This may have been a largely garbage year, but there are some things here on the internet* that I loved.
Brandless. I’ve been saying forever that if generics with the cool minimalist packaging were actually good, I’d be on that in a heartbeat. Enter Brandless: an online grocery delivery company dedicated to ending “Brand Tax.” Everything is $3. Everything. And it’s really good! Go try the Organic Black Bean and Corn Salsa. You’re welcome.
The Abnormal Beauty Company. Dude. You have got to try this. Skincare for under $10? That’s as good or better than the pricey stuff? I am in love. Plus the packaging is cool, the site is informative, and the shipping is fast.
Amazon’s Echo Dot. I got one of these for Christmas and I am drunk with power. ALEXA, LET’S TAKE OVER THE WORLD. AND ALSO PLAY ME AN AUDIOBOOK.
Girlfriend Collective. I got a pair of these amazing leggings in a leap of trust while they did their introductory “only pay shipping” deal. It took months for me to get them, but when I did – holy wow. I never thought I could love a pair of leggings as much as I love these. Sadly, they’re now out of my price range, but I live in hope of clearance sales.
One Page Love. When I need inspiration for website design, this is my go-to site. (Also, I end up signing up for so many new services based on their landing pages, it’s kind of ridiculous.)
Now that I look at my list, I begin to understand why my bank account is so anemic. Still, go. Shop. Be merry.
I’ll tell you why not: most period tracking apps SUCK. I can only assume the the predominance of flowers and the color pink means that they are aimed at a target market that is not me, and not just because I’m in my forties. I’m a designer. I cannot use an app that looks like a unicorn threw up all over it.
Happily, in the time between getting pregnant, having a baby, and finally getting my period back after a year and a half (thank you, breastfeeding), the selection for period tracking apps has expanded to include things that don’t make me cringe. Some of them don’t use pink at all!
I chose four free period tracking apps to try out; two are ad-supported but offer paid versions that are presumably ad-free.
Can you really miss all the signs, even if you’re looking for them?
Therapist Grace Reinhart Sachs makes her living telling people where they’ve gone wrong. She believes that there’s always a moment, usually early in the relationship, when you can see the truth about the other person – a truth you then “forget,” burying it in excuses and desires. In fact, Grace has written a book on the subject, called You Should Have Known.
Her own life seems to hold up under scrutiny: she has a loving marriage, a wonderful son. (She’s also materialistic and judgmental and clearly unaware of just how good she has it, but that’s a whole other thing.)
Then a woman Grace knows only vaguely is murdered, and her perfect husband has disappeared. As her life begins to unravel, Grace keeps asking herself: should she have known?
Unfortunately, it’s not a question the book really answers. (Mild spoilers to follow.)
On the surface, The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is a murder mystery, and a study of how different people react to grief. Twenty years ago, college student Dani Lancing was brutally murdered. The killer was never found. Her mother becomes consumed with the need for vengeance. Her father has conversations with Dani’s ghost. Her old beau, Tom Bevans, still pines for the girl he lost.
Naturally, they all have secrets, and each of them knows things about Dani that the others don’t. Can they come together somehow and solve a decades-old murder without losing each other in the process? Or is there a reason everyone has something to hide?
The ghost story aspect is fun, and not terribly overdone, though by the end you may find that it has a bit of a saccharine aftertaste. The mystery is a good one, and the ending didn’t feel like a deus ex machina, which can be difficult with a book like this. I’m interested enough to read more from this author.
Then I had all these tee-shirt bits, so I made them into a headband for the baby using this tutorial. Easy peasy!
(I should have used wider strips! It would have been a lot cuter.)
I also made one for me out of a shirt that had holes in it. (Side note: why do all my shirts get holes in them? It’s super annoying.) I like mine a lot, although I got lazy and just tied the ends together rather than finishing them out as per the tutorial. It’s fine – who do I have to impress? – but probably would have been cuter if I’d done it right.
