Book Review: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

IMG_4984I have been slightly behind my blog postings as well as my reading. The book club read Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate for the month of May.

Though the characters in the book are mostly fictional, Georgia Tann and her horrendous practice carried out at her Tennessee Children’s Home Society did really exist from the 1920s-1950. So the scenarios descried in the book were not atypical, including kidnapping or stealing children from poor families to sell off to wealthy ones. If that wasn’t horrible enough, many of these children were malnourished and mistreated, often molested or died before they ever got adopted.

The book alternates between past and present in each chapter. The past is narrated by Rill who was kidnapped and taken to The Tennessee Children’s Home Society with her younger siblings, while the present is narrated by Avery who tries to figure out her grandmother Judy’s secret past.

Needless to say, Grandmother Judy’s past is being revealed by the story unfolding via Rill’s narration, although they are not the same person. In fact, it is a bit complex since the children who are taken to the Children’s Home are forced to have their names changed in order to make it difficult for their real families to trace them and vise versa. So throughout the novel, you do have to figure out who is who not only in the past and future but keep track of who they used to be before the name changes.

I did like the novel and would give it a A-. The one issue I had with the copy I got was that there were 31 extra pages in mine since page 184 was followed by a repeat of pages from page 153 to page 184 again until it finally continues back into page 185. So hopefully there aren’t too many copies out there that have this printing error….

I think the other book club ladies also liked the book and we all agreed that it was one of those books where you wanted to keep reading it because you wanted to know what happens next.

Some of the book club ladies didn’t seem to care much for the narration of Avery and said that her story was dull in comparison, which I think is partially because Avery was born into a privileged family and didn’t have to experience the kind of tragedies Rill had to go through. But I do think that having the constant presence of the present times allows the ending to make more sense and it actually makes it all more possible for the ending that occurred in the novel to occur.

And it also goes to show this stark contrast between the lack of choices women used to have back in the day vs the ones we are allowed to have now, which is why many of these elderly women kept secrets from their families all those years and some of them all the way into their graves.

While the story has heartbreaking moments, the ending is definitely a happier one that celebrates sisterhood.  It’s a nice theme to have for our book club since we are also a group of ladies.

So here’s to sisterhood,

-M

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Decorating My New Home

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A few weeks ago, I moved into a charming cabin up in the woods. It’s definitely my castle & sanctuary so I decided to channel my inner Belle from Beauty and the Beast. As my friend Ming would say, rustic exterior and Victorian interior since that’s exactly how I decided to furnish my new home. As you can see from the photo above, the door mat I got starts off very Beauty and the Beast already!

And right in front of the door mat is this view that I get to wake up to every morning:

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En lieu of a coat & shoe closet, I decided to splurge on this gorgeous armoire (also obviously Beauty and the Beast-inspired) and stuck some temporary wallpaper behind it to prevent a white furniture-on-white wall-look as well as these gorgeous handmade 3-D Monarch butterflies I got from a talented artist in England:IMG_4935

I decided I wanted to continue the look of being surrounded by trees inside my bedroom too so I stuck on a birch tree print temporary wallpaper and applied more of the 3-D butterflies in other varieties. IMG_4942

I also got these white shabby-chic rose print butterflies that I thought would look great on my white side table as well as the full body mirror I placed next to my bed:Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 6.56.04 PM

IMG_4918And to go with the ongoing butterfly wonderland look, I decided to place these trash & recycling bins and a butterfly stool by the front door for people to have something to sit on while they put their shoes on (or take off) since I am still a no-shoes-inside-kind of gal. Though thankfully the place is all hardwood floor so even if anyone were to walk in with their shoes on it’s an easy clean-up!

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The trash & recycling bins I actually semi-made by sticking on yet another kind of temporary wallpaper with birch trees and butterflies and labeled them so that it would be easier to tell which one was for which.

I did keep my nautical theme from my previous home for my new bathroom as well:

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Though the anchor & nautical trash bin and toilet brush are new additions as well as the montage of anchor stickers I decided to place on the front part of the sink.

