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A Trio of Books Just For You

The Selfless Act of Breathing by JJ Bola (Atria Books)

The Prynne Viper by Bianca Marais (Audible Original)

Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr (Harper Perennial)


March 7, 2022

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I have three books for you today and they are all so very different from one another. These three works of fiction each have their own unique vibe and I am thrilled to share them with you. I am offering up a man in search of his soul, a courtroom drama set way into the future, and a mystery around some Nazi stolen artwork. I can honestly say that I was swept away by all three of the books below. I was shocked, entertained, made to think, and above all…simply wowed by these three authors. I do believe there is something for everyone in today’s round-up. Happy reading and listening!

Until next time dear friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

Click on the book pic to purchase.

First up is The Selfless Act of Breathing by JJ Bola. All I can say is that I absolutely LOVED this book.  Bola’s writing knocked my socks off, that is for sure.  His main character Michael truly lost his way and my soul literally ached for him.  His journey is beyond profound and left me with a feeling of sadness that was hard to shed.  I was mesmerized by his introspection and oftentimes found myself drifting off into my own world of ruminating and reflecting on life, love, and loneliness.  The connections with the people he met along the way truly highlighted his internal needs and fears and I was in absolute awe of how Bola could take on the heavy themes of suicidal thoughts, race, culture, and family using a poetic tone.  The Selfless Act of Breathing is a raw and powerful read and I highly recommend it.

Synopsis:

“Michael Kabongo is a British-Congolese teacher living in London on the cusp of two identities. On paper, he seems to have it all: He’s beloved by his students, popular with his coworkers, and the pride and joy of a mother who emigrated from the Congo to the UK in search of a better life. But behind closed doors, he’s been struggling with the overwhelming sense that he can’t address the injustices he sees raging before him—from his relentless efforts to change the lives of his students for the better to his attempts to transcend the violence and brutality that marginalizes young Black men around the world.

Then one day he suffers a devastating loss, and his life is thrown into a tailspin. As he struggles to find a way forward, memories of his father’s violent death, the weight of refugeehood, and an increasing sense of dread threaten everything he’s worked so hard to achieve. Longing to escape the shadows in his mind and start anew, Michael decides to spontaneously pack up and go to America, the mythical “land of the free,” where he imagines everything will be better, easier—a place where he can become someone new, someone without a past filled with pain.

On this transformative journey, Michael travels everywhere from New York City to San Francisco, partying with new friends, sparking fleeting romances, and splurging on big adventures, with the intention of living the life of his dreams until the money in his bank account runs out.”

Click on the book pic to purchase.

Next up is Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr. Run, don’t walk to grab yourself a copy of this literary gem.  The dazzling art world, high-stakes journalism, and the history of Nazi stolen artwork during the Second World War are well framed in this remarkable literary mystery. Barr’s story is teeming with intricate details and a chic background that pairs well with her multi-layered and quite juicy characters that undeniably lit up the pages of this book.  The combination of unparalleled research weaved into modern-day fiction was THE creme de la creme for me.  Every luscious page I read made me more ravenous for the next because I simply had to know what happened next. I refused to cease my reading adventure until I reached the wicked satisfying ending the Barr so meticulously delivered.  At the end of the day, there is nothing better than being immersed in a world where the past meant everything and secrets kept everyone in the game.  Woman on Fire was an absolute pleasure to read. 

Lisa Barr’s stunning creation is the true work of art here and SHE is… The Ultimate Woman on Fire!

Synopsis:

“After talking her way into a job with Dan Mansfield, the leading investigative reporter in Chicago, rising young journalist Jules Roth is given an unusual—and very secret—assignment. Dan needs her to locate a painting stolen by the Nazis more than 75 years earlier: legendary Expressionist artist Ernst Engel’s most famous work, Woman on Fire. World-renowned shoe designer Ellis Baum wants this portrait of a beautiful, mysterious woman for deeply personal reasons, and has enlisted Dan’s help to find it. But Jules doesn’t have much time; the famous designer is dying.

