Everything We Keep Book Review

How would you feel if the person you had planned to spend the rest of your life with was suddenly gone? Except…they weren’t really gone? In Everything We Keep, Kerry Lonsdale explores grief and moving on, but with a special and unexpected twist.

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

The book opens on a funeral scene that was supposed to be a wedding. Aimee Tierney just buried her childhood sweetheart, James, on the day that was supposed to be her wedding day. I’ve experienced loss, but I can’t imagine the agony of burying someone and your future together on the day you were supposed to join together for that future.

As Aimee was escaping the funeral, she was confronted by a woman who claimed to be a psychic and that James was still alive. Aimee tries to dismiss this idea and believe that James really did die in a boating accident in Mexico. She still keeps James’ clothes in the closet and his paintings on the wall, while she also tries to move on with her life.

The books spans almost two years. In those two years, Aimee buries James, opens a restaurant, and meets a handsome photographer named Ian. But she can’t let herself fall for Ian with even the slimmest of possibilities that James is still alive. She heads to Mexico to find answers with Ian in tow (he really loves her, okay).

I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t get into details until later in this post and I’ll give you warning before I do.

Here’s what I thought of the book [free of big spoilers]:

It would probably make a good romance film to be released on Valentine’s Day. It’s a romance novel with thriller and intrigue parts that kept me reading. As a reader, I was invested in finding out what happened to James, I liked seeing how Aimee was able to move on and yet in the ways she wasn’t, i.e., keeping James’ suits in the closet.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t love this book and I didn’t hate it either. I was marginally invested in the story and it was engrossing enough that I wanted to finish it. It was good, not great. I wouldn’t jump to recommend it to anyone because the writing didn’t blow my mind. But I liked it. The twist’s reveal and the ending made reading the rest of it worth.

The book did win all of these awards so far [I got them from Kerry Lonsdale’s website] so maybe I just have romance novel fatigue. Which is completely my fault because I keep reading them.

Everything We Keep

Top 20 Amazon Overall Bestselling book, 2016
#1 Amazon Kindle Bestseller for 5 straight weeks, 2016
#1 Amazon Bestselling Romance for 10 straight weeks, 2016
1st Place, Rose City RWA Golden Rose Contest, 2012
2nd Place, Northeast Ohio RWA Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest, 2012
3rd Place, Indiana RWA Golden Opportunity Contest, 2012 (highest first round score for the Mainstream with Romantic Elements Category)

OK HERE ARE THE SPOILERS:

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Here’s what I really loved about the story: James is still alive. Well, his body is. Aimee flies to Mexico and meets Carlos. Carlos looks very similar to James, he has his paintings (that disappeared from Aimee’s garage!!!), and he has been dreaming about Aimee’s face.

I was expecting that maybe one of James’ secretive parents had a love child and left it in Mexico (they seemed like the people who would do that). Or maybe Carlos was just James’ doppelganger and it was all a coincidence. But, what really happened is so much better than I was expecting. James was dead. Sort of. Because Carlos is the product of a dissociative fugue. He’s technically James but James’ personality and memories are no longer there. James experienced a traumatic event that forced his brain to protect himself in this manner.

I find psychological stuff like that so interesting. So the revelation about the fugue made the book good for me. But what really hooked me in at the very end was the epilogue. It was a dream James had about his traumatic incident and when he woke up, Carlos was gone and James was back. AND THEN THE BOOK ENDS.

I need a sequel because everything just got REALLY INTERESTING.

Feminist Entertainment for Surviving a Trump Presidency

If you’re reading this and you’re saying to yourself, “well I’m not a feminist,” and you’re about to click away. Just wait a second and read a few more sentences.
Do you think men and women should be equal socially, economically, and politically? Basically, do you think that men and women are equal? If yes, then I hate (love) to say it, you’re a feminist. Yeah, even if you’re a dude. Welcome to the club.

If you looked at that definition and thought “yeah, still no on the whole feminist thing,” then by all means, click away and continue “making America great again.”

