Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together by Erin Lowry

Book – The millennial generation is the largest living cohort in recent history. They are high in debt, low on jobs, and full of so-called ‘entitlement’. It’s no wonder millennials are so uncomfortable talking about money or the lack of it. Because my personal goal for this year is to set up and successfully fund an investing account, I have been reading a great deal of personal finance books. Erin Lowry’s book Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together is by far the best I’ve read so far.

Erin Lowry’s book does a good job of helping readers identify and work around their money hang-ups and take control of their personal finance. Erin lays out her chapters in a DIY guide format that gives you the option to read only the sections that are applicable without making you feel like you skimmed half the book. The majority of the issues she presents will be pertinent to the millennial generation. She dedicates an entire chapter on how to cope with student loan debt— an inevitability today—without going mad. She presents solid money saving and budgeting techniques and doles out advice on how to enact a plan to rid yourself of debt. A strong point for this book is the easy to understand language. You definitely won’t feel like you are being talk down to and you’ll appreciate Erin’s humor as she shares her own financial woes.

This book will definitely resonate well with the 20-30 year old crowd who are confused about money and aren’t quite ready to admit they’re not doing so well in the finance department. It will also benefit those who are doing just fine (those with an existing budget and savings account) and are ready to do more with their hard-earned cash.

Jagannath by Karen Tidbeck

Book – A call center routes calls to the afterlife. A bereaved daughter writes to her recently deceased father about her missing mother. A girl puts on her great-grandmother’s wedding dress and disappears into the mountain. A society of symbiotes living and working inside their mother begins to crumble. Told in beautiful, spare prose, Jagannath is a remarkable collection of short stories from Swedish writer Karen Tidbeck.

Tidbeck translates her own work, and there’s a lovely essay in the back of the book about how the process of composition and translation differs between languages. But if you didn’t know these were translations, you’d never guess. The pictures these stories draw are so vivid, so crisp and clear, you feel you could walk right into them – even the strangest of stories, like those about the ever-increasing aunts who grow their successors inside their own hearts. If you’re only familiar with Nordic literature from the dark thrillers that have become so popular in recent years, give this collection a try.

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Book – What’s a young woman to do when she’s possessed by a singularly brilliant mind and a distinct disdain for social conventions? If the young woman in question is Charlotte Holmes, main character of Sherry Thomas’ A Study in Scarlet Women, the answer to that question is; deliberately be caught behaving scandalously to avoid being forced to marry, move in with former actress and well-to-do widow Mrs. Joanna Watson, and set up a private detective agency under the fake name “Sherlock Holmes.” After all, no one in Victorian London would come to a lady consulting detective.

A Study in Scarlet Women is both a character study and mystery novel. However, as a mystery, the pace moves fairly slowly at first. Readers should be aware that for the first third of the story the actual murder mystery takes a back seat to character development. But with characters like these, it’s worth waiting for the plot to pick up. Thomas does an excellent job exploring the many ways Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and John Watson would be very different characters if they’d been born and raised as middle class women in an extremely male dominated society, inured in all the strict social guidelines that women were expected to abide by. This extra care and consideration makes for three dimensional characters that practically leap off of the page. And when the mystery plot does take off, watch out. It becomes hard to put the book down as Thomas throws misdirections and surprise twists at the reader, concluding in a startling and highly enjoyable finish. Readers who enjoy Sherlock Holmes adaptations and books that focus on strong character development should definitely check out A Study in Scarlet Women, by Sherry Thomas.

The Girl from Rawblood by Catriona Ward

Book – The Villarcas are tied to Rawblood, their estate in the Devon countryside. If they stay away from it too long, they sicken and die. But if they stay home, they are tormented by her, a curse of the Villarca bloodline, the ghost of a tortured young woman who tortures the residents of Rawblood in turn. At the turn of the twentieth century, young Iris Villarca is determined to find a way out from under the curse. Decades earlier, her father does his best to push his lover away to keep them both safe. In Italy, Iris’s grandmother finds herself strangely drawn to – and repulsed by – a Spanish expatriate. In the end, the curse ties them all together.

The Girl from Rawblood is a classically Gothic novel with all the trimmings: a huge empty house, a ghost, a family curse, a series of mysterious and unread letters. (And, unfortunately, quite a lot of that peculiarly English racism against European foreigners.) Pulling the Gothic all the way into 1918 is a particularly nice touch: while I liked the history of the family, Iris’s story, wrapped up in World War I, was by far the most fascinating. If you like your ghost stories equal parts frightening and heartbreaking, this is the book for you.

