Review: Riley Sager’s The Last Time I Lied

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Move over, Friday the 13th, there’s a new king of summer camp mysteries. Riley Sager’s The Last Time I Lied takes a successful stab at the well-known trope of deaths and disappearances amongst the backdrop of cabins and bug juice. In the novel, Emma returns to the re-opened Camp Nightengale, this time as a full-grown art teacher. She can’t help but paint the same thing over and over again–images of the girls that disappeared from the camp years ago, back when Emma herself was a camper. Emma’s return brings back dark memories and clues to a still unsolved mystery. Yet happenings at the camp start to eerily mirror that year from her childhood. When an unexpected event strikes, Emma is tasked with preventing yet another tragedy.

This mystery pulled me in quickly, and I couldn’t let go. It was definitely one of the best mystery novels I have read in a long time. Though it takes on an at-times cliche plot line, it updates in a fresh, entirely enthralling way. I was very impressed with this novel, and the reveal at the end was chilling and unexpected. The characters were detailed and complex, and the mystery complex as well.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Review: Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age

Such a Fun Age is all the rage (no rhyme intended) these days. The novel packs a story of backstabbing and coming of age amongst heavier topics of race, class, and gender.

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The novel follows Emira, a recent graduate of Temple University with a degree in English Literature. Emira is somewhat disappointed to find her only position after college to be a babysitting gig for Briar, the daughter of Alix Chamberlain. Alix runs a “female empowerment” brand called Let Her Speak. Alix is obsessed with own influence and blind to her disregard for the actual humans around her. With this character, Kiley Reid pokes fun at white female influencers who proclaim their own “wokeness” while continuing to uphold their privilege over others.

The story begins when Emira is stopped by a security guard who doubts that she’s actually a babysitter, and accuses her of trying to kidnap Briar. A bystander videotapes the encounter. His name is Kelly, and, after Emira begs him to delete the video, they begin a romantic relationship. But Kelly has secrets of his own. After the video mysteriously resurfaces, tensions rise to the surface and erupt on a televised interview.

This was a quick, intense read. It was well-written and contained nuanced, detailed characters. This was a really great read for our times, and a way to change our perspectives on the beliefs and positions we’ve held to be the norm.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Why it Helps to Have “Range”

Every so often, there comes around a new career book that disrupts everything we’ve commonly held to be true. Take the highly popular Grit by Angela Duckworth, that helped to dismantle beliefs in inherent skill and genius, and instead placed emphasis on the importance of effort, coining the term “grit” and starting a movement. Or Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which similarly examined the circumstances, not inherent genius, that contributed to success, turning our conceptions of billionaires and historical figures on their heads.

David Epstein’s Range looks at the importance of what, and how much, we focus on. It criticizes a one-track pathway, and instead looks at the ways in which having a range of skills helps people to succeed. Range explores this through a variety of case studies–initially following a comparison between the training of Tiger Woods and tennis player Roger Federer. Like the books that came before it, Range also dismantles what we have commonly held to be true and/or good–that being the best in one specific pursuit is something to brag about and tout. Instead, it is increasingly more helpful to have a variety of skills. In science, education, etc., this helps people be more prepared for the problems they have to tackle.

I really enjoyed Range, and it provided me with helpful advice as I continue to develop my own skills and plan on entering the work force. I found it to be written in a straightforward, conversational, and easy to read way. The case studies and experiments outlined in the book were interesting and clear to follow. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in the subject of skill and anyone looking to examine their own “range”.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Review: Evie Dunmore’s Bringing Down the Duke

If historical fiction and/or romance is your thing, Evie Dunmore’s Bringing Down the Duke is a must-read. The new novel follows Annabelle, a member of a suffragist movement and one of scarce few female students at Oxford University. Annabelle is charged with following Duke Sebastian Montgomery, in attempts to sway his political beliefs and convince him to vote for an amendment that will allow women to vote.

It is not long, however, before Sebastian finds himself unable to resist Annabelle’s charms. Yet a relationship between the two, who come from different classes and different aims, seems impossible. The two continue to come together and apart until some form of solution is found.