Meanwhile, in Europe, provocative and powerful Margaux de Laurent also searches for the painting. Heir to her art collector family’s millions, Margaux is a cunning gallerist who gets everything she wants. The only thing standing in her way is Jules. Yet the passionate and determined Jules has unexpected resources of her own, including Adam Baum, Ellis’s grandson. A recovering addict and brilliant artist in his own right, Adam was once in Margaux’s clutches. He knows how ruthless she is, and he’ll do anything to help Jules locate the painting before Margaux gets to it first.”

Click on the book pic to purchase.

Last but never ever least is The Prynne Viper by Bianca Marais. Marais, author of Hum if You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh is back with something 100% fresh.  This time around she is not writing about South Africa, the Apartheid, or the Soweto Uprising.  Instead, she wowed me with a short story offered as an Audible Original. The Prynne Viper is a futuristic tale (yes, you heard me correctly) that left me thinking long and hard about the fate of humanity if left in the hands of some crazy predictive software. I was transfixed by this terrifying world and the idea that mankind could be predetermined by a courtroom jury haunted me for days.  Don’t let the length of this story fool you though.  Marais’ magnificent storytelling, the full cast of narrators, and an extremely pleasing ending all neatly fit into a unique two-hour listen. Marais’ ability to switch writing gears by seamlessly transitioning to a completely different genre was wicked impressive and she will forever be an auto-buy author for me.

Synopsis:

“In a futuristic world where predictive software can map out the lives of every living person and their descendants, Naomi Prynne is on trial. The charge: endangerment by way of a pregnancy.

Thirteen jurors will determine whether Naomi is allowed to carry the pregnancy to term, but the jurors are also all plaintiffs, the software having predicted how Naomi Prynne’s child will affect each of them in life-changing ways. Among them: a history professor who has given up on her own dreams for the sake of the greater good; a student participating in his first-ever trial who’s about to discover an earth-shattering truth; and a former mathematician, who knows all too well the dark machinations of the state, but is prohibited from speaking out against them. The future of the Prynne Viper – an acronym for “viable person” – is in their hands.

But this Prynne Viper is unlike Naomi’s other pregnancies. This time, Naomi Prynne is carrying a secret, one with the power to alter the future into something incalculable, and therefore, unpredictable.”

True Love

Heartstopper Volumes 1-4 by Alice Oseman (Graphix Books)

February 14, 2022

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Happy Valentine’s Day my friend!  Roses, chocolates, conversational hearts, and sweet kisses fill this day of love.  Today I am sharing with you one of my favorite graphic novel series that absolutely has all the feels and is perfect for this very special day or any day for that matter.  Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper series is an all-encompassing story of friendship, first love, and coming out…all during the awkward time of being a teenager. I borrowed this series from the library to read and have officially decided to purchase all four Heartstopper books because they left such a huge impression on my heart and now need a permanent place on my bookshelf. This book series had me squealing with absolute delight.  Let me give you the scoop.

Charlie and Nick are British High School students.  Charlie is openly gay, while Nick is a star rugby player who appears to like girls. Heartstopper is their story of falling in love with each other during one of the most vulnerable times of life.  This series has EVERYTHING and my heart literally doubled in size while reading.  Heartstopper had me reliving that feeling you get when first glances are exchanged, cheeks are blushing, and the sheer excitement of a stolen kiss or two. Oseman not only writes about the exhilaration of first love but also explores the intricacies of labeling one’s sexuality and identity and accepting everyone’s differences.  Oseman adds depth to the story by brilliantly weaving in themes of loyalty, friendship, bullying, mental illness and so much more.  

Nick and Charlie experience a lot separately and collectively and how they navigate their relationship through the challenging times tugged at ALL my heartstrings. Their elation for one another was beyond palpable.  The cast of characters helped shape their story by adding the perfect amount of relevance.  Let me also mention that the illustrations are phenomenal! They are highly animated and capture all the emotions these two young gentlemen confronted one drawing at a time. I have not read many graphic novels as an adult and was ecstatic to discover just how smoothly the graphics and text flowed. I found myself frantically turning the pages to see what would happen next.

