the sparkly life

Friday, February 7, 2020

The 12 Books I Read In January (Best and Worst!)

Well, my January New Year, Old Books Challenge was a success! I am so glad I "forced" myself to finally read at least some of the books I already own and have been meaning to read forever. It felt good, and many of those books ended up being five-star reads for me! All in all, this month I read 12 books total, eight of them being "old" books (the other four were made up of three new audiobooks--a loophole I included since I had a backlog of new stuff on audiobooks, and one new ARC that I had to get through for a swap. That was my one cheat. Oops.)

Here's exactly what I read this month, separated into books I loved (my biggest category--yay!), liked a lot, was just okay for me, and could have done without. 


Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance - I loved this book so much! It's the epic tale of Weylyn Grey, a strange but endearing little boy who we follow from his time as a young orphan living with wolves (yes, really!) to his later years as a hermit in the woods. The book is told through multiple perspectives, which I really liked, and it's chock full of incredible characters, magic, wonder, and love. I absolutely adored this book. It reminded me a lot of The Heart's Invisible Furies meets A Prayer for Owen Meany, and I don't know if it gets better than that. A highly recommended must-read. 

Dark Matter - Blake Crouch's most recent book (Recursion) was, hands down, one of the best things I read in 2019, so I knew I wanted to go back and read his previous book, which I had been told had similar themes. Now it's almost impossible to give a summary of either book without giving anything away, but let's just say: If you loved Recursion, you will love this, too. It's a completely different book, but very much in the same vein (time-travel-y/alternate universe/mind-bending in the best way). Truly unputdownable, I devoured it in less than 24 hours, and it left me with that same "OMG that was such a wild ride" feeling as Recursion

Bel Canto - The Dutch House was another one of my absolute favorite reads of 2019, and ever since finishing it, I've made it my mission to go back and read everything else Ann Patchett has written. So this was the second Patchett I've ever read, and it definitely did not disappoint! To be honest, I was nervous about this one, because though everyone raves about it (literally a stranger saw me reading it in a ski lodge and came up to me to gush about it!), the premise just did not appeal to me. The summary: In an unnamed South American country, a fancy party is being thrown at the vice president's home when suddenly, the party is interrupted by armed terrorists who quickly take everyone hostage. I was skeptical reading that summary, but I am so glad I took the plunge and read it. I loved it! Taking place entirely in the home, Bel Canto follows the hostages and captors during their standoff and it is ultimately a beautiful story of love, friendship, and human interaction. The characters are incredible and the writing is absolutely exquisite. 

Little Fires Everywhere - I started to listen to this years ago on audio, but never really got into it so I abandoned it. But everyone raves about it (and Hulu and Reese Whitherspoon are launching a TV version of it soon!), so I decided to get a copy from the library and give it another go. This time I read it in two days and loved it! It tells the story of two families living in the picture-perfect, planned community of Shaker Heights, Ohio: the Richardsons (led by mother Elena and her four children) and their tenants (single mom Mia, and her daughter Pearl). The book examines how their lives intersect once Pearl befriends the Richardson children--and then it takes a turn when a dramatic custody battle flips everyone's lives upside down. The characters are rich, surprising, and so well-developed, but there's still lots going on. I can't wait for the Hulu version now.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things - I don't think I have ever had so many complicated feelings about a book in my entire life. I loved this book, but also hated it. (If you've read it, that probably makes sense!) It tells the story of Wavy, who we first meet as a child. She is nearly mute (by choice) and doesn't like to eat in front of others or be touched, because she has lived a very troubled life. Her mother battles addiction and mental illness, and is completely unfit. Her father is a drug dealer/manufacturer who is almost completely absent. She is moved around, written off, and ignored. So when Kellen, a man in his 20s who works for her father, takes an interest in her and wants to help her out (driving her to school, seeing that she has clothing, etc), it seems like a godsend. And that's where things start to get...complicated. The book is incredibly well written, nearly impossible to put down, and the characters are so vivid, but I was just not ok with the disturbing direction the story ended up going. It's ultimately a great book and a true page-turner, but just be prepared to be shocked--and very, very conflicted. (Side note: This is kind of the ultimate book club pick, because EVERYBODY will have opinions and you are DEFINITELY going to need to talk to someone after you finish it!) 


