The Problem with Resolutions

Again, happy 2017 to you, my dear readers! May your next twelve months be full of excellent reading, and may your newsfeeds be less full of celebrity deaths.

I have for the past few years posted my reading and blog-related resolutions here on Ampersand Read. Here is the problem: that doesn’t seem to help me reach those goals. For some people, writing a goal down, and having it somewhere semi-permanent helps them keep the goal constantly in mind. Posting it to a public place can help some people feel more accountable: you’ve told people that you are trying to do something, so you are more likely to attempt to accomplish it in order to tell those same people that you were successful.

But apparently I don’t seem to work that way! I thought about the resolutions I posted back in January maybe once or twice this entire year: once about mid-year, when I thought about posting about my progress (but promptly realized that I hadn’t made much progress at all), and once when I finished Fahrenheit 451 when I suddenly remembered that it had been a goal of mine to read more older, “classic” literature this year. It also felt a little silly to post about my goals once, then never return to them until I posted about my new goals an entire year later.

All of that is a long way of saying that I will not be writing a long analysis of what I hope to accomplish this year. At least not on the blog. I am still setting goals, and I will still try my best to achieve them. But I think I will focus on fewer, broader goals in the hopes that that will inspire me to work on them throughout the year, and not just think about them wistfully every once in a while 🙂

But what about you, fellow bookworms? Do you have any new year’s resolutions that you are looking forward to diving into? Because let’s face it: the best resolutions, and the ones you tend to accomplish, are ones you actually look forward to doing. Have you set a book goal on Goodreads for the number of books you want to try to read this year? Do you want to read more classics? Read more new releases?


& Fridays: While I Was Out

Okay, so you know what they say about the best-laid plans? My plans for Ampersand Read have always been to have a steady stream of blog posts – at LEAST one review and one Friday book-themed post per week. And to have at least a month’s worth of posts scheduled in advance, just in case life gets busy (which it always does).

Well I’ve sucked at it, to put it lightly. I got two other Uppercase Boxes back at the end of summer, and never posted what I got! I have gone on not one, but TWO trips, and have said not a word about them! I participated in a 24-hour readathon, and never posted a follow up or review about it. I started AND FINISHED National Novel Writing Month AND DIDN’T TELL YOU ABOUT IT.

So I apologize for my procrastinating on writing posts and lack of planning in general. I feel I have neglected Ampersand Read a bit, and I want to make it a bigger priority, especially coming into the new year, as it is still something I very much like to do, and I think it could be much bigger and better than ever with a little more attention and love from me.

So hello! To new and old readers alike: there are a lot of posts coming your way in the next few days, so get excited! Some posts to look out for in 2017 include more Coffee Table posts (where I feature lovely coffee table books as well as coffee tables to put them on), gift giving guides for upcoming holidays throughout the year, Friday post series featuring writer’s tools, “Literary Lunches” (where I create a meal based on a scene or overall theme of a book), and “From Page to Screen” (where I cast real-life people into the roles of characters I am reading about).


  • The craziest U.S. election known to man happened in the middle of National Novel Writing Month (and totally threw me off…or maybe I just used that as an excuse)
  • I nevertheless COMPLETED NANOWRIMO 2016! Making this the fourth year in a row I wrote a novel in just 30 short days! Who knows if even this one will see the light of day again (although I do like the concept more than most of my other NaNoWriMo stories in the past), but I did it!!
  • I went to EUROPE and toured dozens of beautiful Christmas markets while I was there!
  • I started preparing for my trip to LONDON in April, where a large chunk of time will be devoted to books and geeking out over Harry Potter!
  • I took a calligraphy class and thus started a new hobby! I’ll be trying to hand-letter some blog headings from here on in!

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon Mini Challenge: Literary World Tour

—EDIT: This Mini Challenge is CLOSED – winner will be announced soon!—

Reading a book is undoubtedly one of my favorite methods of travel. One page, one sentence, and I am in the world of a story. No matter my mood, a book transports me. I have encountered mythical creatures, unbelievable worlds, and characters that I never want to say goodbye to.

