A Podcast: No Thanks We’re Booked

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Hello, World.

Today I wanted to share a podcast I’m currently listening to with all of you. I recently shared Bad on Paper (name changed from Young Adulting after a trademark infringement claim), which I’m still loving. I love a good book-ish podcast, and I recently discovered No Thanks We’re Booked, a podcast from YouTubers Mollie (@molliereads) and Katie (@lifebetweenwords). This podcast is ultra book-focused, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! I really enjoy both Mollie and Katie’s YouTube channels and their podcast is even better. They’re great friends, who met through YouTube, and they discuss everything book-ish for an hour. Whether it’s reading ruts, internet friends, favorite books, mid-year favorites, mood reading, etc. they got it covered. They are funny, insightful, and caring and it feels like you’re suddenly part of a book club with really great people. If you’re looking for a new podcast and are a book lover like me, this one is for you!

Truly,
Callie Leigh

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The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah

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Hello, World.

I am so excited for my review of this book. I actually finished this book in Starbucks and had to try very hard to not tear up. As you know, I’ve been trying to read as much as possible this summer, and I’m really proud of myself for actually accomplishing that goal. It’s been so refreshing to reach for a novel rather than a TV show (though I still watch The Bold Type each week because it’s amazing). Anyway, I’ve read seven books (!!) this summer so far. Of the seven, I think The Lost Vintage may be my favorite. This book was a perfect blend of historical fiction, contemporary fiction, coziness, intrigue, and romance. Honestly, it’s the total package. Also, wine snob that I am, I was so happy with the wine component of this book. I now kind of want to read up on the Master of Wine test… *begins thinking about taking the exam someday*

I’m one of those people who likes to research a book before I buy. I usually read reviews, look at what press attention the book receives, stalk the Instagram hashtag to see first impressions, etc. This book, however, I saw on Instagram and decided to just go for because the person who posted it had similar feelings about The Female Persuasion as me and I decided that was enough for me to plunge into The Lost Vintage. Also, there is the fact that upon my third re-watching of Under the Tuscan Sun and my fourth re-watching of Eat, Pray, Love, I was desperate for a book that would transport me to a wine-filled, cozy corner of the world and Burgundy, France seemed like just the place. I’m mildly concerned this review is going to be too long, so bear with me, and pour yourself a glance of wine if you want!

This book follows Kate, a young woman who lives in San Francisco, but her family has owned a vineyard in France for generations. Swearing to never return to France after a disastrous break-up, Kate is now living her life in San Francisco where she is studying for the Master of Wine exam, an intense exam where you have to identify all aspects of wine by blind taste and answer a series of essay questions on wine theory. The test is a “three strikes you’re out” kind of test, and she’s already failed twice. So, in an attempt to pass, her mentor recommends she go spend time on her family’s vineyard to learn more about French wine, the only wine she consistently messes up on the exam. So, she heads to Burgundy, France to assist her family in the year’s harvest. Running alongside her narrative is the narrative of her relative during the German ccupation of France in WWII. Only the reader is privy to this story, though it is interwoven in Kate’s narrative as well.

Two narratives, two heroines, can be hard to accomplish as a writer. When I read books that are written in this manner, I often greatly prefer one story over the other. This one, however, kept me wanting more from each story. The reason I think this book works so well is that we watch Kate and her family attempt to piece together her relative’s life and fate through the history left behind, despite holes and uncertainties. But as the reader, we know the truth, so when Kate missteps or misunderstands we feel anguish and sadness for her relative’s legacy is remembered incorrectly. The other reason I enjoyed the WWII aspect is that I was largely unfamiliar with the Occupation, the separations that occurred within families as some members resisted German control and others believed succumbing to the Germans was the only means of survival. I also have never studied what the French did to Nazi sympathizers or collaborators. While I think the actions of the people who supported Nazis were despicable, it was hard to swallow what happened after the war, especially knowing women were often bearing the brunt of French anger while the men who collaborated went largely unpunished. In this regard, this novel gave me so much to think about and absorb and made me want to learn more about the Occupation, post-liberation France, and the familial divides that occurred.

I adored both heroines of this story. Kate was spunky, stubborn, but also funny, warm, self-aware. Helene was strong, unwavering, and so very intelligent. I loved that this book explores what happens when we learn things about our ancestors we don’t like, how we can take accountability, how we can be better than those who came before us. While I did think one part of the resolution-portion of the novel was wrapped up a little too quickly and perhaps not tenderly enough, I still adored this novel. I found myself thinking about it all day, trying to figure out how much reading I could squeeze into the day. To be honest, this was the first book where I really liked all the characters (well, all the characters I was supposed to like). I read this book so quickly because I couldn’t put it down, I wanted to figure out the mystery, I wanted Kate to know the truth about her relative, and I wanted to know if she’d pass the exam. I was thoroughly engrossed in every aspect of this story and did not want it to end.