All I have to say is that Heartstopper brought so many smiles to my face and I will cherish all my feelings forever.  It’s a series filled with comfort, goodness, and the beauty found inside two young beating hearts. This is a timeless story of true and innocent love that in my opinion is a gift to everyone who reads it. Nick and Charlie are my new favorite couple and I will be rooting for them with every re-read of this series while I wait with bated breath for book five to come out.  It was a privilege to read this tale and I cannot recommend it enough to teens and adults alike. Give yourself the gift of love today and all the days to come and READ Heartstopper!  

Until next time!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly


P.S.  Rumor has it that NETFLIX is making this book series into a show.  Click here to check it out!

Click on the book pic to purchase ALL FOUR books in the series!

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

Triple Threat

Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins (Harper)
The Editor by Steven Rowley (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison (Mira Books)


May 10, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Today I am coming at you with not one, but three books to quench your reading desires. Caul births, Jackie O. and a cliffside villa on the coast of Italy is what’s in store for you with this triple threat selection.  Even though all three books could not have been more different, they all are fantastic reads in their own special way and I highly encourage you to add them to your TBR.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

J.T. Ellison did it again with another juicy tale.  Her Dark Lies is overflowing with danger, luxury and secrets galore.  The writing is atmospheric, the characters are layered, and the setting is so incredibly stunning.  A wedding on a remote Italian island sounds fantastic, right?  Throw in a huge storm, a lot of cash, dead bodies and few potential ghosts, and you’ve got yourself quite the tale.  Ellison wowed me with her nod to Daphne du Maurier.  Paying homage to one of her favorite books (Rebecca) in Her Dark Lies was absolutely stellar!  Check out what I had to say about her previous book, Good Girls Lie, RIGHT HERE!

Switching gears…I am a huge fan of Steven Rowley’s, The Editor.  Let me just reiterate that we book lovers LOVE reading about writers, getting published and anything literary related. Now, picture Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as the editor of an author’s debut novel, and you are officially in the middle of one charming tale. James Smale is the quintessential struggling writer who finally gets his big break with one of the major publishing houses with none other than Jackie O. as his editor.  Who would have thought that this former first lady would not only be editing his book, but also helping him come to terms with his dysfunctional family.  Wit and style paired with wisdom and grace fill the pages of Rowley’s book. I seriously adored Rowley’s humor and found myself chuckling throughout his book (James’ boyfriend Daniel, is an absolute riot in my opinion).  I loved how The Editor hit all the marks for me.  American royalty, family secrets and bookish delight, all tied up into one heartfelt novel equals perfection!  Be sure to stay tuned because Rowley has a new book coming out on May 25, 2021 called, The Guncle, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  

My last read was probably the most unique one for me.  Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins follows the Melancon Family from Harlem who are known for their caul, a special layer of skin that is used for healing and fertility.  Let me backup and explain what a caul birth is because I had no clue before reading this book and had to google it for clarity.  A caul birth is basically when a baby is born in an intact amniotic sac.  It is pretty rare and happens in less than one in 80,000 births according to Healthline (knowing this helps to understand the magic behind this story). I loved how Jerkins took this miraculous occurrence and gave it a touch of sorcery to create her story.  The Melancon women are famous for their healing skills and helping moms have successful pregnancies. Women from all over come to these women, willing to pay the steep cost for a piece of their caul.  When the plan falls through for Laila to acquire some caul to ensure a safe pregnancy, she is crushed when her baby is stillborn.  From there, the story takes flight.  Race, gentrification, money, morals and family secrets are all explored in depth with a hint of magical realism to keep things fresh and a wee bit peculiar.  There is so much to unpack from Jerkin’s story.  It is a WONDERFUL choice for your next book club.

Well my friend…three books for the price of one for the win today!

Happy Reading!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Click on the book pics below to purchase these gems from your local Indie Bookstore!

Here Comes The Sun

It Had To Be You by Georgia Clark (Atria/Emily Bestler)~May 4, 2021



May 3, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Love is in the air, and it feels like Valentine’s Day… in the beginning of May.  Because of this, I have to share with you the most sprightly and heartwarming book. It Had To Be You by Georgia Clark has all the “feels” and I literally can’t stop smiling.  Love almighty love is the theme here, and Clark delivers a five star tale blending a sprinkle of Modern Love with a dollop of Love Actually.  This twenty-first century romantic comedy is a ray of sunshine and I can’t wait for the world to read it.