Next up: busting out the sewing machine to make some dresses for the little. Let’s see if I can remember how to thread a bobbin…
Laurie R. King brings it. I forget, when I’m not reading her, how completely immersive and engrossing her stories are. Here is part of the genius of The Bones of Paris: it’s the second book in a series, but I was able to dive right in without having read the first one and make it entirely to the end not only unspoiled but eager to read the book (Touchstone) that came before. Here is more of the genius of The Bones of Paris: it’s a mystery set in 1920s Paris that manages to be both fresh and deeply suspenseful without relying on any of the cliches about 1920s Paris, which – given our collective obsession with flappers and Gatsby – is pretty impressive.
Harris Stuyvesent (…love the name) is the perfect cranky, jaded PI, following a missing persons case that turns into a disturbing look into the violent, depraved underworld of Parisian avant-garde subculture. There are references to actual people like Hemingway and Man Ray that don’t seem forced or false despite the fact that they’re essentially RPF, and when King brings finally brings in Bennett Grey (a major player in Touchstone, as I understand it) I felt like I knew the character despite not having read the first book.
This year Ellison is super into origami (thanks, Origami Yoda books) so when I saw this Pinterest tutorial for origami Valentines I knew we had to give it a try. The kid took one look at the tutorial and was like, “That’s what I want to do.” He has been going crazy with anticipation all week waiting for the lollipops to arrive, and today we finally got down to business!
As far as origami goes this tutorial is pretty easy (see the embed at the bottom of this post or go here to view the pin on Pinterest) and the kid got the hang of it pretty quickly. We used plain paper so he could write on them, but they’d be really pretty with patterned paper like in the original example. Our paper was a little smaller than in the example, too, and we didn’t use double-sided tape (just a bit of Scotch tape on one side).
They might be a little messier than the Pinterest version (because, let’s face it, he’s 8) but I think they look fantastic. I think the kid likes them, too – he made one for himself to put in his Valentine’s box at school!
Plus, who doesn’t love lollipops? (We got YumEarth Organic pops to accommodate the gluten-free, free-range sugar eaters, and there are a few left for sneaky moms and dads – not that I know any of those.)
Happy Valentine’s Day, all!
For more Valentine ideas, check out my XOXO board on Pinterest.
God I love Netgalley. I’m an ebook addict as it is, and now I can read things that haven’t even been published yet. It’s like someone pulled that directly from the I WANT section of my brain.
The flipside, of course, is that I must review all of the books I read through Netgalley – which is no problem in theory, but I kind of hate publishing bad reviews. And some of the stuff is…not so good. (Some of it is VERY good and I do a little dance every time I’m approved.) I’d been publishing all my reviews here as well as on Goodreads, but I think I’ll stick to Goodreads for everything that I don’t absolutely love. So, you know, follow me there if you want to read about my less-than-favorites. And follow here for things that blow me away, like the latest Lisa Unger book, which – have you read it yet? Go! Now!
Nothing about In The Blood is what it seems. Nobody is who you think they are. You want an unreliable narrator? Main character Lana Granger isn’t even sure she herself is telling the truth. It isn’t until you’re about three-quarters of the way through the book that you realize how cleverly Lisa Unger has obfuscated things with the use of simple pronouns.
Quite simply, this book is genius. Read it. And then read it again, slowly, now that you know the ending. It’s worth it.
The entertainment industry, amirite? Also drugs and alcohol. Because redemption.
Coldwater calls itself “femme noir,” which I’m not at all sure about as a genre in general or in reference to Coldwater in particular, but whatever. Our hapless heroine is Brett Tanager, a member of the Hollywood elite until her drug problem renders her unemployable. Rock bottom is hit. Life changes are made. There is a stepdaughter who goes missing and several murders that it seems only Brett can solve. Also AA meetings, and a hit-and-run that eats at Brett’s conscience.
But despite all that, it’s a really fun read. The action is fast-paced, the storyline is engaging, and Gould obviously knows a thing or two about addiction and recovery.
My main complaint has to do with the ending – more specifically, the fact that it didn’t end. There’s a whole chapter tacked on that drags out the feel-good finish and concludes with an almost cutesy “…and that’s the book you’ve just read” (I’m paraphrasing). Coldwater would have been SO much better without the last bit.