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🎁2022 HOLIDAY BOOKS & PAIRINGS🎁

November 27, 2022

Dear Beautiful Book Family,

The 2022 Dear Mr. Hemingway Holiday Books & Pairings is HERE, and short and sweet—perfect for everyone exhausted from endless decision-making. In this year’s minimalist guide, I chose five books & five pairings that have DELIGHTED me every which way. This year’s lineup includes a scrumptious new cookbook, a mesmerizing book of poems, a musical memoir, a thriller in a secluded cabin, and a tantalizing tale of love and lust. My pairings are equally satisfying. They can be mixed and matched and open the doors to many products from pretty spectacular businesses. I hope you enjoy my holiday roundup for shopping made easy this holiday season! Be sure to click on the book pictures below to purchase these books for the book lover in your life. Don’t forget to click on the highlighted pairings as well. If you are looking for a more extensive list of Books & Pairings, check out my past gift guides RIGHT HERE!

Happy Reading, Happy Shopping, & Happy Holidays,

Kelly

Seclude Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger (Park Row Books)

Lisa Unger never disappoints. Like so many twisted thrillers, it is better not to know too much before reading, What I can offer you is this—three couples embark on a restful gateway to a luxurious secluded cabin only to be greeted by a dark and stormy night filled with more than just some gorgeous cocktails and mind-numbing edibles. Sketchy cell phone service, a busted generator, and messy characters with a lot of dirty baggage fill the pages of this locked-room mystery. Throw in a few ghost stories, characters have gone missing, and perhaps even a trail of blood, and you’ve got yourself a fast-paced atmospheric read. Don’t let the number of characters in this book scare you. They all come together for a wicked, fun ending! I paired this book with my latest fragrance obsession. NEAR & NATIVE Room and Body Mists are so wonderful. These naturally made sprays are created in Maine and are perfect for spritzing on your body, in your house, in your car, and even on your bed sheets for a hint of fabulousness. My favorite scents are rosewater, Japanese Yuzu, and citrus mint. I adore that they are not overpowering, and I ALWAYS receive compliments when wearing them! Shop for these spritzes RIGHT HERE!

Synopsis:

“What could be more restful than a weekend getaway with family and friends? An isolated luxury cabin in the woods with spectacular views, a hot tub, and a personal chef. Hannah’s generous brother found the listing online. The reviews are stellar. It’ll be three couples on this trip with good food, good company, and lots of R & R.

But the dreamy weekend is about to turn into a nightmare. 

A deadly storm is brewing. The rental host seems just a little too present. The personal chef reveals that their beautiful house has a spine-tingling history. And the friends have their own complicated pasts, with secrets that run blood deep.

How well does Hannah know her brother, her own husband? Can she trust her best friend? Meanwhile, someone is determined to ruin the weekend, looking to exact payback for deeds long buried. Who is the stranger among them?”

And Yet by Kate Baer (Harper Perennial)

If you are new to poetry, let Kate Baer lead the way. This is Baer’s third book of poems I have read, and I fell in love all over again with her writing. Her contemporary poems center around motherhood, friendship, love, loss, and just being a woman. Her poems shine a light on EVERYTHING, and I simply can’t get enough of her writing! I felt 100% seen in her words and believe that this will be true for so many other women. My favorite poems in this collection are Reasons to Log Off and Putting Away the Baby Clothes. This slim book of beauty will fit perfectly inside a fuzzy stocking or nestled between two books on a cozy shelf. My favorite pairing is Poppy & Pout’s Pink Grapefruit Lip Balm and Lip Scrub. To say I am obsessed with this flavor is an understatement. It smells so lovely and fresh, and lip-smacking has never tasted so great! This product combo has been my go-to birthday present to gift my friends this fall, and I have been using them non-stop myself every day. I feel confident that all of the flavors and products from this company will be winners. Have a blast shopping RIGHT HERE!

Synopsis:

“Kate Baer shot into the literary stratosphere with the publication of her debut poetry collection, What Kind of Woman, which became an instant #1 New York Times bestseller.

Kate’s second full-length book of traditional poetry, And Yet, dives deeper into the themes that are the hallmarks of her writing: motherhood, friendship, love, and loss. Taken together, these poems demonstrate the remarkable evolution of a writer and an artist working at the height of her craft, pushing herself and her poetry beautifully and impressively.”

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl (Dey Street Books)

I LOVED THIS BOOK! Grohl’s musical memoir came out near the end of 2021, but I am naming it one of my favorite books read in 2022. You will be very satisfied if you are a music fan and a GenX generation member. Grohl takes his readers on his journey to musical greatest, beginning with his childhood in Springfield, Virginia. From there, Grohl shares his rise to stardom from his time with the punk rock band Scream, Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana, and founding his own band, The Foo Fighters. He shares details of his time on the road, being roommates with the famous Kurt Cobain, and being a father to three beautiful daughters. His writing is intimate, heartfelt, and didn’t feel like an obnoxious celebrity memoir. Despite his musical success, Grohl seems like a down-to-earth guy who loves hard and feels harder. I am obsessed with him and would love to have a cup of coffee with this guy (did I mention he is a coffee junkie?)! Speaking of obsessed, I paired his book with some spectacular socks. Yes, you heard me correctly…socks! Bombas is an incredible company that not only has tremendous socks but also GIVES BACK. For every pair of socks purchased, one is donated. How cool is that? I’ve been wearing Bombas for years in various styles, and I’m gifting them again to the peeps in my life. They are high quality, wash & dry like a dream, and last forever. Shop for all the beautiful feet in your life RIGHT HERE! Be sure to buy Grohl’s book too. You won’t regret it!!!

Synopsis:

So, I’ve written a book.

