A Literary Weekend in Portland
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We’ve been talking for an embarrassingly long time about going on a day trip to Portland. Mostly, to visit the beloved Powell’s together, drink coffee, and walk the city. We finally made it happen this past weekend and it was everything we hoped it would be. We drove the two hours south and crossed over the Oregon border, finding our way to local places for good food, books, coffee, and cocktails—you know, the necessities.

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I’m a little sad to say that having gotten so caught up in the hunt for books that have long been on our collective wishlists, we didn’t take nearly as many photos of our excursion as intended. However, we fully embraced the moment while scouring Powell’s shelves, and had the best time together. We could’ve stayed there all day long, but after many, many hours, we needed sustenance.

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We had lunch before Powell’s, then found an exceptional coffee place immediately after. We talked over the books we found and current reads, exciting reminiscing about how much fun we had just moments ago. Books are one of the best ways to connect, to talk, to get you out and explore. As they say, book people are the best people, and we’re never disappointed.

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When visiting Powell’s, we highly recommend checking out the staff sections, the end caps that spotlight genres for dedicated themes, and you can’t miss the rare book room! There are so many gems in there, but it’s also a moment to slow down and find an even deeper appreciation for the books and history we love so much.

If you’re taking a trip to any major bookstore, we found that having an actual list came in most handy! We each collect specific editions of books and when we come across them out in the world, it’s so much more fun than ordering online. Plus, supporting local bookstores is kind of our jam. Believe it or not, we’re very selective about purchasing books and want to ensure that we’re proud of our bookshelves at home. Our home filled with favorite books and beautiful editions is what makes our hearts soar. Corny, but true.

Here are a few of the phone snapshots from along the way…

Cheers to the Weekend 3.01.19
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Around the web

The beauty and humanity only seen in small businesses, like this article about a California bookstore owner, is a reassuring sign of the good in the world.

Historical proof that books have always mattered and that women have always been badasses.

Books to inspire writers, or to read if you haven’t, plus ways to think a little differently about the world and spark meaningful conversation.

It’s safe to say either you have kids directly or indirectly in your life, and science says reading to kids is important. It doesn’t take much to sit down and read a book with them!

Re-reading stories we read as a kid, and what they teach us about the adults we are now.

Instagram

Kelsey makes me want to read every book she talks about. It’s a subtle yet endless love letter to all the books she reads.

All the pretty coffee and all the pretty books, and insightful captions bring it all together.

Steven teaches me about so many new and different books, often with heavier, but compelling stories.

What We’re Reading

Michaela - I’m planning to kick off March with Middlemarch, and I can’t wait!

Rikki - I got sidetracked with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and am now moving onto some non-fiction, Bread & Wine and Present Over Perfect.

Wrap Up | February 2019
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*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support

Michaela

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle | Stuart Turton- This was an A+ concept with a C- execution. My IRL book club’s pick this month, and the ONLY book I managed to finish this month because, life, and it was solidly mediocre. Sob. It’s large cast of characters was a burden instead of a boon, and a concept that had so much potential quickly got repetitive and dull. I had to slog my way through most of it, and it’s been a couple weeks since I read it now, and I’m finding that it’s highly forgettable. Never a good thing.

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Rikki

We Were the Mulvaneys | Joyce Carol Oates - I was book shopping with my mom a few years ago, she saw this book and said she loved; so I bought it and planned to read it some day. Well, that day has come, and as everyone told me, this book will tear your heart open again and again and again. It’s beautifully written, I’ll give it that— and you really felt the family, each person, and their individual trials. I hate to think how real their story is for people, but I know it’s true. The ending wrapped up nicely, and honestly, this is a story that can get away with it, in fact, it NEEDS it. I’ll be spending a bit more time unpacking this one.

A Spark of Light | Jodi Picoult - Initially I thought this to be like other stories that open with the hook then take you back to the beginning to fill in the rest of the story before and circling back around. But no, this story literally rewinds; one minute you’re reading a woman is dead, then on the next page, she’s alive and we’re learning about her life. I can’t say I cared at all for this book. The strong political tones on abortion are loud and clear, but she did well at keeping it balanced and mixing it into the actual story. All the same, it left a lot to be desired.

An American Marriage | Tayari Jones - This book had so much hype that when I saw a copy up for grabs at the library, I grabbed it up. It’s an enticing novel with great character development, but I felt like this book was nothing extraordinary. My heart breaks that the concept of the main plot happens to men of all kinds far too often. And you guys, I hated the end! The last page ends with hope, then the epilogue rips it all away through letters, that if you’re looking at it realistically, would never have actually been written.