Unsurprisingly, next to reading, another of my passions is travel. As a travel agent, I plan trips to Italy, Hawaii, Australia, even Iceland. But the places I’d most like to travel to don’t exactly exist…

This challenge seems simple: if money and time were no object (you’ve won the biggest lottery jackpot ever, and your boss is totally fine with you taking all of the time off work you need), where would you go to experience your favorite book(s) or series? Fictional places count too, of course.

But now you have to choose: do you explore Narnia before taking in a couple classes at Hogwarts? Do you travel to New Zealand, where they filmed parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Do you trace the route the pilgrims took in The Canterbury Tales, or visit London and the Charles Dickens Museum? Tell me where you’d like to go, why you’d like to go there, and how long you’d like to stay (even though sometimes the answer is “forever!”)

I would spend at least two months at Hogwarts alone, taking detours from learning magic to the enchanting towns of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. I would spend a few weeks learning from the helldivers of Lykos on Mars in the world of Red Rising. Finally I would return to the “real” world, making a world tour of literary cafés and bookstore restaurants everywhere.

A $10.00 Barnes & Noble or gift card (winner’s choice) awaits you…if you can decide on where you’re going! Leave a link to your response to this mini challenge, and/or and email I can reach you to coordinate your prize. Where do books take you?


24 Hour Readathon: Intro Survey

Good morning (or afternoon, or evening, depending on where in the world you’re reading from) Readathon-ers and blog followers!

I have not starters at exactly hour 1, as that was 5:00 AM Oregon time, and my poor little body couldn’t take it. So here we are in hour three, reading a lot to catch up! Here is my intro survey:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Portland, Oregon!
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Besides Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, which I have been excited for for a while, probably Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein. It’s a collection of science fiction short stories, and it looks really good!
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
While I have candy coming out my ears for the Harry Potter party I am setting up later today, there’s only so much sugar a girl can eat! I have Harvest Cheddar Sunchips and bagel pizzas calling my name later 😉
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
Well I read, obviously. A lot (again: obviously). I have been blogging for over a year (ALREADY?!), am reading mostly sci-fi/fantasy these days, and I have a big soft spot for Harry Potter anything!
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
This is my first readathon! I am quite bummed that I will not get to participate as much as I’d like, but I am looking forward to just relaxing and reading most of the day and night. My to-read pile is quite crazy, and hopefully this readathon will help trim it back!

Changin’ It Up

Oh heyyyyy all! So…I’ve been a tad lazy (this seems to be a common theme in my “About Me,” tagged posts, eh?). I mean, I’m proud of the review-churning-out that I’ve done (at least one a week, and pre-vacation it was two a week!!). But I need to, you know, talk to y’all more. And maybe…get more of y’all to read this thing!

This is me when I have tons of things to do...sooo much Pinterest surfing...

This is me when I have tons of things to do…sooo much Pinterest surfing…

So I embarked on a tentative book review blog perusal on the Interwebs. And man, are there a lot of these puppies. Not that I thought I had a super original concept for a blog, but MAN, there are just SO MANY!! And I noticed many key differences between their reviews and mine…namely, that their reviews are, well…shorter. Less category-heavy. Just…a little nicer to read. Quicker and more succinct, more personality on the side of the author.

Plus, filling out basically a form for every review was already getting tedious. So, LESS FORMS, MORE FUN! In concept. I’ll still comment on book covers and quality of the physical books themselves, because I’m a cover nerd, but my focus will be the review, short and sweet. But let’s face it, I’m a parenthetical rambler (I love me some asides via parentheses), so the reviews will still be extensive. Let me know if I start taxing your eyeballs 🙂

Also on my blog-related To Do List:
– Properly use Twitter to make this blog more pithy, enjoyable, and popular (is there a brief handbook for this? Maybe in 140 characters or less?)
– Get more lovely followers by commenting on blogs, delving more into social media (Facebook maybe?!), and generating comments on these here reviews!
– Write more posts that aren’t reviews. Like this one, in which I am clearly rambling forever and ever and just expecting you to follow along.