Having entertained the idea for years and even offered a few questionable opportunities (It’s a piece of cake! Just do 4 hours of interviews, find someone else to write it, put your face on the cover, and voila!) I have decided to write these stories just as I have always done, in my own hand. The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I’ve recorded and can’t wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child. 

This certainly doesn’t mean I’m quitting my day job, but it gives me a place to shed a little light on what it’s like to be a kid from Springfield, Virginia, walking through life while living out the crazy dreams I had as a young musician. From hitting the road with Scream at 18 years old to my time in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, jamming with Iggy Pop or playing at the Academy Awards or dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drumming for Tom Petty or meeting Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall, bedtime stories with Joan Jett or a chance meeting with Little Richard, to flying halfway around the world for one epic night with my daughters…the list goes on. I look forward to focusing the lens through which I see these memories a little sharper for you with much excitement.”

Feed These People by Jen Hatmaker (Harvest Publications)

Did someone say NEW COOKBOOK ALERT???? I will never apologize for my endless love for new cookbooks, and I even treated myself to Jen Hatmaker’s debut cookbook, Feed These People. I have been following Jen for quite some time now, and one thing is for sure…she is super funny and feels like a best girlfriend. Her recipes are overflowing with flavor, easy to execute, and are for folks who are not afraid to enjoy a good meal. All I have to say is Green Chile Chorizo Queso (with a block of VELVEETA cheese), Pasta Bake with House Cream Sauce, and Shakshuka (I used fresh duck eggs). Now that I have your attention, please grab this book for the hungry people in your life and pair it with Slack Tide Sea Salt, made right here in good old Maine. “Hand-harvested sea salt made in small batches from the deep ocean waters of Maine, and solar evaporated along York’s tidal river.” Can you say PERFECTION??? I used this salt on many of my Thanksgiving dishes, and it’s simply the best. Shop all their salts RIGHT HERE!!!

Synopsis:

“With five children and a close-knit community of family and friends, bestselling author, podcaster, and inspirational speaker Jen Hatmaker has been sharing her love of cooking and food with her fans for years. Now she’s compiled all her favorite sure-thing recipes into one personal and highly entertaining cookbook, including chapters like Food for Breakfast (or brunch so you can drink), Food for Your Picky Spouse or Spawn, and Food for When You Have No More Damns to Give. This is real food for real people.”

Half-Blown Rose by Leesa Cross-Smith (Grand Central Publishing)

Half-Blown Rose is decadent, indulgent, and seductive as all hell⁣. It’s a woman named Vincent and a man name Loup⁣. It’s everything Paris⁣ and a teeny bit Irish⁣. It’s swift love, deep-rooted love⁣, and an intoxicating affair. It’s altruistic yet considerate⁣ and alarmingly sexy⁣. I could not stop reading this electrifying tale with lovers, family, art, and even a Tuscan Villa. I can not recommend this mouth-watering story enough. By now, you should know that I am a huge fan of all the products that come from Cape Gold. Fresh honey, soaps for days (there is even a Dear Mr. Hemingway Soap), shaving balms, and everything in between. Their latest creation is a Cucumber Honey Lotion that will make your skin feel smooth as butter. This magnificent lotion can be used anywhere on your body but works particularly well on your face and, for me…under my eyes. It is luxury in a bottle made with honey from their hives and other natural ingredients. Grab a bottle of this fantastic lotion to pair with Cross-Smith’s book RIGHT HERE!

Synopsis:

“Vincent, having grown up as the privileged daughter of artists, has a lovely life in many ways. At forty-four, she enjoys strolling the streets of Paris and teaching at the modern art museum; she has a vibrant group of friends; and she’s even caught the eye of a young, charismatic man named Loup. But Vincent is also in Paris to escape a painful betrayal: her husband, Cillian, has published a bestselling book divulging secrets about their marriage and his own past, hinting that when he was a teenager, he may have had a child with a young woman back in Dublin–before he moved to California and never returned. Now estranged from her husband, Vincent has agreed to see Cillian again at their son’s wedding the following summer, but Loup introduces new complications. Soon they begin an intense affair, and somewhere between dinners made together, cigarettes smoked in the moonlight, hazy evenings in nightclubs, and long, starry walks along the Seine, Vincent feels herself loosening and blossoming.”

*Book links provided in today’s post are affiliate links. Dear Mr. Hemingway makes a tiny commission through books purchased in our storefront. Even better, 20% of purchases made through the Dear Mr. Hemingway storefront go towards an independent bookstore. Thank you so much for all of your support!

#DEARBASICBUDDYREADS~NOVEMBER 2022

Stolen by Elizabeth Gilpin (Grand Central Publishing)

November 3, 2022

Dear Book Family,

I am so happy to announce our #DEARBASICBUDDYREADS NOVEMBER PICK. We will be reading Stolen, by Elizabeth Gilpin. There is no doubt in my mind that this memoir won’t spark the most intense conversations. Check out the WILD synopsis below and head on over to @dearmrhemingway on Instagram to join. If you want to watch Katie and I announce this pick LIVE, CLICK HERE. As always, this is a read at your own pace situation followed by a private Instagram chat at the end of the month. ⁣COME READ WITH US!

xoxo,⁣
Kelly


𝐒𝐘𝐍𝐎𝐏𝐒𝐈𝐒 ⁣
“At fifteen, Elizabeth Gilpin was an honor student, a state-ranked swimmer and a rising soccer star, but behind closed doors her undiagnosed depression was wreaking havoc on her life. Growing angrier by the day, she began skipping practices and drinking to excess. At a loss, her parents turned to an educational consultant who suggested Elizabeth be enrolled in a behavioral modification program. That recommendation would change her life forever.⁣
The nightmare began when she was abducted from her bed in the middle of the night by hired professionals and dropped off deep in the woods of Appalachia. Living with no real shelter was only the beginning of her ordeal: she was strip-searched, force-fed, her name was changed to a number and every moment was a test of physical survival.⁣
After three brutal months, Elizabeth was transferred to a boarding school in Southern Virginia that in reality functioned more like a prison. Its curriculum revolved around a perverse form of group therapy where students were psychologically abused and humiliated. Finally, at seventeen, Elizabeth convinced them she was rehabilitated enough to “graduate” and was released.⁣
In this eye-opening and unflinching book, Elizabeth recalls the horrors she endured, the friends she lost to suicide and addiction, and–years later–how she was finally able to pick up the pieces of her life and reclaim her identity.”

