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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 🥰🥰🥰

Kelly’s Top 10 Books Of 2020

January 4, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Happy New Year!  We made it to 2021!  Let‘s face it, 2020 was an absolute doozy!  I personally had a difficult time focusing on reading and was in a perpetual state of ruffled feathers.  This year, quality over quantity was the name of the game and I found myself way more picky with my book selections.  If a book didn’t reel me in from page one or work with whatever my current mood was on that day (or hour 😂😂), I tossed it.  Definitely a bit harsh for me, but I truly needed books that distracted me from my distractions and took me somewhere outside of my quarantined mind.  Here are my Top 10 Books Of 2020 in random order!  Whether I laughed out loud or was completely moved, each one of these books spoke to me in a unique way! Click on the book pictures for their full synopsis or to purchase from your local bookstore.   Here we go….

His & Hers by Alice Feeney (Flatiron) ~ This book was sooooo good! I could not put this down.  I listened to this on audio and the narration was incredible.  This was the ultimate suspense/thriller.  Click here to read my past review.

Admission by Julie Buxbaum (Delacorte Press) ~ Can you say,  juicy tale?  I really enjoyed this behind the scene look at what it takes to get into college and how far families will go to ensure their kids receive the creme de la creme education. Buxbaum explored issues of wealth, race, white privilege and more in her latest book. Though this is a work of fiction, it was inspired by the recent admission scandal this past year. I love how the teenager’s point of view is so prevalent in this story. Admission is an eye-opening read that will have you glued to your seat. It is the perfect book club pick. Discussions galore will come out of it.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle (The Dial Press) ~ This book was hands down, the equivalent to a perfect cup of tea!  I am a huge Glennon fan and her book was the breath of fresh air I needed this year.  Click here to read my past review.  

Green Lights by Matthew McConaughey (Crown Publishing) ~ Such a fun read.  Though Matthew’s life is most definitely different than mine, I strangely found comfort and could even relate to some of his words. I love how green lights, yellow lights, and even red lights are all opportunities to halt what you are doing or move ahead.  It is like the universe is talking to us.  Maybe some things do happen for a reason. Nevertheless, I got quite a few laughs from this charmer. Wait until you read about all of his “dreams”!!

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (William Morrow)~ Why all the fuss about this book???? In short, it is the story of a fifteen year old girl and her relationship with her 42 year old HIgh School teacher. It is a book that shines light on things that are strenuous to acknowledge. It is a book that is easier to just not read. It is a book that had my mind twisted every which way. It is a book that never left me, even when my reading time was through. It is a book that made me feel terribly uncomfortable yet completely captivated. It is a book that made my stomach turn and my mind wander. It is a book filled with power. It is a book that is so beautifully written, my heart ached. 

The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Dare (Dutton)~ I do not think this book has a star rating less than 5+.  Adunni absolutely stole my heart.  I rooted for her with all my heart and soul throughout her journey.  Dare’s book was powerful and complete perfection! If you have not read this yet, make it happen ASAP.  You will have no regrets.  

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron)~  I am so glad I squeezed this book in before 2020 ended.  WOW……this was awesome! Robberies, car chases, drugs and family drama….this book was a 100 mph ride that kept my beating heart in business.  Cosby’s writing was colorful, sharp and seriously captivating.  Enjoy this high speed read!!

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez (Forever Publishing)~ Oh La La.  Sloan and Jason…need I say more.  This was the super fun and steamy read I needed this 2020. I loved Jimenez’s last book The Friend Zone, and her follow up was equally as fabulous!  Be prepared to swoon.  Consider yourself warned!

Master Class by Christina Dalcher (Berkley) ~ I am obsessed with this book. Dalcher’s contemporary dystopian tale incorporates contentious issues from the past and present into a fictional world where the unimaginable may not be far from the truth. This was a 5 star read for me.  Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood will be all over this one.  Click here for my past review.

The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry (Simon &Schuster) ~ Take it from me, The Roxy Letters is the PERFECT book to slip in your bag when heading to the beach (or pool, or lake, or front porch).  With so many uncertainties in the world, why not escape for a few hours with some much needed laughter and a story that just makes you feel great.  I spent so much of my time reading this book giggling, while my cheeks turned uber pink.  With a heart of gold and a thirst for all things good, Roxy is one to root for. Click here for my past review.

