Monday, June 29, 2015

Monthly Favorites: June

As I was getting my favorite things together for June, I began to recognize a pattern—everything was beauty related! I’ve been going through a bit of a phase where I’m experimenting with beauty products on the one hand and rediscovering my love of others. I'm by no means a pro when it comes to make-up, and I’m really just learning things as I go, but I do know what I like. Without further ado…

Ecotools Make-up Brushes –

I’ve been complaining about the fact that I don’t have a decent set of make-up brushes forever. I was a use your fingers or the included applicator sort of girl because I was too much of a cheapskate to buy a set. Then I was shopping for foundation the other day and discovered this 6 piece set of Ecotools for under $10. It comes with a blush brush, eye shadow brush, eyebrow brush, eyeliner brush, lash and brow groomer, and concealer brush, so it’s a good starter kit. For someone who’s never used real make-up brushes this was a steal. I did some research into the brushes too, and it turns out they are completely cruelty-free and made from natural recycled material.

Miss Dior Cherie 

Miss Dior Cherie is my signature scent and has been for years. My parents first gave it to me as a Christmas gift several years ago, and I’ve seen gone through several bottles. I wear it every day but was taking my love of it for granted until I recently tried to find a new scent. Nothing was calling to me. I am awful at trying to describe scents, but Miss Dior Cherie has hints of orange, gardenia, and white musk apparently. Don’t ask me what white musk smells like though.

Foundation Brush

As much as I loved the Ecotools brushes, the set didn't come with a foundation brush, and that is what I had been really looking for at the time. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what brand of brush this is, but I do know that I spent under $5 for it. I’ve been pleased with the results so far and it’s made applying my new liquid foundation effortless.

Rimmel London Glam'eyes Liquid Liner –

Some girls are lip girls, but I’m all about the eyes. I’ve always thought that my eyes were my best feature, so I like to accentuate them. I’ve always been a Rimmel London eyeliner girl, but I recently switched from Exaggerate Liquid Liner to Glam’Eyes on a whim. I love the precision of the thinner brush for achieving that perfect cat-eye flick! Granted, it did take a bit of getting used to after having a thicker brush for years, but practice makes perfect, right? I thought the formula went on smoothly and lasted all day (even with obsessive seasonal allergy eye-rubbing).

Friday, June 26, 2015

Road to France Pt. V - One Month to Go!

29 days!

I can’t believe that France is only a month away, but I’m sure that my friends and family are relieved. I’ve been able to talk about nothing but my vacation since I booked it in March, and my mania becomes even more intolerable the closer the departure date gets. A large chunk of my weekends are spent creating my insanely detailed itineraries, I’m spending a small fortune preparing for the trip, and focusing on anything else is a true test.

So with only a month left until take-off, what does a type-A traveler like myself do? Here’s a peek into the insanity that is my brain.
  • Finalize the Itinerary – For me, finalizing the itinerary is a project and a half. Each of my days is broken down by the tourist attractions, food, and activities I have planned. Then I sit down with my Streetwise map and my laptop to get down to the nitty gritty. I try to plan out days based on the proximity of one site to the next, the hours they open and close, and also when my admission tickets and tours are scheduled. It’s like trying to solve a Rubix Cube at first, but it’s a great feeling when things begin to fall into place. 
  • Gather all the tickets/documents – I’m fortunate enough to have for my travel documents and flight details, but there are always advanced tickets and tours to think of too. I print everything out and put it together in a folder with my itinerary for easy access. This folder and my passport are my lifelines when I'm abroad.
  • Create lists – I create lists for everything.  What I need to buy, what I need to pack in my suitcase, my carry-on, and even my handbag, what has to be packed shortly before I leave for the airport, etc. I told you I was type A! I’ll start getting my million and one lists together a few weeks before I go and make sure they’re as detailed as possible. 
  • Last minute shopping – Toiletries, memory cards, travel adapters, and maybe a few new holiday outfits will all be purchased in the next few weeks. Mom and I have already been stockpiling toiletries and clothing, but this is do-or-die time. 
  • Beautifying – With vacations come that desire to be pampered, at least for me. I already have my hair appointment scheduled but the Saturday before I leave, I’ll spend the morning getting a mani-pedi and getting waxed. I should get to feel like a pampered princess at least once a year!
  • Packing – Packing is so much more fun when you're going, isn't it? Thanks to my intense habit of making lists, packing is usually a breeze!  This is obviously one of the last things I do, but I do try to get the bulk of my packing done the day before so I'm not stressing out hours before I have to go to the airport.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Monthly Musings: June