The Idiot | Elif Batuman - Such a strange tale, I had some trouble seeing through, or understanding, the obscure nonsensical thoughts of Selin. She seemed faceless all the while and you’re hoping to get to a main point or climax, but it doesn’t. Too late I realized it’s more like reading her diary, all from a very intimate first person perspective, an inner dialogue. With that said, I did enjoy this book; literary references and talks of Harvard classes are enjoyable for me. It ended with her summer of teaching in Hungary, and that was probably the most action-packed part of the book, and you finally see Selin gain some personality.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn | Betty Smith - Another book my mom recommended years ago, and I’m so happy I finally read it! I just couldn’t put it down. I don’t always care for coming-of-age stories, but this one is worth it every step of the way. I can’t wait to reread this someday, even more, to pass it on to my daughter. You’ll surely feel your heart break and go back together again, feel alive, and love your babies a little more. What a story!

If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller | Italo Calvino - All the promise of a strange, interesting tale held up in this book. I loved it for some time, but found myself growing impatient at the redundancy that inevitably crept in. The stories within the story were an exciting shift, but if you’re anxious to see the plot move along, you’ll be halted at each interlude. I’d love to read this again with more patience, and knowing better what I’m getting into, I think I’d enjoy it even more. Still, a solidly excellent book!

What was the best book YOU read this month?

Cheers to the Weekend 2.22.19
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Around the web

An excellent list of classics to read this weekend. Many new-to-me titles I’m picking up at the library today!

This article explores the ability to artificially recreate, or even finish, art and literary works already done or started by the respective artists. This is fascinating since I’m well into the middle of this novel!

This is a fascinating interview on the new book Last Boat Out Of Shanghai, and the author’s family’s escape from China.

Out-of-print books by women to add to your treasure hunting list!

The Center for Fiction is making a come back, and includes so many concepts of the literary community I hadn’t though of before.

Instagram

This new bookstagrammer has a bright feed that is pulling us out of our winter blues.

Fellow PNW fantasy reader, we’re digging Mia’s mix of indoor and outdoor literary vibes.

Rhea has beautiful classics and thoughtful, often insightful captions we enjoy.

What We’re Reading

Michaela - Moving is all consuming, and I’m just dreaming of diving back into my current reads: The Dream Thieves, A Brightness Long Ago, and Hey, Kiddo.

Rikki - American Marriage is consuming my time at the moment, along with finishing The Idiot, I hope this weekend!

Abrams Dinner Party Meets My Current Reads
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We have been accepted into the Abrams Dinner Party line up for fall and spring 2018-2019. We are pretty excited to get to extend our skills a bit further into something a little different from our usual dinner parties. With a variety of cookbooks sent to us from Abrams books, we get to explore an endless amount of new recipes and put them into action.

*We were sent this book in exchange for an honest review, and of course, all opinions are wholly our own. You can see our policy right here

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To keep things simple and fun, we amped up our usual weeknight dinner with a cauliflower pepperoni pizza from the marvelous cookbook, Cali’flour Kitchen by Amy Lacey. There are an abundance of fun recipes to transfer any previously loved grain dish into a cauliflower one. It can sound a little weird, but it’s really fun to try. I’m not a full convert here, but there are some great new ways to use cauliflower that I’m looking forward to exploring.

In all honesty, the one thing I was looking forward to the most in this cookbook, was different ways to cook cauliflower as a vegetable. I once found this vegetarian cookbook that showed a wide range of unique and fun ways to cook with your average vegetables, and I had that in mind when opening this cookbook. This book, however, is really for those who need to cut carbs, eat leaner, are gluten intolerant, or just want to try something different.

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I made this pizza crust from a whole cauliflower, nothing frozen or pre-packaged. I once tried a frozen cauliflower crust pizza from the store, and I did not like it. I went into this pretty skeptical, but this pizza turned out pretty good. I do recommend eating it fresh, this isn’t meant to be leftovers. I added 1 tsp of salt and a dash of garlic powder to the crust before the first bake, and that added a depth of flavor that was enjoyable. Also, don’t expect this to be like real pizza. It does have the flavors since you’re using all the same toppings, but the crust is, well, made from cauliflower, not flour.

I had a great time sitting down with a hard cider, this tasty pizza, and my currents reads, The Idiot and If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller!