Liv and Eliot Goldenhorn have been married for decades.  Their New York wedding planning company, In Love in New York is THE place to go for the ultimate wedding experience.  One night, Liv finds out that her husband had a heart attack while away, and died.  Soon after, Liv discovers that not only did her husband/business partner die, but that he left his half of the company to his GIRLFRIEND, Savannah (excellent time for your jaw to drop).  Why on Earth is he trying to bring these two women together after his death? 

Now that you have the backdrop of the story, let me continue with what happens next.  Liv is baffled when Savannah moves to New York to take on her “half “of the wedding business, and so begins their unexpected journey as business owners and women trying to discover love after loss. To enrich this story further, Clark brings in a cast of characters with their own unique love challenges that all link back to Liv, Savannah and In Love In New York. 

It Had To Be You is a must read for anyone looking for love,hope and a happily ever after.  LGBTQ themes, diversity, and romance were lovingly woven together to showcase the power of love. Clark magically melded together an incredible ensemble of characters that offered a different point of view for each new chapter.  The five storylines were distinct in their own quirky way and I was completely obsessed with each and every one of them.  As a woman in my 40’s, I personally relished reading about Clark’s characters my age and even older. It is so refreshing to see more mature women and men in romance books.  This writer truly knows how to tap into the human heart and I look forward to more books written by her.  

It Had To Be You is a treasure that belongs on everyone’s bookshelf.  It is a well needed hug after a long day kind of book and I can’t encourage you enough to read and savor this all inclusive love story.   

Love and Happiness My Friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly


P.S.  Georgia Clark shared her own happily ever after in Brides Magazine.  Check it out Right Here!

Click on the Book Pic to Purchase!

A Handful of Books…Just For You

A Handful of Books

February 19, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I love my long letters to you recounting my journey with a new crew of characters in their real or fictional worlds. Sometimes though, I am frothing over with so much literary goodness that I simply must gush about more than one book to you.   Because I am forever a mood reader, I require a variety of reading options at my fingertips at all times.  Whether it’s a literary drama, a light an airy romance, or a thriller gone wild, my state of mind always dictates to me my next read.  Here are a handful of book recommendations to kickstart your weekend.   

Happy Reading my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Your bouquet of books awaits you down below.  Arrange these books into your literary lifestyle any way you like. Click on the book pics to purchase or read the full synopsis.

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria (Avon Books)

I adored this romance. I did a combination of reading and listening to Daria’s story and both options were quick and delicious. The storyline was definitely a little predictable, but still tons of fun, worth the read and a wonderful pick me up. I loved the characters and the plot was wicked entertaining. Who doesn’t love the world of acting? There was a slow build to the “steamy” scenes making the last 1/3 of the book HOT! I enjoyed the Puerto Rican culture, and the Spanish speaking parts and accents on audio…were fabulous! This was a feel good, put a smile on your face kind of read.

Verity by Colleen Hoover (Independently Published)

Buckle up friends this is an absolute WILD RIDE. This has been the most hyped book I have read in quite sometime, and guess what…….It lived up to every juicy and disturbing detail. If you adore psychological thrillers that are mentally unsettling then this book will WOW you. Not only is the writing quick and captivating, Hoover pretty much nailed a five star ending in my opinion! Absolutely brilliant!

Good Eggs by Rebecca Hardiman (Atria Books)

A multi-generational Irish family, laugh out loud dialogue and dysfunctional characters you just can’t help but love fill the pages of Hardiman’s debut novel. From an aging grandmother, to an unfulfilled father, to a teen lost in her own way, Good Eggs takes on the trials and tribulations of family life…one character at a time. Hardiman’s heart felt story is peppered with humor that could be construed as inappropriate, but to me was hilarious and on point. I personally enjoy this approach to writing, especially when talking about sensitive topics such as aging, teenage life and infidelity. Good Eggs moved along at a steady pace offering me an equal distribution of comedic relief and tender moments. The ending was a bit over the top, but never the less brought a big smile to my face. I think this story would be incredible as a TV series. Move over Schitt’s CreekGood Eggs is coming to town. This book comes out on March 2, 2021. Pre-order or reserve it from your local library now!!!