All Adults Here - Okay, this was my cheat book. It's not old. It was an ARC of Emma Straub's new book and it's launching in May. (Sue me. I'm only human!) The cheating was worth it though, because now I get to tell you: Get a jump on beach-read season and preorder this now! This smartly-written, character-driven novel tells the story of one family moving through life and zeroes in on so many issues related to sibling dynamics, parenting, grand-parenting, and more. I really liked Straub's writing (it reminds me a lot of Taffy Brodesser-Akner's writing). It's so sharp, funny, and real. You have to like character-driven novels to fully appreciate this one, I think, but if you do: It's a gem. 

Firefly Lane - Kristin Hannah has become one of my very favorite authors (The Nightingale and The Great Alone were two of the best books I read in 2019), but I had somehow never read this story of two women (Tully and Kate) who meet as young teens in the 70s and quickly become inseparable. We follow the two through their entire lives as they span the decades: from high school to college, career struggles to dream jobs, boyfriends to marriage, children, health, and family drama, and so much more. If I'm being honest, as I was reading most of the book, I didn't think I loved at as much as her past books. It was a page-turner, and I liked it, but I had the constant feeling that it was too long and didn't need to be as detailed as it was. But I was wrong, because by the end, I was fully invested. I absolutely bawled my way through the last few pages.

Saint X - Here's another brand new one  that I got an early peek at via my beloved It comes out February 18th (but it wasn't a "cheat" because of my new-audiobooks-are-allowed loophole, ok? Lol.).  The story starts when seven-year-old Claire is on vacation with her family in the fictional Caribbean island of Saint X. At the tail end of the trip, her older sister Allison disappears and her body is found soon after. The first third or so of the book focuses on the mystery surrounding Allison's death, but the majority of the book revolves around Claire's life many years later as an adult. Her sister's death still colors everything in her life, and when she randomly comes face to face with one of the suspects in her sister's murder, the story takes an unexpected turn. I wasn't sure how I felt about this book for much of it. It was much less "thriller" than I expected (it's more of a human drama), but that's not the book's fault--that was my own mistaken expectations. And though I didn't love a lot of the middle section, I loved the beginning, and did really like how everything came together in the end, so all in all, I would recomemnd it. 


Elevation - I listened to this on audio, and chose it because it sounded interesting and also because it was short! I love Stephen King, but this was not my favorite. (That said, I'm probably being too hard, because my expectations were high because it was King!) I definitely didn't dislike it, but I didn't love it. And with King, I want to love it! :) There are two short stories included in the book. The main one is about a man who is facing a strange afflication: He is rapidly losing weight. No one knows why, no one can stop it. Again, not my favorite, but worth considering if you're looking for something very short and quick!

The Third Rainbow Girl - I love true crime, so I was really excited to get this brand new book on audio from It was truly just okay for me though. (Not bad, but not great.) It tells the true story of two young women mysteriously killed in rural West Virginia in 1980. (They were on their way to a hippie-ish festival called the Rainbow Gathering, hence the title.) The author spent years living in the small town where the murders occurred and spends the book looking back at the crime and the many suspects. I did like that part. Where she lost me though was when she links the crime with the current troubles of West Virginia, and with her own story. (The book is also a bit of a memoir.) I personally didn't feel the connections worked or were very compelling. I wish she had focused solely on the crime, but then it probably wouldn't have been long enough for a book. Basically, I would have loved this as a podcast.


What Alice Forgot - I like Lianne Moriarty a lot, and have heard so many good things about this story of a woman who wakes up and can't remember the last decade (it's been lurking in my Kindle for years), but I was just so underwhelmed. I would have DNF'd this one early on, but I kept waiting for it to get good, and it just never did for me. (So many people love this one though, so keep that in mind!)