I was a bit of a news junkie this month considering everything that’s going on in Greece as well as in Charleston, South Carolina. The news can be depressing though, can’t it? So I did take some time out to do some mindless reading. This month’s photo is a bit of a throwback to my trip to The Cloisters last year.
  • Take Down the Confederate Flag—Now – A short and to the point article from The Atlantic that explains why the Confederate flag should be taken down. If you read my post on the same issue, then this will give you some insight into other aspects of the same argument.
  • New York City’s 20 Hottest Restaurants – I love eating out, and New York has some of the best restaurants in the world (I may be a tad biased). My Dad sent me this list and had my mouth watering.
  • The Ultimate Checklist for Long-term Travel – It’s no secret that I love to travel or that I love Europe (what I’ve seen of it anyway). Recently though, I’ve gotten this crazy idea that maybe I should run off to Europe for a few years. And just as the idea started forming in my head, World of Wanderlust posted this amazing article on Long-term travel. I saved it for future reference, just in case.
  • American Pharoah Wins Triple Crown, Ends 37-year Drought – I was one of those people glued to the TV when it was post time for American Pharoah. I think horses are gorgeous creatures and have grown up hearing about the 3 Triple Crown winners that my father has seen in his life—Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), and Affirmed (1978). American Pharoah made history though, and I can now say that I’ve at least seen one Triple Crown winner in my lifetime.
  • “Game of Thrones” finale: Cersei’s Public Shaming has Deep Historical Roots – I knew that Cersei’s walk was coming, but that didn’t make watching it any easier. She’s an evil, evil human being, but even I was moved by Lena Headey’s performance. If she doesn’t get at least an Emmy nomination, then there is something wrong with the world. But Salon’s article on the medieval history of such walks of shame was like candy for a history junkie like me.
  • The Wars that Inspired “Game of Thrones” – I always knew that George R.R. Martin’s world had a lot of parallels with medieval Europe, but this Youtube video by Ted Ed lays it all out with cartoons of all things! It was really entertaining.
  • 15 Pieces of Career Advice Every Young Woman Needs – I’ve only been in the workforce (full-time anyway) for about two and a half years, so I still have a lot to learn about building a career. Career Girl Daily’s tips really resonated with me though, and I hope I’m able to apply them in my current position!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Take Down the Flag

Nine people were shot in a black church by a white guy who hated them, who wanted to start some kind of civil war. The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina, and the roads are named for Confederate generals, and the white guy’s the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him. We’re bringing it on ourselves. —Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
I have, until this point, avoided writing about political issues on my blog.  However, after seeing some bigoted responses to people sharing the“Take Down the Confederate Flag” petition on Facebook, I was so incensed that I needed to put my thoughts down on paper, so bear with me.  

Last Wednesday, a twenty-one year old white gunman sat for an hour among parishioners of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic black church in Charleston, before murdering nine African Americans. According to officials, the gunman said his aim was to start a race war. Known for making racists remarks, for being photographed with the Confederate flag, and for donning the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)—a so-called “subtle” nod to white supremacy—was there ever a doubt as to why he targeted the people he did?

Shockingly perhaps, the most potent symbol of white supremacy in the United States—the Confederate flag—still flies. In South Carolina’s capital, the Confederate flag is hoisted on a flag pole alongside the US and South Carolina state flags; modified versions are featured on Mississippi and North Carolina’s flags; and some Americans brandish it outside their homes, on their jackets, and on the bumper of their cars. Those who defend the flag say that they are given the right to display it by the First Amendment, or they say it’s a symbol of Southern heritage, nothing more.

I agree that Americans have freedom of speech, but our forefathers did not intend for us to hide behind such freedom. And if someone is going to invoke the First Amendment in order to wave the Confederate flag, then they should understand what that particular flag symbolizes.

The Confederate flag was designed and flown by the Confederate States of American between 1861 and 1865, when the Southern states seceded from the Union to defend the southern cause. Although there were many reasons (complicated reasons at that) as to why the Civil War happened, the Southern states did not secede from the Union until Abraham Lincoln, an abolitionist president, was elected. Within three months of his election (his inauguration hadn't even taken place yet), seven states seceded for fear that the new president would end slavery—which their one crop economy depended on—and would favor Northern interests. Slavery was the hot button issue that led directly to the secession of what would later be the Confederate States of America and to the war.  