I will say, without giving any spoilers hopefully, that I felt like Kate’s inability to master French wine, specifically white burgundy, was intertwined heavily with an emotional block. She had repressed so many emotions she had for the people who produced the wine that in doing so she became unable to learn the wine. This mirrored, in my mind, some actions by people in the WWII narrative and how, upon refusing to acknowledge certain people or realities, they became unable to fight. I’m not sure how to articulate this idea without spoilers, so I will just say read the book!

I’m surprised this book hasn’t received more critical attention. The only press attention I could find was pretty meager in comparison to books I read earlier this summer. Perhaps because Ann Mah is a newer author The New York Times, The New Yorker and other publications haven’t reviewed her yet. But they certainly should as this novel is so important and places Mah among some of the strongest voices in contemporary fiction. This novel was touted as Sweetbitter meets The Nightingale and though I haven’t read The Nightingale, I would say that the description is accurate. The Nightingale focuses on WWII France (beautifully from what I hear), and the amount of wine and wine culture in this book clearly aligns with Sweetbitter, though our protagonist is more akin to Stephanie Danler (author of Sweetbitter) than her protagonist, Tess, because Kate is very well-versed in wine unlike Tess, who is only beginning an appreciation for good wine. So, if you pick up one book from all the books I’ve read this summer, make it this one. I have a serious book hangover and will probably need a day or two before I start Euphoria, the next book on my July TBR.

Important takeaways as a reader: I should reach for more historical fiction. When done well, historical fiction can be a mesmerizing, humbling, deeply emotional experience.

I am so excited for Ann Mah’s future books and I sincerely hope this book begins capturing the attention of more readers. Again, if you need a new read, make it this one! I never say this, but I may re-read this book in the future. I went through it so quickly, I hope to revisit the story again. For now, next up is Euphoria by Lily King… I won’t lie, this one is a bit outside my comfort zone and I debated swapping it out for Emily Giffin’s new novel, but alas… I will read it! It’s going to be my last book while in DC and then I have some Book of the Month books waiting for me in California.

Truly,
Callie Leigh

My Top Picks: Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Hello, World!

So, I know social media is going crazy about the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. Usually, I do a good amount of shopping during the sale, but this year I’m going purchase-free! I don’t need anything and I didn’t find anything I had to have. What is the sale, you may ask? With this sale, the items are all pre-season and hit the sale before they are marked up to join other fall merchandise. Therefore, you can snag upcoming trends at a reduced price! This sale works great if you’re looking for great fall essentials or pieces that will last a long time. I will say some people go WAY overboard and buy things that they may not ordinarily buy purely because of the allure of the price. So, here are my top tips:

  1. Buy Items You’ve Been Looking For for a While | Have you hunted for a great blazer and haven’t found one? Are you in need of a great vest, but haven’t found the perfect one? Now is the time to pull the trigger if you fall in love with one the items in the sale.
  2. Buy an Investment Piece | If you’re looking for a great new boot, coat, or handbag, now is the time. Invest in that one big-ticket item before the price goes up.
  3. Consider If You’d Pay Full Price | If you’d pay full price for an item, it’s a good item to get. If you’re only considering it because of the price point or considering it more than you would if it was full price, it should go back to the rack. We are more likely to impulse buy when we think we’re getting a deal, even if it’s actually better to just put it back and not buy it at all!
  4. Limit the “there’s a sale!!!!” purchases | Mindless browsing of the sale can result in thinking you need something that you don’t. Therefore, go into the sale with a list of types of items you will consider and only browse those items. This tip builds on the previous three.

Now, I will tell you what I use the sale to buy: coats, shoes (usually boots, but also flats, heels, etc. if there’s a good deal), vests, and tops. This may seem like everything, but usually, I get one nice coat, a pair of boots, and a pair of sneakers. I get 3-4 tops if there’s some I really like. I also will use this sale to buy some nice work clothes, typically pants, dresses, and work sweaters. Disclaimer: I buy any of the previously listed items but not all of them. My purchases change depending on what I need in my wardrobe. Below are my favorite picks with the prices of during the sale (DS) and after the sale (AS).