When Less Becomes More - I listened to this one on audio via, but it just didn't do it for me either. I felt like the author kept raising really smart questions ("why are women more overwhelmed and exhausted than ever?" "Why are we feeling more disconnected when we're more connected than ever?"), but then never really answered them. I wanted this book to be specific tips and things to do to clear through mental, digital, or physical clutter, and it just wasn't that. It was also very religious, which is not a knock on it--just wasn't what I was expecting.


What did you guys read and love this month? And if you did the New Year, Old Books Challenge with me this month (and so many of you did--yay!), definitely let me know below!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Yes, I'm Still Alive (Plus 11 Cool Things To Click!)

williamsburg hotel

Hi. Yes, I'm still alive. (Did you miss me?) January has been nuts for me. Just so much going on in pretty much every area of my life, and as a result, the blog has taken the backseat, big time. I haven't even finished (ok, started) my post on the best books of 2019--arghh! (Is February too late for that? I hope not.)

This week, I spent two days on a Unilever press trip in my old stomping grounds of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (That's me ALONE in my hotel room at the Williamsburg Hotel, above.) I saw lots of cool upcoming beauty launches from brands like Dove, Tresemme, and Love Beauty Planet, caught up with old-school beauty-editor friends, and even got a glorious two hours to wander through my old neighborhood where we lived until my daughter was three. I realized how much I miss it there. It's just so, so cool.

I think this weekend is the very first weekend of 2020 that we haven't been traveling (!), so I plan to spend it doing exactly nothing. I'm going to read, and...yeah, that's pretty much it. Whatever you're up to this weekend, I hope you make it a great one. Here's a few fun links to check out. Enjoy!

• If you're looking for something to read, here's the three (!) books I'm reading right now: The Poisonwood Bible (an older, epic read that's an all-time favorite for so many people; I finally picked up as part of my New Year, Old Books Challenge), Pretty Things (a story about two women teaming up to scam people that isn't out until April, but already has so much buzz!), and You Are Not Alone (a highly-anticipated  thriller that's one of the February Book of the Month picks that I just started on audio. I've heard amazing things!). 

• Next, I'm starting American Dirt, which--unless you're living under a rock--you likely know has become a huge source of controversy. This story about an undocumented Mexican mother and her child fleeing to the U.S. was one of the most anticipated books of the year, Oprah just picked it for her book club, and people who have read it say it's amazing and that the first 50 pages are heart-stopping and like nothing you've ever read. At the same time, it's drawn criticism from many who say it contains dangerous stereotypes, and because its author is not an "own voices" writer (i.e. she's writing about the undocumented, Mexican experience, and she is neither of those things). Many people are boycotting it, but I very much want to decide for myself, so I just bought a copy. (My new book club just picked it, too, so that's another reason I'm diving in.) Have you guys read it? Do you plan to? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

• In non-book news, I recently rediscovered Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara, and you guys, it's sooo good! Gives me long and super thick lashes in just a few swipes, and it never runs or flakes on me. It's not new, but it's my new favorite.

• My friend Jenn always finds the coolest stuff (and is a Today Show contributor because of that!). She recently launched a newsletter where she shares five amazing finds each week. It's fast become one of my favorite things to find in my inbox.

• If this article is any indiction, the Jessica Simpson memoir is going to be [insert fire emojis]. It comes out this week, and I've already pre-ordered my copy. (I'm going to do the audio version, because nothing is better than celeb memoirs via audio...) 

• I got these APL Techloom Chelsea sneakers in black for Christmas, and have pretty much been living in them. They're really cute and beyond comfortable. (Also, they were on Oprah's Favorite Things list, so you know, just saying: #greatminds).

• I haven't bought a cookbook in ages, but just bought this one by the Defined Dish after hearing so many of my favorite bloggers rave about it (and seeing them recreate favorite recipes from it) on Instagram. Everything sounds so yummy and healthy!

• I don't watch much TV lately (because of this), but I started watching Cheer on Netflix yesterday, and could. not. stop. It's incredible--like a real-life Friday Night Lights, but with cheerleading. So, so good. 