2016 is ending and with 2017 is coming something I wish was still a joke: a Trump presidency. With most of the country (she won the popular vote, y’all) appalled and scared of what may come of the new administration, many people turn to positive voices that give them hope and empower them. For me, that’s feminist and inclusive voices. Whether it’s some of my ass-kicking aunts or an actress standing up for herself, I am applauding and storing those memories away for a time when I’m not feeling my best.

Over the next four years, feminists are going to have some tough times, but with some of these entertainment outlets, maybe we can all relax for a few hours, laugh, and enjoy our fellow feminists.

1. 2 Dope Queens

2 Dope Queens

This is an amazing podcast hosted by the one and only Jessica Williams and the one and only Phoebe Robinson. You might remember Jessica Williams from The Daily Show and Phoebe Robinson just came out with a book called You Can’t Touch My Hair. It’s a live comedy podcast with a wide variety guests up to and including, Danielle Brooks, Zasheer Zamata, and John Mulaney and Nick Kroll as their characters in their Broadway show, Oh Hello.

Every episode is hilarious and has a 100% guarantee of making you laugh on your morning commute. 10/10 must listen.

2. Quantico

Want to see a kickass woman of color literally kick ass? Answer: WHO DOESN’T? Priyanka Chopra is the main character in this show about FBI agents learning the tricks of the trade at Quantico, but it also jumps to the future when her character, Alex, is accused of bombing Grand Central Station. It’s exciting, it’s awesome, and totally binge-worthy (I hate that phrase, but it fits here).

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Why Not Me? Book Review

I think that we can all agree that last week was rough. Donald Trump is the president-elect and Hillary isn’t. People are running rampant and committing hate crimes. People are realizing that their family members actually voted for the guy and it’s going to make the upcoming holidays so so awkward.

I didn’t know it, but I started reading Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling on the same day the world was ending. I took the book with me to vote so I’d have something to do while waiting in line. I read it that night too when I realized Trump won Pennsylvania, and thus, the presidency, and I gave up watching the news and went to bed dejected and utterly horrified at the prospect of tomorrow.

Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling

I’ve long been a fan of Mindy Kaling. I love The Office and her friendship with BJ Novak is serious goals. I’ve also been watching her show, The Mindy Project since season 2 aired (I’m slow on the uptake sometimes). My friends and I went on a roadtrip in 2012 (back when the concept of a Trump presidency wasn’t even a thing yet) and we listened to Mindy’s first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns). Mindy’s voice means driving through Portland, Maine with my best friends and trying a lobster roll for the first time (fucking delicious, by the way. Everyone needs to go to the Portland Lobster, Co. immediately).

When I’m Gone Book Review

Sometimes you read a book that speaks to your emotional state at that time, and you start crying on just about every page.

That happened to me with When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker.

When I'm Gone by Emily Bleeker
When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker

When I’m Gone is about what happens to Luke Richardson after his wife of 16 years dies of cancer. He’s suddenly a single parent of three and he doesn’t quite know how to cope…until the first letter from his wife arrives in a blue envelope. His wife wrote them before she died to help him mourn and transition to his new life. But what he doesn’t know is that Natalie had some big secrets.

But what are the secrets, you ask? Well, you’re just gonna have to read it to find out. And if you have Amazon Prime, you  can read When I’m Gone for free with Prime Reading, which is what I did. Or you can check out Emily Bleeker’s website to find out where you can buy it.

Back to why this book made me cry myself to sleep. This book is primarily about loss and learning to cope with it. It spoke to me in particular because I lost a friend suddenly in a car accident a few months ago. It’s something that I’ve been trying to cope with and yet my mind still reels sometimes because I realize all over again that it’s real, it happened, I went to the funeral, and saw where she’s buried.

I can’t know whether this book would make me cry so much if I hadn’t lost my friend this year. I typically don’t cry during movies and while I read books, but in the past couple of months, I’ve read a couple of books that remind me of my friend’s death and I just can’t stop the tears when I read them.

In the beginning of When I’m Gone, Emily Bleeker accurately portrays the disbelief, the numbness mixed with profound anger, and just the utter sadness of losing someone close to you. And that’s what made me cry.