Click on the book pic to purchase!

*Book links provided in today’s post are affiliate links. Dear Mr. Hemingway makes a tiny commission through books purchased in our storefront. Even better, 20% of purchases made through the Dear Mr. Hemingway storefront go towards an independent bookstore. Thank you so much for all of your support!

DEAR FRIDAY~10/14/22

October 14, 2022

Dear Friday!

You are here again, and I am not mad about it. Monday holidays always throw me off and completely mess with my head. I basically had no clue what the date was or what day it was ALL WEEK. It all worked out because I began tackling my house. My goal for the next full year is to GET RID OF STUFF and to be more mindful of what we purchase and bring into our home moving forward. If it does not serve my family or me… it’s gone. I do not want to stare at odds and ends around the house. I do not want closets overflowing with all of our “things.” I do not want a basement bursting at the seams with crap we threw down there to avoid dealing with. I do not want my digital life to be so abundant that it needs to be stored in some imaginary cloud that I don’t know how to access. I want to feel lighter. I want my head to be clear. I want to be organized. I want an uncluttered life. This will take a lot of time, but I am determined! I also have three teenage boys, so please pray for me 😂😂. If you are looking for a great book on minimizing all the garbage in your life…check out LOVE PEOPLE USE THINGS.

Click on the pic to get it!

Ok…on with all the good stuff from the week!

Have a wonderful weekend!

xoxo,

Kelly

SHHH…CAN’T YOU SEE I’M READING

Click on the book pic to check it out!

I am in the middle of reading The Chain by Adrian McKinty for the #DEARBASICBUDDYREADS October book. It is a super fast read with short chapters to gobble up. So far, the pacing is quick, and the storyline is holding my interest. Fingers crossed, it continues in this direction. If you are on Instagram, CLICK HERE for more information on how to join our online discussion this month. I am also FINALLY reading Zibby Owens’ memoir, Bookends. I am a big fan of Zibby, her passion for great books and authors, and all her contributions to the literary world. I also enjoy writing for her publication…ZIBBY MAG (formerly MOMS DON’T HAVE TIME TO) and being a part of the ZIBBY MAG writing community. Read my funny piece about “getting it on” in the middle of the day…RIGHT HERE!

I CAN’T HEAR YOU…I’M WEARING HEADPHONES

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

I am currently reading/listening to the final book in the Beartown Trilogy. Backman is hands down…one of my favorite authors. I received an advanced copy of The Winners last spring, and guess what? I couldn’t read it. I stared at it every day but did not want to read it because reading it would be the end, and I could not face the end of this story. I am sure the publishers were thrilled with this 😂. Anyway, I am s-l-o-w-l-y alternating between listening and physically reading this book. I am savoring EVERY moment, EVERY character, and EVERY sentence 🥲.

On an entirely different note, I listened to a fantastic episode from Jen Hatmaker’s For The Love Podcast titled THE MOST EMPOWERING THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX & YOUR BODY WITH EMILY NAGOSKI. I highly recommend this episode, but listen with headphones on 😂. It’s empowering, educational, truthful, eye-opening, and just plain fun! I am now interested in checking out Emily Nagoski’s best-selling book, Come As You Are. I mean, why not make sure we are doing everything and anything to have the most incredible sex ever. I’ll keep you posted.

NETFLIX & CHILL

So last week, I shared that I listen to Caroline Kepnes’ book, YOU. I just finished binge-watching season one of the NETFLIX version, and it did not disappoint. It followed the book mostly, with a few changes here and there. I am a big fan of Penn Badgley (Hello Dan from Gossip Girl). I am not allowing myself to watch the next season until I read the second book, Hidden Bodies. However, from what I gathered, you could probably just cut to the chase and watch the series and call it good if you do not feel like reading the books. There are only so many hours in a day.

Another show I must recommend that I caught up on this summer is PHYSICAL on AppleTV. One of my besties recommended this, and I’ve been hooked. In my opinion, this show is underrated and needs more attention because it is the absolute bomb! The 80s vibe is out of this world, and the characters are entirely nuts, 100% unreliable, and will drive you CRAZY! Despite their awfulness, though, you will fall in love with them. The show tackles eating disorders, sexual abuse, and so much more with the 80s mindset and diet culture front and center. If you are sensitive to this subject matter, then take a pass. If not, have at it. It’s a hoot! There are two seasons, and the episodes are under 30 minutes. For this one, you will probably want to dust off your old exercise videos, High-Top Reeboks, and VCRs!

WHAT THE HELL AM I MAKING THESE PEOPLE FOR DINNER TONIGHT?

Today I am sharing a SLAM-DUNK RECIPE. It’s another dump-all-the-ingredients-in-the-crockpot situation and is a real crowd-pleaser. So this Instant Pot Short Rib Black Bean Chili can be made in an instant pot or a crockpot. I did the ladder, and it rocked! The short ribs give this chili a little “something-something” that separates it from your run-of-the-mill ground beef versions. At the end of the cook cycle, the short ribs shred effortlessly with the back of a fork. Chef’s Kiss! I highly recommend this for game day or busy week nights!