I absolutely loved this book. The romance was very similar to Pride and Prejudice–bickering turns to love and back again to bickering. The relationship between Sebastian and Annabelle is intense and swoon-inducing.

The historical aspects of the novel are interesting and important, as well. It illustrates the ways in which women were restricted from making their own decisions and owning their own property, and the ways in which they were treated by the men around them. The struggle for the vote comes through in scenes of protests and back-stage political calculations. The women in the suffragist group serve to both entertain and inform readers, their conversations at time humorous, and at others poignant messages on the ways in which women were prevented from leading their own lives.

One complaint: the political aspect of the story at many times took a back seat to the romance, and Annabelle did not seem to be doing much real work for the cause. It may come across as problematic that her romantic relationship with a man is what serves to truly help their efforts in the end, not her own individual work. Though her intellect and passion for the cause is what serves to change Duke Montgomery’s mind.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical romance!

Rating: 5 Stars!

My Best Books of 2019

2019 was my year of audiobooks. I eagerly consumed book after book in audiobook form after getting into knitting. I’m so glad to have found a way to multitask and get in more reading. It was also a year of book clubs, and some of these are from those as well. I read a combination of new and old, fiction and nonfiction, and I am excited to share them here with you. The following are my top ten books, in no particular order: 

Olive, Again

I must confess I never read the previous book—Olive Kitteridge. But I am currently almost finished with the audiobook version of this and I am in love. It is written as the combination of many different lives and experiences in the same small town in Maine and has such a genuine and true heart. 

Dominicana

Dominicana explores the history of immigration to America through the fictional story of one woman. This was a quick and entertaining yet powerful read. 

Miracle Creek

Miracle Creek was one of the best audiobooks that I read this year. It is at once a thrilling mystery and emotional exploration of family, immigration, and raising special needs children. 

Christmas Shopaholic

Though I have never read any of the other books in the Shopaholic series, I really loved this one. It put me in the Christmas spirit like nothing else. Becky’s personality and her shopping habit are unique, lovable, and hilarious. 

Educated

Tara Westover’s Educated was definitely my favorite memoir of the year. Westover overcomes extreme odds, growing up in a fundamentalist mormon family and experiencing abuse at the hands of her brother. Yet she overcomes this to become a highly educated, respected academic. 

Maybe you should Talk to Someone

In a year when everyone seems to need therapy, this memoir was a great exploration of the practice through such a personal point of view. The book explores a therapist’s perspective of going to therapy herself after a particularly painful breakup. 

Children of Blood and Bone

This was my favorite fantasy book of the year. It is a very popular YA novel that explores clashes between groups, kingdoms, and family members, with a little magic added in. 

An American Marriage

I read this for a book club and absolutely loved it, though it could be heartbreaking and frustrating. An American Marriage asks whether or not newlyweds can stick together after one of them is falsely accused of a crime, and spends five years in jail. 

Where’d you go, Bernadette

I may be a little late to this party, but I only recently listed to this on audiobook. I loved it for its humor, warmth, and ability to stay down to earth while tackling big issues. 

Ducks, Newburyport

The most experimental book on this list, Ducks, Newburyport is essentially one extremely long sentence. It offers a glimpse into the mind and life of one women, and explores pressing issues of today from a warm and personal standpoint. 

What were your favorite books this year? Let me know in the comments. 

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Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Great Read about Life, Love, and Therapy

In 2019 it seems that everyone is talking to someone, and, with an overall influx of anxiety and a focus on mental health, openly speaking about therapy is more commonplace than it ever has been. But, talking about our issues and emotions has never been easy. Lori Gottlieb explores this through her own experiences as both patient and therapist in Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. The memoir follows her life and the choices that led her to what she describes as a very rewarding career as a therapist.