• And if you're already a Cheer fan but haven't seen this video of Jerry mat-talking people as they walk into work, watch it immediately.

• This little kid has an Instagram account where he reviews Shirley Temples and it's the cutest thing.

• Look, Mike Bloomberg is not going to be president. And he's nowhere near my top choice. That said, as my former mayor, I do like him a lot. But whoever you're rooting for--and even if you're not into politics (what? how?)--this ad is amazing.

Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My New Year, Old Books Challenge (Join Me?)

After a bit of a lull, I've made huge strides in my reading this year (as I write this on December 31st, I'm at 119 books read for the year--almost 100 more than last year...! (That said, the 119 number is kind of killing me, so I'm hoping to squeeze in one more today to make it an even 120.)

But one thing has frustrated me about my reading this year: I've been focused on new books. Brand new books--and pretty much exclusively. I get caught up in the #bookstagram culture, tempted by all the amazing new releases, and also feel obligated to read and review any e-books I (very generously!) get free from NetGalley, and there just never seems to be time for the older stuff. And that's so annoying! There are SO many good, existing books out there. So many great books I haven't read. So many books I've already purchased (ugh--sooo many) that are just sitting around collecting dust on my shelves or lurking in my Kindle app.

So, I've decided to do something about that this year, right off the bat.

For the month of January, I'm going to be reading backlist books. Only backlist books. Even if I'm tempted by a great sounding new release. Even when my January Book of the Month box arrives. Even if an ARC of American Dirt somehow magically arrives in my mailbox. I'm calling it my "New Year, Old Books" challenge. It's going to be a little tough, but I'm focused, I'm ready, and I'm excited! 

There are so many great books out there that I have long been dying to read, and just haven't gotten around to for whatever reason. I recently went through my existing TBR pile (both real and virtual) and there are already way too many older books that I already own, so I'm not even truly going to make a dent in the old books already in my possession. But I'm looking forward to seeing how far I get! 

A few books now on my January TBR list (i.e. books I've, embarrasingly, never read): Bel Canto, A Gentleman in Moscow, Dark Matter, Firefly Lane, The Poisonwood Bible, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, Sweetbitter, The Rules of Magic, The Dream Daughter, and--ugh--so many more!

My self-imposed rules for the challenge are pretty simple: The books I read this January must be from 2018 or earlier (but I'm going to aim for even older). And I can't buy any of the books I read. But the library is fair game! And I am actually going to allow myself to do new releases on audio though. (I don't know if this is "cheating," but I already own a million new releases on audio and pretty much zero old ones, so I'm just going to do it this way. Also, it takes me forever to get through audiobooks. So, if I don't keep at them, I will absolutely never catch up with those!) 

If you want to watch my progress (or, better yet, try the challenge yourself!), you can follow me on Instagram at @alyssaisbooked and via the hashtag #newyearoldbookswithalyssa. Let me know if you are going to participate, so we can motivate each other and exchange some great (old) book recs.

Happy reading--and happy new year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

How We Hacked Our Way to A Pretty Cute Christmas Card

I had thought I'd been super on top of it, scheduling a holiday-card photo shoot early this fall. But then it didn't go as planned. (Here's why.) Then, life got busy, and December rolled around and I realized I had no good photos to use for a card. I thought about skipping cards entirely, but then decided I'd throw my own impromptu shoot together, and hack my way to a decent Christmas card. And it worked!

I decided to nab my pictures on a weekend in early December when we went to get our Christmas tree at our local garden center. I posed my (relatively uncooperative) kids in a series of festive-ish shots including in front of wreath- and pointsettia-displays, and nestled among some cut trees so it almost looked like we were in a forest. Then, they had the idea to sit in front of a pinecone display, and take some shots!

I shot and edited all of the pics on my phone (two wreath shots and a pointsettia made the final cut), and ordered the cards online later that afternoon. And I'm pretty happy with the way they turned out! (The only thing I don't love is the fact that they're wearing their winter coats. But it was freezing that day, so what can you do?) Not bad for an hour and an iPhone, huh?

