Friday, November 29, 2019

My Favorite Reads... of 2018

Listen, I know it's the end of November. I know that I should be preparing my favorite books of 2019 post, not posting my favorite books of 2018. I know.

This post was mostly finished at the beginning of January, but I never completely finished it and then it was February. February Maggie thought, Well, it's too late now. Nobody cares what I read in 2018 now!

But November Maggie doesn't give a shit. I'm still thinking about some of these books, and I'm definitely still recommending them to people. I read some great books last year—some that became new favorites—and I'm going to share them. Who cares that it's November? Time is a social construct anyway!

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Stevie Bell is a true crime-loving, aspiring detective determined to solve a decades-old murder and kidnapping at the famous Ellingham Academy—but when a fellow student dies under suspicious circumstances, she finds herself drawn into another mystery. I've been a fan of Maureen Johnson for years, and I think that the Truly Devious series might be her best yet. The final book in the trilogy, The Hand on the Wall, comes out in January, and I can't wait!

Body Counts by Sean Strub
Equal parts memoir and textbook, Strub shares his story leading up to and throughout the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. and includes a myriad of historical details beyond his personal experiences. It's all woven together beautifully and told with such passion and love—but pulls no punches. I learned so much and can't recommend this book enough.

The Year of No Mistakes by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz
This collection of poetry follows Aptowicz's move from New York to Austin and the dissolving of a decade-long relationship—so, yeah, it will make you feel a lot of emotions. Her writing is beautiful, funny, and intensely relatable. I can't wait to dive headfirst into the next collection.

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
You've already heard all about this one (and have probably seen the movie too), so you know. I don't think I loved this book as much as many did, but I did love it. The writing is beautiful and so passionate, and you could really feel every bit of it. (Side note: BookPeople has signed copies of the sequel, Find Me—and they ship everywhere!)

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
I've wanted to read Julie Murphy for ages, and I'm so glad I started with Dumplin'. The story is so fun, often heartbreaking, and full of real and lovable characters. I loved Willowdean's spunk and confidence, as well as her flaws. (I'm sure you've heard by now, but there's also a Netflix movie including the love of my life, Jennifer Aniston, and new music from Dolly Parton. Truly, we are not worthy.)

You Don't Have to Like Me by Alida Nugent
This a great collection of essays for the person who still thinks "feminist" is a bad word, for someone still learning what it really means, and for those who proudly claim it. Hilarious, genuine, and intensely relatable.

Final Girls by Riley Sager
While in college, Quincy was the only one of her friends to walk away from a horror-movie level massacre—that she has no memory of—and unwillingly joined two other women in a group known to the press as the Final Girls. Ten years later and things are good, until one of the Final Girls is found dead and the other shows up on Quincy's doorstep. AND THEN SHIT GETS CRAZY. I have recommended this book more than any other in the last year. It's so much fun and you'll never see the ending coming.

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride
I didn't know much about James McBride until I worked his event at BookPeople a couple of years ago, but after hearing him speak and talking with him afterwards, I knew I had to add him to my list. I started with his first book, a memoir and tribute to his mother that spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list, and it was so, so lovely.

I posted my review of this back in December, so go read that and then go buy the book. (Also, you can preorder the sequel now!)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas*
I was on the library's waiting list for this book for three months, which should tell you how great it is, if you didn't already know. If you haven't read it yet, you really, really need to. It's even better than they say.


* Not pictured because I checked it out from the library.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

New Orleans

Dylan and I went to New Orleans at the beginning of November for a little vacation and early (one year!) anniversary present to ourselves. I've been to New Orleans once before this, but it was only for a long weekend and I didn't get to do any of the things I really wanted to, so I was especially excited to head back. It's such a cool, lively city, and I think everyone should visit at least once.

There is so much to see and do (and eat and drink) in New Orleans that it's easy to get overwhelmed, so we focused on exploring just a few neighborhoods rather than trying to see the whole city. I figured breaking down my favorite spots by neighborhood would be the best way to share.


→ One of the first things on my list for New Orleans was a ghost tour, and Lord Chaz's Ghost and Vampire Tour did not disappoint. Unfortunately, Lord Chaz himself was sick, but Master Thomas stepped in and did an awesome job. (If you've never been on a ghost tour, don't worry—they're not scary! It's basically like a walking lesson in local history and lore. I promise you'll have a good time.)

