Favorite Books of 2018

Read any good books in 2018? I definitely did. Here are a few of my favorites!

Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson

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It’s hard to write a book that dissects feminism, cuts to the heart of racism and sexism, and also makes you want to pee your pants because you’re laughing so hard. “Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay” is very that, though. Phoebe Robinson is brilliant and hilarious, sharing personal essays that will make you laugh until tears are streaming down your face while you’re on your miserable 45-minute commute to your job driving through the country backroads of western Massachusetts (Amherst is not easy to get to, guys). Each essay was excellent, but I’ll admit it: hearing all about meeting Bono was my absolute favorite. I highly recommend the audiobook for this, too. Though you miss out on some of the photos (you can just stalk her on Instagram to find them!), you get to hear Phoebe read this aloud as it’s intended. Plus, there’s nothing better than when she starts to laugh at her own jokes.

Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Other Four-Letter Words by Michael Ausiello

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You’ll need tissues for this one — a moving, real-life love story of TV writer Michael Ausiello and photographer Kit Cowan. Ausiello moves seamlessly between the building blocks of his relationship with Cowan to the present-day horror of what it’s like to find out that the love of your life is dying from cancer. This book will gut you and you’ll find yourself hoping that the title was a mislead, that the hero really doesn’t die in the end, and you’ll be shaken to the core when he does. Still, it’s a beautiful story about life, love, grief, and the adventure of being in a relationship with your person. It devastated me; I loved it.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

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Michelle McNamara has a way of weaving together details about the Golden State Killer in such a way that, at times, you forget you’re reading about a serial killer — but in the best way. Though the book is a true depiction of McNamara’s obsession, it also tells a lot about McNamara, too, from her childhood to what attracted her to this case to her process. Learning about her search is every bit as interesting as the details of the case itself. But fear not: if you’re a true crime lover, the book is every bit as chilling as you think it is; there were parts that gave me chills. I only wish McNamara was around to know how influential her work was.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

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I’m so pleased that this will be a series. “Shadowshaper” is a fantasy young adult novel that tells the story of a young girl named Sierra who uncovers a supernatural world. It’s hard to describe the plot without spoiling anything, but the Goodreads description had me hooked:

Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “Lo siento” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Sierra is a great YA character, the kind that you can see so much potential in and root for over and over. The pacing of the book is great, with a great balance between the action and focus on the story’s relationships. The book is exciting and spooky and has supernatural elements that feel pretty believable. All in all, a great read!

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

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It is can be tricky to tackle mental health in a tactful but real way in YA novels. Erika L. Sánchez does it beautifully. She writes of grief and loss, of loneliness and despair, of family and growth in lovely ways. But I am truly grateful for — and impressed by — her no-holds-barred portrayal of what it’s like to deal with depression as a teen. Julia is an unforgettable character with wit and spunk; she’s tough, but lovable as she searchers for the truth about her older sister Olga, who passed away, and may have a secret life Julia never knew about. The book perfectly combines grit with humor as it covers important themes like the immigrant experience, mental health, cultural expectations, family pressure, and chasing your own ambition.

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung

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This was perhaps my favorite book of the year. It was a book that truly transported me; I could picture and feel everything Nicole Chung experienced so fully, despite my life being nothing like it. The book is a memoir of Chung’s life and of her search to learn more about her biological family, set against the backdrop of her own life and motherhood and experiences with her adoptive family. The writing in this book is breathtaking at parts and so vulnerable. Chung’s feelings are ripe and raw for the reader’s consumption and her story truly moved me like a memoir hasn’t before.

What were your favorite reads from 2018?

(Book photos credit to Amazon.com)

To All the Birchboxes I’ve Loved Before

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know I love Birchbox. I post a photo of my box every month after I unpack it (see above and don’t judge me for the fact that some of them have poor lighting and possibly an overuse of the Nashville filter).

Unfortunately, my February 2015 box was lost in the mail (I’m convinced my mail carrier mis-delivered it, as she does all the time, and the person who got it kept it because WHY WOULDN’T YOU?). I spoke with my local post office about it and they said there was nothing they could do; I spoke to Birchbox about it and they said they’d either (1) get a replacement box in the mail to me right away, free of charge, or (2) reimburse me for the box I never received!

And so I kind of love them even more.

Truthfully, I’m probably not part of Birchbox’s target demographic. I’m not a makeup/beauty supply guru, not by any means. I buy my hair and makeup products almost exclusively from drugstores, Target, and e.l.f., even now that I’ve been exposed to the wonderful world of high-end beauty products. Occasionally I’ll order online (like for my Deva Curl hair products) or I’ll venture into Ulta.

Mostly, though, I’m cheap, and I can’t much tell the difference between a $20 or $7 mascara.

I also don’t wear much makeup, and even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t really know how or where to start. If I’m being honest, some of the time I don’t even use or try everything that comes in my monthly Birchbox.

But I still love it. Each box is an exciting, surprising little gift waiting for me around the 10th of the month! Birchbox has introduced me to the world of dry shampoos and long-lasting eyeliner and hair masks and Miss J and their incredible smelling Beauty line.

Thanks Birchbox! You’re rad.

xo.