Link Love

Here are some of my favorite things I found around the internet this week:

  • I’m struggling this winter. I struggle with SAD every winter, but this winter feels more never ending than usual. Most of the DC region had a snow day on Monday and it both helped and hurt. So, I related to NPR’s Linda Holmes’ Monkey See article on Making Peace with Snow Days and Seasons.
  • Megan Amram, prolific Tweeter, writer for Parks and Recreation, and all around funny gal, wrote a book that I’m super excited to read! But in the meantime, I enjoyed this illustrated interview with her on The Rumpus.
  • BookRiot posted a fun article on Literary/Pop Culture mashups.
  • This American Life has done two fantastic shows about the issue of policing and race in America. Part one is here and part two is here.
  • This American Life also did a fascinating episode where they replayed a BBC documentary about William Burroughs (author of Naked Lunch.)
  • Time posted an interview with the wonderful Rainbow Rowell, where she discusses her upcoming novel, Carry On, which will be released in October!  Is it too early to start squeeing?
  • I recently discovered the podcast, Watch What Crappens, where Ben “B-side” Mandelker and Ronnie Karam discuss Bravo reality shows, and I’m SO glad I did. I’ve been a fan of B-Side ever since his TVgasm recaps of Laguna Beach routinely made me laugh until I cried, and Ronnie’s recaps of Real Housewives shows do the same. This podcast is snarky and hilarious and if you like Bravo shows, you will love it.

Happy perusing and happy weekend!

Guilty Pleasures: Reality TV

Ah, guilty pleasures.

We all have them. I have a long-standing history of being inexplicably drawn to TV shows, movies, and books that many (wrong) people agree just aren’t very good. It’s why I make an event out of inviting friends over to watch terrible movies. Just this morning, a friend teased me about my teenage obsession with Dawson’s Creek, an obsession I still tap into from time to time.

Pacey Joey Dawson's Creek OTP
Pacey+Joey 4-eva!

I don’t watch a ton of reality TV, but I watch enough to be a little ashamed of myself. I’ve watched all of the Real Housewives franchises and practically count down the hours until new episodes of Orange County and Beverly Hills are on. I’ve watched all seasons of Road Rules (aw, remember Road Rules?) and most seasons of The Real World when it was great:


I LOVED Laguna Beach and The Hills. 

Laguna Beach Kristin Cavallari

Laguna Beach Lauren Conrad

The Hills Lauren Conrad Gif Lo Bosworth

Lauren Conrad The Hill Gif

Lauren Conrad The Hills Justin Bobby
Wasn’t Lauren so wise, y’all?

(If you missed out on the dramaaaa of Laguna Beach, this will actually sum it up for you quite nicely.)

I’m not really into competition shows about singing or dancing, or shows about finding love (unless they’re on VH1.) In fact, I still quote from Rock of Love, I Love New York, and Flavor of Love. 

Flavor of Love Flavor Flav I Love New York
Because really, how can you not?

I wrote previously about the reality train-wreck, True Tori (RIP). I marathoned Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars over the weekend and giggled through every episode.

As I said, part of me is a little embarrassed about my affection for these shows, but at the same time they can be SO entertaining and I don’t think I’m alone when I say that sometimes they just make me feel better about myself. Not to be judgmental because lord knows I’ve said some dumb things in my time, but at least nothing like this has ever come out of my mouth:

Rock of Love
Seriously, where do they even find these people?

Classics & Cocktails: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid & Straight Whiskey

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KidIt’s 1890 in Wyoming, and Butch Cassidy is the charming leader of the “Hole in the Wall Gang.” His right hand man is the stoic and deadly Sundance Kid. They rob trains, and eventually find themselves being relentlessly pursued by the law. Butch and Sundance strategically separate from the rest of the gang, but find that their attempts to outrun the lawmen are unsuccessful. Butch persuades Sundance and his lover, Etta, to move to Bolivia, arguing that it would be a veritable robbers paradise.

I can’t believe it took me this long to watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KidI My dad and grandmother spoke highly of it for years, but I’ve never been a big fan of westerns so I figured I wouldn’t enjoy it. I was wrong. It’s such a great movie. It’s funny and Paul Newman is so charming and both he and Robert Redford make pretty excellent eye candy. I’m already looking forward to watching it again when the opportunity presents itself.