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Pendleton Port Townsend Raincoat (DS: $216.90; AS: $325.00); Barbour Saddleworth Quilted Vest (DS: $98.90; AS: $149.00);  1901 Original Blazer (DS: $109.90; AS: $159.00); Pendleton Timberline Field Coat (DS: $249.90; AS: $375.00); BLANKNYC No Limit Suede Moto Jacket (DS: $125.90; AS: $188.00); kensie Ruffle Twill Coat (DS: $129.90; AS: $198.00) Lauren Ralph Lauren Quilted Faux Leather Trim Jacket (DS: $104.90; AS: $160.00); Lafayette 148 New York Lyndon Tweed Blazer (DS: $398.90; AS: $598.00) The North Face Aconcagua Down Vest (DS: $68.90; AS: $99.00)

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Varsity Stripe Ribbed Sweater (DS: $29.90; AS: $45.00); Nordstrom Signature Cashmere Sweater (DS: $219.90; AS: $329.00); Leith Stitched Shaped V-Neck Sweater (DS: $43.90; AS: $65.00); Madewell Province Cross Back Sweater (DS: $45.90; AS: $69.50); Treasure & Bond Sporty Striped Sweater (DS: $45.90; AS: $69.00); Joie Leopard Print Sweater (DS: $218.90; AS: $328.00); Calson Dolman Sleeve Sweater (DS: $39.90; AS: $59.00); BP Twist Fron Sweater (sold out already! BUT keep checking because sometimes it comes back in stock after returns) Helmut Lang Cashmere Wrap Sweater (DS: $263.90; AS: $395.00)

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Spanx Camo Faux Leather Legging (DS: $72.90; AS: $110.00); Adidas Active Icon leggings (DS: $29.90; AS: $40.00); Zella Live In high waist leggings (DS: $35.90; AS: $54.00); adidas Active Icons Cropped Pullover (DS: $47.90; AS: $65.00); Nike Indy Sports Bra (DS: $25.90; AS: $35.00); BP. Front Zip Hoodie (DS: $31.90; AS: 49.00); Nike Logo Sports Bra (DS: $25.90; AS: $35.00); Nike Sportswear Rally Sweatshirt (DS: $51.90; AS: $70.00); adidas Orginals Tank (DS: $23.90; AS: $32.00)

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Rails Short PJs (DS: $98.90; AS: $148.00) | J.Crew Tipped Short PJs (DS: $56.90; AS: $85.00)

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Tory Burch Flat (DS: $164.90 ; AS: $248.00); Steve Madden Slide (DS: $49.90 ; AS: $79.95); NIKE Free TR8 (DS: $74.90; AS: $100.00); Tory Burch Marsden Over the Knee Boot (DS: $349.90; AS: $578.00); Cole Haan Harrington Grand Bootie (DS: $144.90; AS: $220.00); Tory Burch Pump (DS: $169.90; $258.00) 1.SLATE Sisteen Half d’Orsay Pump (DS: $59.90; AS: $89.95); Converse Shoreline Sneak (appears to be sold out now, but here is a similar option)

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Monogram Passport Holder & Luggage Tag (DS: $47.90; AS: $73.00); Rebecca Minkoff Satchel (DS: $196.90; AS: $295.00); Tory Burch Marsden Pebbled Tote (larger size) (DS: $352.90; AS: $528.00); Madewell Bucket Bag (DS: $129.90; AS: $198.00); Monogram Oversized Tote (great carry-on or overnight bag) (DS: $42.90; AS: $65.00); Chevron 20-inch spinner carry-on (DS: $103.90; AS: $139.00)

So, there you have my top picks! Keep in mind that a lot of the items are pricier because it’s best to buy investment pieces during the sale. Furter, I usually only buy one or two big-ticket items and they last me years! I buy basics more than anything (the Lush tops I bought two years ago are tops I still regularly wear). This round up is not meant to imply you should buy a bunch of super expensive stuff!

Truly,

Callie leigh

She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop

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Hello, World.

I am so excited about this review because this book was a bit lighter than some of the previous reading I’ve done this summer. She Regrets Nothing is Andrea Dunlop’s second novel, and now I’m hoping to pick up a copy of her first soon. Her writing is captivating and fun and kept me turning pages so quickly. Usually I’m a slow reader, I like to absorb a story slowly, really enjoy the words, but this book kept me guessing I wanted so badly to know where the story was headed, that I blew through 20 or 40 pages during my morning reading session and 60 or 80 pages during my after work reading session.

I was seeing this book all over the Bookstagram corner of Instagram in February and March, but I was still on a book-buying freeze. Then, however, Alyssa of @sweptawaybybooks announced that she was giving away a signed copy of the novel. I entered, thinking I probably wouldn’t win and moved on. Then I got a DM that I’d won! Two days before I left for my DC summer, the book arrived at my home, signed with a little note from Dunlop. I had already purchased some other summer books, so decided to get through them first (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) before starting this one. Once I picked this novel up, I couldn’t put it down.

If you’re wondering what it’s about, the synopsis is as follows:

When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.

Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth.