The Prophets by Robert Jones, JR. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

The love between two Black and enslaved men in the deep south is enough to grab most readers’ attention. Pair that with a beautiful and heart wrenching story filled with prose that will literally hypnotize you, and you’ve got yourself an extraordinary read. The Prophets is by no means a fast read. Jones’ writing is lyrical and oftentimes reads like a poem. It is one that you consume at a pace that allows time to sit with your heightened senses and experience Samual and Isaiah’s journey, one page at a time.

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon (Berkley)

Radio co-hosts who pretended to have dated in order to share their “fake” past on their award winning show is the premise of The Ex Talk. Another feel good romance for the win with this bright and shiny new release. Enemies to lovers will always be one of my favorite tropes, and Shay and Dominic had me yearning for a “romantic” connection right from the start. This was a slow burn romance with great energy that evens gets a little naughty in the bedroom during the second half of the book. So much fun and perfect to read if you need a little boost to your day.

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.  

Guest Writer

Bree Hill Guest Writer Graphic

Bree Hill
Bookstagram Bonanza Edition

Guest Writer Bree Hill Graphic

October 14, 2020

Dear Book Friends,

If you are looking for love, you have come to the right place. Today’s Guest Writer is a retired Air Force police officer turned stay at home mom turned successful book lover/influencer. Bree Hill is the queen of romance reading! She is the creator of the very successful Bookstagram page, @falling4romance. If you are looking to read something from this genre, then Bree is the girl for you. I tend to visit her page quite often when I need a little more love in my life. In addition to all the work she does for her own page, she also is a contributing writer for Reading Women and Frolic and has been featured on the What To Read Next podcast and Shelf Love podcast. WOW!

Bree is a full time college student, wrapping up her degree in History, hoping to teach middle school one day. She picked up her first romance novel in 2017 and has been an avid reader of the genre ever since. When not reading, or chasing after one of her kids, Bree can typically be found having coffee at a local coffee shop or out for her morning run.

I hope you enjoy Bree’s letter to Mr. H. Romance is in the air everyone…….take a deep breath and enjoy!

P.S. This past summer, Bree was named one of the top 24 Black Bookstagrammers to put on your radar by BuzzFeed (can you say…the real deal?).

______________________________

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

One thing 2020 has shown me, is that the world can use a little more (or a lot more) romance. We need more love stories, more happy ever afters. Romance has been my go-to genre since I picked my first romance novel up back in 2017. I remember checking out a Debbie Macomber Christmas romance novel from my local library, and the genre instantly became a new life companion. Through dark mental health moments, retiring from the job I’d been doing since I was 18 and constant hits, we’ve been experiencing in 2020, I have always been able to depend on romance. 

A favorite romance from this year, that I recommend every chance I get is, The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel. Here’s the thing: I read and finished this book back in July, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it yet! When you look at the cover of this book, you see this gorgeous yellow cover with the beautiful illustrated version of our heroine, Liya Thakkar and our hero, Jay Shaw. You see the cover and immediately think, “This is going to be a good time.” It is a good time, and so much more. This book is genius. Liya is a successful bioengineer in Houston, Texas who goes to her parent’s house for dinner one night. Unbeknownst to her, her parents have invited over Jay Shaw and his Mother, as a setup, hoping Liya and Jay will marry. As any 2020 woman would do, Liya bolts it out of there! When she goes to work the next day, she runs into Jay again because he is the lawyer her struggling company has hired to help them out. 

I love a good workplace romance. I love a not-so friendly to lovers romance too but what I love even more is how romance authors weave in serious issues women face into their stories, all with the promise of a happy ever after at the end. Liya is a sexual assault survivor and because of who her assaulter was, she’s basically been alienated from her community and by members of her own family. She is tough and maintains control at all times after having survived a situation where she didn’t have control. There is a scene in this book that still makes my blood boil every time I think of it and that I remember physically experiencing along with Liya when it happened; it was heartbreaking but the moment I think she and I as the reader, realized it was time to let go and move on. Romance authors are putting in work! Don’t let the pretty illustrated covers or promise of a happy ever after fool you; their stories include some hard hitting, real life issues. The happy ever after is the gift for making it through.