Some quotes that I highlighted in my Kindle are:

Grief seemed to chase away the comfort of sleep, and he longed for a night where he could drift off into a blissfully unaware dreamworld, where life was potentially weird, but definitely less paralyzing.”

This reminded me of what it feels like at the beginning of grief. You’re too sad (as if “sad” is a strong enough word for what you feel when you’re mourning) to sleep, to relax, because your mind, body, and soul are consumed with such intense feeling.

Why do the strong ones always seem to go first?”

Grieving leaves us feeling weak. We see the people we lost as the stronger ones and we wish we could take their place instead. We’re helpless to do anything, especially when something like cancer is slowly taking over your loved one’s body. If doctors and modern medicine couldn’t save them, how could you?

But the feeling of helplessness persists even when the death happens suddenly. You couldn’t have possibly seen this coming, so you’re powerless to do anything to prevent it.

How could everyone else find it so simple to slip back into life, the world revolving, businesses opening and closing, buying and selling, when the pillow on the right side of his bed was empty every night?”

This quote spoke to me the most, because it’s something I’ve wondered before. The people mourning a death have been irrevocably changed and their lives are suddenly upside down. And yet, people unaffected by it can just continue on with their lives as if nothing happened – because for them, nothing has happened.

It boggled my mind when I went into work the Monday after my friend’s funeral. Everything was normal and I wanted to scream “DON’T YOU KNOW ONE OF THE BEST PEOPLE ON THIS PLANET DIED LAST WEEK? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?” But instead, I said nothing. I didn’t tell anyone that the weekend was one of the hardest of my life. I couldn’t tell them that I made eye contact with my friend’s parents during the funeral and my soul crumbled inside me.

If you’re looking for a book that might give you a good cry, definitely read When I’m Gone. It’s not just a story of loss and grieving. It’s a story about family coming together in the face of unimaginable adversity and finding family in people who aren’t related to you. The book spans several months after the death of Luke’s wife, so you see him and his family grow through all of the stages of grief together.

There’s a mystery in his wife’s letters that keeps you interested (did her secret really die with her or will Luke find out the truth?). And you also find out more about Luke and Natalie’s relationship and about their backgrounds.

I don’t know if I’d read this book again, especially since I know the result of the mystery in the letters, but I’d recommend it for people going through a loss. I’ve had a difficult time crying lately and this book opened up the flood gates, and it’s what I needed.

TL;DR: When I’m Gone is a pretty good book and it’ll likely make you cry your eyes out in your bed at 11pm all by yourself.

How to Deal When Someone In Your Family Is Voting for a Sentient Cheeto

First of all, I heard the phrase “sentient Cheeto” on one of my favorite podcasts, Call Your Girlfriend, and it became my favorite descriptor for Ivanka’s Dad (they also call him Ivanka’s Dad and it makes me really happy and I’m just gonna borrow these phrases from them).

One of my family members recently e-mailed the entire family and said that he is in the basket of deplorables (no one asked for his political views, by the way). Months ago, he sent out an e-mail saying how he supported Bernie and even though I voted for Hillary, I was proud of having so many Bernie supporters in the family. Now I’m completely confused how he went from supporting Bernie because of his view on the environment and universal healthcare, to saying he’d vote for someone who wants to get rid of the EPA and also basically delete Planned Parenthood off the face of the Earth! I suspect brainwashing.

Thankfully, the collective outrage that has come from the rest of my family has given me hope for the rest of the world. Though, some of them are voting for Jill Stein instead, which is a whole other splitting-the-vote problem that I can’t even get into right now because I’m too busy being glad that they aren’t voting for an orangutan in a suit.

Here are the best ways to cope with the fact that you’re related to someone voting for Donald Trump:

1. Wine.

Wine is the only thing that will get you through the next month and a half until Election Day. It’s TBD if we’re going to need wine to drown our sorrows or for celebrating after Election Day. Stay tuned.

2. Group message your other relatives and ask if you can disown them.

Haha! Joke’s on you, Grandpa. You can try to write me out of your will, but not before I write myself out of it and deny all relation.

