyed dreamer– the kind of girl that is interested in everything and everyone and when she answers the phone she says “Hey!” instead of, “Who the hell is calling me?” She has broken up with her boyfriend and finds herself in Paris, working at a cafe that serves the rich and poor alike. She ends up inserting herself into the lives of some high profile artists– a high concert pianist, who no longer wants to perform for high society, a beloved soap opera star who has her eyes set on a specific movie role, and an art collector– finally auctioning off the collection he has been building all his life.

Jackie was an endearing and lovable lead– my only complaint was she was almost too perfect– always happy and always able to manage to worm herself into the lives of these high profile actresses. But I’m not sure if Jackie’s role was meant to be anything more than a vehicle to tell these other stories. Those other stories were what I found the most enthralling. It was interesting to me to see all the stories contrasted and see how they intertwined or didn’t intertwine.

This was light, breezy, funny, and thoughtful. It’s about four very different people trying to break out of the roles they have been placed into by themselves and by society. It dealt a lot with art and luxury in a way that seemed to anchor the movie and give it a really strong foundation to stand on.

Overall? I think this was the perfect world language film to try out! This summer I am going to be doing some exploring, so you mighhhht end up seeing 1) more blog posts here in general and 2) more blog posts about things that aren’t books.