I hope you're having a great holiday, whatever you're celebrating. We're in my childhood home in Maryland for Christmas, then heading back home tomorrow, and then off to Stowe, Vermont for a few days after that. (Skiing for my husband and the kids; reading in the lodge for me.)

Merry everything to all!

Monday, December 9, 2019

That Time We Took A Wrecking Ball to Our Own Backyard (Plus, A Giveaway!)

Thank you to Abrams Books for sponsoring this post.

When my daughter recently picked up Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball, the latest book in the super popular Wimpy Kid series, I was reminded of our most recent home renovation project. As you may remember, last summer, we totally redid our backyard. And as part of that renovation, we built the treehouse you see here for our kids! (Well, we didn't build it--we have no talent in that area--a carpenter did!) All in all, we learned a ton during that backyard home improvement project, namely that...we hate home improvement projects!

I can't help it. Though we love the end result, the whole process definitely had its downsides. First, it started months after the proposed target start date--and then took months to complete. For that reason, my kids couldn't use our backyard (old version or new) at all for literally the entire summer. Then, there was the constant arguing with the contractors (when they randomly wouldn't show up or when they'd say things like "Oh? You didn't want to leave the tree house with just bare, unpainted plywood? Ok, then that's going to cost a lot extra.") And the money! Oh em gee, after our actual house, the entire backyard project was probably the most money we've ever spent at one time--and costs seemed to increase daily with every big and little decision we made. It was a rough time.  

But with all of that said, the expense and the constant headaches were ultimately worth it. We love our backyard! My kids have an awesome tree house--one that I would have killed for when I was a kid--and we have a great place to entertain. (And let me tell you: At every party we have, the adults always want to climb up and check out the treehouse, too!)

And now that my kids have seen a glimpse of what's possible, let's just say, they've got some big renovation dreams of their own these days. My daughter recently told me that she'd like to add a rock wall to her bedroom and a roller coaster to our backyard. (Lol.) Oh, and she wants to redo all of our floors so that they are "the same floors as roller rinks." Yeah, #notgoingtohappen. 

This new installment of Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid series (book #14!) tells the story of Greg Heffley and his family's attempts to do some renovations on their own home. They encounter even bigger issues than we did like mold and unwanted critters (!), but it's still a definite reminder that home improvement is never as easy as the TV shows may make it seem. 

My nine- year-old daughter--already a huge fan of the series--loved the book. She just finished her second reading of it and said it is "so funny!" And my six-year-old, early-reader son actually started it himself just the other day! He's going to be thrilled when I let him know that there are actually 13 other books in the series that he can now go back and read. :)

Now, as any mom knows, any book that holds both of my kids' interests, that they can't put down, and that they actually want to read more than once is a bit of a unicorn. For that reason, I really wanted to share the love, and I will be choosing one winner to win a copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball courtesy of Abrams Books. To enter, please click here and follow the instructions in my Instagram post

Thank you, good luck, and happy reading (or renovating)!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

How To Get 3 Audiobooks for the Price of One!

Top two photos taken by Sadie Hertzig

I'm a big fan of audiobooks. But this definitely wasn't always the case! After spending basically my whole life thinking audiobooks were weird or "cheating" (why?!?), I've become their biggest fan this year. Not only are many audiobooks better than their print counterparts (yes, really), they've been absolutely key in helping me dramatically increase the number of books I've read this year. I now listen to them anytime I'm on-the-go--walking, commuting, or even grocery shopping--and I listen to them when I'm on-the-go at home, too (putting on my makeup, cooking dinner, cleaning, etc). 

If you love audiobooks, too, or have been thinking of trying them, I have an amazing deal for you: You can get THREE audiobooks for the price of one! (Click here to go straight to the deal now, or read on to learn more about it.) 