I’ll be honest. We’re kinda struggling on the cocktail front. Our bar isn’t exactly what I would call well-stocked, so we’re sort of phoning it in with our selections. Plus, it’s hard to pair a drink with a film you’ve never seen. Hopefully we’ll get with the program. But for this one, we figured straight whiskey was an apropos choice.

Also! I had a very sad realization the other day. (Sad because I didn’t realize it sooner and feel like a dumb dumb.) We’ve long subscribed to Netflix’s streaming service but I signed up for DVD’s specifically for this series of classic movies. After a long period without one, I finally got a library card and hopped aboard the yay free books! train. I joined Audible before I remembered that the library lends audio books (for free) and just yesterday it suddenly occurred to me that the library also lends DVD’s. For free. Sigh.

Next up: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Home is Where the Books Are

Photo by Passenger Photography

I spent nearly every afternoon of my early teen years visiting the library that was walking distance from my house because I could think of no better way to spend the afternoon than reading, and the library was quieter than my house. My father, a prolific reader himself, had trouble believing that anyone could enjoy reading that much, and began to question where I was “really” spending my time. Our conversations began to go a little something like this:

“Dad, I’m going to the library, I’ll be back before dinner.”

“No you’re not. You’ve been “at the library” every day this week. I want you home.”

“Why? It’s the library. You’re honestly going to tell me you have a problem with me spending my free time reading?”

“I don’t think that’s where you go! NO ONE spends that much time at the library!”

“Where do you think I’m going? I’m not old enough to drive and there’s no other place to walk besides other houses.”

“Okay FINE, but when I find out what you’re really doing, we’ll see how smart you are then.”

One day I happened to glance up from my book as I lay with my head propped up on a low windowsill in my favorite, practically hidden corner of the YA section, and saw what looked suspiciously like my father skulking around and peeking down aisles with an increasingly triumphant look on his face. He finally made his way over near where I was.

“Hi Dad.”

He yelped in surprise.

“Oh, Kelley! You scared me! You…you really are here.”


Those were the days before the drinking and fighting started. Before I needed to find a place that was open as late as possible. Before I wanted to hang out with friends who didn’t want to spend their afternoons at the library. My brother joined a car club that liked to spend their evenings leaning on their souped-up cars outside of a Starbucks that was conjoined with a Barnes and Noble. As my parents fighting persisted, so did my desire to be somewhere, or really, anywhere, but home. I begged my brother to take me and our younger sister with him.

“No, you guys will be annoying.”

“We won’t, I promise. We’ll stay in Barnes and Noble and do our homework and hang out until you’re ready to leave.”

He relented, and I kept my promise. If all the tables were taken, we’d forgo our homework and peruse the music section or pluck books from the shelves to read while sitting on the floor in a corner. At the library I stuck to the YA stacks, but at Barnes and Noble my time was spent walking through other sections and picking up anything that piqued my interest.

Barnes and Noble is not where I learned to love books. But it is where I discovered Rainer Maria Rilke and Pablo Neruda and learned to love poetry. It’s where I spotted the bright green cover of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and learned the healing power of a book that makes you feel like even if it’s not going to be okay, at least you’re not alone. It’s where I discovered Milan Kundera. It’s where I read On the Road, Naked Lunch and Howl while sitting in sunbeams on summer afternoons. It’s where I attempted to tackle Faulkner, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and tried to be conspicuous when I skimmed chapter summaries in SparkNotes that I kept hidden in my lap under the real thing when plot points went over my head.

It’s where I picked up romance novels and whispered passages while giggling with girlfriends but secretly come back to them another day when I was alone. It’s where my best friend and I played each other the most random CD’s we could find to make each other laugh, including a Luciano Pavarotti CD and made up a ridiculously elaborate scenario to accompany the most dramatic song we’d ever heard.

I developed crushes on more than a few guys who worked there as booksellers. I swooned when one of them told me that what initially drew me to him was my taste in classic literature and that he finally decided to talk to me when he saw me attempting to stifle a laugh while reading A Confederacy of Dunces. I smiled and thought, this is like something out of a WB show. (The height of the romance bar in my teen years.)