Thanks so much Abrams for having us as members for the dinner parties, we’re having so much fun already and look forward to the next one! Be sure to check out the first one we did!

Cheers to the Weekend 2.15.19
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Around the web

We’re in love with Obvious State’s latest blind date release. This is the theme of the year! Did you grab their new postcards too, we love the Bibliophilia set they have too!

Thanks for this reminder that it’s okay to not give into the hype and enjoy a book for a great date night!

This great list of female friendships is great anytime of year! This one is excellent too!

To help spice up your book club, consider one of these novels. I’ve actually read quite a few!

It’s fun to look back at the last few years trends of book tracking. What’s your method?

This novel is taking off, and for good reason! Grab one up with us!

Instagram

Mixing things up with a super cute lifestyle feed with Mackenzie. *Insert book* for the perfect lifestyle inspiration.

Great color and light can go a long way, plus some fun books and selfies!

Kind of in love with Meagen’s mood, books, and hair.

What We’re Reading

Michaela - I just finished The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle for book club (spoiler alert: I didn’t love it) and am deciding what to read next!

Rikki - Still reading through If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, The Idiot, and I recently started A Spark of Light. So, I’m on a pretty good streak!

Cheers to the Weekend 2.8.19
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We have so much real life happening right now that in all honesty, there just isn’t as much reading happening as we’d prefer. That’s how it tends to go sometimes, but we know that in time, we’ll get back to our beloved pages. Lately, I’ve been making time to get back into my yoga practice, more herbal teas, and general self-care overall. Below you’ll find a few things that have helped along the way. Do you have any self care resources you love? We’d love to hear about it, leave a comment below! Happy weekend, friends!

Around the web

This is beyond relatable and truly excellent! “The world is full of tips for looking after our bodies, but what about our minds?

This is such an interesting round up of books to guide you to self-care. Have you read any?

These 10 tips are what you’d expect to see, and I’m always grateful for the reminder.

Does gifting yourself with new workout gear motivate you? Sometimes, I’m not sure, but I do have my eye on this new hoodie, and okay, this bag too!

Here are some great diverse romance novels for fun, easy reading. Bookish brain candy?

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s list of audiobooks to get you through that cleaning frenzy is excellent!

I’m picking up this book asap after reading this article titled, Selfless Girls Will Win Us the War.

Instagram

Carla has a warm, fun, and creative feed to keep you inspired.

Excellent book choices who’s variety runs the gamut, and also, Suzie’s the cutest.

We love Rachel’s simple literary lifestyle vibe, with plenty of bookish insight.

What We’re Reading

Michaela - Reading? What reading? Honestly this week has been so busy as we prepare to sell our house, I haven’t even glanced at a book. Hopefully next week calms down!

Rikki - I’ve recently started The Idiot by Elif Batuman, so far, so good! I’ll also be wrapping up a quick non fic read of Days of Reading by Proust.

Interview With A Book Publicist | Ellen Whitfield
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We got to chat with our friend Ellen Whitfield (@spoilerkween) about her job as a book publicist. She shares what a book publicist looks for in an instagram account to work with, the work that goes on behind the scenes, pet peeves, what she wishes bloggers and instagrammers knew, how she got into this field, and what it’s like working with authors. She also has great taste in books, has hilarious IG stories, and is all around a wonderful human to talk to! Without further ado…

**Our newsletter subscribers get early access to these interviews! Feel free to sign up here***

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Q: What's your official job title? 

A: Simply put, I’m a book publicist.


How did you start working in this field?

 I was going back to my job at a newspaper after my maternity leave was over, and realized that working nights and weekends wasn't going to work with having a small child, so I started looking for other jobs. I've always loved to read and wanted to have a job involving books, and my husband reached out to a friend who he knew worked "with books." It happened to be perfect timing as they were looking for someone to fill an open position -- I jumped in not knowing too much about what a publicist does, but luckily it was a perfect fit for me!

What does your typical work day look like? 

I usually respond to emails that have come in while I've been away for the first couple hours of my day -- that mostly consists of answering client questions, coordinating interviews and the like, recording new information that's come in for campaigns and working with contacts to set up publicity and events. Then I focus on one campaign for a while, writing pitches and press kits, contacting outlets for reviews or Q&As, gathering info, makings calls, anything like that. When I've finished with the tasks I need to get done for that campaign, I move to another.

What do you love most/hate most about your job?