Well my friend, that is a wrap!  Look out for all my bookish love coming your way this 2021.  Until next time…

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Click here to read my last post in December.  If you love a good domestic suspense novel, I have got you covered.  

How To Save A Life

The Beauty in Breaking Beauty shot

The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper (Riverhead Books)

The Beauty in Breaking Beauty shot

September 1, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Every time I read a memoir I say to myself, “ Kelly…..why don’t you do this more often?” I have always been fascinated by other people’s stories…. Sometimes it’s me being nosey 🤣🤣, but mostly I enjoy reading about someone else’s  journey and perspective on life.  Memoirs to me ignite empathy and understanding.  They often bring to the surface, unexplored feelings I never even knew I had. Whether I finish someone’s story feeling inspired, sad, horrified or utterly joyous, I am one step closer to understanding the human spirit. 

I recently read Dr. Michele Harper’s medical memoir, The Beauty in Breaking.  Dr. Harper is an African American, Harvard-educated ER doctor.  Mr. Hemingway… you could have easily swapped stories with this woman.  Like Dr. Harper,  I am sure you saw your share of emergencies while driving an ambulance for the American Red Cross in Italy during the first World War.  You even experienced your own traumas when you were hit with a mortar shell (I hear you even saved a piece of the shrapnel) and survived two consecutive plane crashes.  To say you cheated death a few times is an understatement.  From the war torn battlefields in the 1900s to the modern day ER battlefields, you and Dr. Harper could probably chit-chat all night long. I have digressed…once again. Lets get on with it.

In her memoir, Dr. Harper does a wonderful job weaving together her abusive childhood and past relationships with the wide variety of patients she has treated in the ER.   Her experience working as a physician in a hospital as a Black woman and the ethical boundaries that are pushed in such an intense setting was extremely eye opening.    Dr. Harper also brings to light the racism and sexism she experienced and witnessed in her career and reveals the flaws that exist in our healthcare systems today.  

What I truly loved about Dr. Harper’s memoir was how her encounters with patients helped her with understanding her own trauma and relationships.  At times,  I felt like I was in the middle of a Medical TV Drama. The intensity of waiting for your next patient to come crashing through the hospital door, to the painstakingly devastating outcomes that are often endured, Dr. Harper’s medical details are not for the faint hearted.  However, what her book offers that most medical dramas lack, is the human connection to her patients.  Day in and day out, Dr, Harper worked on healing her patients.  It was through this process of remedying and restoring health in others that she truly began to heal herself.   I love how she incorporates her yoga practice into her medical practice.  Like medicine, she believes that yoga too, needs to be practiced everyday for optimal gains. Through the patients she comes in contact with everyday and her selfcare journey, she taps into the value of truth and happiness.  Her writing is intellectual, thought provoking and filled with compassion. I am thrilled to have Dr. Harper’s book on my bookshelf.  

Until next time my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. I not only enjoyed reading this book, but I also enjoyed the audio version as well. If you are an audio book enthusiast, check out Libro.fm for all your listening needs. Your purchases support your local bookstore of choice 🤗🤗🤗.

Click on the book pic to purchase.

Cover of The Beauty in Breaking

Girls…Run The World

Untamed and Fierce, Free, Fire Beauty Shot

Untamed by Glennon Doyle (The Dial Press) &
Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire:  The Guide To Being Glorious You by Jen Hatmaker (Thomas Nelson)

August 24, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I am coming at you today Mr. H. with a whole lot of girl power. I hope all your “masculinity” can handle it 😂. I am talking about the fabulous Glennon Doyle and Jen Hatmaker!  These two motivational ladies are the “QUEENS” of self love and all things good in the world.  They know how to navigate the murky waters of religion and sexual identity. With empathy, they champion those who struggle. They are “momming” hard with all the rest of us, sharing their triumphs and challenges with their kids every step of the way.  They believe in the power of relationships and the people around us. But most importantly, they want to live their most authentic lives.  Both women have the gift of connecting with their audience.  When I read their words or listen to them speak, it feels like I am in a room with one of my closest girlfriends. They are inspirational, compassionate, and downright hysterical. Let me move forward now and tell you about their latest books!

