Dear Edward and The Downstairs Girl

915UZJcSq5LDear Edward is being released in early January and it’s definitely one of my favorite books that I read this year. I’m sure it would break the top ten list if I felt like sitting down and really ranking them all. Wait. Should I do that???

Anyway,  Dear Edward tells a really incredible story with not only a captivating premise (plane crash, one survivor) but also a lot of beauty and heart and serious honesty about the way that humans connect to one another–even if they’re strangers on a plane.

There’s a mystery that only Edward can solve–but he’s got to rebuild himself in order to solve it. Or does he need to solve the mystery in order to rebuild himself? Either way, there’s a lot of work to be done.

Though I wouldn’t necessarily shelve this in YA, it is going to be a great read for an older YA audience or anyone who loves a really good coming of age story–particularly for anyone who was a fan of Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker or Paper Towns by John Green.

I thought about gifting this book to my 14 year old niece for Christmas but then I was reminded about a few things, content-wise, that I might wait on. I’m not saying that she’s not mature enough to read a book with one not-overtly-graphic sex scene. I’m just saying, I’m not the one who’s going to give it as a Christmas gift. Maybe one day she’ll come over and browse my bookshelf and THEN I’ll happily pass it along. Ya know what I mean?


Instead, I’m going to gift The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee to her. This book really has it all. I loved it so much. It’s a historical novel with themes around race and gender relations in the genteel south but it’s all wrapped up in a truly engrossing story!  I learned so much reading this book. Like, did you know that Asians weren’t allowed to own property in the south in the late 19th century? Nor was it legal to rent to Asians? So, like, where TF are they supposed to live?!

Anyway, by day, Jo Kuan is a lady’s maid for a very rich and quite cruel family in Atlanta. By night, she’s a secret advice columnist! In a world where non-white people didn’t have any voice at all, Jo Kuan spoke up! And she changed! Her! World!

I will end this piece with a quote from a review from “Kate (GirlReading)” on Goodreads: “Apparently historical fiction novels following badass teen journalist using their voices to stick it to societal norms and shine a light on injustice is absolutely my kryptonite.” Same, Kate. Very same.



Everything’s Changed

So, I haven’t posted here in a long, long time. Like, over a year? Because my life has changed in a big way.
In September of 2018, my spouse and I bought a used bookstore in our town and I’m getting the hang of being a business owner. Honestly, I had to get reacquainted with going to a physical job every day and that was one of the hardest parts. I went from working 8 hours a week outside of the house to working 50+ hours outside the house. Whew. It’s been an adjustment, to say the very least.

Unsurprisingly, my reading life has completely changed as well. Before, I just read anything that sounded good to me. And I only read physical books. I was a, “I just can’t imagine not hoooolding a phyyyysical booook” snob. And I’d buy any ole book that appealed to me when I went to bookstores, reading it whenever I got around to it (almost never getting around to it because I’d always find another book I wanted). I loved being surrounded by stacks and stacks of books at home.

Now? Well, as far as books go–I no longer need to be surrounded by them at home. I’ve got 12,000+ books at work, where I spend most of my time. So, I really don’t buy a book for myself anymore unless it’s something that I will read right away or if it’s for a book club.

Now, I want to be up on books to recommend to my customers! I need to know my product. And let me tell you–this is so hard for me. Mostly because since we’re a used bookstore, we don’t have a back stock of every book I’ve ever loved. If I loved a book and then hand sell it–guess what? It’s gone. I can’t sell it again. So the next person who comes in and asks for a recommendation… uh, well? I just sold the last book in this store that I’ve read before. Haha! It’s a weird predicament!

So, now, I’ve always got three books going at once. I honestly thought people who could read more than one book at a time were super human–how do they keep it all straight?! But now it’s my usual! And I’ve got a system:

Audiobooks: Our store got hooked up with this year which means that you can listen to audiobooks AND still support our store, which is so cool (full disclosure, that link and the rest of the links re: audiobooks in this post will take you to our store’s page and any purchases made through it help support our shop). I’ve always got an audiobook going for when I’m doing chores around the house or driving. Here are a few titles that I’ve read and loved:
Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness (Narrated by JVN which, thank goodness, because I just can’t imagine anyone else reading his words.)
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (Narrated by Tom Hanks which was… ugh. Delightful.) You know how people say, “I could listen to them read the phone book.”? Yeah. It’s like that. Which is good because while The Dutch House is magnificent, it was a little bit slow-going for me at first but Tom pulled me though.
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller) Once you really start listening to Audiobooks, you might get picky about your narrators. I definitely have my favorites and the way Emily Woo Zeller embodied these characters felt so effortless. This story was incredible! I loved it. It’s one of the few books I’ve read where I felt like The Suffragists were handled appropriately–not forgetting how brutally racist they were while they were fighting for their own rights.
That’s just a few of the audiobooks I’ve loved lately. There are so many others. I like to have an audiobook going so that I’ve always got one to recommend to a customer.

