“Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler

I was super excited to read Sweetbitter after seeing celebs rave about it on Instagram: Eva Longoria, Emma Roberts, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Troian Bellasario, etc. The pink book jacket with broken wine glass cover art was practically screaming my name, and its Insta-fame had me dying to dive in.

I have to be honest, I really disliked this book at first. There was so much restaurant lingo, half-finished conversations, and narrator ramblings that I couldn’t quite catch what was going on and found myself utterly confused. I hit my 100 page mark and really almost gave it back up to the library. But I could feel Spencer Hastings and Chanel Oberlin begging me to read more. And you know what? I’m glad I did. I ended up really liking it. This book was certainly different than my recent reads, and I agree with many Amazon reviews that there really is no true “plot.” But once I stopped searching for the storyline and quit stressing my brain trying to understand the different types of oysters and regions of wine, I let myself enjoy the reality of Tess’ navigation of adulthood. I really truly enjoyed it.

While Sweetbitter is strictly a novel and not memoir, it closely mirrors the journey of author Stephanie Danler as she makes her start in New York City and the restaurant business. The story opens with Tess moving from her vaguely unhappy life in Ohio to a microscopic apartment in Williamsburg (Brooklyn, not VA, for you Virginians like myself.) Determined to find employment of any kind, and with a resume boasting previous barista work, snags a job as a back-waiter in one of Union Square’s most prestigious restaurants. Tess is in over her head, navigating a new city, new job, and completely new lifestyle, all while facing the typical challenges of  young adulthood. She experiments with drugs, alcohol, sex, and her newfound freedom in the city. She experiences complicated adult relationships, as well as heartache, loneliness, and wondering “is this it?” While Tess’ coming-of-age was much wilder and exotic than my own, I felt nostalgia for that confusing and blissful period of early womanhood. By the end of the novel, I felt I had grown up with Tess and could really feel the transformation she underwent in just one short year.

If you are interested in an action-driven, event-filled, cant-put-down read, this novel may not be the best for you, but I would encourage you to give it a go (past the first 100 pages) to experience beautiful writing, gorgeous metaphors, and an appreciation for growing up and figuring out life.

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My blind beagle Gracie loved it, too.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

www.stephaniedanler.com

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“Don’t You Cry” by Mary Kubica

I read Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl a while back and really enjoyed it, so her other two novels have been on my list to read for quite some time. I managed to snag Don’t You Cry in a large print edition at my local library. I felt like a speed reader turning those pages with the big words so fast!

Don’t You Cry tells two separate stories for it’s first 80%. Storyline A is that of Quinn, early 20’s, entry-level career, trying to make a life for herself in Chicago. Quinn lives in a somewhat decent apartment in the heart of the city with her roommate, Esther. One groggy morning, after a night out drinking, Quinn wakes up to find Esther missing. While not immediately alarmed, panic begins to bubble up as Esther doesn’t return for several hours. Or the rest of the night. Or the next few days…
Quinn spends the rest of the week desperately trying to find out what happened to Esther and why she has disappeared–did she leave on her own free will, or is she in danger? Is Esther really the sweet, gentle roommate Quinn knows and loves?

Storyline B follows Alex (for the first few chapters I thought he was a girl, damn those unisex names) who is working a dead-end job as a diner dishwasher in his run-down hometown. Alex turned down a college scholarship to stay home to take care of his incoherent alcoholic father. The highlight of his day is delivering the lunch orders to his agoraphobic neighbor. His life is dreadfully dull, until he meets a mysterious, and incredibly odd girl in the diner, who he affectionately names “Pearl.”

Quinn becomes more and more suspicious of Esther, after finding dark clues from her past in the apartment.

Alex becomes more and more fascinated by Pearl’s lunacy, but is blinded by her attention and companionship.

The pieces start falling together as to how these two tales will align, and while I thought I had it all figured out, I definitely didn’t.

This was a quick read, although a little slow to start and get into. Once the suspense started building, I found it engaging with a fairly okay twist at the end.

4 out of 5 stars.

http://www.marykubica.com

Halloween Witch Wreath

pastaHalloween is my second favorite holiday (Thanksgiving being my first, I love to eat.) I love to dress up,and love to decorate our house. I don’t go full on cobwebs on the porch, but I like a nice Halloween wreath and spooky pumpkin centerpiece or two.

My Halloween wreaths the past few years have been pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself. So, I needed something equally as fun this year, for our first fall season in our new house. I came up with this super cute witch wreath, with glitter ribbon and fun colors.

I’m usually the hot glue gun’s #1 fan, but the way our house sits, my front door is directly in sunlight during most of the day. I’ve found that the sun gets so warm it actually melts the hot glue on my wreaths, causing decorative pieces to fall to their peril. So, this time around I used stick pins for attaching everything to a straw wreath. Worked like a charm, and I didn’t burn off any fingers, like usual!

What you need:
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  • 10″ straw wreath
  • Two spools wide ribbon for the base color (I used black and white striped)
  • 3 spools smaller decorative ribbon (with halloween prints, colors, glitter, etc.)
  • 1 pack stick pins
  • Witch’s hat (found at Hobby Lobby)
  • Witches leg decorative piece (also found at Hobby Lobby)
  • Decorative bat clips (found at Dollar Tree)
  • Decorative flower clip

What you do:

1. Attach one end of your wide ribbon to your wreath with 4 stick pins. **Do NOT remove the plastic wrapping from your straw wreath!!! I’ve done this before–horrible mistake. You’ll end up with a completely misshapen wreath, plus a floor that looks like it belongs in a barn.**

2. Wrap your ribbon all the way around the wreath, making sure the straw is completely covered. When you’re at the end of your spool, attach the tail to the wreath form.

img_03743. Repeat with second spool of ribbon until wreath is completely wrapped.

4. Repeat these steps with your smaller decorative ribbons.

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5. Attach your witch legs to the bottom backside of your wreath using stick pins. I cut the legs off of a decorative piece I got at Hobby Lobby for $4. They also sold witches legs by themselves (but I didn’t think they were as cute.)

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6. Attach your witch’s hat to the top left corner of your wreath, at an angle, closer to the front of the wreath form, using stick pins.

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7. Clip decorative bats (or other decorative pieces) to the slots in between the wide ribbon wraps on the left side of your wreath.

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8. Do the same with your flower clip, but attaching on opposite side from bats.

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9. Using any leftover ribbon, attach a small loop to the top back portion of your wreath with stick pins to use to hang.

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Happy Halloween!!!!

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