The Confederate flag was flown by men and women who were protecting a way of life that was inherently racist and dehumanizing to African Americans. Perhaps the most telling fact about the flag was that the designer of its second incarnation, W.T. Thompson, referred to his design as “The White Man’s Flag” and that the white region symbolized “supremacy of the white man”:
As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause. —William T. Thompson (April 23, 1863), Daily Morning New
While there were other causes for the Civil War, it was fought largely over the question of abolition and emancipation. The Confederate flag then, as a symbol of the society in favor of slavery, is intrinsically linked with white supremacy.  It is the equivalent of the Swastika which was emblazoned on flags, arm bands, and badges during the Nazi's reign of terror. Would anyone be comfortable arguing that it's okay for someone to have the Swastika on display today because it is representative of their German heritage? I highly doubt that. But for some reason, some Americans fight passionately for the right to use the Confederate flag which, at best, is a symbol of a failed rebellion and treason, and, at worst, is a symbol of white supremacy.

How can we deny that it is a symbol of white supremacy when the fact that Confederate flags and other paraphernalia were only resurrected in the 1940s and 1950s as part of the resistance movement to counteract the Civil Rights Movement? And that Confederate flag in Columbia, South Carolina, that is getting so much media attention today? It wasn’t hung in the capital until 1962 as a sign of opposition to the Civil Rights Movement.

As a historian, I can understand the importance of the Confederate flag in museums, but on government buildings and property? And the fact that it is glorified the way it is instead of being taboo like the Swastika is disheartening to the say the least. But that so many Americans cannot comprehend—or choose to ignore—the hurt and injustice that the flag represents to millions of our own population just goes to show how far the United States must still go.  We lost nine lives in Charleston on June 17th because of a legacy of hatred that was indoctrinated into our society over nearly 250 years of slavery.

If we ever wish to truly heal the festering wound that is racism in this country today, that flag must be taken down.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Blogs I Love

Long before I launched Bringing Up Brittany I was an avid blog reader. And it’s safe to say that it was the many blogs that I read that inspired me to start my own. Bringing Up Brittany turns 6 months old next month, so I thought it’d be great to send some blog-love to some of the blogs that have inspired me and that I can’t live without.

How Sweet It Is

Ok, so I’m not a cook by any means. I can probably count the number of times I’ve cooked a meal on my fingers, but I’m always in awe of people who can cook, like Jessica. Her blog has a bit of everything—cocktails, desserts, healthy meals, and comfort foods. All of her posts have the most beautiful food photos, and you feel like you’re sitting at your best friend’s kitchen table while reading her posts. She also has a gorgeous cookbook that you can buy now.

Paris in Four Months

Paris in Four Months was one of the first blogs I ever started reading, and I’ve been hooked from day one. Carin originally moved to Paris in 2012 for four months, I think to learn French, but has since relocated there long-term. I was always drawn to Carin’s story because of how brave a person has to be to make such a life change, but it seems to have worked out for her! She has worked as a photographer for some major clients (Christian Dior, anyone?). She’s an incredible photographer, and I can only hope to be half as good as her someday. #lifegoals

Hello October

I was a bit late to the party when it came to discovering Suzie’s blog, but better late than never, right? Suzie’s been running her blog for a few years now and features a lot of fashion and beauty with a bit of lifestyle and travel thrown into the mix. She is my liquid liner spirit animal (it is always on point)! Her blog is breathtaking as is Suzie. Check out her Youtube channel too, which she updates regularly.


Kate is a beauty and lifestyle blogger with a stunning site. What I love about Gh0stparties is that there is such a diversity of posts and yet they all stay true to Kate’s voice. I love her posts about home and interior design, something that I don’t often see done on the lifestyle blogs that I read. She is a successful full-time blogger who deserves every bit of praise for the work she puts into her blog.

Carrie Brighton

I know, I know, I’ve said that all these blogs are beautiful in one way or another, but they are! And Carrie’s site is no exception. I look forward to her “Lovely Things” posts and the brightness of her photographs. You’ll get a variety of posts from Carrie, which is right up my alley, and her social media platforms (Twitter and Instagram) are fantastic to boot.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

It's Tough Being A Girl, Summer Edition

I love summer. I love the heat (you can keep the humidity though), the clothes, and that summer state of mind. For a few months out of the year it’s okay for productivity to ease up a little so you can enjoy the gorgeous weather and jet off to some vacation you’ve been looking forward to all year. And there are few things better than sitting outside at dusk with a glass of homemade sangria in hand watching the fireflies blink across the lawn. It’s the season of barbecues, pool parties, and festivals. What’s not to love, right?