E-books: The books I read on my phone are mostly only for my own enjoyment. I pretty much only read them when I can’t sleep. The e-books that I read are all advanced reader copies that I get from Net Galley. I read them and write reviews about them, mostly on Goodreads, but I’m ready to get back into regular blogging and will be posting my reviews on my blog once these books start to be released. I’ve read some really, really good books that I want to get you excited about.

Physical Books: For some reason, reading physical books is the hardest for me in this phase of my life. I feel like my mind is always somewhere else and I am always moving and thinking ten steps ahead. There’s so much work to be done at the store and at home and it feels frivolous to be sitting down reading a book when there is so much to do. But also, being able to recommend books to people is a primary part of my job. And, as I mentioned before, I can’t recommend a book if I haven’t read it. So my rule on reading physical books is that I won’t read anything if it isn’t available in the store for me to sell. I’m also working to read outside of my usual genres. That means reading more mysteries and thrillers than I’m used to and dipping my toes into our science fiction and horror sections as well. I naturally gravitate towards literary fiction and memoir, so I’m trying to stretch my horizons. Also, I have to set aside time to read. I try to get all of my work done before the last hour of the day so that I can spend that time reading physical books in the store. Customers ask me all the time, “So do you just get to sit around and read all day???” I get where that question is coming from but it’s just not reality for a bookstore owner.  To be quite honest, I still struggle to set aside time to read but I’m working on it.
Physical books or authors I’ve read recently and loved:
Kindred by Octavia Butler (if there was one book I think everyone in my orbit should read it would be this)
Exit West by Moshin Hamid
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

Anyway, it feels good to be writing to you, again. I make no promises on how often I’ll be doing it or what I’ll be writing about–just whenever and whatever feels good, which is basically how I’m living my life these days.

Oh, and right now I’m reading:
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (audiobook)
We Wish You Luck by Caroline Zancan (ebook: Will be released in January)
And I just finished by physical book so I’m searching our shelves for a new one currently.

Anyway, thanks for being here.

Sweet Things on Sunday

*This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you purchase anything through them.

It’s been well documented that nothing makes me cringe more than the phrase “self care routine”. More often than not, people are asking “what products do you use?” Don’t get me wrong, self care is my jam! It’s something I love learning about and a space where I love to grow. That being said, though, washing my face isn’t the beginning and end of self care.
Having and adhering to routine is a huge part my self care, though. That’s what makes me feel well cared for. And since I love hearing about other people’s evening routines, I thought I’d tell you about mine.

First I push my hair back with these headbands because while bangs are s’cute! They’re also a pain in the neck. I like these headbands because of the way they’re folded over in the back it keeps them flat–I don’t know how to explain it. They just work for my lumpy head.

Then I remove my makeup with either a wipe like these (I’m not brand loyal here) or a cotton pad soaked in witch hazel.

When it comes to washing my face, these Olay Daily Facials have swooped in and made me so happy. I like the “daily hydrating clean” version. I’m not sponsored by Olay but I would totally jump on that partnership. I only have a limited number of washcloths in my house and I don’t have a washing machine–so these Daily Facials have changed the game for me! I love it. They’re dry paper towels, more or less, that you get wet under water and then rub all over your face! Only way more luxe than that. They smell great and leave my skin plump and clean and I love them. I understand that this isn’t the most waste-free option but it’s working for me right now. And they’re perfect for travel since you don’t have to dispense face wash into a small little bottle in order to get on the plane.

A few times a week I like to exfoliate. Right now I’m using this one by Mario Badescu and it’s pretty good but this one, “Brighten Up” by Vasanti is my ultimate favorite, best of the best, and it lasts forever. (Use my link to sign up for Birchbox if you wanna.)

This is my favorite toner! Look, I don’t know how to tell if a toner is working but I don’t think it’s not working and when I run out, I’ll definitely buy more of this. I like the way it feels and smells. I like the price point and I really love that it’s in a spray-bottle.
I also have been really loving this rosewater spray by Mario Badescu for when it’s super hot outside. It’s a nice mid-day pick me up but this is about my night time routine.

Right now, after I tone, I’m using two products from The Ordinary: Niacinamide which is a blemish formula and Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil to moisturize. I like them okay, I guess? The Rose Hip Seed Oil kind of smells like sunflower seeds. When they’re out, I’ll definitely try something else (I ordered a serum sampler from Birchbox that is full of a lot of different ones I’ve been dying to try).
Honestly, I feel kind of weird about giving my money to The Ordinary. After following them on Social Media for the past few months, it feels like I’m helping to fund someone’s very public mental breakdown TBH. But also, the prices are so good so I don’t blame anyone for buying from them.

