Winter Reads: Two Books I Read Recently

Hello, World.

I’m sorry for my hiatus toward the end of last semester. I had a terrible finals schedule, which meant I was studying from about November 4th until I went home for the holidays. The holiday season flew by, and before I knew it I was back in Williamsburg for the spring semester. Honestly, I had so many blog posts planned for November and December and they just didn’t happen. As most of my planned posts dealt with the holiday season or were more relevant in the past months, I’ve decided to start fresh with a new slew of posts in the new year.

First and foremost, I wanted to share two books I read while I was home in California over the holiday break. One book I picked up with the intention of reading post-finals and the other I had on my shelf for a while before picking it up. One of my goals for myself this year is spending less money, and that includes not purchasing new books. I have quite a few books on my shelves I haven’t picked up, so I’m hoping that if I’m not buying new books it will force me to reach for books I own but haven’t read.


Anyway, onto the books I read recently. First up is The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Lousie Miller. I picked this novel up after seeing it on Carly the Prepster’s Instagram stories. I was also sold by the Bon Appetit review on the cover that reads: “Ok, it’s Gilmore Girls.” Anything with Gilmore Girls on it is something I will purchase! So, I ordered the novel from Penguin and allowed it to gather dust on my shelf until finals were finally over and I packed it in my tote bag to head to the airport. Once I started the novel, I loved it. For reference, the book’s summary is as follows:

When Olivia Rawlings—baker extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club—sets not just her flambéed dessert but the entire building alight, she takes a much-needed weekend break in the idyllic leafy town of Guthrie, Vermont. A weekend soon turns into something more permanent when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, needs to recruit a new baker who can help her reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest. On paper, at least, Livvy seems to be just who she was looking for.

Livvy’s love life’s a mess and so she does what she does best: relocate. Along with Salty, her gigantic, uber-enthusuastic dog with almost too much personality, Livvy, as the Sugar Maple’s new baker, brings her mouthwatering desserts to the residents of Guthrie, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend, Hannah. And when Olivia meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from New York to nurse his ailing father, Livvy comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought. With the joys of a warm, fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Olivia Rawlings may finally find that the life you want may not be the one you expected—it could be even better.”

I loved the storytelling and cozy vibes that leaped from the page. While it may not have been the most well-written book I’ve read, I appreciated the pacing and development of the story. I adored the cast of characters, and I had a hankering to uproot to small-town Vermont by the book’s close! This was the first book in a while that I thoroughly enjoyed cover to cover. While there was a plot twist that took me by surprise, I ended up appreciating the decision. I highly recommend this read to anyone who needs a cozy story with great characters.


Second, I read Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. This book sat on my shelf for a while before I finally picked it up. I think I bought it last summer because it was showing up everywhere on my Instagram feed. I love a good family drama, and I was excited to start this. Though I wish some of the storylines lasted a bit longer or were delved into a bit deeper, I enjoyed the book. The writing was very good and it was easy to keep the characters straight because they were written so distinctly. I would recommend this book to people who like family dramas, who are interested in how family dynamics change and impact our lives, or to someone who just loves a well-written novel that makes us reflect on our own lives.

For reference, the inside flap for this novel is as follows:

“One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly – thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.”

So, what have you read lately? Any books I should add to my to-be-read list?

Callie Coker


Why You NEED to Watch The Handmaid’s Tale If You Haven’t Already

Hello, World.

In high school, I had to do a project called an “extended reading.” They were sort of the worst things ever, but alas, I was in AP English and they were required. Extended readings were used to make sure we knew a broad range of literature that we could write about/needed to know about for the AP exam come April. So, each student in my class would choose a book to read and then give a spoiler-ridden presentation on to the class. The presentation was supposed to offer an in-depth summary of the work, themes, motifs, character biographies, etc. Basically, people should felt that they actually read the book by the end of your presentation. I hated public speaking in high school, so I got hives everytime I stood at the front of the room to give my presentation. So, what does this trip down memory lane have to do with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale? Well, my senior year of high school, my AP English teacher recommended I read it and present it to my class.

So, I read the novel. It was one of the first books, besides maybe To Kill A Mockingbird, that I read for class that I loved. Honestly, I loved the way it was written, I found the storyline fascinating, and I just could not put the novel down. I built a reading schedule, but quickly surpassed all of my goals and finished the novel in a matter of days. When Hulu decided to come out with a TV version of the book, I was hesitant. I was scared it wouldn’t live up to my impression of the book and would fail to capture the essence of the Atwood’s words.

image via

In September, I finally sat down to watch the show. I was hesitant but had been told several times it was amazing. The show also won a ton of Emmys, so I decided maybe it was worth watching. I sat down in bed to watch one episode and was hooked. I ended up watching three in a row. I finished the show within a week but re-watched portions a second time, just as I had re-read portions of the book years before. The show tweaked some aspects of the book, but I felt most tweaks were appropriate and didn’t detract from the overarching message and themes of the book.