So it’s a work in progress, all of this. Thanks for those already on the bandwagon with me, and those yet to stick out their thumb to hitch a ride! (Note to self: doodle the “Ampersand Read Bandwagon.” I think the windows would be doughnut-shaped. Mainly because ALL I WANT IN LIFE RIGHT NOW IS A CRONUT. SERIOUSLY, DO THEY NOT EXIST OUTSIDE OF NEW YORK?!)

& Post-Vacation Reading


Hello! You know, I truly did miss this place. I even went so far as to write two whole reviews on the books I read over vacation on vacation (!!). That’s dedication, my friends. I didn’t get to all the books on my reading list (and it will be months until I get through House of Leaves. That thing is DENSE), and I substituted one or two, but reviews are forthcoming….soon….ish. Definitely by next Monday.

Seeing as I’ve been back for an entire week, seven whole days, and my suitcase is still unpacked in the middle of my bedroom….it’s safe to say I’m a little behind on things.

Plus I’ve rediscovered The Sims. All extra time = WASTED. But I’ve built a lot of mansions.

So! Reviews on some vacation reading forthcoming, but there are a few books that I thought I’d share about wanting to read RIGHT NOW, just ALL AT ONCE, to see how great/terrible they are due to their hype.

California by Edan Lepucki

California by Edan Lepucki

California by Edan Lepucki has been plastered all over my Facebook newsfeed because a local bookstore had a big hand in the preorder/presale of the book, and it was mentioned on The Colbert Report as part of the whole Amazon debacle/discussion. And it sounds really awesome. It’s dystopian, it’s adventure, it’s a completely normal person thrust into an impossible situation. Los Angeles is no more, and a couple are trying to survive in a shack in the wilderness, attempting to live a life that’s even a fraction as comfortable as their old situation. I’ve read the first few pages in an ebook sample, and Frida suspects she’s pregnant in the first couple of pages. Uh-oh! Sounds very Walking Dead if you ask me (love that show…).


The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

You want your breakout novel to be a success? Get Emma Watson to play your main character in the movie of it.

You want your breakout novel to be a success? Get Emma Watson to play your main character in the movie of it.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen has an ENORMOUS amount of buzz surrounding it. You can hardly see the book for the fog of buzz around this thing. That’s mostly because (well, at least I’ve heard of it because) it’s already being made into a movie. And a little known actress named Emma Watson is playing the protagonist. No big deal. A nineteen year old girl, in hiding all her life, is pulled from her foster parents to travel to her kingdom and rule as queen. But, of course, many people want to kill her, including her uncle. Her mother, the previous queen, isn’t as virtuous as she’s built her up in her head to be. Plus, you know, a magical witch lady is in shaky alliance with the kingdom. For some reason, I kept thinking it was a YA title. The synopsis maybe? The cover? But nope, it’s in the adult sci-fi/fantasy section.


The Silent History has not one, not two, but three authors: Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby, and Kevin Moffett. This would be weird, and I would be concerned, but the concept of this novel is very World War Z: case studies and interviews of an epidemic sweeping the country. This means the different voices and styles between authors might help rather than hinder a cohesive story: every case study/interviewee gets their own voice. Instead of a scourge of the undead, a generation of children are born without speech. It gets concerning, then alarming, then cause for ostracism, violence, even deification. Very intriguing. I want to see where the authors take it.