She details her relationship with clients who present various problems. There is John, a seemingly curmudgeonly man who works on a very popular TV show. Even John is hiding painful pasts and emotions that are brought out in sessions. Then there’s Julie, a college professor coming to terms with her cancer diagnosis. Lori explains the nuances of relationship between client and therapist, and even what to do in cases of seeing someone in public.

Lori details her experiences both as therapist and as a patient with the therapist she coins “Wendell”. Lori decides to go to therapy after a shocking and unexpected breakup that leaves her anxious and constantly teary. Wendell helps Lori to unpack and rethink her thoughts about her ex, herself, and her child. Along the way, you learn about Lori’s life and about the history and methodology of psychotherapy.

I really enjoyed this read, and it provided a humorous, personable look into the histories that bring people into therapy. I think that it demystified the practice, and hopefully inspires more people to “talk to someone”.

Carrie Kerpen’s “Work It”: An Excellent Source for Professional Development Advice

Carrie Kerpen’s Work It: Secrets for Success from the Boldest Women in Business, features advice for young, female professionals and those starting off on their own. It features interviews from professionals including Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. Kerpen is also the host of the podcast “All the Social Ladies”. 

This was one of the first strictly career development books I have read, and I found it to very very inspiring and helpful. As a young women starting to build my career, many of the interviews and notes included spoke to my current journey. I enjoyed the format of the book, which was broken into organized chapters that also contained graphics and bullet points of best practices, plus parts you are able to fill out yourself. I think that this was a really great way to get in touch with your career goals and break away from negative thinking. 

Work It was written for women in the career force, and it includes a chapter on balancing family and career and on navigating a hostile work environment. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on networking and building a “squad” of powerful women to support your efforts. Networking is a big focus of the book, and I learned to not be afraid to send direct emails to people you want to gain advice or work from. I also learned to view networking as a never-ending activity, and to do it even in casual situations. Anyone can be a helpful contact. I also learned how to be able to say “no” when requests are unnecessary or harmful to my goals, and how to get over failures and move on to new endeavors. This was an excellent source for women looking to become entrepreneurs.  

The interviews in this book were particularly helpful, seeing how this is what Maggie does regularly for her podcast. Each women shared advice that aligned with the goals of the chapter, and included heartfelt personal anecdotes.

Overall, I was really pleased with the quality of this book and recommend it for any woman in the work force looking to grow or start their own business. 

Nail your Next Interview

Thankfully, I suppose, I have interviews scheduled for the next three days. Finally, something has gotten back! Interviews can be quite nerve-wracking, so it’s important to be prepared. If you do your planning and research, you are in good shape to get that job. These tips are imperative to follow if you are currently searching for a new position and hoping to crush your interviews. 

Dress the Part: Make sure to look your best before an interview. Wear something simple and professional, but don’t hide your personality.

Practice Beforehand: Find a friend or family member and run a practice interview with them. It is very important to have a run-through beforehand, allowing you to speak as confidently as possible. 

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Create an “Elevator Pitch”: an elevator pitch is a short speech about why you should be hired. It got its name because you should be able to say it while riding an elevator. 

Know your Strengths and Weaknesses: This is an all-too-common question, and getting asked what your greatest weakness is can feel like a trick. Try to choose a weakness that can be spun into a positive. Ensure, as well, that your greatest strength is tailored to the particular position that you are interviewing for. 

Use the STAR method: Specific Situation, Task, Action, and Result . This is a way to answer behavior-based questions by providing examples. This allows you to give specific examples of ways you were able to help. If asked about a situation that relates to the role you are applying to, talk about a specific situation from a previous role in which you completed a task related to what you will need to complete in the future. Then tell the employer about the action you did to complete this task, and the result that came from it. This should, of course, be a highly positive result.


Don’t make things up or lie, instead maintain an air of authenticity. 

Important: Know the job description and company very closely. Make sure you can explain why you want to work for this specific company and what you are able to do to help them. Be closely in tune with the needs of the company and industry, and connect your skills and training with their needs. You don’t want to show up to the interview without having researched the company or re-read the job description. The employer will assume that you don’t care about the company or position. 