3. Get adopted by a different family.

If you really want to anger this Trump voter, get adopted by a nice Mexican family.

4. Make a donation in their name to the Hillary Clinton campaign.

You’ll be doing good to offset their badness, plus it’ll piss them off that their name is attached to Clinton campaign. *cackle*

5. Go out and vote on November 8th.

At some point, you’re going to realize that you can’t change their mind no matter how much you try. The best thing you can do is register to vote and cast a ballot against the orangutan in a suit.

Seriously, everyone. Voting is one of the most important things you can do. Register to vote today and don’t forget to cast your ballot on November 8th (or earlier if you’re voting absentee).

Game of Thrones Workout

Winter is coming.

So what else is there to do but re-watch Game of Thrones? While you’re watching Littlefinger slowly take over Westeros and Sansa slowly becoming a badass, you’re gonna be doing a lot of sitting. Get your blood pumping with this Game of Thrones workout plan that I developed (while re-watching the show).

Opening credits: BURPEES THE WHOLE TIME (you’ve never noticed how long the opening credits are until you have to do burpees the whole time)

Whenever Tyrion is called “The Imp” or any other derogatory name: 20 crunches

When someone has sex: 15 lunches on each side (x2 if it’s incest)

Whenever you hear House words: 20 Russian Twists on each side

Gratuitous nudity: 20 bicycle kicks

Winter or summer are mentioned: 25 jumping jacks

Anyone dies: 20 squats

See The Wall: 60 second wall sit

I think the exercise will help with the depression of your favorite characters dying too. Endorphins will get you through George R.R. Martin’s writing.

And if you get through 6 seasons and do this work out for every episode, I can’t guarantee it…but you’ll probably look like this:

Why I Gave Up Caffeine and What Happened to My Body

My body is one of those bodies that reacts pretty violently to things. Bad smells give me a migraine. Humidity and heat give me a migraine (just gotta love those Midwest summers). My migraines sometimes make me nauseous and always make me sensitive to light. Lack of sleep gives me a migraine.

TL;DR: almost everything gives me a migraine. Except coffee. Sweet delicious dark juice of life. I want to ingest you in every form. Hot. Iced. Iced and blended. Black. With whip. Mocha. I want you French pressed, dripped, or freshly ground. Just. Get. In. My. Body.

Secret: The mugs are empty.
Secret: The mugs are empty.

The problem with my love for coffee is that my body doesn’t like it when I don’t have it. So on stressful days where I don’t have time to grab a cup of coffee or if we’re traveling and Starbucks is nowhere to be found, goddammit. Guess what happens? Yes! A migraine of the greatest proportions! I’ve vomited as a result of withdrawal from caffeine. It’s super brutal and probably painful for other people to watch. It’s certainly painful for me to live it.

So you can probably guess why I gave up caffeine. It clearly wasn’t making my life any better and the lack of it could turn a good day into an actual nightmare. (Truth: my mom actually made me give it up because she saw how my body reacted and I was just in denial about it and willing to continue down this destructive path)

The first few weeks of giving up caffeine were awful. I obviously got a migraine. I was sluggish and my brain felt cloudy. I didn’t know if I’d ever feel normal again and I just kept craving caffeine in any form. Soda, tea, chocolate, and of course, coffee. It didn’t help that my favorite place to hang out was a coffee shop.

Here’s what was happening to my body: my adrenal glands were suddenly without their jumpstart. They were trying to figure out how to work efficiently without the help of caffeine (you and me both, adrenal glands). So my mom found this supplement aptly named “Adrenal.” I took it a few times a day with meals and suddenly…I started to feel normal. I felt like a human being and that fog covering my brain was lifted. It took away my withdrawal migraines and I was sleeping easier. Oh yeah, caffeine definitely affects your sleep long term. So if when I gave it up, I started being able to fall asleep easier and faster and I stayed asleep longer.