I WRITE THE SONGS THAT MAKE THE WHOLE WORLD SING

I am sorry to say that I am still not writing any songs. However, I am waiting to hear back on a few more pieces I submitted for publication while writing many other fun things. In the meantime, I loved this piece by Fridrik Backman in the New York Times. And if you need a bit more Backman in your life, check out what I had to say about one of his leading ladies RIGHT HERE!

MY BODY’S A TEMPLE…BLAH, BLAH, BLAH

My body IS a temple, and I lifted weights this week to honor it four times. I will say that lifting weights makes me feel fantastic, and I enjoy doing it. Right now, I have a membership with BEACHBODY. There are tons of workout programs to choose from that are either single workouts or specific programs that last for a particular duration (i.e., 6 wks/5 days a week, etc.). I love the variety of programs, recipes, and nutritional plans they have and highly recommend this if you want to work out at home. They also have accountability coaches and private social media communities for inspiration and support if that’s your jam. This currently seems to work for me, so I am just going with it. I am severely lacking in the cardio arena, so that is my mission for next week. I must add that I do not work for BEACHBODY or am an affiliate for them. I’m just a happy customer sharing.

FRIDAY I’M IN LOVE

Friday I’m in love. Yes, I named this blurb after The Cure’s song. They are, after all, my favorite band ever! So what am I in love with this week? TEA! That’s right, good old fashion hot tea to sip on during the day because it is getting COLD here in Maine. One fun fact about me is that I am a collector of teas. I am a sucker for a new flavor, gorgeous packaging, and if it comes in a quaint tin can…I’m buying it! I own more tea than I can drink, and I love it! My latest find is CARMEL APPLE by The Republic of Tea. It is caffeine free and tastes like a cozy fall day in a mug. If I feel wild, I add a splash of unsweetened vanilla almond milk to elevate my tea-drinking experience. Can you say DELICIOUS? I sometimes find seasonal flavors like this one at TARGET or WHOLE FOODS. It is hit or miss. If your stores do not sell this flavor, you can always grab it RIGHT HERE!

*Book links provided in today’s post are affiliate links. Dear Mr. Hemingway makes a tiny commission through books purchased in our storefront. Even better, 20% of purchases made through the Dear Mr. Hemingway storefront go towards an independent bookstore. Thank you so much for all of your support!

#DEARBASICBUDDYREADS AUGUST SELECTION

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell (Vintage Books)

July 24, 2022

Dear Gorgeous Readers,

Guess Who is Back??? #𝐃𝐄𝐀𝐑𝐁𝐀𝐒𝐈𝐂𝐁𝐔𝐃𝐃𝐘𝐑𝐄𝐀𝐃𝐒 and our August Book Selection!⁣⁣
Katie @basicbsguide and I are so excited to announce that we will be reading and discussing 𝘐 𝘈𝘮 𝘐 𝘈𝘮 𝘐 𝘈𝘮: 𝘚𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘉𝘳𝘶𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘴 𝘞𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘋𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩 by Maggie O’Farrell. ⁣

As you probably know, O’Farrell is the author of many books, including 𝘏𝘢𝘮𝘯𝘦𝘵 and 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘔𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘪𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘗𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘵 (out in August). But it is THIS memoir, 𝘐 𝘈𝘮 𝘐 𝘈𝘮 𝘐 𝘈𝘮 that has been staring me down for many years with its captivating title and premise. The time has come to take on all O’Farrell’s brushes with death…one page at a time. 𝐂𝐡𝐞𝐜𝐤 𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐝 𝐬𝐲𝐧𝐨𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐰.⁣

As always, this is a read-at-your-pace situation with a private Instagram chat at the end of the month… Date/Time TBA.⁣ If you are on Instagram, please message @dearmrhemingway to join.

Will you be joining us? I truly hope so! We would love to read with you! ⁣

xoxo,⁣
Kelly & Katie⁣


𝐒𝐲𝐧𝐨𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬:⁣
“On seventeen occasions, award-winning novelist Maggie O’Farrell has stared death in the face—and lived to tell the tale. In this astonishing memoir, the New York Times bestselling author of Hamnet shares the near-death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life.⁣

The childhood illness that left her bedridden for a year, which she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. An encounter with a disturbed man on a remote path. And, most terrifying of all, an ongoing, daily struggle to protect her daughter from a condition that leaves her unimaginably vulnerable to life’s myriad dangers. ⁣

Here, O’Farrell stiches together these discrete encounters to tell the story of her entire life. In taut prose that vibrates with electricity and restrained emotion, she captures the perils running just beneath the surface, and illuminates the preciousness, beauty, and mysteries of life itself.”⁣

Listen Up

Good Rich People by Eliza Jane Brazier (Berkley Publishing + Penguin Random House Audio)
In the Shadow of the Mountain:  A Memoir of Courage by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado (Henry Holt & Co + Macmillan Audio)

March 24, 2022

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Spring is officially in the air, and my reading life feels wonderfully on point.  I constantly switch up genres to keep up with my ever-changing mood, and it’s the #1 reason I hardly ever get bored with my books.  Today I am sharing two books that could not possibly be more different from one another, yet both were captivating in their unique way.  A memoir about healing from trauma while climbing Mount Everest and a work of spectacular fiction that involves dead bodies and over-the-top rich people is what I am talking about today, so listen up.