Whew! So while I agonize over what to read next, and try desperately to stop playing The Sims, here are a few pictures from my wonderful vacation (you know, as a justification of my absence…)

Lampposts along the boardwalk in Halifaz, Nova Scotia

Lampposts along the boardwalk in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Faneuil Hall, Boston, Massachusetts

Faneuil Hall, Boston, Massachusetts

Harbor in Baddeck, Nova Scotia

Harbor in Baddeck, Nova Scotia

The gorgeous views from a vantage point in Acadia National Park (Bar Harbor, Maine)

The gorgeous views from a vantage point in Acadia National Park (Bar Harbor, Maine)

One of my favorite things about the trip was the incredible architecture everywhere! Houses, business, government buildings, etc.

One of my favorite things about the trip was the incredible architecture everywhere! Houses, business, government buildings, etc.

& Vacation Reading: See you later!

Hello all! And goodbye, because

I’ll be out of town for two weeks, visiting a special someone in the Southern United States, then heading wayyyy north for a cruise with the rest of my family.

If you are about to swoon prematurely, for your lack of scintillating book reviews from yours-truly (is scintillating the word I want? Sounds scandalous!), do not fear. Prop yourself up on that fainting couch. Because I have stuff planned and prepared! I’ve scheduled posts to go up in my absence. Per my posting settings (and because I’m not 100% sure how to turn it off), a Twitter update (a “tweet,” if you will, although why did they settle for a bird motif for that website? It’s not unpleasant, it’s just weird…) will go out with each update. Of course, for those of you lucky/amazing/awesome/splendiferous followers, you’ll get an e-mail when each one goes out!

I hope you enjoy everything while I’m gone! And I hope all of you get to relax this summer, maybe go somewhere, spend time with the ones you love 🙂

I have also loaded up my handy e-Reader with books to consume while I’m gone. I have (so far) selected the following, and I’m stoked!

annihilation theislanders theloveaffairsofnathanielp thevacationers

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
The Islanders by Christopher Priest
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle (Dazeem! Sorry! I HAD to!!) Waldman
The Vacationers by Emma Straub

First of all, look how similar those titles are. And how beachy. Three of them start with “the,” we have the “vacationers,” the “islanders,” and then….ANNIHILATION. Which also takes place on an island, so…

I will also bring along the huge tome that is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. It’s a book a friend of mine keeps shoving in my face. So I might as well start it 🙂 It seems intriguing and right up my alley: creepy and just a little odd. I mean, look at my Favorites link (^^!), most of those I’ve described as “creepy!” Which is weird, because I’m the world’s hugest Wimp. With a capital “W.”

Anyway, I’ll see you all later! Look forward to those reviews!

Books of My Life

Photo credit: all over tumblr! Via thegeekfey.tumblr

Photo credit: all over tumblr! Via thegeekfey.tumblr

Anyone a fan of Entertainment Weekly out there? Anyone? Bueller….Bueller?

(Please appreciate the 80’s movie reference)

I love the questions EW (and can I just say that I love that their initials are “ew”?) asks authors and musicians right before their next work comes out. They’re published under “Books of My Life” and “Music of My Life.” I love reading them, because knowing what an author you like, likes themselves, helps you maybe discover a new author or two, and understand where your author is coming from. And not that I’m an author (yet), let alone a bestselling one, but I really like some of the questions. So I’m going to answer a few!

My favorite childhood books:
I remember most clearly the books my parents read to my brother and I before we went to sleep. I associate Wishbone novels with my Dad, as we’d go to the bookstore together and pick out the next one and he’d read it to me over the course of a month or two. My mom read us the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass, The Amber Spyglass, and The Subtle Knife), of course, most of the mature themes and blatantly obvious religious connotations flew completely over my head. Which is probably for the best 😛

The books I enjoyed most in high school:
I didn’t enjoy most of the classic literature that was curriculum for my classes, although Shelley’s Frankenstein was one I found genuinely interesting and accessible. But I clearly remember the weekly contests my AP Literature teacher had, where if your number was pulled, you received that week’s book, which would be one acceptable to analyze on the big test at the end of the year (they were books of “literary merit” as the committee deemed). The one I received, White Oleander by Janet Fitch, became one of my favorite books of all time. It took my breath away. My teacher, sensing that I was a voracious reader, gifted me a copy of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I read it that summer and loved it as well.