Now it’s been about 5 years since I officially gave up caffeine. I’ve gotten back on the wagon a few times and fallen off (I was a dumb child and didn’t realize just how much caffeine was in black tea, oooh boy) and gotten the migraines again. As much as I love coffee and chai tea, I don’t let myself have it every day. If I have it a few days in a row and the day after I don’t have it, BOOM MIGRAINE. I can have the occasional coffee without consequences and I definitely do (I love me a Mexican mocha) and sometimes I just need a cup of coffee to poop while I’m traveling.

So what’s good about giving up caffeine? Well, for me it means fewer migraines. It also makes it a lot easier to wake up in the morning. I’m instantly awake now instead of fighting my alarm clock or wishing I could just fall back into bed. I can go to work without needing that “jolt” to get anything done. My body goes through a more natural circadian rhythm and I don’t get overly hyper. I’m calmer and more level headed. Overall, it was a good decision for my mom to make for me 😉

Of course, giving up caffeine was the best thing for my body. There are people out there that aren’t affected by withdrawal from caffeine (you lucky bastards) and there are people who just don’t want to go through the process of giving it up because they need it. That’s fine! You do you, squirrels.

The Loose Ends List Book Review

It’s been a long time since I’ve stayed up late reading for fun. In college, I stayed up reading novels I wasn’t interested in and highlighting print outs for my 8 AM the next day.

Since I graduated, I’ve been rereading the Outlander series for the third time because I was celebrating that I could read whatever I wanted. But since the books were so familiar to me, I didn’t feel the need to stay up to find out what happens next.

 

Enter: The Loose Ends List. I was intrigued by it because of the plot (and the pretty cover. Don’t judge me for judging books by their covers), which approaches death and saying good bye in a unique way. I was particularly interested in it because I recently lost a friend very suddenly and we didn’t get to say goodbye. I hoped that maybe I could find some sense of closure or comfort in a book so focused on death, but in a positive way.

Things You Need to Know About the NWHL Before the Second Season Starts

The National Women’s Hockey League (A.K.A. the coolest ladies you’ll ever meet) are about to start their second season. As we look forward to a new year of excitement and rooting for our favorite teams, we want to provide some information for those who maybe missed the first season and now they want to get into it. It’s not like a TV show where you have to go back and watch the previous episodes/games (though if you want to, you obviously can). But maybe you have some questions about America’s newest professional league that we can answer for you.

It was a pretty big year for women in all sports, especially with everything that just happened in the Olympics, but nothing was bigger than the beginning of the first professional hockey league for women in the United States. Before the Fab Five wowed us at the Olympics, there was the Fab Four: Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, New York Riveters, and the Connecticut Whales.

1. When did the league start?

It was established in 2015, making 2016 its second official season. It’s the first U.S. women’s hockey league to pay its players. Prior to the NWHL, the only choice for top-level women’s hockey in North America was Canada’s league, the CWHL, which is unpaid.

2. What are the teams?

Glad you asked. There are 4 teams in the NWHL (for now!). They are the Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whales, New York Riveters, and the Boston Pride. All of the teams are on the eastern part of the country, but don’t let that deter you from watching! You don’t have to just pick one team and only root for that one. There are only four, so you can definitely find the time to support them all, especially if you don’t live on the East Coast.

Buffalo Beauts

#GIRLBOSS Book Review

I’m one of those heinous people who always did well in school. I was basically Hermione, but only until middle school when I realized there was a minimum amount of effort I had to expend in order to get an A or a high B. Suddenly I wasn’t an over achiever anymore. I wasn’t valedictorian in high school, but I did have a medal for graduating with a GPA over 4.0. I was good, but not the best. And I think I could’ve been the best, or at least better than I was, if I had just used a little bit of that extra energy.

I’m telling you this not-so-humble information, because I read #GIRLBOSS this week and it was incredibly inspiring for me. Sophia Amoruso, the author and founder of Nasty Gal, started with basically nothing but $50 and an instinct for customer service and common sense. She didn’t graduate college, she didn’t find school as easy as I did, and she’s so successful!

She’s so successful because she put the work in. Her company wasn’t given to her. She made it happen and she worked hard to make it.