STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER TWENTY

I swear I blink and another 3 months has passed since my last book round-up. This will be my last general reading recap for the year before I share some fun holiday book recommendations (hopefully late next week!) + my top 10 books of the year at the end of December.

Anna K by Jenny Lee: This is a YA retelling of Anna Karenina – set in modern day NYC. So basically it’s classic literature that reads like an episode of Gossip Girl. I have never read the original or watched any of the movies.. which I don’t think you necessarily need to, but I do think it would help to give you more context. I found it a little bit plainly written but I did think the dramatic UES friend groups/love interests and the concept were fun overall. (3 out of 5 stars)

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz: I don’t read a lot of short story collections but I’d heard really rave reviews of this debut author’s work and this didn’t disappoint for me. There are some trigger warnings here for sexual assault, suicide and other sensitive content – so proceed with some caution. But the writing was beautiful and Moniz managed to really envelope you in a world in just a few short pages before moving on to the next story. (5 out of 5 stars)

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller: This book gripped me from the very first page and didn’t let go until the end. There’s been a lot of hype around it, but for me – it totally lived up to the praise. A complicated love and family story that takes place between Manhattan and a family lake house on Cape Cod. It will definitely make my personal top 10 books of the year list. (5 out of 5 stars)

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton: I took this on a girl’s weekend trip and read it in a day by the pool. I really liked Alderton’s portrayal of a woman in her early 30’s that’s at a different place in life than some of her closest friends and is also moving into a new phase in her relationship with her parents. Not to mention a messy love life. This felt in some ways like a modern day Bridget Jones and would make a great holiday gift for a friend. (4.5 out of 5 stars)

Come Fly The World by Julia Cooke: I haven’t read much non-fiction this year, so it was fun to pick this one up for my virtual book club. The book follows the true story of a handful of Pan Am stewardesses in the late 60s-early 70s as well as the history of the airline itself. There were some parts that felt a little boring, but I loved learning about the Vietnam War operations that these young women were a part of as well as some of the frivolous stuff like how their uniforms evolved over the years. (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge: Well.. they can’t all be winners. I probably wouldn’t have finished this one if it hadn’t been for it being a pick from my New York book club. The story is based on the true life of the first female black doctor in America, during Brooklyn’s reconstruction era. However, the slow pace and the fact that all 3 main characters were seemingly very unlikeable, made it a miss for me. (2.5 out of 5 stars)

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling: It’s not too late to squeeze in one more ‘fall’ book and since this one will likely only take you a day or so – it’s perfect! Think Practical Magic meets Gilmore Girls. A very fun little witchy romcom of a book that somehow managed to not be cheesy. (4 out of 5 stars)

The Mothers by Brit Bennett: Last year, I read The Vanishing Half – along with seemingly the rest of America. And I liked it. But I loved The Mothers, Bennett’s debut novel. There was something more honest about it to me and yet still beautifully developed. It’s a story of motherhood and love in many forms, set against the backdrop of a small church community in a sleepy California town. (5 out of 5 stars)

Mrs. March by Virginia Feito: It’s a skilled author that can make you want to follow a deeply flawed, unreliable narrator down the rabbit hole. But that’s what Feito manages to do in Mrs. March. A psychological thriller set between Thanksgiving and New Years in NYC, you find yourself losing touch with reality alongside the main character in this one. I really like it but it’s dark.. so have something light to read after. (4 out of 5 stars)

Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann: If you read Paper Palace and think… what’s next? It’s this. I loved the writing, the dynamic, complicated family, the strong sense of place, and the subtle hint at Greek mythology. My book club is reading it this month and I can’t wait to discuss it with the group. (5 out of 5 stars)

Honorable mentions to the two audiobooks I listened to these past couple of months, Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling and Yearbook by Seth Rogan. I love memoirs on audiobooks because the author is the one to narrate – and especially in the case of these two very funny people – you get the benefit of their comedic timing in the pacing of the story. Both were fun and easy listens.

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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER SIX

It’s been since September since my last #SteeleMaidenBook Club post (where did October, November and December even go?!), but I’m back and planning to be able to stick to a more regular, monthly schedule for these posts in 2019. If you want to see everything I reviewed in 2018 – you can find those posts here. Below, what I read this Fall (hint, some of the best 4 books I read all year) plus what I’ve got on my shelf for January. Happy reading!