The 3-for-1 deal is through my absolute favorite way to listen to audiobooks, I discovered about two months ago after being pretty loyal to Audible before that since that's really all I knew about!. After checking out Libro, I switched over to them immediately, and truly haven't looked back. I love it so much! First, Libro has a huge selection of audiobooks. As far as I can tell, they have everything Audible has, and anything I've ever wanted has been there. Also, the prices are great, and the website and app are easy to use. 

But that's not even the best part! The absolute coolest part is that your purchases are credited to local, indie bookstores, not Amazon! You get to choose which store (my purchases go to Little City Books, my awesome local bookstore here in Hoboken, NJ), so you get to feel good about supporting small businesses, while still getting the same convenience of ordering audiobooks online and listening digitally.

I am totally hooked on, and highly recommend them. And the deal they are offering is incredible. If you join Libro today using this link (or by entering code ALYSSA), you will get THREE audiobooks for just $14.99

And if you're looking for recs for audiobooks for the three you get to start with, a few of my very favorites are: Becoming by Michelle Obama, The Rainbow Comes And Goes by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps and Maid by Stephanie Land. I'm also about a third of the way through the audiobook of The Starless Sea right now, and absolutely loving it! 

If you have any Qs about or audiobooks in general, feel free to ask below. (Or DM me on Instagram!) But I'm truly a huge, genuine fan of (love the service, love the selection, and really love their mission!), and couldn't recommend them more. Now, run and get that crazy 3-for-the-price-of-1 deal, guys! ;)

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small portion of your purchase price at NO additional cost to you. Thank you for helping to support my blog!

Friday, November 29, 2019

20 Cool Things You Need to Click (Plus, The Best Black Friday Sales!)

J.Crew Chateau Parka (50% off with code FRIDAY!); Chloe Marcie Small Crossbody Bag ($50 off on Neiman Marcus!);  Such A Fun Age (preorder here), 

Did you guys have a good Thanksgiving? We're down in Raleigh, North Carolina, with my husband's side of the family. Our hotel is actually in a mall (!), so it inspired me to put together these links today. I'm not doing a crazy ton of Black Friday shopping, but I am planning on taking advantage of a few really great deals (sharing those below!). And of course, don't forget about books! I've listed some awesome ones I've read lately, below. Target is doing a 2 for 1 sale on books right now (check it out here), so it's the perfect time to stock up. And Amazon is doing Black Friday deals on select books, as well. Whatever you're up to this weekend--whether it's shopping, reading, or leftovers--here's a few fun links to check out in the meantime.

• Before we get to the clothing Black Friday sales, let's talk books! If you have been thinking of joining Book of the Month, now is definitely the time to start. December is, hands down, the best group of book choices I have seen so far! I have actually already read and loved three of the books: Long Bright River (suspenseful family drama/crime story--and one of my top, top books of the year), Dear Edward (beautiful story of a young boy who is the sole survivor of a plane crash), and Red White and Royal Blue (fun, smart romance--more on it below). I also already have a copy of The Wives, which I've heard is an awesome thriller, and the fifth book--The Glittering Hour--is the only one I hadn't read/don't own, so that was my pick this month! I've heard great things about it, so I'm excited... If you would like to join BOTM, you can use this link, and we'll both get a free book!

• J.Crew's Black Friday sale is so good! 50% off (and 60% off sale!) with code FRIDAY. I want this pom pom sweater, this mockneck sweater in like five more colors (I already own the light gray), and these gold slippers. (I already own them in beige and they are so comfy and warm. The gold is way more fun though!) Also, the Chateau Parka is the BEST coat. I've had it in tan for a couple of years now and it has held up perfectly. (That's it in the photo above!) I kind of want it in another color now, too. Hmm...

• My hotel in Raleigh is right across from Anthropologie, so I stopped in this morning and found so much good stuff--all 30% off! Limited suitcase space though, so I took pictures of everything I wanted, and am ordering it online. :) Here's what I loved: this braided velvet headband (cuter and a little more unique and special than the knotted style that everyone is wearing), this green dress (love that it could be worn for three different seasons), and this amazing sequin sweater!! (I love it with jeans, but it would also be so good dressed up with a skirt for a cozy holiday-party outfit).