Well, I was talking to a friend of mine recently and somehow we got on the subject of how hard it is to be a girl in the summer. And when we sat down and thought about it, there was actually a lot more to be said than either of us realized.
  • It’s tough being a girl because of bikinis. Summer fashion usually means you’re showing a lot of skin, but few things are as revealing as a bikini. If you don’t have what the media calls a “beach body,” then going to the pool or beach can be a source of anxiety. Belly fat, cellulite, and arms and legs that aren’t toned are just some of a girl’s woes. Want to wear a one piece? The season might be over before you find something cute, sexy, and fun. A lot of this applies to street clothing too. This is the one season when your body is truly on display. It can be a shot to your confidence if you aren’t toned and looking runway ready.
  • It’s tough being a girl because of hair. And I’m not talking hair on your head (that comes later). We all have body hair, but it’s girls who have to spend an astronomical amount of time shaving, waxing, or depilating, especially during the summer. Want to wear shorts or a dress? The legs need to be shaved. What about a tank top? The underarms need to be shaved. Wearing a bathing suit? Odds are you’ll probably need to do a bit of maintenance around the bikini line. At least in the winter if you forget to shave (aka you’re feeling lazy) no one will know, and we all do that (I know I do, at least). In the summer that’s a no-no, so we spend time and money making sure we’re nice and hair-free.
  • It’s tough being a girl because of tanning. Once summer comes around be prepared for commercials and ads for all sorts of products that promise a “summer glow.” We’re told that pale is sickly, especially in the summer, so we tan, go to tanning salons, or buy lotions that are supposed to give us that sun-kissed look. It’s a huge monetary investment, and not everyone can get a natural “glow” without turning into a lobster first. Raise your hand if you burn like me!
  • It’s tough being a girl because of frizz. Okay, so not every girl has this problem, but I certainly do. The summer humidity is not my friend. No amount of product can keep my hair from getting frizzy if there’s a drop of moisture in the air. And let’s face it, wild, flyaway hair isn’t exactly cute.
  • It’s tough being a girl because of sweat. Women don’t sweat, they glisten…except in summer. And except for working out in the gym, sweat isn’t a great look. It makes you feel sticky, makes make-up run, it wreaks havoc on your hair, and let’s not forget the embarrassing sweat stains that can materialize on the worst days. Sweat is one of those things we’re raised to think is unladylike (and smelly). Staying fresh as a daisy can be a lot of work on those super hot days. It’s another expectation that women are supposed to live up to.
Do you agree with my list or have anything else to add?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Maybelline Fit Me! Dewy + Smooth Foundation

Sometime last fall I decided to remove foundation from my daily make-up routine. I was convinced that the formula I’d been using for 5+ years was drying out my skin and making me break-out. Whether that was true or not, I decided to give my skin a break to see if it would clear up. For those of you who are curious, it did. But after five years of using a matte foundation 7 days a week, I’m sure my skin was grateful for some breathing room. Recently though, I’ve been reading a lot of beauty blogs and was inspired to give a different foundation a spin. Maybe foundations were like shampoos? It’s good to change them up from time to time? There had to be a formula out there that would leave my skin looking fresh. My other criteria were that I wanted to use a liquid foundation (rather than the mousse I’d been using), and I didn’t want a matte finish like my old foundation.

A couple months back I did a post on my quest for a new concealer and landed Maybelline Fit Me! Concealer. Although I said that it didn’t completely hide my heinous dark circles, I was pretty pleased with the results anyway—it brightened up my face and blended well. It’s since worked its way into my daily make-up rotation. When I saw that there were foundations in the same Fit Me! line, I figured that was as good a place as any to start my hunt for a new foundation. It was the best $7.99 I’ve spent recently.

I am honestly in love with Maybelline Fit Me! Dewy + Smooth foundation. It met all of my criteria (liquid foundation, a natural finish, and hasn’t caused any break outs) and then some. The formula also contains SPF 18 (fair skin needs love) and has no wax or oils that could clog my pores.

The foundation is very easy to blend, even for a liquid foundation novice like myself. Don’t laugh but this is the first time I’ve attempted to use a liquid foundation. I’ve been using a foundation brush to apply it and have been happy with the results. It’s a translucent base but seems pretty buildable to me, should you need a bit more coverage.