In my words, it’s about a Laila Lawrence, a twenty-three year old who will do just about anything for security, belonging, and comfort. She strikes me as a more mature Jenny Humphrey (in season one of Gossip Girl, not the seasons when she lost it). Once the full cast of characters was introduced, I had so much fun with the story. I kept waiting to see who could be trusted, who was merely there to serve plot, and who was there to stand in for a stereotype. Though I really didn’t like Laila, she’s pretty cold-hearted, I found myself wanting her to redeem herself with her family and have some semblance of home. My favorite character, the one I found to be the most genuine, was Liberty, Laila’s older, literary agent cousin. Some characters made me roll my eyes and others made me want to yell “get over yourself!” but overall, the group was a fun one to follow.

Ultimately this is a story of ambition, sex, and upper-class wealth in New York City. While a lot of people are, for good reason, comparing this book to Gossip Girl, I was getting major Revenge vibes while reading. Laila has a card to play, but she soon realizes the table at which she’s playing is a bit big for her, a bit out of reach, and just slightly too secluded for her to really find her footing on her chair. She orchestrates her life around the fact that she knows a secret and wants to get to the bottom of why she was denied a life she thinks she should have had. In that way, it reminded me of Revenge.

This book is the perfect combination of light and fun while also discussing some really real issues. For example, the book discusses, in pretty good detail, the double standards for men and women and the age gap in relationships and who should hold what role. I liked Cameron and Liberty’s relationship because it felt so much like how this would actually go (up to a point). Liberty’s ambition and drive is what draws Cameron in, but later is what he expects her to tone down so as to not outshine him. This, and so many other moments, highlight that regardless of class the role women are expected to play is often one of the ambitious but willing-to-comprise woman.

This read was so much fun in that it felt like Gossip Girl for grown-ups with a heavy dose of Revenge. I kept wanting to find out people’s motivations and who, ultimately, was keeping the largest secret. I will say, some people had massive issues with the Act Three twist in this novel. While I was kind of like, “hmm seems random,” I didn’t feel it was completely out of left field. Given the already high stakes in the book, it seemed to fit. However, I will say the last few chapters kind of felt a bit disconnected as they shifted focus. I’d been concerned about Laila and her story for most the book, and suddenly I found myself hearing from one of the, previously seeming, lesser characters. I would have liked to experience the ending through Laila, but I understand why the last few chapters focused on a different character. Still, despite this twist, I loved the read and would recommend it!

Truly,
Callie leigh

An Update: My 101 Things in 1001 Days List

Hello, World.

I wanted to give an update on my 101 Things in 1001 Days list! It’s going along nicely. I ended up changing a few things because of certain changes in my life. I think that may be cheating, but life happens and I think this list should be what’s on my bucket list right now. I wrote this list in September 2016 and some things have changed.