My favorite movie versions of great novels:
I’m terrible about watching movies of books I’ve read and really enjoyed. I still haven’t seen The Cider House Rules or Chocolat, both movie versions of books I really enjoyed. I’ve been assured by others that both are great, but I still balk at it. The recent movie franchises, and attempt at franchises, are take it or leave it for me. I midnight premiere-d it with the best of them for Harry Potter and will continue to do so for the rest of The Hunger Games films (although I HATE the trend of splitting the final book into two films. Just…WHY?), but there have been some obvious copycats that just haven’t been as successful (I’m looking at you, City of Bones, Beautiful Creatures

The classic I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read:
Okay, confession time. I’m AWFUL at reading the classics. I cannot honestly recall the last “classic” (or “book of literary merit,” as the Advanced Placement people might call it) that I read after high school. A book has to grab me! It has to take me in with it’s language, it’s characters. It has to not have me skimming, rolling my eyes, or exasperatedly mumbling about why do people like this? So I’m severely lacking in the classic-reading category. You name it, I’ll be embarrassed to say I haven’t read it…

A book I consider grossly overrated:
Most recently? Life After Life (Kate Atkinson). I’m not one for historical fiction to begin with, but this one intrigued me, with it’s sort-of-sci-fi/time-travel twist (the protagonist lives her life over and over again, with all the memories of her past lives every time she starts anew), and I could. Not. Finish. It. And it was almost universally LOVED. People went crazy over it! While I found it tedious, repetitive, and boring. And I’m cringing to say it, but I’m slogging my way through The Goldfinch right now. I find the protagonist too much of a cardboard pushover (that is to say, flat), and I cannot tell what the plot is about! What is the end goal? It’s a fresh Pulitzer prize winner, but I’m not seeing it so far.

The last book that made me cry…and the last one that made me laugh:
I cried at the end of The Forever Watch (and wrote a review about it/that here!) most recently. Before that, Unremarried Widow by Artis Henderson, about a young woman whose new husband dies during a tour of deployment. But the latter is because I’m currently seeing someone who is about to be deployed in a couple of weeks (so really starting to read that one in the first place was a huge mistake to begin with! :P) Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse by Alida Nugent, is a collection of humorous essays having to do with the struggles of getting out of college and into this thing we call The Real World. I giggled to myself in public, and people stared.

A book I read in secret:
I stole away my mom’s Harlequin Romance series books for a while, before she found out and just said I could take them whenever I wanted 😛

What I’m reading right now:
Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia, one I borrowed from work. It’s a creepy murder mystery and ode to band and singing/theater geeks everywhere, at the same time. I LOVE it so far!

The book I’ve read over and over:
I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. It’s a favorite of mine, and I just love the way it’s written, the characters, the premise, everything 🙂 And of course, the Harry Potter series!

What’s the last book you bought?
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. I bought the physical copy because I can’t quite finagle footnotes on my eReader, and this book uses them a lot! It’s supposed to be funny/light reading – perfect for a vacation I have coming up!

The books people might be surprised to learn that I loved:
Fluffy, romantic books. Although I have a special dislike for Nicolas Sparks (he has zero respect for reader’s feelings and expectations, and I fully believe he chooses and crafts characters just to throw daggers in people’s hearts when he kills them off. True story. I really don’t like this guy), I love the tried and true storyline of guy meets girl, they overcome obstacles together, and then they go off into the sunset together. My mom and I read the new Jodi Picoult books every year, even though others I know accuse them of being too formulaic. Sometimes you need a writer you know will be solid, a book you might know the endgame, but you’ll still enjoy the time it takes to read it and get there.

The Review-Machine Speaks!