Speaking of montages — Before I found this lovely new place called home, I made this montage below (to the left) and pasted it onto the door of my former bedroom and realized later that it was foretelling my future. I kept the montage and now have it on my refrigerator surrounded by other visual items to remind me to continue to be grateful for my new home and how it’s become like a castle for this princess living in the woods. I also continue my tradition of buying myself roses, channeling my inner Belle who also drinks tea from teacups that have faces.

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Here’s to my happily ever after,

-M

My Photo Shoot with Mike Lloyd

I recently had a photo shoot with the very talented photographer Mike Lloyd in hopes of coming up with a good author’s photo for my next book as well as a few good shots to add to my portfolio. For the purpose of conserving space, I did group a few of them together to post onto this entry. Here is the aftermath:

  1. The White Bikini Look

Mike thought that pairing the roses with a white bikini would look good (it was my first time wearing a white bikini). So I got this one that had a one shoulder/ruffle look.

2. The Sexy Blazer Looks

I decided I wanted to try that wear-nothing-underneath-a-blazer look that you see in editorial fashion shots. These would probably be ideal out of the shots I got from the shoot for an author’s photo but I haven’t quite decided yet.

3. The Rainbow Sherbet Dress Look065D746F-7635-4395-8D43-EE4807A3C5EB
<Click here to buy the dress>
This one below actually would make a wonderful book cover shot (which was very different from my original book cover concept I had in mind) so that’s all very to-be-determined as well:

Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 6.06.28 PMI kept wondering why Mike had me do certain things while he was shooting me but realized that it was to achieve this very cool shot (below): Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 6.06.40 PM

Feel free to let me know in the comments section what you think! As I’ve said, I’m still in the deciding process for choosing photos to use in my upcoming book for both the author’s photo and possibly for a book cover/back cover.

-M

Book Review: The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

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The things that have happened in Tiffany Haddish’s life as described in her book were jaw-dropping for me. I have come to appreciate her as a comedian and have watched many clips of her on youtube now because I enjoy watching her on interviews and talk shows. But as she forewarns her chapter on her ex-husband, some of it just isn’t funny. Ironically, the fact that she IS a funny, talented comedian but how some of the men in the industry treated her was also not funny. So while I have always appreciated Kevin Hart as a comedian I am even more glad to know that another woman who was disrespected so many times by other men was treated with kindness by Kevin Hart and that there are male comedians like him that respect women.

Haddish’s thoughts on why she was attracted to the types of men she was with was also very insightful. Not everyone is as reflective about why they do what they do. I am becoming more appreciative of the fact that many comedians like her openly admit to having gone through hardship and used humor to help cope or survive. One of my favorite books of 2017 from our book club picks was Trevor Noah’s book Born a Crime, which is also written with humor while also covering serious/darker subjects. Originally, I suggested this book for this month’s selection for the book club because I saw Tiffany Haddish discuss her book with Trevor Noah on the Daily Show. The book wasn’t all well-received by the book club ladies in comparison to Born a Crime, but I liked the idea of reading something written from a female perspective as well since some of it I could relate to.

Being “smart” is often categorized into street smart vs book smart. I was impressed by how street smart Haddish was in using her likability to her advantage when she was disadvantaged with her illiteracy (which she obviously has since then overcome in being able to write this book). I am also grateful to know that there are teachers like hers that will notice these things about their students and will give them the help they need.

I do warn you that the language is not filtered in this book at all. It does make it all the more authentic (which I appreciate) but it might not be the best choice for night time reading out loud to children if you are particular about language and adult content. But the truth is, all those hardships Haddish went through, many of them were when she was a young child herself.  The incident that finally got her out of an abusive marriage was when she found out about her then-husband’s daughter who was not being given the love by her father because she couldn’t bear the thought of another little girl being put through what she had gone through with her own father.

If we could all see that little girl in ourselves and be kind to ourselves as well as others it would make this world a better place.

-M

The Perfect Speaker & Radio for a Modern Vintage Woman

A few months ago, I switched over from playing relaxing music for clients at the office from an old lap top computer to this baby:

IMG_4660It’s adorable, portable (I place my fist in juxtaposition for size reference), hand-carved wood, and is the perfect marriage between the vintage look and the modern technology — it is a blue tooth compatible speaker but is also a functioning radio and you can still directly plug it into a music player like I do with my iPod or iPhone).