I didn’t know that a foundation could feel so light and airy, and that’s just one of the many differences between the Fit Me! foundation and my old one (which is now in a landfill somewhere, I imagine). You put this foundation on and can forget about because it looks and feels that natural. Trust me friends, “dewy” is the perfect word to describe how your skin feel while wearing it. With the matte finish foundations I always felt a bit painted on, and I had this image in my head that I was walking around with a powdered face √† la Marie Antoinette. I just didn’t know there was an alternative and thought that everyone secretly felt that way. This formula is practically weightless. And the staying power is amazing too. I wore it in 90 degree weather this past week and there was zero make-up meltdown. That is a true test in my opinion.

Should you find yourself in the market for a foundation anytime soon, I’d suggest giving the Fit Me! line a try. There are the Dewy + Smooth ones and Matte + Poreless varieties to choose from (16 shades each). I went for the #125, Nude Beige, since my face tends to be paler than the rest of me. If you haven’t already figured it out this is a rave review for Maybelline. 

*This post is not in collaboration with Maybelline, and the opinions are my own.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Herbs: Use Them Liberally

You must be getting tired of me and my plants by now. Honestly, I had no clue how obsessed I was with flowers and gardening until I looked back on how many posts have been about at least one of those topics, and here’s yet another!

I grew up with vegetable gardens. My grandfather always had these lush gardens filled with tomatoes, squash, string beans, cucumbers, scallion (green onion), and thyme. When my family would visit on the weekends, four year old Brittany would put on her special overalls and head down to the garden to “help” water all the plants (which we did by hand, with buckets). When he passed away when I was eleven, my parents and I tried to keep up the tradition but quickly discovered that taking care of his large garden was a full-time job, not something we could feasibly do with work and school.

Since then, we’ve kind of had a memorial garden at our own home where we grow tomatoes and scotch bonnet (a super-hot pepper from Jamaica). We’ve slowly but surely expanded the garden to include strawberries and raspberries, and I am desperately trying to convince my parents to get a fruit tree (to no avail…yet).

My latest additions to our garden though are herbs! I’m really not a huge cook, but the thought of being able to go into the garden and pluck some mint leaves seemed like such fun. And dried herbs pale in comparison to the fresh stuff. As an added bonus, the herbs smell lovely.

We now have mint, sweet basil, rosemary, and sage growing in a little planter on our patio. The mint is definitely going into some iced tea this summer, and a few cocktails. The basil will go so well with our homegrown tomatoes and some mozzarella—Margherita pizza, anyone? As for the sage and rosemary, if any of you have some recipes, I’d love to hear them!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

72 Hours iPhone-less

So, I may have had a bit of an accident last week. I drowned my iPhone.

It kind of fell into the toilet when I was getting ready for work which, if you have ever experienced, is a terrifying ordeal. I quickly scooped my phone out of its watery grave, turned it off, and promptly buried it in a Tupperware container of uncooked rice. And there it remained for 72 hours. I thought that my poor iPhone 5 might’ve been done for, but I was thrilled to discover that it was still working. So thrilled, in fact, that I went around the house screaming “It’s alive! It’s alive” a la Victor Frankenstein. For all you doubters, the rice trick does seem to work. I think that it's imperative that you keep your phone off the whole time and let it dry out slowly.

My 72 hours without my iPhone was an interesting experience though. I haven’t been without my phone for more than a few hours since getting it nearly 3 years ago. There was some withdrawal going on, but I did learn a few things along the way.