Elisabeth Moss did an incredible, incredible job playing Offred/June. Honestly, I think she brought emotion and rawness to the character that was even better than the book. Due to the clinical nature of the world created by Atwood, sometimes emotions didn’t come through as well in written form, but the acting of the Hulu cast was powerful. The subtle emotions, the complete outbursts, the debilitating fear an uneasiness…the cast portrayed that well. I heard someone complain the acting was too mechanical. Ironically, it’s supposed to be mechanical. It’s supposed to feel cold and detached while highlighting small moments of hope and integrity and resistance.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the build-up to how Gilead formed. I think when I read the book, as a somewhat naive seventeen-year-old girl, I thought, “Oh this could never happen.” Today, I’m not so sure. Quiet movements led by enraged, blame-focused groups seem real. The stripping of women’s rights doesn’t seem far off as we, women, have yet to receive all the rights we should. I think watching people walk through the beginning of Gilead thinking, “oh, it’s fine. They’ll never get their way,” and then watching those same people struggle with the fallout, the rights-stripping, and the dehumanizing behavior of Gilead leadership is uncomfortable in the best way. At the end of the day, “that would never happen,” is the wrong mentality to have when you think someone problematic is gaining traction. “That would never happen” is essentially a call for the unimaginable, the seemingly impossible to make itself realized. I think if the TV Handmaid’s Tale gives us anything its the message that passivity is detrimental. We shouldn’t need our world to become Gilead to push change or resistance to problematic movements and ideologies.

Offred is strong as hell and though she’s inherently feminine –  seeing as her driving force is getting her daughter back, which is maternal – she pushes boundaries, she questions her Commander, she pushes back in the slightest ways that seem insignificant at the moment, but provide hope to those of us clinging to the edge of the book or sitting tense on our couches watching Elisabeth Moss say, “is this bullshit life enough for you?” Because it’s not enough for her. Though Offred is in the worst situation, she convinces herself that Gilead is temporary… that the wrongs of the leadership will be corrected, overthrown, people will gain their rights back. However, this is important insofar as it reminds us that all of this was absent when Gilead leadership bulldozed the country into submission.

I don’t want to spoil the show, as I think it’s a must-see, but I will say there were moments that made my stomach turn. There were moments when I wanted to scream at characters (specifically Serena Joy, who helped create the society that then stripped her dignity and belittled her intellect). I think shows like this, however, are uncommon, and I think the writing is just as powerful as Atwood’s novel is. So, if you haven’t watched The Handmaid’s Tale… I encourage you to do so!

Callie leigh

What I’m Reading

Hello, World.

Summer is going so quickly (insert very panicked, on-the-verge-of–hyperventilating face). One of my goals for this summer was to get in a decent amount of “for pleasure” reading. While in law school, I read constantly. All the time. But, I read dense case-law related material, which is I also enjoy, but sometimes it’s nice to just get back into reading a book for fun, falling into someone else’s story or life and getting swept up in it. So, I wanted to share what I’ve read so far. The second book took me a little too long. I partly blame it on my mindless Netflix sessions and also on the lack of desire to read after work. However, on Thursday, I decided I was going to finish it before the weekend was over. And I did! You’ll probably notice both books have to do with Paris. Well, I’ve always wanted to go, and I think lately my wanderlust is getting the best of me. I inadvertently, perhaps subconsciously bought four (that’s right, more to come) books that have to do with Paris in some way. Now… let’s get to my reviews of the first two books.


The first book I read this summer I picked up in Williamsburg before I flew home. My original plan was to read on my flights home. However, I quickly realized that was an ambitious plan. After finals and the joint journal competition (more on that to come), I was a wee bit tired and did not have the brain power to read a new book. So, instead, I watched movies and chatted with the woman sitting next to me, who is getting her Ph.D. in Florida, but was flying to CA to help her fiancé move to Switzerland (so so fascinating).

Lunch In Paris is the memoir of Elizabeth Bard’s swift and romantic love affair with a Frenchman. It’s the American girl goes abroad and doesn’t come home because she finds love kind of book. I loved it. I was very selective about what book I read first because I was so looking forward to reading something non-legal. I read the excerpt on Amazon and knew immediately I loved Bard’s style. It was conversational but intoxicating. It was to the point but romanticized. I am not typically a non-fiction guru, but I ate up the story of finding yourself someone new and trying to make the most of it even if it feels like an off balance tap dance for the first stretch.