→ If you feel yourself slowing down after a long day of walking (and probably drinking), stop in at Molly's at the Market and get their frozen Irish coffee for a quick pick-me-up. Pay the extra $1.50 for the large. You'll regret it if you don't.

Faulkner House Books, the former home of (you guessed it) William Faulkner, is a charming little bookstore tucked away down Pirate's Alley. Duck in there for a quiet escape from the bustle of the Quarter.

→ Anything covered in powdered sugar deserves your attention, so you have to stop in at Cafe Du Monde. Service moves fast here, so don't feel discouraged by a long line or full tables. You can get an order of beignets and two cafe au laits for less than ten dollars, and it's totally worth it.


→ We ate Sunday brunch at Elizabeth's Restaurant and even though the wait was half an hour longer than we were originally told I would totally do it all over again. Dylan ordered the duck waffle, I had the eggs florentine (with shrimp instead of oysters), and we split an order of the fried boudin balls. It was all to die for.

Crescent Park stretches along the riverfront for over a mile with a nice walking trail, cool industrial spaces, and swings to sit on and watch the boats pass by.  (There's an entrance to the park right across the street from Elizabeth's, which is perfect because you'll need a place to walk off that delicious southern food.)

→ Our first night we ate at St. Roch Market, a beautiful and super cool food hall that hosts twelve local food and drink vendors, and walked St. Claude Avenue, stopping in neighborhood bars along the way. (After a couple of drinks, you might feel brave enough to belt out a song at Kajun's Pub's nightly karaoke. I may or may not have sung "Breakaway" with the help of three Maker's and Cokes.)

→ We originally decided to go to Sólo Espresso because it was a short walk from our AirBnb, but we enjoyed it so much we went two mornings in a row. Get there early so you can grab a biscuit and their fig earl grey jam to enjoy with your vanilla latte.


→ There are so many great shops along the six-mile stretch of Magazine Street, but my favorite was probably Zèle NOLA, an indoor market with art, clothes, jewelry, and more all crafted by local makers.

Sucré is an amazing sweet shop with macarons, gelato, chocolates, and other delicious desserts that are almost too beautiful to eat. They have several locations around the city, but we went to the one on Magazine Street (twice) and I think about their raspberry and cookies and cream gelato every day.

→ We stopped in Hey! Cafe to take a break from all the walking (and shopping), and I'm so glad we did because I had literally the best vanilla latte of my life. It was so good that I pretty much immediately got back up to buy a bag of their Hello Espresso roast (which you can also buy online) and a mug (just because).

Octavia Books is a cool little bookshop tucked away off the far east end of the street. I always make a point to buy something from (at least) one local indie bookstore wherever I travel, so I finally picked up a copy of Truly Devious (so good!) and a purple fountain pen when we stopped here.


→ I love visiting museums when I travel, and the New Orleans Museum of Art is the perfect size with a diverse collection and a sculpture garden. It's located in City Park, which is perfect for reflecting after a couple of hours wandering the museum.

→ For our anniversary dinner, we dressed up and went to Cochon in the Central Business District. Most of the plates are meant to be shared, so we ordered quite a few and all of it was delicious. My favorites were the fried alligator with chili garlic mayonnaise and all the cocktails I drank. (Cochon Butcher, the butcher shop and sandwich counter next door, was also recommended to us by several friends, but we sadly weren't able to make it back. You should probably go though.)


Saturday, December 1, 2018

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

A big perk of working at BookPeople is having access to a room full of ARCs—but it's not something I'm very good about taking advantage of usually. I either forget to check or I'll grab one and never get around to reading it before the book is actually published (which really defeats the purpose). It also doesn't help that I typically only work at BookPeople once a week, so the ARCs I'm interested in have usually already been taken.

But when it came to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green, I was determined to get my hands on a copy and read it before its release date. I enlisted my dear friend Christina to watch out for ARCs since she works full-time at BookPeople, and she found one for me by the end of July! (Get you a Christina in your life.) I read it in a week and it was so fun. Below is the tiny synopsis and review I wrote for BookPeople's monthly newsletter and holiday catalog.*

It's 2:45 A.M. in Manhattan, and April May has found (what she believes to be) a giant robot sculpture standing in front of a Chipotle. She and her friend Andy make a silly video with the sculpture (dubbed "Carl") and upload it to YouTube, unaware that other Carls have appeared overnight in dozens of cities around the world and their lives were about to change forever.