Bring a copy of your resume, a portfolio, and a pen with you. It’s best to be prepared, and you typically will need to take down notes. 

What are other tips you have for job interviews? Let me know in the comments. 

10 Tips for Writing Great Online Content

Writing for an online audience can be tricky. When adjusting from traditional forms of writing to content creation and blogging, there are quite a few new rules to follow and goals to aim for. Below, find a list of ten important tips to ensure you are creating readable, interesting content. Many of these were inspired by information from Hubspot Academy’s course on Business Blogging.

  1. Don’t forget about the title. Keep it short and strong. Make sure to draw in your reader with a promise or interesting premise.

2. Answer questions. Write content that educates your audience on their interests and helps improve their skills. This way, people will come to your content on their own.

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3. Don’t write about your own life, write with your audience and industry in mind. Make sure your article will be about something your audience is truly going to care about or need to improve a certain skill.

4. Small sentences and paragraphs. Don’t confuse your audience with lengthy information.

5. Don’t try to sound smarter than you are. Use words you’re comfortable with, not unnecessary jargon and heightened vocabulary. Contractions are okay!

6. Write conversationally. Utilize humor and personality to draw your reader in and create and connection.

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7. Write your introduction and conclusion last. Make sure that you have structured your main ideas before perfecting your piece.

8. Make sure to have a catchy introduction that draws in your reader with a funny anecdote or compelling promise.

9. Use strong language. No passive voice, speak directly to your reader.

10. Scissors> Pen. Edit closely to ensure that your main idea remains the focus. Don’t include any unnecessary words or information.

What other rules do you follow when writing or creating other online content? Let me know in the comments.

Taking the Unconventional Road to Your Career

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know” recently. Job advice from friends and family quite frequently comes in the form of cliches and outdated wisdom. But there is definitely a lot of truth in the power of networking, and I have come to realize that every social setting can be a chance to make connections. Looking at the world around me in a new way helps with the job search in a multitude of ways. I’ve found that the following practices helped me find professional development and leads in unfamiliar places:

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Do it Yourself:

Create your own job–start a blog, write content for others, help online companies with their content marketing efforts, and more. Have a talent for jewelry making, drawing, or writing? Try to capitalize on these skills, selling your finished work. Working for yourself provides you with an immense amount of freedom and capability. I have dipped into this role as the creator of this blog, and recently have submitted pieces to other publications.

Odd Jobs:

Tutoring, pet sitting, babysitting–all of these can be great ways in which to make money. I’ve even recently found work teaching small knitting classes.

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Internet Resources:

I have found UpWork to be a great resource in finding small writing projects. I am currently working on writing articles about beauty products thanks to a role I found here. All of this work is paid, and allows you to build your portfolio. Upwork is a site where business owners can post temporary jobs–admin work, tech work, blogging and content writing jobs tend to be more frequently seen here.

Of course, the internet is also great for looking for full time work. Turn to Linkedin, Indeed, or smaller, more specific job search websites such as Angellist, which is more prominently focused on start-ups. Make sure to be continuously active on these sites, maintaining connections and posting content that signals your skills and helps get your name out. I frequently repost blog content related to professional development on my Linkedin.

Reach out to anyone and everyone

I have found connections at a bar, book clubs, through friends and professors and family–everywhere. Don’t be afraid to ask and to put out your interests.

Study Up

Don’t stop learning and developing your skills after graduation. There are many ways to strengthen your resume through courses and certifications. I have been learning about content marketing through Hubspot Academy, which offers certificate courses entirely for free. Others include Google Analytics courses, Business Blogging, and more. Also–don’t forget to turn to your local library–many offer career resources, or, at least a multitude of helpful books on skill development and job search. My local YMCA, as well, currently is offering a job search speaker series.

Counselors

I have turned to Career Services at my University in order to improve my resume, find connections, and consider my career options. These resources are great, and if you no longer are nearby your college, consider finding a professional career counselor, as well.

Do you have any other career search advice? Let me know in the comments.