I have been following Glennon Doyle forever.  I have read her previous books, Carry on, Warrior:  The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, and Love Warrior:  A Memoir.  I have listened to many of her interviews and podcast appearances and basically feel like she could be my next-door neighbor.  In her latest book, Untamed, Glennon once again invites her readers into her life sharing intimate details of her family and her mission for equality and all things good in the world. She shares with us her divorce from her husband (and father to their three children) and her love story with her wife Abby (ummm…greatest woman soccer player ever….just saying).  She talks about the importance of knowing who you are and how the relationship you have with yourself is your foundation, your home base in the world.

What I love about Glennon is that she embraces the awkward questions revolving around sexual identity, politics, sobriety, parenting and more.  She understands that so many of us are trying to figure out the hard stuff.  Let’s face it, life can be messy at times.  It’s having the guts to ask edgy questions that bring clarity to oftentimes difficult issues that moves us closer to the truth.  Glennon welcomes these conversations and nourishes them with her heart and soul. She shows her readers how to take on the gritty issues…She firmly believes that “We Can Do Hard Things”. She is so right…We totally can do hard things.  I can do hard things and so can you.  I felt so well balanced after reading Untamed.  Such a much needed pick me up during these strange pandemic times.  I hope you enjoy Glennon’s book as much as I did.

Let’s move on to the lovely Jen Hatmaker.  So Jen is another powerhouse woman that I have also been following for many, many years.  I am a fan of her Podcast, For The Love and an even bigger fan of her personal journey as a woman of faith and a motivational speaker.  Here is the thing about Jen.  She does the work.  She doesn’t just talk, talk, talk.  She examines, explores and researches the tough topics.  She is not afraid to try new things and she embraces failure.  Her latest book, Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire has everything you need to know about owning your space and not having to justify to ANYONE who you are.  Jen encourages women to stop hiding, pretending or posing as someone else.  It is all just too exhausting.  Our one and only life is ours and we need to live it well and live it truthfully.  When we do that, guess what happens…we flourish.  One thing that is awesome about her book is that it is not preachy. Jen makes it very clear that even though our journey’s  may look similar, each of our endgames are different.

Jen is the best girlfriend to her readers.  She shares the importance of our friendships and “vibrant relationships” in our lives.  She shares her personal exploration with religion and God and all the hiccups along the way.  She shows her readers how to examine their own faith (if they want to…again, no pressure) and figure out what is right for them.  Jen speaks about her friendships and faith with absolute honesty. That is what makes her shine.

Jen is no stranger to the everyday challenges of being a woman. Weight issues, self-esteem, wrinkles, loneliness and raising kids…Jen dives right into these issues with experience and of course, a whole lot of humor. Her book inspires me to be the best version of myself.  While I continue to nourish my relationships with my friends and family, I will most importantly be taking care of my one true self.  That feels pretty incredible to me.  Enjoy this treasure during these unprecedented times.  

Well my friends, Glennon Doyle and Jen Hatmaker are two women that not only speak their truth, but are vibrant with fantastic wisdom that so many of us women can truly appreciate. There is something for everyone in their books. Whether all or even just parts of their writing resonate with you, I hope you embrace their positivity and love yourself.  

Until next time!

Your Biggest Fan!

Kelly

P.S.  I did a combination of reading both books and listening to them on audio.  I am not going to lie,  both authors narrate their respective books so it is almost like listening to a super long fabulous podcast.  I loved both books on audio.  Jen adds extra commentary and clips from relevant podcasts, which enhance your listening experience of her book.  If you are an audio lover, be sure to check out Libro.fm.  I am a huge fan.  Your purchases go directly to the local bookstore of your choice.  How cool is that?

Click on the Book Pics below to purchase.

“Ernest”Chitter Chatter

Ernest Chitter Chatter collage with Abdi Nor Iftin

The Dear Mr. Hemingway Book Discussion Group You All Have Been Waiting For…

 

July 10, 2020

Dear Lovely Readers,

I am excited to announce The Dear Mr. Hemingway Book Discussion Group….”Ernest” Chitter-Chatter With Kelly & Friends.  My goal is to connect all of my readers (and me too) with a wide variety of fabulous books and incredible authors.  Not only will you have the chance to discuss a monthly book with other book lovers from around the world, but you also will have the opportunity to connect with the author as well. All your burning questions can finally be answered by authors you know and love.  Not too shabby.

As of right now, there are two parts to this group.  You can choose to be in one or both parts.  Part one is a private group chat on instagram with our DMH community on a specific date about one of the monthly book choices.  The second part is a ZOOM with you, me and the author.  Talk about fun!!!!!