While at some points I felt like Bard came off a bit condescending or superior… the minute I felt this, she was self-aware and vulnerable, speaking her truth of being a size 10, food-loving American in petite, food-savoring France. I laughed frequently but also related quite strongly to the feeling Bard shares of feeling like she has to ground herself in something in order to establish herself in her new home. For Bard, it is the French markets that lend her refuge. Bard also pays homage to said markets by including recipes at the close of each chapter, recipes rooted discoveries of new produce, new flavor mixtures, and new twists on old, American favorites.

I would give this book four out of five stars simply because it lagged in areas. However, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys travel (it is the romance-based version of Under the Tuscan Sun or Eat, Pray, Love) or who feels or has felt uncertain in a new place. My final thought is this: I admired how Bard illustrated the relationship between herself and her lover. The areas of life they inherently understood about each other, the areas where cultural difference caused friction, and the areas where cultural difference caused growth. I enjoyed Bard’s exploration into preconceived notions and how they are dealt with while balancing the serious topics with light-hearted trip-ups on both [her and her lover] their parts. 9B1CD9EF-1B2B-441B-8EBC-286C1673BDAE.jpg

To be blunt, I bought this book for two main reasons: I loved the cover and the author went to William and Mary. A bit vain, I know. However, I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable took me about three weeks. It’s a bit long and a bit slow, to be honest. Upfront, I want to say if you are someone who prefers gripping, quick-reads, this may not be the book for you. While the last 50 or so pages made me glad I stuck it out and finished the story, I wanted to stop about 200 pages in. I sort of guessed where the story was headed around page 60, and then had to get through 250 pages-ish of the groundwork for the story to get to its final pathway to the end. I guessed all but one plot twist that came at the end. That’s not typically a good thing while reading. I like to be kept guessing, and I certainly don’t want to guess what’s going to happen well before the writer fully lays the foundation.

However, it was rooted in historical tales, so I understand Gable wanting to give the reader a very thorough outline of the story. The other aspect to this novel I struggled with a bit was that it switched between 1973 and 2001. So, while Annie (one of the protagonists) was hearing the 1973 story in 2001, the reader was taken back to 1973 and hearing a more fleshed out version through the eyes of the participants. The problem with this was I often cared way more about the story occurring in 2001 and didn’t really want to know every detail of the 1973 story. Obviously, when stories track each other in this manner, they are meant to intercept, and they do, which made all the switches in time worth the reading. Still, I think the tale could be a little more abbreviated. It just lagged a bit too much in the middle that I was having trouble keeping it all straight and wanting to continue.

My opinion may be making you think this book sucked and isn’t worth picking up. I don’t want that opinion to come across because I did enjoy the ending enough that it made up for the lag. So, if you pick up this book, just know that when it gets slow, you just have to power through and you should enjoy the ending as I did. Recommending books can be difficult because people have different tastes! This book got so many reviews that said “I couldn’t put it down!!” whereas I felt like I couldn’t pick it back up at times. I will also say do not expect a journey through Paris. Paris is very much part of the story and important to the underlying story, but not until much later than expected. A majority of the novel takes place in Banbury, England, and the States.

Interestingly, once I finished the novel, I looked at Gable’s other two novels. I wanted to read more of her. So, though I struggled with aspects of the story and the length, I enjoyed Gable’s writing enough that I wanted more of it in my library.

What are you currently reading?

Callie leigh

A Book I’m Picking Up

Hello, World.

Lauren Graham is releasing a new book in November! Who’s excited? I sure am! I already pre-ordered it, and I can’t wait for it to arrive. I plan to take it on my plane ride home to CA in December.Seeing that it comes out right near my first set of law school finals, I probably won’t get to it until Christmas break, but alas, I’m excited to read it. You can check out what it’s all about by clicking here!


Let me know if you’re as excited as I am to get your hands on this gem.

Callie leigh

Book Recommendation: Sweetbitter

Hello, World.

I have a book recommendation! I read a lot of different books, but I am totally in love with the novel Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. I rarely read a modern book that I feel is really well written and has a compelling story. But honestly, being 22 in a new city, this story resonated with me. I will warn there are hard drugs being used frequently, but according to my roommate from New York, drugs are pretty commonplace in the City, and probably a lot of other places. But aside from the drugs, this book shares a story of a young girl trying to find her way in a new setting, and that alone made me ravish it. However, Stephanie Danler’s beautiful prose and mixture of prose and poetry really pulled me in. I’d get in bed and say, only 10 more pages before bed, and end up reading 35 or 50. The novel is beautifully written, and will make you crave good food and authentic conversation.