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer: This novel follows the life of a young, millennial woman throughout college and the beginning years of her building a career in New York. Touches on the complexities of relationships (both female friendship and romantic involvements) and the ultimately what kind of drive, motivation and sacrifice it takes to rise to the top in any given industry. I really liked this overall, however I will say that I didn’t love it as much as I loved Wolitzer’s earlier work The Interestings. Maybe it was because I never really connected with the main character? Either way there were some interesting side stories here and I think it’s worth a read for sure.

Calypso by David Sedaris: Consistently one of my favorite authors, Calypso felt a bit different than some of Sedaris’ earlier memoirs in that he’s middle-aged now and has been dealing with some of the messier bits of life (his mother’s death, sister’s suicide, the hurdles of being in a multi-decade relationship). He handled the topics with his signature mix of bizarre hilarity and self-depricating honesty. Highly recommend.

Marlena by Julie Buntin: I picked this book up on a whim from one of my favorite little bookstores back home in PA and was so pleasantly surprised. The novel focuses on the life-shifting friendship of two young high school aged girls – and while the specifics of the storyline are likely not one many of us can relate to (I hope, as things get fairly dark), the feelings of the magic of those types of friendships are really universal in my opinion. Also just really beautifully written. Totally exceeded my expectations which is the best kind of book to me.

Educated by Tara Westover: I had high hopes for this book after reading so much great press and it didn’t disappoint. Tara shares her real life story of growing up in rural Idaho to a family of extreme Mormon preppers (meaning they feared the government, banned modern medicine and forbid the children from receiving a formal education as they prepped for a Y2K-like fall-out of society). Not only are the specifics of this story unbelievable but it’s also an incredible tale of one woman’s bravery to fight for the education that she deserved. Everyone should read this book.

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For the month ahead I’m tackling Little Women by Lousia May Alcott (a classic I somehow never got around to and feels like a good winter read), A Wild Swan by Michael Cunningham (a collection of re-imagined fairy tales from the author of The Hours), The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (a popular thriller that I hear is going to be made into a TV series) and I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon (historical fiction recommended to me by a dear friend and fellow book lover).

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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER THREE

The Steele Maiden Book Club: Chapter Three

Back in the Spring I kicked off #SteeleMaidenBookClub and not only has it encouraged me to devote way more time to reading this year (the way I used to before endlessly scrolling Instagram became a thing), but it’s also become on of my favorite posts to write here on the blog. So without further ado – my third installment (you can see the last post’s here and here) and if you want to see/hear me talk about this month’s book club picks I’m going to be posting a short video to IGTV here.

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt: This was the story of a young girl in the 1970’s who runs away with her high school teacher. It flips between her story (which takes some twists and turns) and the story of the sister she left behind and the woman who raised them. I think I ended up liking the flashback stories more than the ones that followed the main character.. but in general it was a good, easy read. This could make it into your beach bag this summer for sure.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney: I love, love, loveddd this book – but I think that’s largely because I really related to it. The story follows Lillian’s life – flipping between when she was a copywriter/ad executive in New York in the 30s/40s and now, in the 1980s when she’s a much older woman, still living in the city. So much of her feelings towards her career and this city felt so much like my own which I rarely find in characters. But even if you’re not a Manhattan or nothing diehard, this book was very well-written and fun look at one woman’s life at two very different time periods.

The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride: Ahh… where do I start? I guess on the first 5 pages because honestly that’s all I could bear to read of this book. It is very rare for me to start a book and not give it at least 100 pages, but honestly the dialect is so difficult that I just couldn’t muster through it. Maybe in the winter when I’m cooped up with nothing but time I’ll come back to this, but in Summer I wanted a book that sparked my imagination or sucked me in page by page. Not something I had to read slowly in a silent room. Let’s put this one on the shelf, shall we?

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After feeling like I picked only ‘new fiction’ this past month, I wanted to really switch it up for the month ahead – and I’m particularly excited about these three picks (full disclosure: I snuck ahead and have already started/finished some of these and they’re gooood). The Woman in the Window is an edge-of-your-seat thriller (perfect for the beach or tearing through on a rainy day), Motherhood is writer Sheila Heti’s honest account of her inner struggle to decide if being a mother is for her or not and Kitchen Confidential¬†was Anthony Bourdain’s first book and after being such a fan of his, I wanted to go back and hear more about where he started. This book is a tell-all memoir about his early days in the kitchen’s of New York City… the good, the bad and the ugly. So far I know I’ll never be eating fish at a restaurant on a Monday night again.