  • My life is on my iPhone. That sounds hyperbolic, I know, but it’s the truth. I didn’t realize how much I relied on my phone until it wasn’t there to rely on. I use it as my alarm clock in the morning and as my radio while I get ready; it’s a source of entertainment and a work tool; and it's how I communicate with everyone. I found it so inconvenient to have to check my emails on an actual computer, and let’s not forget how often I had to call people instead of sending a quick text message.  Without it, I felt so disorganized, so out of touch.
  • I can send text messages online.  I discovered that you can send text messages online on a lark. It did make it a bit easier to stay in touch with some people, and it helped me to not feel quite so cut off from the world.
  • Text messages are so convenient. There was more than one occasion when I had to call people to say something that I would’ve simply sent in a text. Text messages are so quick and easy. You don’t have to worry about ending up in a long conversation with a person or do the whole small talk thing. You get right to the point, which I prefer. What did we ever do before text messages?  Seriously.
  • I feel naked without my iPhone. I roll my eyes when my Dad goes on about how this generation doesn’t know how to put down their phones, but he's right. I felt so uneasy without my phone on me and kept reaching for it, only to remember it was in triage at home. I think that using my iPhone is just as important to me as knowing that the option is there. 
  • I’m more productive without my iPhone. I was able to get so much work done on the train when I didn’t have my phone there to entertain me. I read for work and for leisure, I did some creative writing, and I got to turn off my brain for a while. There was no Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter to check or update, no emails or text messages to read. I have to admit that it was nice to have some downtime.
So, will I make it a habit of leaving my iPhone at home in the future? Probably not. It’s as much a technological security blanket as it is a convenient tool for staying connected with the rest of the world. And nowadays I don’t know if we really have the luxury of disconnecting. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. Hmm.

Have you ever drowned your phone or gone several days without it?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Secret Garden

I’ve been waiting for the weather to finally be warm enough to garden. Our winter lasted forever, and it’s only been since mid-to-late May that it felt even remotely spring-like. But even then, the temperature would still drop to wintry temperatures overnight. Not ideal for planting young flowers and shrubs.

Gardening is a family affair for us, which is something that I’ve come to enjoy. My parents and I wake up early on a Saturday, hoping to beat the crowds at the local plant nurseries. Mom and I pick the flowers (Dad always insists on some blue or purple varietals), and Dad is in charge of paying and then loading up the car. The rest of the morning is spent in the dirt (literally) until every flower has a new home. The end result is a yard filled with bursts of color. It’s so refreshing after a gray, colorless winter.

My favorite flower (if you don’t already know) is the rose, so each year we add a few roses to the collection. This year we added a sherbet colored one and a red and white speckled one. I’m a huge fan of both! They seemed so unique to me. Because Dad favors purple and blue flowers, we have a lot of those scattered about as well. We’re still waiting for our lilies to bloom though, but they’re coming along nicely.

There’s something therapeutic about gardening for me. It’s peaceful, especially since we garden first thing in the morning. Our neighbors still haven’t emerged from their houses, so it’s just us and maybe some birds chirping. It’s nice, too, that it’s time spent with my parents. The older I get, the more I appreciate that quality time I have with them. And gardening is creative too. You spend so much time picking flowers and then laying them out to create something aesthetically pleasing. The yard becomes like an empty canvas, the flowers different tubes of oil paint.
Do any of you garden? What are your favorite flowers?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Book Haul #3: BEA Swag

I already wrote about my BEA experience, but I thought that maybe you’d like to hear about my swag. Maybe? If you read my post on BEA, then you know that publishers give away books, totes, and other bits and bobs. As a bookworm, I have a hard time saying “no” to books. Saying “no” to a book causes physical pain and twitching. Ok, I’m exaggerating a teeny bit, but you get the idea.

The past two years my BEA strategy has been to grab every free book I see, but then three things happened: 1) I cursed myself when I had to lug my weight in books around for the rest of the day, 2) I picked up books that didn’t interest me (like that awkward moment when I picked up a gay erotic novel…), and 3) I didn’t read any of the books. This year I decided that I’d only grab books that I really had interest in reading. It meant that I had a smaller haul but quality over quantity, right?

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, estranged heirs to one of the city's largest fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown's punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbor; and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park. Their entangled relationships open up the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city. And when the infamous blackout of July 13, 1977, plunges this world into darkness, each of these lives will be changed forever. A novel about love and betrayal and forgiveness, about art and truth and rock 'n' roll, about how the people closest to us are sometimes the hardest to reach--about what it means to be human.

This was one of the hot books at BEA this year, so I was lucky to get myself a copy. Everyone wanted a copy. It’s an extraordinary book for three reasons: 1) it’s over 900 pages long, 2) it’s a debut novel, and 3) it sold for multi-millions in 2013. That’s basically the equivalent of seeing a unicorn as far as publishing goes; it’s mythical, legendary. There’s a lot of pressure on this book (and the author) to perform well, and there’s been so much buzz. I’m excited to read it!

City on Fire goes on sale October 13, 2015.

A Whole New World by Liz Braswell

What if Aladdin had never found the lamp? This first book in the A Twisted Tale line will explore a dark and daring version of Disney's Aladdin.