30 Before 30: How I Made a Mess of My 20s, and You Can Too by Marina Shifrin

Book 30 Before 30: How I Made a Mess of my 20s, and You Can Too by Marina Shifrin is a fantastic read.  Marina details her journey attempting to and succeeding in achieving 30 goals before turning 30 years old. Some goals were bigger: “Getting a Dog”, “Visit Russia”, and “Live in a Different Country”, while others were easier to accomplish: “Eating a Meal Alone” and “Take a City Bus Tour.” For any millennial working through their mid 20s, or for any age seeking to create their own bucket list, this book is a fun beacon of light in all the stresses adulthood can bring.

I was so inspired by Marina’s list that I decided to create my own!  I will admit I stole some of her goals, specifically “Getting a Dog”, “Eating a Meal Alone”, but some of my other goals include: “Baking an Obscene amount of French Macarons” (Because why not?) and “Taking a Roadtrip Through the 6 States Most Abundant in Cacti” (and of course buying a ton of new houseplants along the way). Because of the format of the book, it was easy to browse for chapters that were most relatable to me, but I still found myself reading through each section. Marina’s humor is a great addition to this memoir, and I really enjoyed her writing style. Her parents emigrated from Russia and it was interesting to see how that heritage has influenced Marina in her life and partaking of the 30 before 30 project, especially in her goal to travel to Russia. An easy but fun read for anyone!

 

 

 

Legion (2017)

TV Series – David Haller knows what his problem is. He has schizophrenia. He’s doing much better in the institution, but it’s a pretty boring life, until Sydney shows up. She doesn’t like to be touched, doesn’t like people getting to close to her at all. Soon she and David fall in love. But on the day Sydney leaves the institution, something explosive and incomprehensible happens — something that makes it clear that David’s problem isn’t schizophrenia, it’s that he’s a mutant with superpowers, and he’s going to have to learn to control them before someone else does it for him.

Legion is a terrifically artistic TV show based on a character from the X-Men comics. While it’s produced by Marvel Studios and connected to the current X-Men movie franchise, you don’t have to have seen anything else to understand it — the characters are probably more confused than you are. The first couple of episodes use a very non-linear structure to put you in David’s head: it takes a long time to figure out when now is and exactly what that means. But it’s a terrific ride getting there, and unlike some shows that pay more attention to their aesthetics than their story, it’s never frustrating or too hard to follow. Legion packs a lot of story into an eight-episode season, and it’s tremendously binge-worthy.

Season Two of Legion just finished airing on FX this summer, and the show has already been renewed for a third season.

Cacti and Succulents Galore!: Great Books to Get You Started on Your Next Gardening Project

Books – As someone who’s recently become cactus-obsessed, our library’s collection of related gardening books has been a life-saver. I logically anticipated a plant massacre, due to my lack of green thumb. My first 3 cacti (who survived a rocky road trip from California to Illinois) have flourished, and I currently have 17 cacti and succulents. I’m a bit of an addict. The following books helped me learn how to properly care for these often finicky plants, and I recommend them to any cacti newbies.

Happy Cactus : Cacti, Succulents, and More by John Pilbeam

This is my favorite book of the bunch. The title is adorable; don’t we all want our cacti to be happy? I love love, LOVE this book. The photos, pictures, and huge variety of plants included in its pages is spectacular. Each plant has its own spread detailing physical characteristics, watering, soil, temperament, and vital statistics galore! It’s a great read to showcase a lot of the great varieties of cacti and succulents out there, and gave me inspiration for future purchases.

How to Train Your Cactus : A Guide to Raising Well-behaved Succulents by Tonwen Jones

A very cute book with beautiful illustrations. I also love this title because I feel like I do have to train my plants in a sense. I have to train them to accept the light they are provided, and be friendly with all of their many plant friends in my collection. This book details each plant with brief description and then delves into “training notes.”

How to Window Box : Small-space Plants to Grow Indoors or Out by Chantal Aida Gordon

This book is great for those who don’t have a lot of space or light to properly care for plants. Window boxing is a fun and crafty way to still have the garden you’ve always wanted! If nothing else, the photos alone are Instagram worthy and great inspiration!