I think most young women in their twenties have been with someone they know is bad for them, or has been attracted to someone they know won’t treat them right. What I love about this story is the vulnerability, but also the growth of the main character, Tess, who grows to be more confident and stronger in her pursuit of what she wants. I think it also speaks volumes to the impermanent nature of relationships, both romantic and platonic, that people form in their 20s! We all want to feel like we belong, like we’re working our way up, and I think this novel tracks this battle well, while also addressing the growth and sadness that comes with getting what we want and realizing it isn’t what we want. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say this book is a must read. It got a rave from Jay McInerney, and I think that alone speaks volumes about the promise that Stephanie Danler’s literary career holds!

Have you read it?

Callie leigh

Me Before You: Movie


Hello, World.

A while back, I shared some of the books I was reading, and one I included was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. This is one of my favorite books for a number of reasons. One is that even though it’s sad, it actually has some REALLY important messages about life and living. One of my favorite quotes from the book is when Will, the main man, says, “You only have one life to live, Clark, it’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible. I think what’s important about this story line is you have someone who is super passive, who is just watching life pass without really finding a passion or experiencing the world (Lou), versus a man who is actively pursuing adventure, who works super hard, who enjoys every little thing in his life. One has adventure ripped from him, while the other learns to appreciate having the world at her fingertips.

I think we, as a society, get so caught up trying to get ahead, trying to get to the next step, that we forget to live our lives, soak up the here and now, and appreciate what we have right now. I think this movie and the book make you think about what you’re missing out on, and what you could be doing to live life better. I highly, highly recommend you read the book and go see the movie!

Callie leigh

New Obsession: Outlander

Hello, World.

A while ago I shared about one of my new obsessions, which was Friday Night Lights. I thought it’d be fun to share something else I’m currently loving. While on duty the other night, I was looking for something to watch, and happened upon Outlander. When I have quiets nights as an RA, I usually try to watch something to pass the time if I don’t have visitors. Anyway, Outlander is a TV series on Starz, and is historical fictions…and addicting. It begins in 1945 with a nurse in WWII, desperately trying to reconnect with her husband through a second honeymoon in Scotland. As she goes to a set of famous stones to collect flowers, suddenly Claire (the heroine) is in 1743 wartime Scotland as the clans of Scotland fight against the British army. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a great story of romance, self-determination, and navigating a society one does not understand. One aspect I really like is how a woman that is form 1945 tries to battle the gender norms of 1743. It’s humorous and horrifying how limited women’s agency was in 1743.

The series is currently in its second season, which takes place in France on the eve of the Jacobite Revolution of 1745. It’s SO good so far, and I’m so excited to keep watching into the summer. outlander_tv_show_2016-t2.jpg

Since I really like the show, and it’s based on a book series, my mom and I are going to read the first book in the series this summer! I love reading for pleasure, and I think this fun read will be a good first read for my first summer as a college graduate! Outlander_cover.JPG

Have you heard of Outlander? Have you read the series?

Callie leigh

Note: all photos courtesy of google images.

Paper Towns: The Novel

Hello, World.

I just finished reading Paper Towns by John Green! Though it took me a while to get through, I ended up really really enjoying it. Part of the reason I struggled to get through it is because it starts a little slow, gets really interesting, then slows down for most of the book. I wasn’t a huge fan of the middle portion, though I did enjoy it when I just sat down and read. I think part of what make it a bit of a harder read for me was that I’m used to being sucked into John Green novels, and I usually finish them in a day. This novel was different. It felt like a less-hot-version of Looking For Alaska in the middle, which I struggled to get through. All in all, however, I enjoyed the read, and I’m super excited for the movie to come out.
Most people adore John Green, and that’s probably because he’s easy to read, but says some of the most profound things that are fundamental parts of life. I think he also treat teenagers’ problems like they’re actually serious, which I appreciate. He really taps into what being in love or just being a teenager feels like.
This book was super interesting, and gave me a lot to think about in terms of perceptions. High school is kind of based on perception: how do we see others? How they see us? Is any of it accurate to who we are? It can be really hard to decipher what it fact or fiction in high school, especially because most people just want to be liked. If you’re looking for an interesting read this summer, something light and intriguing, I’d suggest Paper Towns or another John Green novel (though The Fault In Our Stars is pretty heavy).
My favorite quote from the book is above. Seriously, so accurate!

What are you reading?

Callie leigh

Saint Anything

Hello, World.