In the Shadow of the Mountain:  A Memoir of Courage by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado was phenomenal.  I had the pleasure of listening to this book on audio read by the author.  Vasquez-Lavado leads a group of sexual assault survivors on a trek to Mount Everest basecamp as part of their healing process. Her journey was far from over after reaching base camp, though.  She then joined up with another climbing group and took a shot at summitting the highest mountain on Earth.  Vasquez-Lavado shares her story alternating between her traumatic past and her epic climb.  I was moved to tears by the intimate details of the sexual abuse she experienced as a child and the fallout from these horrific events.  On the flip side, my heart was pounding out of my chest as she climbed for weeks and weeks in unfathomable conditions. Charged with brutal honesty, rich in unique culture, and filled with hope, Vasquez-Lavado’s memoir is a must-read/listen.

After immersing myself in Vasquez-Lavado’s profound journey, it was refreshing to switch it up with an over-the-top read about bored rich people who lie, scheme, and kill for entertainment.  Good Rich People by Eliza Jane Brazier is dripping in cash AND blood and I loved every second of it. Lyla and Graham are incredibly wealthy and enjoy playing games with people.  I’m not talking monopoly or a spicy pickleball competition, mind you.  Nooooo, I am talking about recruiting innocent self-made successful people to live in the guest house that they can destroy financially and maybe even kill if the spirit moves them. How fun is that??? Brazier’s story is a fast-paced, mannerless tale that had me wildly entertained.  Her writing is striking and razor-sharp. Her cast of characters is a spectacular melody of stunning and loopy all in the same breath and I had no problem gobbling up this juicy delight. I listened to Good Rich People on audio, and I must shout out the fabulous narrators who brought this wicked fun story to life.  Karissa Vacker and Sophie Amoss crushed the narration 100%!!!!

Well, my friend…I hope you enjoy experiencing these two incredible books one way or the other. 

Until next time!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly


P.S. I enjoy listening to my audiobooks via Libro.fm.  My audio purchases support an independent bookstore of my choice, which is something to cheer about.  Please feel free to use my member link to get started.

Click on the book pic to purchase!
Click on the book pic to purchase!

Nutcrackers & Handsprings: Books About the Cutthroat World of Ballet and Gymnastics

Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina by Georgina Pazcoguin (Henry Holt & Company)
The Turnout by Megan Abbott (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Happiest Girl in the World: A Novel by Alena Dillon (William Morrow)
Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein (Atria Books)

September 21, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Like so many young girls, I wanted to be a famous ballerina AND an Olympic gymnast.  I was little, so both professions seemed like reasonable career goals even though I could barely touch my toes. Images of me gracefully dancing across the stage in a white nightgown clutching a wooden nutcracker or sticking a round-off back handspring on a balance beam filled my wandering mind.  I, of course, only saw what was directly in front of me.  Beauty, elegance, strength, and perfection were what graced the stage and gym mats for all the dreamers like me who dared to dream.  Little did I know what the making of an elite athlete indeed looked like.  Today I am sharing four books that capture the fierce passion and wild side of ballet and gymnastics.  Scandal, abuse, injuries, eating disorders, and love fill the pages of today’s reads.   The lineup is dripping in all of the blood, sweat, and tears that we love to read about.   And GUESS WHAT?  Legwarmers and leotards are entirely optional.   You can be captivated by these stories from the comfort of your living room couch wearing sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt.  How great is that!!!! 

Point shoes and tutus, anyone??? I LOVED Georgina Pazcoguin’s memoir, Swan Dive. Pazcoguin was the first Asian American soloist in the New York City Ballet.  Her story from leaving her small town in Pennsylvania at age 16 to train in New York City was mind-boggling.  Pazcoguin’s memoir is a backstage pass into the making of a true ballerina.  She is brutally honest with the highs and lows of the profession.  From bloody toes to dancing with injuries to the abuse and racism she experienced, Pazcoquin’s story of dancing in the ballet to performing in the Broadway musical CATS is exceptionally enchanting.  I could not put it down.

While we are still in the mood for tortured ballerinas and scandal galore, let’s move on to a work of fiction that takes place against the provocative backdrop of a ballet school and its yearly performance of The Nutcracker.  The Turnout by Megan Abbott is one heck of a page-turner.  Sisters Maria and Dara Durant run their family’s ballet school.  Things unravel when they hire a contractor to rebuild part of their studio that recently caught fire.  All I can say is that this man is more significant than he lets on. Nutcracker drama, family secrets, irresistible sexual encounters, razor blades in point shoes, and even a dead body fill the pages of this “un-put-downable” book.  I officially know what a “turnout” is and OUCH! The Nutcracker will never be the same again!

All you gymnastic fans out there will love Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein.  Avery’s Olympic dreams come to an end after an injury occurs during her Olympic trials.  To make matters worse, she is newly single and moving back to her hometown in Massachusetts.  In comes Ryan, Avery’s childhood acquaintance, and Olympic gold medalist.  When Ryan discovers that Avery is back home, he eagerly asks her to take the job as his assistant coach to Hallie, an up-and-coming gymnast.   As these two former gymnasts train the next Olympic star, sparks begin to fly on and off the mat.  Picture twists and turns, switch leaps and layouts, and maybe just maybe, some steamy fooling around on a sticky pile of mats.  Head Over Heels has it all…the love of gymnastics, the tension, the hot topics, and most of all, the romance.  Can you say perfect 10!

Alena Dillon’s book, The Happiest Girl in the World is a work of fiction reminiscent of the recent sexual abuse scandals in gymnastics.  Sera and her best friend Lucy are training for the Olympics.  Everything changes for these two when Lucy reports to the authorities that the team doctor sexually abused her during treatment sessions.  Sadly, Sera denies these facts to protect her career and destroys their friendship.  Dillon’s book is overflowing with dusty chalk and intense training but also takes a deep dive into the byproduct of sexual abuse and the ultimate drive for perfection in the cutthroat gymnastics world.  Reading this book felt very timely, especially with the 2021 summer Olympics still in the rearview mirror.  