More like pet peeves or stresses instead of hates, but as you saw, this job kind of fell into my lap, and I feel so lucky because I know that not everyone can say they love what they do, but I really can. I think being a publicist and having to be nice has translated into my daily life and made me a kinder and more compassionate person (I hope). And most of the people I work with are just the coolest. I work with books all day -- what's not to like?! But the biggest part that stresses me out is a lot of times, in the very beginning of the campaign, it feels like you're waiting for all this potential coverage to start to come through, and I always get nervous it won't because I want to get the word out about my amazing authors and the books they've worked so hard on. But usually as the launch date gets closer, coverage picks up and things start to fall into place.

How do you find Instagram accounts to work with/what do you look for in an account? 

I think a lot about what books are similar to the book I'm pitching, and try to find accounts that have liked those books so I make sure I'm pitching to the right audience. I also make notes as I'm scrolling through my feed -- "Oh Michaela likes fairy tale retellings, I bet she'd like Slipper!" etc. We try to find accounts that are current and will be enthusiastic about a book they like! We of course don't expect every person to like every book we send them, but I may shy away from accounts that seem unnecessarily harsh.

What do you wish bookstagrammers knew about your job? 

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We do so much research into choosing what books to pitch to which bloggers and bookstagrammers! We try not to send pitches to people who we don't think would be a good fit for certain books, because we don't want to bug y'all. Oh, and ghosting us is also a pet peeve -- if you say you'd love to take a look at the book and then just disappear when you get it, that's a bummer (but luckily that doesn't happen a lot!).

What's the best thing about working with authors?

Honestly I'd never have the courage to write a book and put it out there for the world to see, so I'm always impressed by authors in general. Most of mine are just really great people that are a lot of fun to hang out with. They trust us to help tell the world about their "babies," and I couldn't be more honored.


What’s your favorite book?

I'll go with the book I return to again and again in all stages of life -- James Herriot's, All Creatures Great and Small. I read them as a small child and fell in love with the English countryside and the simple vet stories about kind people and funny animals. It always manages to make me happy.

DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER QUESTIONS FOR ELLEN?

Cheers to the Weekend 2.1.19
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Michaela is fully immersed into the house buying and selling process, so we’re stealing away every spare minute to get together, catch up, and talk books! We’re exploring new brunch spots around town and talking about our rather large stack of combined current reads. The rest of our weekends include prepping a house for the move, having dinner with friends, and hopefully some down time for reading! What are you up to?!

Around the web

I love this article with Rebecca Makkai on Lisa Gornick’s new novel.

So many amazing books won awards; two that I’ve read, and numerous waiting on my shelves. Here’s the interview, too!

We’re suckers for Modern Mrs. Darcy’s monthly round ups of ‘things I learned in…’

A bookstore tour of Ireland?! Yes, please!!!

I enjoyed this interesting article exploring 'Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read’. I bet you remember where you were when you read it, though!

Instagram

I love seeing readers who explore reading in multiple languages and what books are from those regions specifically. Cărțile spans an interesting variety of novels, many of which I love!

So many good literary lifestyle vibes and a flawlessly cohesive feed.

The ultimate adventurous bookish life! Mariah has us wanting to hop on a plane to anywhere, books in bag.

What We’re Reading

Michaela - I’m reading A Brightness Long Ago (thank you Berkley Pub for the complimentary early copy), and I’m so glad to have a new Guy Gavriel Kay novel in my hands!

Rikki - I’m so happy to be onto a new month of reading! I’ve excitedly began Calvino’s, If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, along with We Were the Mulvaney’s.

Wrap Up | January 2019
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*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support

Michaela

The Hating Game | Sally Thorne- I wanted to like this more than I did. I read it for a quick brain break, and while I enjoyed the tone, the whole book just almost worked over and over again. The entire thing felt...loose. Plot points and themes felt incomplete (yes, I realize this is fluff, BUT STILL) as if the author knew what she was after, but couldn’t quite get it across. An example would be how the novel tries to deal with objectification, if you’ve read it. The story was cute enough, though painfully (so painfully) predictable.

The Descendants | Kaui Hart Hemmings- This gets five stars from me, but I fully acknowledge that I am not objective about this book. The movie holds a special place in my heart for a lot of personal reasons, and though it took me a long time to read the book, I’m really glad I did. I love the tone, the realness, the flawed characters, and especially the writing. This just hit the spot for me personally. I’m also glad that the movie really stayed quite true to the book!