About two years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Dessen, the young adult author. I read all her novels in high school, starting with her [then] latest, Along for the Ride. No matter how old I get, I always have a soft spot for Dessen’s novels. I have a soft spot for all young adult authors. When I was younger, I really wanted to be a young adult novelist (HAH!). Anyway, long story short, her new novel was released in May, and I of course bought it right away. It took me a while to get through, but it was actually a good novel by the end.
Saint Anything
To be totally honest, I was having trouble getting into Dessen’s storyline structure with the last few novels I read by her. I started feeling like the story arc was predictable, and that the characters, though great, were limited by said arc. However, this book was supposed to be different than her others (something she said pre-release), and for that reason I was excited. As I read through it, I enjoyed the development of the characters, and I loved the protagonists’ relationships with the Chathams. Mac and Layla are great! The one character that TOTALLY drove me nuts the entire time I was reading, and didn’t even get super redeemed by the end, was the Sydney’s mother. I’m sure you’ll understand if you read it, and I don’t want to give too much away, but she’s just a bother because she never really treats Sydney as an individual, someone separate from her sibling.

Overall, though, I ended up really liking it, and really craving pizza (this’ll make sense if you read it). While Along for the Ride may always be my favorite Sarah Dessen novel because I identified so strongly with the main character, I will add Saint Anything to the list of successes from Dessen. Though this book got some harsh reviews, I think it’s a solid novel. Definitely a great beach read, even though some of the material is heavy.

What are you currently reading?

Callie leigh

App Mania: Goodreads


Hello, World.

Let’s talk about apps. I’ve done a few posts on apps before, like the best apps for college students, and the apps I use to edit my photos to post on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I’m kind of ridiculous when it comes to apps. I love them, but I also don’t have tons on my phone. I’m not really into game-style apps, but I have tons of photo editing apps, and blog apps, and pretty much every form of social media in app form on my phone. I love apps, and I figured most of the world does too, at least the tech-savvy population. My phone is organized into little folders, and under social media, the top apps I use include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others. One of my favorite apps for social media that people probably wouldn’t think of as social media, unless they are bibliophile.

Goodreads is an app for book nerds that allows you to track not only what you’re currently reading, what you’ve read, and what you want to read, but also the same details about your friends! This is great, especially for college students, because while you’re away from your fellow book nerds you can still monitor what they’re reading, and maybe discover some future reads!
The Goodreads app is set up so that it’s super easy to navigate. The ‘updates’ section is where you can find what your friends are up to. In other words, where you can see their book lists, what they’re wanting to read, how far they are in the book they are reading, as well as what groups they are part of within the app. The ‘my books’ section is where you find all your reading lists. My reading lists are currently “to-read,” “read,” “currently reading,” and “summer 2014.” The “scan” option is probably one of my absolute favorite things about this app. With this, you simply scan the barcode on the back or inside flap of a novel, and then can shelve it to whichever list you want. This way you always remember the books you find in bookstores that you want to read, but don’t necessarily want to buy right away. No more pesky paper lists that you stuff into your bag, and then have them disappear a week later. The ‘progress’ department is pretty self explanatory. This section allows you to post a general status update about which page of a book you are on, which is great if your reading a book as part of a book club or something where your progress is especially important. The ‘explore’ section is where you can peruse books and top lists and most downloaded books just as you would if you were in a bookstore. The ‘groups’ sections is for connecting with people or just following reading circles you enjoy. I’m part of two groups: The Rory Gilmore Book Club and the Banned Books group. ‘Challenge’ is a personal challenge regarding how many books you want to read in a year. “Recommended’ books are books that the app feels you would like based on what you want to read or read previously. ‘Friends’ is pretty self explanatory.
The other sections include your personal profile, where all your info is synthesized in one place, the ‘events section,’ which lists all literary events either online or near you, and the ‘eBooks’ section allows you to have mobile versions of books on your phone. I really love this because there are some situations where I really don’t feel like taking a physical copy of the book with me, and having it on my phone makes sure I can continue reading.
I usually have a really hard time mixing technology and reading. I tried to use a Nook when they first came out because I thought it seemed like an awesome tool, but I felt like it was way too impersonal, so I switched back to physical copies of books instead. I like feeling like I’ve accomplished something when I finish a book, and I feel like I feel more accomplished when I can see each page I read compiled into a single book. I’m also a huge advocate of the coffee stained novels piled up next to your bed…there’s something comforting in them.

BUT, this app feels like a perfect blend of technology and reading! Do you use Goodreads? If so, add me today, and share what you’re reading!

Callie leigh