In An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, author Hank Green takes a look at the idea of fame in the age of viral videos, YouTube stars, and social media influencers—but more than that, it is a declaration of his belief in humanity. In such a turbulent time, when it can be so easy to only see the bad in the world and in each other, Green reminds us that humanity is overwhelmingly good. April May's story will make you proud to be a human.


* Speaking of the holidays, BookPeople is teaming up with thirteen local nonprofits and hosting give-back days throughout December. It's a great way to support your local independent bookstore and these amazing organizations this season!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


As much as I like to label myself as a "blogger" on every social media profile I have, I am really bad at it. Truly awful! And I'm not sure there was a time I was ever good at it—but then again, the definition of what makes a "good" blogger is relative. It's all relative!

So here I am again, after months away, just to say a quick hello and give an update to the one or two people that might read this blog and not actually know me in "real life." (Hello, imaginary people!)

At the end of March, while randomly scrolling through a local shelter's adoption page, I found the saddest dog I had ever seen in my life and thought, I must have her. I brought her home a few days after my birthday and named her Edie.

She is scared of most things, but seems to be scared of less things as time goes on. She is always cold, so she really loves blankets and wearing sweaters and sitting in the sun. She is pretty much always asleep, and she would probably never get out of bed as long as I was there too. She is the sweetest puppy in the world! I love her so much!

Our BFFs KaCee and Kyle (and Gretel) moved to Portland in July. We threw a goodbye party for them the night before they left, which was fun until I started crying towards the end, which made Melany and KaCee start crying too. (To clarify, this was not the first time we'd cried.) We went for one last breakfast at Snooze the next morning where we cried some more and attempted to smother our feelings with pancakes.

The four of us had so much fun living together and we were so sad they were moving out, but we were excited for them too. And it was also exciting because Dylan moved into their room.

Speaking of Dylan, we have been dating for nearly a year (our anniversary is on Sunday!), which is crazy and exciting and a lot of other feelings. He is so silly, sweet, and thoughtful, and I feel very, very lucky to have him in my life. Living with him (and Melany) has been so much fun, and I'm really looking forward to the next year.

There are few more things that I missed blogging about within the last year (namely my trip to San Francisco and my birthday weekend), as well as a few things sitting half-finished in my drafts, that I might go back and post. (They're months old, but who cares! It's my life and it's now or never, you know?) We'll see—but for now, that's all I've got.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

6 Before 27

On every birthday since 2012, I've made a list of goals I want to accomplish before my next birthday, starting with 20 Before 21 and going up each year. But I've always been really bad at completing these lists. It's not only because there were so many goals to begin with, but I had to come up with more every year and ended up filling lists with goals that were either unrealistic or not that important to me.

I wasn't going to make a list this year, but then I realized that, well, I really wanted to, but also there's not a rule that says I have to set 26 goals. I'm going to cut down the number so I can focus on a few things I really want to do. So, without further ado and even though my birthday was over a month ago, here are six goals I hope to accomplish before my 27th birthday.

I got so close this past year! So close! I always set my goal for thirty and can never seem to crack it, but this year it's going to happen.

Last year, I set a goal to go to Camp Gladiator twice a week, which was optimistic, to say the least. I thought it might be easier to set a goal I could actively work towards, so I'm shooting for 100 check-ins. With where I'm at now, that averages out to just one workout a week, which is totally doable!

I was hoping to pay off my car last year, but soon after I set the goal I ended up having to pay for $1500 worth of work–so let's hope that doesn't happen again! If I'm able to put a little extra towards the principal each month, I should be able to pay it off by next April!

I contribute to my 401k through my job at the credit union (and just increased my contribution from 6% to 8%–you should do this too! You won't even notice the difference in your paycheck!), but I want to start contributing to a Roth IRA as well.

This past week I devised a plan to maybe hopefully visit Washington D.C. and Philadelphia in September! It's still very tentative, but I'm already planning all the museums and bookstores I want to go to, so cross your fingers for me.

I've known for awhile now that I want to get a floral tattoo inspired by a needlepoint my grandmother made, but I've had trouble finding an artist whose style I liked (who wasn't in Australia). I think I've finally found the right person, but if you have any recommendations for Texas tattoo artists specializing in florals, let me know!


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