Now that I have filled your To Be Read pile with pirouettes, flips, and spins, it’s time to get reading!

Until next time my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. When I was little, my sister and I used to pretend the black lane lines in our community pool were balance beams.  In between swimming around, we would put together gymnastic routines and perform them in the pool, making sure to always stick our landings on the lane lines.  So much fun!

Click on the book pictures below to purchase!

Golden Ticket

Miseducated:  A Memoir by Brandon P. Fleming (Hachette Books)~June 15, 2021



May 24, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

As you know, I truly enjoy your writing. I’ve been chipping away at all of your books and short stories for quite a few years now.  As much as I enjoy reading your words, I am equally intrigued by your life and your complicated journey that was often masked behind your work and public persona.  As we all know, you can’t judge a book by its cover, which is why I absolutely love reading memoirs.  Memoirs give me a sneak peek into someone else’s life.  I am a fly on the wall somewhere different.  Somewhere vulnerable, somewhere true. Whether I am laughing, crying, learning or relating, memoirs are personal treasures that writers share with their readers.  I just finished reading Miseducated:  A Memoir by Brandon P. Fleming and my eyes are wide open.  I challenge any reader not to be inspired by this fantastic read.  Let’s take a look.

First, let me introduce you to the author.  Brandon P. Fleming is the Assistant Coach of Debate at Harvard University and the Founder/CEO of the Harvard Diversity Project. The Harvard Diversity Project recruits underserved high schoolers of color from Atlanta to Harvard’s summer residency program with Fleming raising money for their tuition.  WOW…right?  Fleming may be an award winning educator, but his road to a professional and scholarly life was a rough one to travel. He grew up in an abusive home with little to no role-models.  Basketball was his golden ticket into college. Classwork did not come easily for Fleming, so when an injury ended his college basketball career, he dropped out of school.  Without an education or skill set to obtain a stimulating job, he worked on an assembly line at a vitamin factory day in and day out returning to his delinquent behaviors.  It didn’t take him long to end up in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt.  From there Fleming slowly began to grow and discover a whole new world outside of his gangster life.  One with possibilities.  One with hope.  One that he was willing to work for.

Fleming invites his readers into his world with straightforward,  powerful words.  Through trial and error and being knocked down more times than I can count, he discovers the whole concept of being “miseducated”.  If you are raised only seeing Black men become “gangstas”, drug dealers and athletes, then that is what you aspire to be.  It wasn’t until Fleming discovered Black scholars, the Harlem renaissance and the power of debate that his life started to turn around.  When he realized that he could take his experience and newfound knowledge and help other at-risk kids not only survive, but thrive, he jumped on it.   How we teach and connect with learners is just as important as what we teach. Because of his past, Fleming knew how to tap into the young and underserved Black community and he inspired them through the power of debate.  

Guts and perseverance fill the pages of Fleming’s memoir from start to finish.  His journey encompasses aspiration after so much despair.  His story is one that not only at-risk Black kids need to know, but all kids need to know.   Watching Fleming rise up was beautiful and quite moving. His enthusiasm for learning shines so brightly in his teaching and his eagerness for knowledge and thoughtful discussion is contagious. Our youth are beyond lucky to have him. 

Until next time my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly 

P.S.  Fleming’s memoir comes out June 15, 2021.  Be sure to pre-order it below from your local indie bookstore!

Click on the book pic to pre-order

Try On Your Dreams For Size

Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story; Remaking a Life from Scratch by Erin French (Celadon Books)

April 21, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

Sound familiar? Just one of my favorite quotes from your memoir, A Moveable Feast. I am sharing it today because I think I know of someone who would truly appreciate it more than ever.  Her name is Erin French and she is the owner and chef of the critically acclaimed restaurant, 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐋𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐊𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐧, a 𝘛𝘐𝘔𝘌 world dining destination, in Freedom Maine. In her new memoir, Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story; Remaking a Life from Scratch, French shares how her world famous restaurant came to be. From roaming barefoot across a 25-acre farm as a child, to her personal and culinary journey through the years, French’s memoir is DIVINE.⁣  

I can not express enough how much I loved Erin French’s memoir.  If you are not familiar with 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐋𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐊𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐧, let me give you the scoop. The restaurant itself is in a refurbished old mill in a small, secluded Maine town. Can you say farm to table at its finest?? If you would like to make a reservation to dine at this seasonal restaurant, guess what…..much luck is needed. To make a reservation (pre-pandemic), interested parties send a postcard via good-old fashioned snail mail. Once all the postcards are received, a lottery system is used to choose future guests. How cool is that?  

“We would feast on oysters-pulled fresh from the Bagaduce River just down the road-served with finely chopped cucumbers, shallots, and fresh dill from the garden.  There was the fried chicken, raised and slaughtered right here on the farm, and an heirloom tomato salad with tomatoes picked just hours earlier from the hothouse, plus an assortment of basils from the garden, a drizzle of good olive oil, and a sprinkle of flaky salt.  We’d have tender new potatoes, freshly dug and dressed with a mustardy vinaigrette and sprinkled with fragrant marjoram.  And big flaky buttermilk biscuits served with cultured local butter from the farmer’s market and honey that was bottled across the street by the neighbor.  We’d finish with sweet maple custards made from farm eggs and cream and garnished with local blueberries, dollops of whipped cream, and the tiny strawberry blossoms I had collected that morning.”