 

 

 

 

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

Book – Approaching their thirty-third birthdays, the Kettle sisters Lyn, Cat, and Gemma reminisce about the chaotic past year.  Including pregnancy, a love affair, a mid-life crisis, and the possible reconciliation of their divorced parents. Three Wishes tells the zany story of the triplets – two identical, one fraternal, who celebrate each year with their own cake and candle(s), thus they each make a wish.

What starts out as a festive evening ends up in a chaotic brawl in a restaurant in Sydney.  The beginning will have you hooked, since you will want to know why the pregnant sister has a fondue fork sticking out of her belly.

Lyn who has it all together and is very organized begins having debilitating panic attacks.  Cat thinks she has the perfect marriage until her husband announces that he is having an affair with a younger woman. Gemma tends to have short term relationships with men and her jobs have even a briefer duration.  If she wasn’t a house sitter, then she would probably be homeless.

This is Moriarty’s first novel and it is a candid look at a trio that has an unshakeable bond that is as wonderful as it is frustrating.  Funny, sincere, and wise with a touch of sibling rivalry – this is an enjoyable read.  Netflix has plans to make this a series.

Craeft by Alexander Langlands

Book – Before the modern era, before the Industrial Revolution, before mass production and manufacturing, most everything humans did was a matter of craft (or, to use the archaic spelling, Craeft) – a combination of skill, thriftiness, ingenuity, and necessity. In this book, Alexander Langlands explores some of the components of craeft from historic England, reflecting on the skills and resources involved and the way all the various components of the landscape interact with one another.

Langlands had my dream job: he was an experimental archaeologist, using the tools and techniques of history to better understand the way the past worked. He was clearly in this job by temperament as much as anything, because throughout this book he displays a remarkable curiosity about not just the individual components of historic life but the whole system of the thing: the way one skill led into another, one craft creating byproducts that in turn become the core structural elements of another. He calls this kind of systemic, interdependent thinking “craeftiness,” a mode of relating to the world that abhors waste the way nature abhors a vacuum, finding a clever, economical use for every scrap, and making every expenditure of energy do at least two jobs.

This isn’t your ordinary history book; in fact, I’m hard-pressed to find anything to compare it to. It’s deeply personal, each chapter (focusing on a different craft, from haymaking to basket-weaving to wall and barrow building) exploring Langlands’ own experience with the skill as well as his archaeological knowledge of its history. It’s profoundly location-based, as suits a book about the way pre-industrial people lived. And, crucially, it’s not nostalgic or romanticizing of the past: Langlands is well aware of how hard all this work is, having done much of it himself, albeit without life-or-death consequences. What he’s explaining is not just these individual skills that have been lost in the wake of cheap petroleum-based energy, but a way of thinking that was lost along with them, one which might become necessary in the near future, as petroleum-based energy becomes not so cheap.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book – Some books ripen in a certain season, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a perfect summer book to me: gossipy, escapist and propulsive, but not lacking in substance.  It’s been months since I’ve been in the mood to read fiction, but Evelyn is so addictive that I gobbled my way through its 400 pages in less than a day, and resented the hours when it had to be out of my hand.

The novel’s title character is a household name, a beloved film star whose career began in the 1950s and who is now (in roughly the present) setting her affairs in order.  Most pressingly, that means offering her first interview in decades to a young reporter named Monique who doesn’t understand why she is Evelyn’s hand-picked choice–and is even more astonished when Evelyn tells her that she has been chosen not as an interviewer, but to write Evelyn’s authorized biography.  Monique’s sections in the present alternate with (and are utterly eclipsed by) Evelyn’s first-person recollections of her eventful past, including the true story behind those seven spouses–and the secret eighth.

Evelyn Hugo is a ‘popcorn book,’ to be sure, wrapped in the glitz and glamor of Hollywood and more focused on entertaining its audience than stretching their minds.  But that doesn’t mean that it avoids deeper topics–especially identity, and the ways we shape, obscure, invent, discard, forget and rediscover parts of ourselves.  It’s historical but very timely, touching on questions of race, gender, sexuality, class, abuse, and what it means to grow up and grow old.  It’s a book about the compromises we make to have what we want and to be seen as who we want to be, and I highly recommend it for your next quick summer read.