^^That right there is my favorite quote and poem of all time. It’s from Shel Silverstein, that marvelous man (even if his author photo on the back of The Giving Tree is a tad frightening…). The book this poem came from, Where the Sidewalk Ends, was one of the first that got me thinking about the power of words and books to make people think, to make people imagine.

I wanted to do a post that wasn’t a review, because I’d like you to know that I am a person, and not just a review-churning-out-machine. This is a total mish-mash of questions, mostly because I couldn’t even figure out how to search for a standard “Personality Profile” type list of questions. So I cobbled together questions from different sites, as well as a few I thought I’d add just because I had good answers to them 😛 Without further ado, hello there!


I got ’em. One. A brother. Younger.

Favorite Color:
Yellow. And Burgundy. Not necessarily together.

Robin Williams is one of my Five. You know: "The Five People You'd Most Like to Meet, Alive or Dead"

Robin Williams is one of my Five. You know: “The Five People You’d Most Like to Meet, Alive or Dead”

Favorite Movies:
Mrs. Doubtfire, Down Periscope, Moulin Rouge, Pretty Woman, Dirty Dancing, 
and all the Disney movies I can sing along to. Which is all of them.

Favorite TV Shows:
Pushing Daisies was amazing, and deserved WAY more than two seasons! I should be ashamed about the number of times I’ve seen every single episode of Gilmore Girls. But I’m not. So You Think You Can Dance makes me wish I spent my formative years in ballet class and jazz class just so I can express myself like the dancers on that show can (and just an FYI: my favorite routine is still “If It Kills Me” from Season 5 with Jason and Jeanine). The Big Bang Theory, Criminal Minds, and I love me some binge-watching-Food-Network afternoons.

Hobbies (besides reading):
Writing (long fiction and short stories), knitting, watching awesome TV shows, and BAKING. I LOVE to bake stuff. Cookies, cupcakes, cakes, anything really. I’ve tried my hand at cake pops, brittle, and am getting into bread-making. I love the way a warm cookie makes people happy, and a cupcake decorated a certain way lights up someone’s face and day. So I basically have the habits of an 80-year-old agoraphobic woman…

What Chore Do I Absolutely Hate Doing?
Well, first of all, I know some people love doing chores, but I don’t personally know anyone like that. And I am not one of them. So the chore I actually don’t mind doing is sweeping floors, because you physically see what your doing, the result of your labor aka the nasty dust and chip crumbs that magically appeared there on your kitchen floor during the one measly week between sweepings. I love Swiffering stuff. I’m not a fan of nasty dish-washing (when I don’t rinse something right away, getting peanut butter out of measuring cups, stuck on bacon grease, etc.), or cat box cleaning (‘Nuff said).

If I Could Be Any Fictional Character, Who Would I Choose?
Hermione Granger. Duh!

Just look at that cheesy gnocchi...oops, I'm drooling on my keyboard.

Just look at that cheesy gnocchi…oops, I’m drooling on my keyboard.

What is the Best Meal You’ve Ever Had?
There is a looooong story that goes along with it, but to keep it short, I ate it in Croatia, after an adrenaline-filled day in which me and a friend ran up and over a mountain in five minutes. We hadn’t had lunch, and stopped at the restaurant we’d had dinner at the night before. That four cheese gnocchi, and ćevapi (pronounced “che-vap-chi-chi,” who would have thought?!) sandwich was heaven. Beyond heaven. That and the cold water we guzzled down.