When Jafar steals the Genie's lamp, he uses his first two wishes to become sultan and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Agrabah lives in fear, waiting for his third and final wish.To stop the power-mad ruler, Aladdin and the deposed princess Jasmine must unite the people of Agrabah in rebellion. But soon their fight for freedom threatens to tear the kingdom apart in a costly civil war.

What happens next? A Street Rat becomes a leader. A princess becomes a revolutionary. And readers will never look at the story of Aladdin in the same way again.

I’m not a fan of this cover (at all) but I couldn’t resist reading a twisted version of Aladdin. I’m not typically a YA reader, but I’ll make an exception for Disney.

A Whole New World goes on sale September 1, 2015.

Sweet Caress by William Boyd

Born into Edwardian England, Amory's first memory is of her father standing on his head. She has memories of him returning on leave during the First World War. But his absences, both actual and emotional, are what she chiefly remembers. It is her photographer uncle Greville who supplies the emotional bond she needs, who, when he gives her a camera and some rudimentary lessons in photography, unleashes a passion that will irrevocably shape her future.A spell at boarding school ends abruptly and Amory begins an apprenticeship with Greville in London, photographing socialites for the magazine Beau Monde. But Amory is hungry for more and her search for life, love, and artistic expression will take her to the demi monde of Berlin of the late '20s, to New York of the '30s, to the blackshirt riots in London, and to France in the Second World War where she becomes one of the first women war photographers. Her desire for experience will lead Amory to further wars, to lovers, husbands, and children as she continues to pursue her dreams and battle her demons.

This was an impulsive grab, but the cover screamed historical fiction so I went for it. It turns out that the author, William Boyd, is a pretty big deal. He’s written eleven novels, the most recent of which is a James Bond novel, and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. I really lucked out by pick this one up! The description sounds fascinating, so this has moved to the top of my reading list.

Sweet Caress goes on sale September 15, 2015.

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

The Shadowhunters have reached Los Angeles in the first novel in Cassandra Clare’s newest series, The Dark Artifices, a sequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series. Lady Midnight is a Shadowhunters novel.

It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I haven’t read the Mortal Instruments series, but my best friend is a huge fan. I picked this sneak peak of the novel up for her, and it’s already on its way to Vancouver so that she can give it a read!

Lady Midnight goes on sale March 8, 2016.

Bits & Bobs

Other than books, I did manage to grab a few totes and a London Book Review temporary tattoo. The Chronicle Books tote was a pain to get but totally worth it. It’s so cute! I ended up circling the Javits Center 3-4 times before they started giving it out at the Chronicle booth. #sorrynotsorry


So what do you think of my swag?

*Synopses are from Amazon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

BookExpo America 2015

One of the perks of working in publishing is attending BookExpo America (BEA) in May. Think massive booklover’s convention. Publishing houses from all over converge on New York City and take up residence in the Javits Center. The place is swarming with editors, literary agents, authors, and booklovers.  It’s chaos, but good chaos!

I was able to spend half the day on Friday at the Javits Center where all the magic happens. Now, the Javits Center is this massive glass “palace” of sorts in the middle of no man’s land Manhattan. Yes, that is a thing. Basically, you walk as far west as you can before walking into the Hudson River and hit this unsightly neighborhood with construction going on everywhere. It’s ugly. Really ugly. It’s kind of ridiculous that such an eyesore exists only a few blocks from the Empire State Building, but I digress.

Anyway, once you actually get to the Javits Center it’s row after row of publishers peddling their books and promoting their companies. Do you know what that means? Free stuff! Lots and lots of free stuff. I just mill around and get free copies of books that are practically being thrown into the crowd. Free books are great, but what’s even better are that these books usually haven’t been published yet and aren’t available in stores. They’re known as ARCs (advance reader copies), so you get to feel special for a while. Publishers give out other things too like tote bags, pens and pencils, tattoos (I kid you not), and whatever else they can put their logo on.  Then there's just plenty to look at like the books on display and Harry Potter's Monster Book of Monsters.  I may have fangirled over that one a bit...

There are plenty of events to attend too. If you want to learn something about publishing, you can sit in on various talks and seminars (okay, that’s not so fun…). Or you can stand in line and get your books signed by the authors or have a photo-op with one. And there are some major celebrities doing book signings and photo-ops too—Mindy Kaling was there this year and Snooki was there a few years back. Christie Brinkley, who has apparently discovered the fountain of youth, was also at BEA this year to promote her upcoming book. She’s very bubbly.