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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER ONE

The Steele Maiden Book Club: January 2018 Reads

Reading has always been such a huge part of my life that it’s funny to me I’ve never really discussed books here on the blog. My Mom worked at a library up until I went to Kindergarten and my parents like to joke that I could organize a card catalogue before most kids even knew how to read. When I first moved to New York in my early 20s, I founded a book club and have missed it ever since it ended. I used to devour a handful of books every month, but between this blog and my full time career – it became harder and harder to find the time to read.

This year, I’m determined to change that and it seems like you’re all interested in the idea too. So I bring you – the first month/chapter of The Steele Maiden Book Club. Each month, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the books I’ve read in the previous month and then selecting a couple of books for the next month to come, in the case that any of you want to jump in and read along with me!

THEFT BY FINDING by David Sedaris:

Sedaris is one of my all-time favorite authors. Painfully funny in his no frills approach to both writing and life. Theft by Finding is a chronological collection of his real diary entries over the past 40 years. Honest, hilarious, and beautiful even in its banality – there’s something incredibly brave about sharing so much even when it seems unimportant to the greater scope of his life. I also love that because these don’t have an overall narrative you can pick it up and put it down like a collection of short stories. And a reminder, that if you want to be really great at something (be it writing or anything else)… practice it almost every day for decades.

MODERN LOVERS by Emma Straub:

Eh. To be fair this book was exactly what I was expecting so I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but maybe just not blown away. Set in modern day Brooklyn the story follows two main couples now in their 40s (who met in college) and their now high-school aged children. A multi-generational story that touches on coming of age, navigating relationships and coming to terms with your life choices as you grow older. An overall pleasant read, I’m just not sure that I ever felt very invested in any of the characters. But for a beach vacation or rainy weekend where you want to plow through a book over the course of a few days and not have to overthink it – this would be a good option.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng:

I read Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You in a single weekend last Summer so I couldn’t wait to pick this one up. Little Fires Everywhere was maybe even better (and that’s saying something). Set in Shaker Heights, Ohio in the 90s the story weaves together two families with very different dynamics and backgrounds. And just like her first novel, shows you just how much we often still don’t know about the very people closest to us. Each character is so beautifully written that you find yourself having a hard time deciding who’s side you’re on as the plot twists and turns. Without giving any more away – suffice to say I can’t recommend this one enough.

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Next month, I’m diving into Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (after binging the Amazon series ‘Z: The Beginning of Everything’ starring Christina Ricci about the early days of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald – which I lovedddd) and You’ll Grow Out of It (recommended by a friend who just so happened to be one of the members of my old IRL book club). It’s a short month, so I’m sticking to just those two. Have other suggestions? Drop me a line or comment here.

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WEEKLY ROUND-UP 6.9

The Steele Maiden: Blonde Bayalage French Braid

Helloooo Summer Fridays! From Memorial Day through Labor Day my office is closed on Fridays (in exchange for working longer days Monday through Thursday). And while it definitely makes the first half of the week feel like it moves at a breakneck speed, having 3 day weekends for a few months each year is wildly worth it.

This weekend we’re celebrating Adam’s birthday with lot’s of fun plans all around town. From a special hotel stay-cation to the ballet at Lincoln Center to burgers and a concert in Brooklyn, we’re going to be covering a LOT of ground. Be sure you’re following along on Instagram (especially IG stories where I share things in real time). And here – a few other things on my mind as we head into the weekend:

  1. This list of 10 Trips You Should Take in Your Twenties makes me feel like a lucky little lady. I’ve done all but #9!
  2. This is the next book on my summer reading list.
  3. They say your style remains forever influenced by the decade in which you grew up – for me the Nineties. While there are a lot of trends from the 90s that I’m happy to forget, it’s true that I’ve always loved the simplicity of the Carolyn Bessette Kennedy types of that era. This dress I picked up for the weekend reminds me of that time in fashion.
  4. As pictured above, I got a fresh cut and went blonder for the summer. I’m thrilled to be rid of my grown out roots and love the natural highlights. If you’re in NYC and in need of a cut (Sarah Rappolt) or color (David Benjamin) head to Wonderland Beauty Parlor in Meatpacking and tell them I sent you.
  5. I never post recipes here (aside from delicious cocktails that is), but I recently made these Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with balsamic onions and goat cheese and they’re honestly too good not to share.

P.S. Sign up for my newsletter for more Friday fun. And have a great weekend friends!

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