Where is the Favorite Place You’ve Ever Traveled To?
I have been unbelievably lucky and fortunate to have been able to travel several places. I have been to Australia, Hawaii, Europe (on a couple different occasions), and I studied abroad in college in the Mediterranean. My favorite place was an accident – while in Portugal during that study abroad trip, my friend and I heard from a fellow traveler that the city of Sintra was absolutely gorgeous and we had to go there. So we did. And it was incredible. I don’t think I could recreate that experience, even if I travel back there someday. (More on Sintra down there under the “Prettiest Library I’ve Ever Seen” question ;))

Two Things I’d Like to Be an “Expert” In:
Baking without a recipe! And knitting something other than a scarf…

My Million Dollar (Book-Related) Idea:
Struck me once after I read this quote:
“We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading” – B. F. Skinner

There should be a college class that gives students a book budget (gift card to the student bookstore on campus/the local bookstore, etc.) to buy the books they’ve been wanting/meaning to read. There would of course have to be discussions about themes and probably papers and tests, but it’d give people a chance to read what they want to read, even if it’s the symbolism of ab muscles in Harlequin Romances, instead of ones they have to read and that have been taught, analyzed, and picked to death.

The Prettiest Library I’ve Ever Seen (In Person):
The Library of Congress is supremely beautiful. When I took a class trip to Washington D.C. in middle school, my camera ran out of film RIGHT BEFORE we got inside. I was so upset that I couldn’t take pictures of that beautiful ceiling at the time, but I think that I remember it better now because I didn’t get a chance to capture it on film. Funny the way memory works.

BUT it’s a two-way tie between that one and the library in the Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal. Sintra is gorgeous. It’s like walking through a fairy tale, every place you go. There are five, six castles and grounds (complete with waterfalls and wells you can walk down) within walking distance. And every castle is a different mood, a different fairy tale. ANYWAY. At Quinta da Regaleira, the library is a small, dark room, the walls are bookcases from the floor to the ceiling, and at the base of each case is a mirror embedded in the floor, so the shelves look like they repeat into infinity past the floor. It’s AMAZING.

Mirrors in the floor to make the books go on forever!
Mirrors in the floor to make the books go on forever!
Books to the ceiling!!
Books to the ceiling!!











One Word Would-You-Rathers (No Explanations Allowed!):

Play or Musical? Musical
Theater or a Movie? Theater
Hike or Bike?
Plane, train, or automobile? Plane
Climbing or zip-lining? ZIP-LINE!
Night out or evening in? Evening in
Facebook or Twitter? Facebook
Go on a free trip/vacation, or win a lot of money? Free trip
Win the lottery or find your perfect job? Find my perfect job
Sailboat or cruise ship? Cruise ship!!

Coming Up: More reviews, of course! AND more about me – in an interview ripped straight from a celebrity magazine 😉

Book Gifts for Graduates

Hey all! (or all five of my followers so far – hello!)

So graduation is upon us. I know at least four people graduating from college in about a month. And if you’re hesitant to just dole out cash or gift cards (which is completely and totally acceptable and wonderful – speaking from experience, they’re coming from a broke college kid life to a broke graduate’s life. Except for those lucky few who managed to find employment before they graduated. Jerks), then might I suggest some awesome books?

Note: most of these are applicable to college graduates (the career books mostly), but high school graduates could dig them too. If you want more suggestions/more apt suggestions, drop me a message or comment below!


Words to give you pause – famous speeches of advice to graduates.

This is Water by David Foster Wallacewearsunscreenmakegoodart

This is Water by David Foster Wallace:
The speech titled the same was a commencement speech for Kenyon College in 2005. It was recorded, then posted on YouTube and became a HUGE hit (The kinetic typography used in the video is AMAZING – watch the 9 minute video here and be changed). The book version has the full text of the recording, arranged plainly on the page. But it makes the message that much more impactful. Plus it was written by a famous author – perhaps one your grad is a fan of?

Wear Sunscreen by Mary Schmich:
It’s a similar case for Schmich’s advice. Although it was posted online in 1997 as an article and became hugely popular, for a time everyone thought Kurt Vonnegut had written it instead. She was later correctly identified, and the advice is still apt and touching today.

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman:
A commencement speech for University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Gaiman’s speech is obviously tailored toward graduates looking for a career in the arts, but the advice is applicable for many reasons and desired occupations. Best quote? “Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art.”