Starting over from scratch is never an easy feat, but that is exactly what Erin French did.  In her memoir, she takes readers through her life, one page at a time, sharing her most intimate moments along the way.   From her childhood in a small Maine town, to an unexpected pregnancy, French drew me in from the start.   Her deeply troubled marriage was so very difficult to read about, and her struggle with anxiety, depression, pills and alcohol will hit close to home for many. French built and rebuilt her dream restaurant under some toilsome conditions. She did a phenomenal job  yanking my heartstrings on one page, then leaving my mouth watering on another.  Her innermost thoughts and feelings are sprawled out on the pages of her book and let me tell you this…they are thoughtful, heartbreaking and utterly beautiful. The most profound thing about French’s writing is that she seized the mood, then wrote her heart out…literally.  As I read her words, I felt like I was talking with a close friend.  No judgement, just pure admiration, heartache and love.  French was knocked and beaten down more times than I can count, but it was her deep seated love for food and her beloved son that kept her fighting every step of the way for the freedom she so desperately desired.  

To say her story is inspiring is an absolute understatement.  EMPOWERING, HEARTBREAKING, and absolutely SCRUMPTIOUS is more like it to me! Not only does French share with the world her hardships and struggles, she brings awareness to supporting local businesses, knowing where your food comes from and following your dreams…no matter what obstacles get in your way.  Whether she is writing about her darkest moments, her family life or cooking in the kitchen, French’s words are 100% infused with her deep passion for food.  Though this is French’s memoir, she does not hold back on her gratitude for all those who stuck by her side. It takes a village, and French’s village is overflowing with the people who helped her along the way and who brought their own skills and know-how to The Lost Kitchen table.  Knowing the entire story behind Erin French and The Lost Kitchen only strengthens my desire to travel the 96 miles to Freedom, Maine to embark on this culinary experience. 🤞🤞🤞 My husband and I will get that chance one day.⁣

Cheers to great food and great friends!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. I wonder if Erin French ever read your memoir, A Moveable Feast. Whether or not you two would like each other is not up to me to presume.  If I am lucky enough to have French read my letter to you, maybe I will find out!

P.P.S. Check out what I had to say about Erin French’s cookbook Right Here!

Click on the book pic to purchase!

Guest Writer~L.A. Detwiler

Photo Credit-L.A. Detwiler

Dear beautiful readers,

Today we are kicking off the 4th Dear Mr. Hemingway Guest Writer Series. This new series is focussing on Indie Authors (writers who choose to self publish) and it is inspiring, motivating and quite frankly…pretty phenomenal. I am over the moon to have USA TODAY Best Selling author, L.A. Detwiler on the blog today. Detwiler is the author of The Widow Next Door and several other chilling page-turners including A Tortured Soul, which I really enjoyed.

During her final year at Mount Aloysius College, Detwiler started writing her first fiction novel, which was published in 2015. She has also written articles that have appeared in several women’s publications and websites. Detwiler has experienced traditional publishing and the self publishing route, which makes her perfect for this series. In addition to her thriving career as a writer, Detwiler is also a high school English teacher from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. There is no denying that I am a big fan of her work. Her books can be terrifying at times, graphic in nature and a whole lot fun. I’ve been following Detwiler on her social media handles and her website for awhile now. I love how she shares her love of books and writing with all of her fans. She is extremely down to earth and relatable and is always sharing writing tips with fellow writers. Detwiler lives in her hometown with her husband, Chad. They have five cats and a new great dane puppy named Edmund.

I hope you enjoy her letter to Mr. H. Her spine-chilling Indie book recommendation is officially added to my TBR pile.

Happy reading!

Kelly

P.S. Be sure to check out L.A. Detwiler RIGHT HERE!

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I will never look at a white transit van the same way again thanks to this book.

Sometimes a book just creeps into your soul and leaves a lasting mark—for better or worse. Turn the Other Way by Stuart James is a dark, creepy horror that caught me from page one and still hasn’t let me go. The story follows a couple as they are taken on a harrowing journey. When they see a horrific sight in the transit van in front of them in traffic, they make a split-second decision to follow it. This leads them to a farm of horrors where horrible things are happening.

I kept putting myself in Jess’s shoes throughout the story. I love her character development, and I was shouting for her so many times to… turn the other way. But when the person you love is in a precarious situation, how do you just leave? The moral questions stirred in this book really made me ask myself what I would do in the situation of the book.

The setting…wow, it’s a creepy one! The farm is a thing of nightmares, truly, and the things that happen there just add to the terribly scary atmosphere.

What I also really loved about this book besides the Stephen King feel, though, is how Stuart James works so many twists and turns into the plot. The ending is so well done! All of the different characters and storylines come together for a satisfying but really twisted ending.

I won’t give it away, but the ending scene of this book still creeps me out. All in all, Turn the Other Way is a sinister story of how our choices can lead us down dark paths. Stuart has so many other books that are equally as chilling. If you’re a fan of dark horror like Stephen King, you’ll want to also check out Stranded.

Stuart James also runs an amazing podcast full of all sorts of haunting stories and author interviews. It’s so amazing that he is so giving in the author and reader community. 

So if you want to know why I literally always think of Stuart James when I see a white van, check out Turn the Other Way or any of his amazing reads. Stuart James will be re-releasing Turn the Other Way, so be sure to look for  the newest edition soon!

All the best,

L.A. Detwiler

P.S.- If you enjoy a macabre story full of creepiness, be sure to check out my latest novel, The Redwood Asylum. It’s also got a dark setting, some twists, and will have you asking if that new job you’re taking is really a good idea…

Also, be sure to come follow me on Instagram for more creepy book recommendations @ladetwiler and give @stuartjamesauthor a follow too, for some fun updates on his podcast.