  1. Come up with 101 things.
  2. Go a month without spending money on clothes/fun items.
  3. Publish a blog post every day for a month.
  4. Discover a new TV show. (This Is Us, Sept. 2016)
  5. Work out three times a week for a month.  (Spring 2017)
  6. Try 5 new healthy recipes.
  7. Learn to grill.
  8. Get to bed by 11 p.m. every night for three weeks. (spring 2018)
  9. Partner up with another blogger for a post.
  10. Double my Instagram following.
  11. Do 15 new fashion posts.
  12. Take photos of Williamsburg in the Fall. (October/November 2016)
  13. Spend 20 minutes reading before bed for two weeks. (June 2018)
  14. Do 20 squats every day for two weeks. (Spring 2017)
  15. Visit my friend in Boston.
  16. Visit Virginia Beach.
  17. Take a road trip with friends.
  18. Complete December Daily again. (December 2016. Check it out here.)
  19. Go 48 hours without social media.
  20. Go swimming in the Atlantic.
  21. Go to an amusement park.
  22. Read a non-fiction novel. (Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham, December 2016)
  23. Listen to a podcast series. (Young Adulting)
  24. Play Never Have I Ever with my law school friends.
  25. Host a tea party with friends.
  26. Have a picnic on the main W&M campus with friends.
  27. Host a brunch at the house.
  28. Learn to play golf (this one’s for you, Dad!)
  29. See 11 new movies. (The Post; The Greatest Showman; Home Again; Wonder; Fifty Shades Freed; I, Tonya; The Darkest Hour; Call Me By Your Name; Lady Bird; Love, Simon; I Feel Pretty)
  30. Read 11 new books. (Talking As Fast As I Can; Small Admissions; I’ll See You in Paris; Lunch in Paris; Commonwealth; The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living; Call Me By Your Name)
  31. Re-Read the entire Harry Potter Series.
  32. Do a DIY project for the house.
  33. Learn to braid my hair.
  34. Surprise someone I love.
  35. Give someone a gift for no apparent reason.
  36. Try 4 new restaurants. (Circa, Le Diplomate, District Commons)
  37. Attend a William and Mary Football game. (Sept. 17 2016)
  38. Find the Crim Dell Bridge (and Instagram it, obviously). October 9, 2016
  39. Finish the A Beautiful Mess Photography Course.
  40. Visit 4 new places. (Washington, DC;)
  41. Spend an entire day relaxing with friends.
  42. Spend a full day with my sister and Greg. (Summer 2017)
  43. Make something for my niece.
  44. Improve my handwriting.
  45. Get a good summer job. (Legal Services of Northern CA, Summer 2017; Federal Communications Commission, Summer 2018)
  46. Get out of bed every day at 7:00 am for two weeks.
  47. Stop hitting snooze.
  48. Improve my presence on all social media accounts.
  49. Visit Saint Mary’s when I’m in CA.   (Mar. 2018)
  50. Make a Scrapbook of my 1L year.
  51. Make a law journal. (Business Law Review)
  52. Get involved in at least two things at the law school. (William and Mary Business Law Review, Student Intellectual Property Society)
  53. Be featured on another Instagram account. (History in High Heels, here).
  54. Try fried Brussel sprouts.
  55. Go 2 weeks without sugar (chocolate, etc.)
  56. Connect with a blogger I admire.
  57. Send postcards to my college friends.
  58. Watch a sporting event in a bar.
  59. Feature friends in a law school series. (Evelyn: Taking Law School to Work, Holly: Posted about Graduate School)
  60. Visit New York.
  61. Go to Washington, D.C. for the first time! (Feb. 2018, will be spending summer 2018 there)
  62. Vote in the Presidential Election. (2016 Election; Trump v. Clinton)
  63. Journal every day for a month.
  64. Find a good VA wine.
  65. Go wine tasting in VA.
  66. Get a good job upon graduating law school.
  67. Read the newspaper every day for a month.
  68. Visit 4 new states that are not already included in previous items.
  69. Visit Nantucket.
  70. See Monticello.
  71. Visit Mount Vernon.
  72. Cultivate a more “grown-up” wardrobe. (in-progress as of July 2018)
  73. Get rid of clothing I don’t wear.
  74. Write a children’s story for my niece.
  75. Solidify my personal style.
  76. Go a week without caffeine. (October 2016, after having health issues)
  77. Learn to ride a bike.
  78. Watch the sunset with friends.
  79. Take a tour of Jamestown. (October 9, 2016)
  80. See Yorktown. (October 2016).
  81. Visit my aunt in North Carolina. (Thanksgiving 2016)
  82. Buy someone’s drink behind me at Starbucks.
  83. Try being vegetarian for two weeks.
  84. Overcome my fear of cold-calling. (Stopped caring in Constitutional Law Spring 2017 – I was forced to just be okay with the cold calling *laughs*)
  85. Reach out to a friend I fell out of touch with.
  86. Visit Ireland.
  87. Try something outside my comfort zone. (Soul Cycle in DC! Ended up loving, but was seriously freaked before my first class)
  88. Develop a morning routine.
  89. FaceTime a friend I haven’t seen in a while. (Holly, 2018)
  90. Start sending letters to my pen pal again.
  91. Read 5 classics.
  92. Go to a concert.
  93. Learn a better way to manage money.
  94. Mail a care package to my sister when my niece is born. (January 2017)
  95. Try a spin class. Sept. 26, 2016
  96. Somehow talk to Stephanie Danler & read whatever new release she has.
  97. Graduate law school.
  98. Dedicate more consistent time to blogging.
  99. Get back into a yoga practice.
  100. Create a Williamsburg, VA travel guide.
  101. Start writing again.

The list still has a way to go! I have until next June to complete it, so here’s to hoping I accomplish all 101 things!

Truly,

Callie leigh

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

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Hello, World.

I usually wait a day or two to write a review after finishing a book, but after finishing An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, I have so many emotions that I wanted the feeling I have to be reflected in my review. Honestly, few books leave me with a physical reaction to a book. But this book has my chest tight, my eyes watery, and my heart heavy. To be perfectly honest, I’m a bit surprised by my final reaction to this read because initially, I was having trouble getting into the story. I was lukewarm on the characters. I didn’t dislike them, but I was also having trouble liking them. However, the struggle with whether I liked them or not was fitting by the end because the story doesn’t have a “happy” ending, but it has closure, which I think is better. I will say this book is beautifully written. I found myself loving the language, loving the similes, the comparisons, and the unraveling of complex human relationships that are sometimes beautiful, often messy, and seldom perfect. The book’s synopsis reads:

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

During the first third of the book, I felt like I was gaining into a relationship and lives that I shouldn’t have access to. It felt so deeply personal, probably because roughly 50 pages is just letters between characters, which feels like an exchange I shouldn’t be able to infiltrate. Once I hit the 200-page mark, however, I couldn’t put the book down. I wanted so badly for things to work out, for things to improve, for things to sort themselves out. While this book is very focused on the criminal justice system, race relations in this country, and the problem of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I think it ultimately portrays how circumstances outside our control cause inadvertent changed and shifts within us that affect our relationships immeasurably and forever in ways we never imagined. Circumstances happen and then we react and sometimes we react imperfectly and that’s a hard thing to expect. What I struggled with while reading was that some characters felt like they didn’t seem to have empathy for Roy, the man who is convicted of and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. I wanted to shake Celestial and Andre and say, “Can’t you see you’re being horrible and lacking understanding?!” But at the end of the day, they make choices that they have to accept and those choices play out how you’d expect for the most part.

I didn’t necessarily love any one character, but I appreciated that they were fleshed out, real, raw, and human. Specifically, it was interesting to watch them fight against stereotypes that were trying to attach to them, stereotypes they thought they’d escaped long ago only to realize that such things weren’t always in their control. There is an exchange between Roy and Andre in which Roy is basically saying that his situation could easily have happened to Andre, and Andre acknowledges this and shakes it off in the same breath. Roy, however, knows that he lived his whole life trying to avoid a certain fate, only to have that fate catch up to him in the worst way.

A theme I loved that’s threaded seamlessly throughout this book is time. The inevitability of it, the malleability of it, having too much, too little, how much time affects things. Time brings distance in ways miles don’t. Time morphs a person, internally and externally. With time, people discover who they are, who they aren’t, love grows and shrivels and fades only to return. I think time, more than anything, reveals to us which path is ours. Roy, throughout the book, segregates time into a “before” “during” and “after.” He clings desperately to his “before” life, his during life is stagnant and unchanging despite everyone not in his situation moving full steam ahead with their lives, and the after is shaded by the reality of before, the expectations developed during, and the fact that nothing is the same after. For Roy, time stands still and though he’s changing he’s certain things are going to be the same. Celestial, by comparison, can’t seem to find a firm grasp on anything related to the “before.” Andre realizes he never fully addressed his feelings, which complicates things. Andre irritated me because despite claiming he knew Roy’s situation was transferrable to him had he been where Roy was when Roy was arrested, he seems to have a bit of a superiority complex. In short, all three characters are so layered, so complex it’s hard to know how to feel until the final page.

As I read the last paragraph of this book, tears filled my eyes. I just felt a deep sadness for the characters. What happened to Roy was so far from his control and even those that should have fiercely defended him and attempted to ease the pain fell away, leaving him even more alone. And yet, Roy, resilient as ever, still digs deep within himself to let go of the perception of the life he imagined for the life that he has after prison. This book has some amazing quotes, so I wanted to share my favorites:

“Much of life is timing and circumstance, I see that now.”

“But home isn’t where you land; home is where you launch. You can’t pick your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.”

“Sometimes when you like where you end up, you don’t care how you got there.”

“Is it love, or is it convenience?… She explained that convenience, habit, comfort, obligation- these are all things that wear the same clothing as love sometimes.”

“Human emotion is beyond comprehension, smooth and uninterrupted, like an orb made of blown glass.”

AND MY FAVORITE

“But mostly my life is good, only it’s a different type of good from what I figured on.”

Have you read this book? If so, what’d you think?!

Truly,

Callie leigh

 

Happy Fourth!

Hello, World!

Happy belated Fourth of July! Here are some photos of my day, I spent my day going around D.C. followed by watching fireworks in front of the Lincoln Memorial!

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Truly,

Callie leigh

July TBR

 

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Hello, World.

I’m here to share my July to-be-read list! Below are the three novels I hope to tackle this month.

She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop | What happens when you’re at a relatives funeral and family members you’ve never heard of, much less met, show up? Dazzled by the glittering relatives hailing from NYC and the intrigue associated with them, Laila Lawrence goes to NYC to uncover the world she’s never known in the wealthy family she’s been deprived of throughout her life. A story of family dynamics, long-held secrets, and self-discovery, this book is Gossip Girl for the early twenties woman.

I’m so excited to read this! I actually won my copy of this in a Giveaway from @sweptawaybybooks Instagram account. So, thank you to Alyssa, who runs the account, and Dunlop, who sent me my signed copy! This book seems to have all the elements that usually make me reach for a book, so I’m so ready to start it. Also, I’ve read a lot of heavy books this summer, so this one seems like the light, dramatic one I need.