• There's always so much stuff I want at Madewell, but I feel like they rarely have sales. But the Madewell Black Friday sale is 30% off everything (!) with code GIFTWELL, so I think I'm ready to pull the trigger on this colorblock cardigan, this buffalo check sweater coat, and maybe a backup pair of my absolute favorite jeans: these 8" skinny jeans in the Ames Wash.

• This rainbow sweater is so cute. And it's on sale for $46!

• Christmas tree rings seem to be the cool new thing, and I really love the way they look. This gold tree ring is the one I have my eye on. It's so pretty, and on sale right now for $48!

These aren't on a Black Friday sale, but I love them so much and wanted to share them anyway. I bought these jeweled combat boots after one of my favorite bloggers Landyn recommended them, and I am obsessed. They are comfy and just so cool. They are my go-to boots for going out to dinner, etc now. They look amazing tucked into skinny jeans, and in person, the jewels are actually pretty subtle. They just add a little something extra. LOVE. 

• I unfortunately didn't get around to doing a "Everything I Read In October" post like I did with September, so here's a mini one. If you're looking for a good book, here are the eight books in October (spoiler: I liked all of them, and LOVED quite a few!): 

- Dominicana - This is definitely one of the best books I have read this year. It's a moving, beautiful story of a 15-year-old girl in the Dominican Republic who is married off to a 35-year-old man and then moves with him to 1960s New York City. It's moving and beautiful with wonderfully developed characters.

- The Institute - I LOVED this latest book from Stephen King about a young boy who is violently kidnapped and then taken to an "institute" where he meets other kidnapped children, all with mysterious powers. This book is heart-stopping, suspenseful, and SO good.

- Red White and Royal Blue - I am super picky about romance--they have to be SMART and non-cheesy--and I really enjoyed this one where the son of the first female president of the United States falls in love with the prince of England. And as I mentiond above, it also happens to be a December Book of the Month pick! (Reminder: If you want to join BOTM, use this link and you'll get a free book!) 

- Twice in a Blue Moon - Another romance that I actually really loved! In this new one by Christina Lauren, two teenagers meet, quickly fall in love, and then the boy breaks her heart in a terrible way. Many years later they meet unexpectedly on a movie set (the girl is now a famous, up-and-coming actress) and they are forced to come to terms with their past--and their future.

- The Other's Gold - This is a story of four female friends from college through adulthood. Each makes a mistake at some point and you learn about these four mistakes throughout the book. I thought the characters were very interesting, and though I had mixed feelings about the book, I did like it. It's not a super page turner, but not everything has to be.

- Toil & Trouble - Another fun memoir from Augustus Burroughs. In this one, he shares how he is actually a witch--!--with psychic abilities. I always love his writing, so I really enjoyed this.

- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - The true story of a black woman who had her tissue taken from her without consent prior to her death. The tissue happened to be very special though, and then went on to lead to countless medical breakthroughs. It's a compelling story and there are so many interesting questions about ethics and what rights we have or don't have over our own bodies.  I did the audio version of this and recommend it!

- The Tipping Point - I'm the last person to read this book, I know. It's interesting, though I'd probably be a little more into it if I worked in a business/marketing type job. Note: I did the audio and the audio version is very short, which was nice.

• In other news: My long-time friend Laney (we worked together at Lucky magazine about a million years ago) has big news. She launched a makeup line called Saie Beauty! And the best part? It's CLEAN!

• My friend Carrie always posts the best quick, EASY meals. I want to make this chicken stroganoff soon. It looks fantastic! 

• If you haven't read it yet, drop everything and read this incredible account of a day in the life of two homeless kids trying to get through a school day in New York City. It will absolutely break your heart, but it's a must-read. And then, after you finish, please visit this Twitter thread for ways that you can donate to help these kids and other's like them. I bought some items off the Amazon Wish List for Sandy's school...

• And in case you missed it, I did an unintentional mother/son photo shoot with my little guy. (And I'm obsessed with the resulting pics!)