Finally, when I brush my teeth, I also brush my lips to exfoliate and then apply Dr. Lipp Miracle Balm which is, apparently also for chapped nipples for nursing mothers? Or… I don’t know… runners? Anyway, it’s SO GOOD and a little bit goes a long way. I just have a tiny sample size that is .10 oz and I’ve been using it nightly for a whole month. I can only imagine that a full size tube would last for years if you only used it on your lips. But in the winter time I’ll definitely be using it on chapped fingers and knuckles.
Anyway, I apply this to my lips at night and I can’t get over how sexy my pout looks in the morning. For real.

A reader, Gabrielle, sent me this gratitude journal and I’ve actually incorporated it into my night time routine. I love ending my day on a grateful note–searching for the positive in the day. And I like how there’s a different question every day instead of a generic, “what are you thankful for?” I think I might put some of these on my Christmas list.

What about you? Any products you love? Do you have an ole reliable nighttime routine that gets you into a sleepy place? Tell us all about it.



Feature Photo by Anna Sastre on Unsplash

Sweet Things on Sunday

Sometimes when I’m having a really rough day, I’ll text Ryan about it. And nine times out of ten, he responds with this image of a hedgehog.

Usually that really helps. Somehow, a happy lil hedgehog helps me to at least get a bit of the grip I need to pull myself out of a funk. But sometimes that doesn’t happen. And that’s when we pull in the big guns. That’s right: unusual animal best friendships. Here are five of my favorite for you to bookmark for when you’re having a crummy day.

Continue reading “Sweet Things on Sunday”

Listing our Healthy Coping Tools

*Content warning: discussion of anxiety, panic, and how Seasonal Affective Disorder can present itself in my life.
**This post may contain affiliate links.

So, lately, I’ve become more and more aware of the end of summer. Today in the town where I live, school is back in session. That means that the grocery store will get really busy at around 3:30 again and soon I’ll have to slow down through some of the best routes around town. Maybe it means that I’ll be able to get coffee with some of my mom friends more often?

It also means the end of summer.

And, look, summer isn’t my favorite season by any means. I’m not the kind of kid who deals well with heat at all—though I’m dealing with it better in the past few years. But soon the sun will start going down at around 4:00 pm and I’m not ready for it.

I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and winters can be so hard on me that even in August, I’m starting to stress out about knowing that the darkness is coming and there’s really not much we can do to stop it.

Last week Ryan came in the house and I was stuck on the couch. I wanted to get up and go outside but my limbs wouldn’t work for me. I was lying there holding a pillow in front of my face to hide that I was crying.

The panic kind of sweeps in out of nowhere like that. One minute it’s a sunny August day and your dog wants you to take her outside and the next minute, you’re pinned to the sofa and all I could verbalize to Ryan was, “It’s. Getting. Bad. It’s. Getting. Bad.” He sits by me and rubs my back until I yank away from him because he’s making me hot but I don’t have the words to explain—so then there’s another thing that gets added on. Sure, we’re already drowning in panic out of the blue let’s take on a bunch of guilt too, why not.

Ryan’s amazing when I’m in a space like that. He gets this really calm voice and tells me true things. He exaggerates his breathing to encourage me to match him. This particular time, it didn’t get so bad. I wasn’t completely swallowed and I felt really good about it. I’ve worked for years on dealing with panic attacks and sometimes it feels like you’re not getting anywhere. But those times when it doesn’t ruin your entire day is such a massive victory and it deserves to be celebrated. Any time you live through a panic attack, though, to be honest, it deserves to be celebrated.

After I calmed down, I explained to him about my worry. That I’ll get depressed when the sun starts to go down and I’m scared of it. I’m scared that this year it’ll get really, really bad because I don’t know if I have enough energy to fight it off this year.

We decided to not waste a summer night. So we went for a drive to Coronado Heights. I took a lot of photographs.

He’s so beautiful.

He had a birthday on Sunday, you know? He’s worth celebrating.


I was reminded, today, of the importance of not only having a list of healthy coping tools handy but also keeping a schedule. I have the best friends who remind me of what I need and remind me to remember what has helped in the past.

What has helped me in the past (items in bold are usually reliable quick fixes, the others are more long-term solutions):
Riding my stationary bike often.
Painting regularly.
Cooking and eating meals that do good things to my body.
Watching game shows on television.
Taking a shower.
Wearing clothes that feel good on my body.
Cooking meals that we only get to eat when it’s cold outside.
Visiting with friends and checking in.

New things that I want to try:
Getting a “happy lamp”.
Taking a Vitamin D3 supplement.
Keeping the house cleaner than usual.
Learn about Hygge and lean more on that vibe.

Another thing that I want to remember is that it’s okay to not be okay and trying to fit a square peg into a round hole only makes things worse.

Please, I would love it if you’d share your list of coping mechanisms or other things you use to get through the hardest seasons for you. I’m going to keep a list in my planner, next to my bed, and in my phone. I never want to be without it. Let’s help hold one another up as the days get shorter.