Euphoria by Lily King | Recommended by Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter, I wasn’t sure I would pick this up immediately but made a mental note to read it. I originally planned to read Harvard Square by Andre Aciman this month, but because I have no mailing address this summer, I must rely on bookstores to purchase books. There is an Amazon Books in Georgetown (so cool!), so I popped in to pick up Harvard Square and The Lost Vintage. However, I could only find one. I then spotted Euphoria, which seemed like a fairly quick read. So, I added it to my July TBR. Set in 1933, it follows a love triangle among three anthropologists studying together in New Guinea. I’m very curious to read this, as I know Danler thoroughly enjoyed it!

The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah | After seeing this on the Instagram account @butthechildrenlovebooks, I was intrigued. I’ve been on this wanderlust kick lately where I watch all my favorite movies about American abroad (Under the Tuscan SunThe HolidayEat Pray Love, etc.). I love any story about family, coming-of-age, wine, and Tuscany. So, this sounds like the perfect blend (pun intended). Sweetbitter is one of my favorite novels, so when I saw it compared to that novel, I knew I had to pick it up, The Goodreads blurb describes the book as:

Sweetbitter meets The Nightingale in this page-turning novel about a woman who returns to her family’s ancestral vineyard in Burgundy and unexpectedly uncovers a lost diary, an unknown relative, and a secret her family has been keeping since World War II.”

For those who remember I promised not to buy new books, I received an Amazon gift card that I used to purchase Euphoria and The Lost Vintage! I’m so looking forward to reading some more “fun” reads! I’ve been on a reading kick and loving all the books I chose this summer, so I’m hoping to continue that.

I’m currently a bit behind on my June TBR, so I hope to finish An American Marriage this weekend and then start the next slate of reads! My second to last week in June was a marathon, which hindered my ability to read as much as previous weeks, which is why I’m behind on An American Marriage, but from what I can tell, if I have a few hours, I’ll blow through it.

Looking forward, I will probably try to get through four to five books in August, as I’ll be done working and home with my family. I tend to read a ton when home because my family goes to bed early and there are days by the pool! For July, the month already looks a bit hectic, so I know I’ll want to be realistic about how much time I will have to read. I also want to soak up my time in D.C.

What’re you reading?

Truly,

Callie leigh

Identifying the Young Professional Wardrobe: Best Starter Pieces

Hello, World.

As I recently discussed, I’d like to clean out my closet and upgrade my wardrobe. As I’m getting older and becoming more “professional” and less “student,” I want my wardrobe to reflect that. I’m all for wearing leggings and a sweater to class sometimes, but I also want to ensure I have more blouses and transitional pieces. I like the idea of having clothes that can be professional or casual. By casual, I mean slightly more dressed up than purely casual. So, I wanted to share my favorite picks for building a “young professional” wardrobe.

You may be wondering: what exactly does a young professional look like? Well, I learn by examples, so I wanted to share a few examples of what a young professional wardrobe is to me. A few of my favorite bloggers recently styled some outfits that I went “ooh I want that!” For casual, but still young and professional, I love Grace Atwood’s style:
Grace Atwood - Topshop Jacket // Madewell Tee // 7 for All Mankind Jeans // J.Crew Belt // Steve Madden Sandals // Palmgrens Bag  // Polaroid Sunglasses

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For classic, timeless, and slightly more dressed up, I love Carly Heitlinger’s style. As a future lawyer, my business attire will be more formal, but I love feeling put together even when hanging out on weekends. A recent favorite outfit of mine is this:

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I actually just bought the shoes featured in this post because I loved them originally, and they’re currently on extra sale from J. Crew Factory!

Obviously, a suit always looks professional. What I think of when I think of a young professional, though, is more of your casual, everyday life. You know, when you’re with friends, running errands, getting brunch, running to networking meetings, etc. That’s why I think a young professional wardrobe just takes your everyday wardrobe and amps it up a bit.
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I want to go over why I’ve carefully chosen the above pieces and add a few others I think are equally great for starting your “young professional wardrobe.”

White Blouse | I love a white blouse and I think any outfit becomes chic with a white blouse. Under a suit or under a casual blazer or jacket, it’s bound to look great. Also, pair with either slack, a dress pant, or ripped jeans, it complements any look.

Fitted/Tailored Blazer | Any young professional needs a tailored blazer. There is a reason Tan always gets the men on Queer Eye a well-fitting blazer!

Vest | I swear by vests in the fall and winter. From about October to March, you can usually find me in a vest. I think they look great and less sloppy than some jackets.

Fitted or Tailored Blouses | Gone are the days of flowy t-shirts, I think blouses can make even the most casual outfits a little nicer. I recently bought more blouse style shirts, rather than just the normal t-shirt and my outfits feel more put together.