After a few hours and several laps around the Javits Center (which involves weaving through huge crowds), it’s finally time to call it quits and leave while you’re still able to carry your swag.

It is a ton of fun, but BEA is also a work event for publishing professionals. The downside to BEA is the many meetings that editors and literary agents have to buy and sell books. And depending on if you’re into parties or not, the many parties afterhours can be a drag or a real blast. But the Javits Center is where the fun is if you love freebies, and who doesn’t? And even if you don’t work in publishing, you can still get tickets or attend BookCon on the weekend for a similar experience!

Ok, so BEA can be a bit overwhelming (big crowds, sensory overload, way too many books to see) but the experience is totally worth it.

Monday, June 1, 2015

New Month, New Goals: June

You'll have to pardon my clich√© but, as they say, when it rains, it pours. I got poured on, repeatedly. It was like there was a tsunami coming and all I had to protect myself was a dinky umbrella. First, it was the health scare with my mom, which I spoke about in an earlier post. Her doctor ended up testing her for breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers because of some abnormalities that showed up during her annual check-up. So the first half of the month was waiting for the results and praying that they would be negative which, thankfully, they were. We thought we’d be able to breathe easily for a while, but then out family dog, Taurus, got sick. We rushed him to the emergency vet, he spent 2 nights there, had surgery, and came back home with a drain in his face and a cone that makes him look like a satellite dish. He seems to be feeling better (aka causing trouble), but his vet bills set us back $6,000. Eek! So, health scares galore for the month of May.

With all that going on, I was preoccupied and let everything else fall to the wayside. Healthy eating, reading, blogging, even planning my trip (gasp!), you name it, all had to wait. I just couldn’t focus on anything other than my mom’s test results and then my Taur-bear’s health. I’m hoping that June will be a better month for my family, and that I have the opportunity to get back on track with everything.

How was your month?

Read 2 non-work related books. Hahaha, no.  Life, unfortunately, got in the way of this noble endeavor.  While I did start reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which I wrote about in a book haul post, I am nowhere near finishing it.  I started it just before Mom started her tests and then wasn't able to focus on anything else.  Then the family dog had some health issues right after that, so little reading was done.
Get some gardening done. Done! This is a family effort, and Mom and I spent a good part of last weekend buying up the local plant nurseries and beautifying our garden.  You'll see a post all about that soon!
Attend BEA. I came; I saw; I got some prime swag!  Stay tuned for more on this!
Buy some new clothes (for real this time).  I wouldn't say that I want on a shopping spree, but I did manage to add some lovely pieces to my wardrobe.  After doing an H&M wishlist, I actually went and bought items #2 and #6 and Mom bought me another adorable pair of flowy pants.  Hopefully I'll get to do a bit more shopping in June.
Take photos for my first monthly photo challenge. Done! You can check out my post here.  This month I think my photo-challenge will be to use the manual setting.  Dun dun dun.  I usually stick to aperture priority mode, so this should be interesting.


  • Finish reading The Secret History.  I'm about 50 pages into The Secret History right now and am already a fan. I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t live up to the hype, but so far so good. If I do manage to finish reading this book, then you can expect a book review later this month!
  • Workout my abs and arms daily. I’ve been trying to eat healthier all year and, with the exception of some road bumps (like May), I’ve been able to do so much better. One thing I’d love to add to my routine is some exercise. I don’t have time during the week to hit the gym because of work, and I can never motivate myself to go on the weekends when I could be enjoying my free-time. I’m just not one of those people who find working out fun. Never have been. But I found these Youtube videos for tightening the upper arm and flattening the belly, so I’d like to take a little time each day to do these workouts in the comfort of my own home.
  • Go on an excursion. I live just 50 miles from New York City, but I rarely take the opportunity to go downtown for anything other than work these days. After commuting 5 days a week, the train is the last thing I want to see on my day off. Still, I’d love to go on an excursion to one of New York’s many museums or even take a trip to the Bronx Zoo this month. I think it’d be fun!
  • Start finalizing my itinerary for France. I can’t believe that I’ll be going to France next month! I’ll be just about done buying my advance tickets and scheduling various tours in the next week, so it’s about time I sat down and worked on my insane itineraries. They usually take me a few weekends to complete because not only do I map out my days, but I include directions from one destination to the next. I’m sure you’ll see pictures of my “war room” at some point this month. I’d love to have the itineraries finished this month so I can spend July doing last minute shopping and packing.
Do you have any goals for June?