𝐇𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐞-𝐮𝐩 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐚𝐥𝐥⁣:

𝐉𝐮𝐥𝐲 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟎 (Still time to join for final conversation and ZOOM)⁣

𝘊𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘔𝘦 𝘈𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘯 by Abdi Nor Iftin⁣

Private Instagram Chat on July 9th & July 23rd⁣

ZOOM~End of July…TBA⁣

𝐀𝐮𝐠𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟎⁣

𝘛𝘪𝘯𝘺 𝘐𝘮𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘧𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 by Alli Frank and Asha Youmans⁣

Private Instagram Chat on August 20th⁣

ZOOM~ 7pm August 24th⁣

𝐒𝐞𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟎⁣

𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘪𝘰𝘯’𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘍𝘪𝘧𝘵𝘩 𝘈𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘶𝘦 by Fiona Davis⁣

Private Instagram Chat September 24th⁣

ZOOM~End of September TBA⁣

𝐎𝐜𝐭𝐨𝐛𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟎⁣

𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘞𝘩𝘰 𝘒𝘯𝘦𝘸 𝘛𝘰𝘰 𝘔𝘶𝘤𝘩 by Michele Campbell⁣

Private Instagram Chat October 22nd⁣

ZOOM~End of October TBA⁣

𝐑𝐄𝐒𝐄𝐑𝐕𝐄 𝐘𝐎𝐔𝐑 𝐒𝐏𝐎𝐓 𝐅𝐎𝐑 𝐎𝐍𝐄 𝐎𝐑 𝐌𝐎𝐑𝐄 𝐎𝐅 𝐓𝐇𝐄𝐒𝐄 𝐁𝐎𝐎𝐊 𝐂𝐇𝐀𝐓𝐒

👇👇👇👇👇

dearmrhemingway@gmail.com⁣

or DM me on Instagram @dearmrhemingway

Look forward to chatting with all of you

Kelly

P.S.

There is still time to join in on our July book pick. It is an awesome read with so much to talk about! Join in the fun!

Click the book pics below to purchase

July Discussion Read

Ernest Chitter Chatter Collage with Call Me American with Abdi Nor Iftin

Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin

June 29, 2020

Hello Lovely Readers,

I hope everyone is having a wonderful start to their summer. Over here at Dear Mr. Hemingway, I am constantly developing new bookish ways we can all connect over our love of reading. This month, I am hosting a book discussion on an extraordinary memoir by Abdi Nor Iftin…Call me American. Abdi was born in Somalia and shares his story from living in war torn Mogadishu to becoming an American citizen. What’s even better, Abdi lives here in Maine very close to me 🤗!

For the month of July, The Dear Mr. Hemingway community will be reading Call Me American. On July 9th and July 23rd, I will be facilitating a private group discussion on this memoir over on Instagram. To participate, all you need is an instagram handle. It is super easy and really fun. BONUS……….At the end of July, I am hosting a ZOOM Session with Abdi with everyone who is in our book group (Date TBA).

Here is what you need to do to participate……

  1. If you have an Instagram account, simply DM me on there @dearmrhemingway, and I will add you to the group. You will automatically be alerted to the Zoom Session.
  2. If you do not have Instagram, but would like to join in on the Zoom Session with Abdi to ask all of your questions, please email me dearmrhemingway@gmail.com, writing BOOK DISCUSSION in the subject line. I will add you in.

Check out the Synopsis in the postscript!

I look forward to our discussion.

❤️❤️❤️

Kelly

P.S.

Synopsis

“Abdi Nor Iftin first fell in love with America from afar. As a child, he learned English by listening to American pop and watching action films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. When U.S. marines landed in Mogadishu to take on the warlords, Abdi cheered the arrival of these Americans, who seemed as heroic as those of the movies.Sporting American clothes and dance moves, he became known around Mogadishu as Abdi American, but when the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006, it became dangerous to celebrate Western culture. Desperate to make a living, Abdi used his language skills to post secret dispatches, which found an audience of worldwide listeners. Eventually, though, Abdi was forced to flee to Kenya.In an amazing stroke of luck, Abdi won entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery, though his route to America did not come easily. Parts of his story were first heard on the BBC World Service and This American Life. Now a proud resident of Maine, on the path to citizenship, Abdi Nor Iftin’s dramatic, deeply stirring memoir is truly a story for our time: a vivid reminder of why America still beckons to those looking to make a better life.”

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