Blue Blouse | The same principles that apply to white blouses go for blue blouses in my opinion. One white, one blue = the closet staples you need!

Pencil Skirt | I used to hate the idea of a pencil skirt. This summer I basically live in one. Pencil skirts are classic, always look chic, and always pass the professional test, even when paired with more casual pieces.

Casual Blazer | Throw a less formal blazer over any outfit and you immediately look more professional, slightly more chic, and way more put together!

Watch | I think a nice, professional style watch can upgrade any outfit! Watches, to me, indicate you’re a young professional because the only people I know who wear nice watches are people who work in nice offices.

Mules | Paired with jeans, a mule-style shoe makes you look fashionable and professional, but also have a laid-back “she’d be fun to hang out with” vibe!

Ballet Flat | I feel like this shoe choice is self-explanatory. Obviously, every professional needs a flat in her closet.

A Great Pump | I found a great pair of Nine West nude pumps at TJ Maxx over spring break and I love them. They make a slightly more casual look feel more expensive and refined. A great pump can upgrade an outfit quickly and easily.

Casual Blouses with Slightly Dressier Touches | Lately I find myself wearing tops that have great details. I love a button down with a front-tie, or a tee with a silk ruffle sleeve, or a sleeveless top (a must in humidity!) that has a ruffle. Peplum tops also fit this category as being slightly more dressed up, while still looking casual.

High-Waisted Denim Shorts | Ill-fitting shorts are a fashion pet peeve of mine. I recently bought a pair of high-waisted Madewell denim shorts, and I will pretty much exclusively buy their shorts from now on. Seriously, a well-fitting denim short can transform your look.

A Great Work Tote | I love Mark & Graham, Madewell, and Michael Kors for totes. A great tote is a perfect complement to a great wardrobe. Totes need to be able to hold: water bottle, shoes (usually heels), book, and wallet in my opinion! I recently bought a Michael Kors bag, which I love because it’s spacious but compact when zipped up!

So, there you have my starter guide for the young professional wardrobe!

Truly,

Callie leigh

My Beauty Routine

Hello, World.

I haven’t gone over my beauty routine in a while. I alluded to some products I’m using in my post about products I didn’t think I’d need at age 23, but I haven’t done an updated “beauty routine” in a while. So, I wanted to share my routine and the product I’m loving. Currently, I try to keep my routine to a minimum while ensuring my skin is looking healthy and clear. I am blessed with fairly clear skin, but I am an advocate of maintaining healthy skin habits.

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So, first up, I’m using Glossier’s jelly cleanser, which I love. I’ve tried so many cleansers over the year, and I rarely stick to one, but this cleanser is a game changer. It’s silky and leaves my skin feeling soft and rejuvenated. I highly highly recommend!

I’m using the Origins eye cream for my dark circles. Law school has made my natural dark circles even darker, so using a brightening under eye cream is a must. I went to Sephora and had them make samples of all different ones, tried each for two weeks each, then decided which to use full time. Origins won by a lot. It brightens and it actually makes a noticeable difference for me.

I’m also using Kiehl’s line reducing serum on my forehead. That crinkle you get from worrying is becoming permanent there, so I’m trying to reduce it a bit. I love this product and feel like it’s working!

I use the Clinique moisture surge moisturizer on my face. It’s so hydrating and I love the feel of it. My skin is significantly drier now that I live in Virginia, so a heavier moisturizer was a must after the move from California.

For makeup, I’m using IT Cosmetics CC cream in fair/light. I use the Urban Decay Naked concealer and a beauty blender to apply it. I then use the Kat Von D setting powder. If I want a more matte look, I add some Smashbox powder over the CC cream. I’m loving the Kat Von D tattoo eyeliner and IT Cosmetics Superhero mascara. For eyeshadows, I’m using the Bare Minerals palette in Gen Nude.

For my hair, I’m taking a multivitamin with biotin to try to thicken my hair back up (I started losing my hair due to stress). I’m also using Kevin Murphy hair products. I alternate between the Restore.Me shampoo & conditioner and the Plumping shampoo & conditioner. After showering, I use the leave-in conditioner, Body Mass spray, and Full Again cream. I then blow dry or air dry my hair. For dry shampoo, I’m using the Dry Bar brand dry shampoo. Since my hair is darker, I usually spray it in, get ready, and then scrub my finger over it to release excess powder!

There you have my full beauty routine. When it’s written out, it probably sounds really long, but the whole process takes me about 30-45 minutes. I tend to watch YouTube videos while doing my makeup. I take a lot of pauses. If I need to be out of the house in 20 minutes, I can, I just prefer slower mornings!

What’s your favorite beauty product right now?

Truly,

Callie leigh