I went to that Barnes and Noble on my first date. We stopped by the adjoining Starbucks and decided to walk around to look at books and find out if we liked any of the same ones. (We didn’t.) After I graduated from high school, my best friend and I spent every night doing the exact same thing: We stopped by Starbucks, did a lap or two around both levels of Barnes and Noble, and left to play pool or walk around somewhere.

Barnes and Noble became my true north. It’s where I have taken every close friend and boyfriend I’ve ever had. It’s where I went when I was unhappily living with my parents, and then when I was unhappy about my next living situation too. It’s where I’ve always gone when I wanted to be alone. Any time I’ve felt listless or upset or angry or sad, I’ve found myself there, drinking the same drink from Starbucks, perusing the same aisles, and pulling different books down to read. When the animosity between my parents reached its peak, I stayed until closing time, knowing that even at 11:30 at night I would arrive to a house full of screaming. I strongly considered stowing myself away behind a rack in the children’s section and secretly, happily, spending the night. I didn’t want to steal anything. I just never really wanted to leave.

I knew that I was finally in a happy place when my now husband and I moved into a small apartment, our first place where only the two of us lived. It took us more than a week to unpack and one evening I went to my bookshelf to find something to read, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t been to Barnes and Noble in more than three weeks. I was stunned.

I’ve always been a creature of habit, an admission that is probably both obvious and an understatement based on what I’ve written here. I have the patience of an oyster and rarely tire of anything that brings me happiness. Not people, not food, not things, and not places. My father has long told a story where he came home from work to find three year old me sitting on the couch, watching a movie. My mother made a hobby of recording movies and TV shows onto hundreds of VHS tapes and cataloguing them for our viewing pleasure. Upon closer inspection, he saw that I was watching 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which struck him as odd.

“Hey Kel, what are you watching?”

The Brave Little Toaster.”

He checked the TV again. It was definitely 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

“This isn’t The Brave Little Toaster.”

“I know. It’s on after this.”

“Do you want me to fast forward it?”

“No thanks, I’ll wait.”

Life means change, an inevitability that I’ve accepted happily for the most part because I’ve spent as much time looking forward to moving on as I have wishing things would last. For a while, I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t want to move from where I was living. I always couldn’t wait. The only time I felt at peace, at home, was when I was at my favorite book store.

It’s said that home is where the heart is, and I think that’s true. Part of my heart has always belonged to books — I “made my home between the pages of books,” as Maggie Stiefvater so eloquently put it — so it made sense that I would enjoy being surrounded by them. But this one particular Barnes and Noble was more than that to me. It was the home my heart chose when I needed a place to go. I feel such ridiculous gratitude for the very existence of this big ol’ chain book store, even if eventually my heart chose a new home.

Because if I ever get lonely, I can just go to the book store and visit my friends.

Book Review: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Initial reviews of The Good Girl touted it as “the next Gone Girl,” and my interest wasn’t really piqued. Probably because every book with a female protagonist and a mystery have been called that over the past couple years. And then I read a couple reviews that compared it to Stolen, and my interest was very piqued.

Mia Dennett is the daughter of a prominent, wealthy judge and finds herself abducted by Colin Thatcher, a poor unfortunate soul in need of the large payment offered to him to do the actual kidnapping dirty work by another, more dangerous, man, who plans to hold Mia for ransom. Colin follows through with the initial abduction, but fears for her life after he hands her over, and quickly decides to take her to a remote cabin instead of dropping her off, managing to both abduct and save her at the same time. They stay at the cabin for months and their relationship grows from disdain to affection. Meanwhile, Mia’s mother, Eve, works with Detective Gabe Hoffman to try to find her. The story switches perspective from Colin to Eve to Gabe, and back and forth between before Mia was found and after.

Overall, I thought the story was okay. The shifting perspectives definitely made the story more interesting, but the shifting time device made it a little confusing, especially because it seemed to exist to purposely confuse the reader into a surprise ending. It doesn’t count as a surprise ending if the story is misleading to the extent that it doesn’t quite make sense.

This definitely isn’t a light-hearted read (just like Gone Girl, hey!), and is actually pretty damn sad, but is still worth checking out if you’re in for a cold night and want something to keep you (kind of) guessing.