The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel should absolutely be on your to be read list.

Remember, Kindness is Free

Bree

P.S. Click on the book pic below to purchase.

The Trouble Hating You book cover

 

Guest Writer

Guest writer Sol Kelly

Sol Kelly

Bookstagram Bonanza Edition

Guest Writer Graphic for Sol Kelly

October 2, 2020

Dear Book Lovers,

I am so very happy to introduce you to today’s Guest Writer. Sol Kelly lives in Houston, Texas. She is the creator of the gorgeous book blog, The Sol Reader, and the popular Bookstagram (Instagram for book lovers) page, @thesolreader. Sol is an absolute free-spirit who loves to travel and explore new bookstores while learning new cultures and languages along the way. She is currently working on becoming quadrilingual in English, Spanish, French, and Japanese 😮! Sol is a mood reader whose favorite genres include literary and contemporary fiction, social science, gender + sexuality, and poetry. Sunny beaches, cold beer, and good reads give this ray of sunshine life. I hope you enjoy her letter to Mr. H. and follow her around on all of her bookish adventures. I can assure you…this gem will brighten your day ☀️☀️☀️.

Enjoy!

❤️❤️❤️

Kelly

P.S. Sol told me she hails from the city where people second-line and throw a party for everything. Can you say New Orleans 🍺🎭🎉!!!

_____________________

Dear Mr. H., 

While 2020 seems to have been written by a fantasy and thriller author who gets a laugh out of that whole “it’s one thing after another” stunt, the one thing they did get right is the amount of amazing books that are coming out this year. I’m not sure how many books you now have on your TBR (to be read) list, but if it is anywhere close to mine, a number we shall not speak of, then I hope All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson is somewhere on there. If it is not, you need to add it as soon as possible because this book is a gem and the author is an incredible creative. 

I believe that knowing more about the author helps to elevate the reading experience. There’s something about getting to know them beyond their pages. With George M. Johnson, the more you learn about them, the more you fall in love with their authenticity, creativity, vulnerability, and innovation. I literally fangirl every time I see Johnson on my timeline, and if you’ve checked out their Instagram you will see why. They never disappoint..and I mean NEVER. George M. Johnson is an award winning writer and Bestselling author of All Boys Aren’t Blue who recently invited us in on identifying as nonbinary (pronouns: they/them) and queer. They are constantly and continuously demonstrating the importance of having agency over our lives. 

All Boys Aren’t Blue is an LGBTQIA+ Young Adult read (with a stunning cover for all my cover lovers like myself) that has an overarching theme of agency – being able to control our narrative. Johnson does an incredible job of showing what this has looked like in their life throughout every chapter from discussing their upbringing to their relationship with their family to their college experience in regard to becoming a member of a fraternity to exploring their identity and sexuality. We get a taste of it all, which I know with confidence will not only help younger readers see themselves in these pages, but everyone who cracks open the book, especially those of us who longed for books that gave us the words and convictions to navigate our own identities and sexuality in our respective worlds growing up and even now. Johnson words it perfectly on page 85 when they say, “You sometimes don’t know you exist until you realize someone like you existed before.” Have you ever read a book that made you feel understood and considered, Mr. H.? Maybe your works do that for others. 

The book is categorized as a memoir-manifesto with an outstanding amount of vulnerability expressed in every story that is admirable and is home to so much beauty. We are seeing a Black, queer, nonbinary author be an open book (pun intended lol) and give us stories we need – the stories that get buried in headlines, in graves, and in family secrets. Stories that never get told but should. Stories that challenge the gender binary and the heteronormative systems in society. Stories that speak to unconditional love and acceptance, and that give us permission to be our most genuine, authentic, bold, brave, and queer selves.

You should be adding All Boys Aren’t Blue to your cart…right…about…NOW!

Shine Brightly, 

Sol

P.S. Click on the book pic below to purchase this amazing read from an incredible bookstore!

Sol Kelly's bookstack

**Photo credit~Sol Kelly

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