I Am Jennie | Jennie Ketcham- This was our IRL book club’s pick for the month. I thought the story was raw and interesting, but needed a stronger editorial hand. The middle 200 pages just felt like a whirl of characters and disjointed events coming at you at lightning speed, with almost no service to the narrative. That whole section also felt kind of detached, and lost the structure and emotional investment that I had enjoyed in the beginning. The writing here isn’t terrible, though it is amateurish, but then again it was written to share her story, not to be indicted into the literary cannon. Overall, an interesting peek into an experience very different from my own, but I would really love to see her write this now (it was published in 2012) with a little more distance from the events, because I think it would be easier to distill the important parts of this memoir for a higher impact.

The Raven Boys | Maggie Steifvater- I listened to this one on audio, and it was a total win for me. I have a soft spot for YA fantasy and this one did not disappoint. I’m completely in love with the characters, the story was well paced, atmospheric, and had enough mystery to keep the tension high enough to keep me listening for as long as I possibly could. I LOVED the narrator, too. I even tried to read it in print and switched back to audio because I enjoyed him so much. I’ll definitely continue this series, it’s shaping up to be a solid one.

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Rikki

Stoner | John Williams - I’ve needed to take some time reflecting on this novel before I could formulate a worthy review. This novel is hailed as one of the greatest in American Literature. Well, yes, it’s technically perfect. But the story, which is what is said to be so profound, falls a little wayside for me. Having just finished my Master’s in English Studies, you can imagine that I did love the atmosphere of university life and reading about his love of literature. I can relate, my friend. But, the characters that cause so much strife for Stoner felt forced and unfinished. His neurotic, crazy wife, who ruins his relationship with his daughter…the handicap professor who wants to ruin his career — what and why?! I also have little to no patience for passive characters with no backbone, and while there were redeeming moments, I hated that about Stoner’s character. I was rooting for him though and I’m glad I’ve read this novel. I also picked up his other, Butcher’s Crossing, and look forward to that later in the year.

Between Shades of Gray | Ruta Sepetys - What an incredibly unexplored piece of history. The author’s note at the end, was my favorite piece, where she tells how this story was kept undisclosed until the early ‘90s when the Soviet Union collapsed. And slowly, the stories began to unfold and find light. While a truly heartbreaking account of what it was like for Lithuanians during Stalin’s reign of terror and the overlap of WW2, I appreciated the history lesson, the fictional account of a Lithuanian family, and the redemption and fight to live that takes you through the story. I’m looking forward to her other novel Salt to the Sea.

The Great Alone | Kristin Hannah - This was my first Hannah novel, and it delivered. An emotionally compelling page-turner, that makes your heart ache as the story unfolds through the backwoods of Alaska. There is so much devastation that relentlessly piled up, it was hard to catch my breath, but made me believe in the strength, resilience, and love of the human spirit. The story did lay out in a way one might expect, with some cliche to guide you through, but if you’re looking for an easy prose and something to bring out emotion and keep you up reading, this is a worthwhile book.

Salt to the Sea | Ruta Sepetys - Apparently, this is my month of angst and heartbreak. I didn’t find this story to be as difficult throughout as Between Shades of Gray (from an overall scope of the storyline), but the end ripped my heart out. Another page-turning novel of historical fiction, accounting for the most horrific and heartbreaking maritime disaster in history. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this book. Sepetys does an impeccable job at crafting a voice and story for characters who truly had none, who were lost to the sea and the war.

Lolita | Vladimir Nabokov - For months this book has been following me, everyone I spoke to that has read it, loved it. The urge became unbearable, and I finally broke down and opened the book. There’s no denying the difficulty in reading a novel about a man who is obsessed with a child. But Nabakov is an undeniably gifted man, whose most famous novel contains a prose unlike anything I’ve ever read before. “It’s the writing,” is what I kept being told, and now I know… it’s the writing. There were really only a few truly cringeworthy parts that had me questioning if I wanted to continue reading this, and I’m glad I powered through, because there is so much more involved than a little discomfort from the story. I’m really looking forward to trying his others books too; I hear Mary is excellent.

Seabiscuit | Laura Hillenbrand - Well, it’s not Unbroken, that’s for sure. Unbroken is one of my top five favorites of all time, and I’ve been anxious to read this book, especially with it being her only other in existence. Hillenbrand is a meticulous researcher and writer, there’s no denying that even a little. I also thought this was a worthy and excellent novel, one that I’m so glad is told. Yet, I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped, but am glad I did finally read it.

What was the best book YOU read this month??