Click on this gorgeous picture to purchase Turn The Other Way by Stuart James. Photo credit-L.A. Detwiler

Fashion Scenes & Low Rise Jeans

Everybody (else) is perfect

Everybody (Else) is Perfect:  How I Survived Hypocrisy, Beauty, Clicks, and Likes by Gabrielle Korn (Atria Books)

“Under the guidance of 29-year-old Gabrielle Korn, an out lesbian who lives in Brooklyn with her musician girlfriend, Nylon has become one of the most politically-aware, racially diverse, LGBTQ-inclusive, and feminist-forward digital magazines out there since Korn was appointed editor-in-chief in September 2017 (the same time the outlet’s print edition folded).”

January 25, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Women!  You were a fan…I am quite sure of that.  We empower one another to live life to the fullest, love who we want to love, feel confident in our bodies and demand equality in our everyday lives.  But the bottom line is…are we ever 100% happy within our own skin?  How can we get to a place of peace and acceptance of our most wonderful selves, especially when we are promoting this to those around us?  Sometimes a deep dive into the roots of these issues is more telling than a one size fits all answer.  Gabrielle Korn, a digital media expert, former editor at Refinery29 and former editor-in-chief of Nylon shares in her new memoir, personal essays relating to this very issue. Her story is an eye-opening, contemporary account of how damaging the fashion and beauty industries have been (and still can be) to women.  Her writing is fresh and alive and pretty much blew me away.  I hope you will read her book and find wisdom and courage in her words.

I will admit right away that I have never read Nylon (I have seen it referenced in books and on the internet though) and until I read Korn’s memoir, I didn’t even know who she was.  I am telling you this because I loved her book and I loved getting to know her through her writing.  I am not sure how much of a difference it would have made if I had more knowledge of who Korn was and what Nylon was all about.  FYI…Nylon is an international lifestyle publication that focuses on emerging culture (beauty, fashion, music, entertainment, etc.).  Korn’s book is a compilation of essays about her time spent in her twenties working in the fashion/beauty industry and her fast rise to the top of the publication, Nylon.  Korn had a great education, a supportive family and plenty of friendships.  Despite these blessings, she found herself in a cycle of eating disorders and body dysmorphia that not only impacted her health and well being, but had an acute influence on her intimate relationships with women.  Society’s view of sexualality was and still is in constant flux, making Korn’s goal of bringing diversity to this area and to all shapes, sizes and races to the media a constant battle. Fashion Week in New York City was one of the biggest culprits of all.  Stick thin models with dress sizes measuring an xxxs, is not ideal for anyone.

Korn talked a lot about trending body parts and their continuous sway on our self-esteem.  First it was a flat as a pancake stomach, then it was an oversized booty, followed by big boobs or bust.  Let’s not forget the thin waif look or the “strong is healthy” body.  What body part was the focus was and still is ever changing.   Looking in the mirror became a confusing vision for Korn and one that she battled everyday.    

“Even before hashtags, women’s body parts have been going in and out of style for as long as there’s been style.  What’s meant by that, really, is that for the moment, people with a certain physical characteristic are privileged. “ 

With popular body parts comes fashion to highlight them.  From low rise jeans, to high rise leggings, to crop tops to the no makeup makeup look, there is always a trend lingering around tempting us to conform or shaming us because we don’t.  Korn takes us through her days of dressing and undressing in the clothes of our time that were supposed to inspire us to feel beautiful but also had the potential of making one feel empty and not good enough.  She does mention that what you wear still can be valued.  Fashion has changed through the decades and for example, women being able to wear pants was a huge deal.  It was a sign of strength and equality that should be celebrated.  With this comes a hefty side order of  sexism, mental health issues and a variety of eating disorders that keep us from reaching our full potential and most happy selves.  Korn shares how her own eating disorder came to be and her battle to overcome it in a world that was determined to defeat her with unobtainable bodies and beauty standards. 

Through her years in the instrustry, Korn called out the fashion world for promoting diversity and women empowerment, while at the same time, not adhering to their own standards.  

“For any real change to happen in the fashion industry, all of the editors and bloggers and influencers would have to agree to stop showing up for designers that aren’t making an active effort to improve diversity.  That would mean going to probably four or five shows as opposed to the nearly one hundred that happen during New York Fashion Week.”  

Gabrielle Korn’s memoir was a deep-seated read.  I was beguiled with how she shared her most private moments in her life in a way that felt like she was talking in confidence with a close friend.  As a forty something year old straight woman who has never worked in the fashion industry, I could still relate to so much of what she revealed.  I have lived through my fair share of fashion/body trends and unreachable beauty standards and of course…sexism at its finest.  I can’t say that it was all bad (excluding sexism…that is always never welcomed here), but looking back now I wonder if some of it was even worth it.   Some trends worked in my favor, while others had me scrambling or left feeling pretty low.  Through the decades, I have witnessed media, fashion, diets and beauty products make strides towards diversity and inclusion of all shapes, sizes and even genders…at least from my perspective as a consumer. But is society moving in the right direction to meet the needs of our diverse and beautiful world?  Hopefully.  Do I still feel like I am reaching for the stars sometimes?  Absolutely.  But my one take away from Korn is that there are so many outside factors that influence our lives and we can’t change everything, especially all at once.  What we can change though, is our reaction to the cultural influences around us and how we let it seep into our minds and relationships.  We do not have to be a slave to our image.  We can just be who we are and love ourselves, flaws and all.   2021 continues to be an uphill battle. But as the steepness slowly decreases, our strength is increasing. Our bodies are our vessels that carry us through life.  I am focussing more on loving my vessel than hating it.  How about you?  

Much love, health and happiness to you!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Wallace ❤️❤️❤️

Click on the book pic below to purchase this book. It comes out January 26, 2021 🥰🥰🥰

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