Some other great commencement speeches are assembled together here. Some of which have been made into books!

CEO Advice

Books written by CEO’s/Presidents of famous companies – advice on management, being a contributing employee, as well as insight into these unconventional workplaces

Creativity Inc. by girlbossStart Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie

Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull:
Written by the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, this book is marketed as a Business/Management book, but it also has clues on how to be a good employee. Plus, it’s an awesome look into Pixar and Disney as companies and how they run things (apparently a rare look – they’re like the mafia, those companies…)

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso:
CEO of Nasty Gal, a cool vintage clothing and shoe website. It’s an unconventional rise to fame for Amoruso, and she has an unconventional management style. For that “cool” graduate on your list. Or maybe one who just likes vintage clothing 😉

Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie:
The guy who started a little company called TOMs Shoes. If you know a graduate already involved or looking to be involved in the charity/non-profit sector, this is a solid choice. Also good for those looking to start something completely new – entrepreneurs (boy, is that a weird word…)! Plus, when you buy a copy, a book gets donated to a child in need, following TOMs “One for One” policy.

Funny Stuff

Want to subtly give advice to your graduate? Give them a collection of hilarious essays or practical life tips peppered with nice little pencil drawings!

Adulting by Kelly Williams Browndontworryitgetsworsefckiminmytwentiesgraduatesinwonderland

Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown:
I LOVE this book! Practical advice delivered cheekily, and it’s GOOD advice. I got a copy for myself and a friend who claimed she was having a “quarter-life crisis.” She’s incorporating some of the advice into her financial life now and says it’s going well!

Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse by Alida Nugent:
Drunken adventures post-college life. That’s the summary of this book in a sentence. Written by a Tumblr blogger with a nice sense of wit, this is a collection of essays immediately following Nugent post-college-graduation, through a scary place called Craigslist, and that fickle friend called money.

F*ck! I’m In My Twenties by Emma Koenig:
I mean, a title doesn’t get any better than that! Along with the most popular posts from her blog of the same name, Koenig includes graphs and checklists in her stories – you gotta love a flowchart!

Graduates in Wonderland by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale:
As I’m writing this post, I am also reading this book (not simultaneously – haven’t mastered that particular brand of multi-tasking!) before I give it to my best friend who just happens to be graduating college next month AND is obsessed with Alice in Wonderland. Perfect match. This is a series of real-life e-mails between two friends who go very different directions after college, namely China and New York. It’s a great testament to friendship, honesty (brutal honesty, sometimes. Mostly about a guy the other friend wants to date), and the complete black hole that post college years can feel like.


DISCLAIMER: I hesitate to recommend these books, simply because it can be a slap in the face, as if you’re saying to your graduate: “Hey! You don’t have a job! YOU BETTER FIND ONE SOON! AND IT BETTER BE THE RIGHT ONE!” So proceed with caution. Know your graduate real well before you put one of these in their hands. Not everyone is a personality quiz junkie like me…


Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger:
A huge tome outlining career advice by Personality Type. Take the Myers-Briggs Personality Quiz (outlines whether you’re Extroverted or Introverted, Thinking or Feeling, Judging or Perceiving, and take in information by Sense or Intuition), then read what occupations prove most rewarding, your typical strengths and weaknesses, etc.

Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath:
Strengthsfinder is a 200+ online questionnaire that tells you five  of your core leadership strengths. I’ve taken it twice for various leadership roles in campus organizations, and it’s proven very helpful to see what areas you are successful in and what roles you’re more suited to take over. The book outlines the 34 strengths and what makes them mesh together, what areas each strength falls into, etc.

What Color is Your Parachute? 2014 by Richard N. Bolles:
Oh, the Parachute book. Re-released every year since the 1920’s, this is the quintessential career book. You take a series of quizzes, listen to Mr. Bolles talk about finding your passion, your message, and fill out what your ideal job would look like (as well as desired/required salary).