This is how I define myself as a “Modern Vintage Woman” — someone who likes things that are vintage style but aren’t actual vintage items. Most of my clothing comes off as looking vintage because of the style and how I style myself but I don’t own many real vintage items, which saves me from the agony of things being too old & fragile or smelly and fabrics that don’t wick sweat or have stretch. And with real vintage items, the way the actual fit of the items were back then I find to be odd at times (ie. the pointy boobs).

Likewise, with something like a music device, I would rather purchase one of those modern vintage turntables that come with a USB cable port rather than a record player that was made from back when USB cords didn’t exist.

Yes, there is that saying about how things aren’t made anymore the way they used to be made. But sometimes that’s a good thing.

-M

Vintage Rose Swing Dress Look

My recent purchase included this rose print swing dress:

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While I don’t think I’ll wear it for the book cover shoot, I did find myself once again gravitating towards roses. I typically don’t get dresses that have a tulle underlay (and didn’t realize that this one had it until it arrived in the mail). But it certainly does add fun and volume!

When I wear the hat I sometimes remember all of my favorite things like the movie (Sound of Music) where Maria sings that in a song. IMG_4650

Since I often seem to gravitate towards wearing a light pink for special occasion wear I decided to also purchase these earrings along with the dress. They’re actually quite heavy so I was having second thoughts about keeping them. But oddly enough I seemed to still find myself kind of liking them in spite of their heaviness after trying them out for a whole afternoon.

Most of the time I tend to opt for simple, single pearl studs (like the ones I am wearing with the dress in the photo above) since it goes well with everything and does not clash with other statement pieces. But if the dress I am wearing does not have a printed design and my other accessories are simple it’s nice to have some statement earrings like these.

And to all those who are brave enough to make a statement via fashion — Hats off to you!

-M

Book Review: Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden

IMG_4567.jpgThis book was written to honor the memories of a son but it was obviously written by a man who was still doing his job as Vice President when the events in the book took place. So I will disclose that I am not trying to show support for any particular political party, as it was evident that some women in the book club didn’t or didn’t want to read this book because of their political affiliations or party they are in support of.

In fact, I admit that I feel like I’m supposed to be more knowledgable and passionate about politics but have never been one to really get into it as a lot of other people do.

Needless to say, I did find myself having to do some research to answer some questions that I came up with that the other ladies in the book club meeting were not able to answer either. For an example, I noticed that in the beginning of the book Vladimir Putin was referred to as Prime Minister whereas he was then referred to as the President of Russia. So for the first time I learned from my research that a lot of countries like Russia have both a Prime Minister and a President. And I also took time to research what the differences were between a President, a Prime Minister and a Chancellor.

As an American, I was born and raised in a country where we have a President so I have been even more ignorant when it came to how other countries’ governments are run. While I know I am not the only person in America or the world in this predicament, I do think it is important to find out what you don’t know so that you become less ignorant.

Likewise, I also learned more about cancer treatment from reading this book that I didn’t know about before. And I also didn’t know about the problems that patients encounter when different hospitals can’t communicate or share information with one another as effectively due to the different systems they have in place.

And like my lack of knowledge about politics in general, I also didn’t know much about Joe Biden either. So I learned for the first time about his personal life which had already been stricken by tragedy when he was widowed by his first wife and infant daughter who passed away in a car accident decades before his son Beau’s death. Having experienced the loss of loved ones, I could see why family continues to be very important to him and the traditions that they share together.

The ladies who attended the book club meeting agreed that we all cried [or wanted to] when we read about a particular encounter at Beau’s funeral that Joe Biden had. (I won’t go into in detail so that I don’t ruin it for those who haven’t read the book) And we also agreed that none of us were aware of the specifics of what a Vice President’s job entailed. So all in all, it was a book we felt like we all learned and gained perspective from.

This is for all those who continue to fight for their lives and those who fight with them or for them.

-M