Don’t Book Back // August Reading

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I only got around to two books during the month of August. One I enjoyed and one that I wish I had not bothered reading. I will let you figure out which was which.

I blame my senior thesis advisor for turning me on to Bret Easton Ellis. Dr. Haley augmented my list of suggested reading material for my analysis of the yuppie and hippie movements with Ellis’ works in order to get a sense of the former. I read most of his fiction, save for American Psycho, and enjoyed nearly all of it. Hot tip: skip eating truffle macaroni and cheese while reading the torture scene of Glamorama.

I read White by Bret Easton Ellis. It is his first nonfiction book. I thought I would love what he had to say, but I find his brand of no-nonsense abrasive. Lots of critiques on coastal elites, snowflakes, and millennials, despite the fact that he remains in a live-in relationship with the latter-most. I tend to love memoirs and find them inspiring, but in the case of White, I simply found it to be exhausting.

For the same reasons I read White, I read Lips Unsealed: A Memoir. Like many xennials, I romanticize the late 1970s into 1980s, particularly popular culture. Bret Easton Ellis and Belinda Carlisle were only a few years apart and experienced a southern California upbringing during that time. While I related to Ellis’ more privileged upbringing, I deeply identified with Carlisle’s scrappy attitude.

The perfect antidote to White was Lips Unsealed: A Memoir. The Go-Go’s were one of my favorite bands growing up – still are – though from a few viewings of Behind the Music, I knew that they were not the nice five California girls that the marketing department of I.R.S. Records would have one think. Belinda Carlisle’s candid memoir did not hold back, nor did it present her struggles with addiction with rose-colored glasses. It is her candor that makes Lips Unsealed: A Memoir a fantastic read.

Don’t Book Back // My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by @racheldeloache

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2017 to 2018 was the year of the grifter. Billy McFarland. Yvonne Bannigan. Anna Sorokin. The latter’s narrative may have been the most outrageous and unbelievable. It certainly seemed to keep Twitter enrapt throughout the summer of 2018. I was one of the spectators who incredulously absorbed coverage of the con artist, from both the perspectives of Rachel DeLoache Williams and Neff Davis. I devoured both and when the former’s book was released, I immediately digested it too.

It is impossible not to get wrapped up and invested in Williams’ experience. Though she does mention growing up with trappings of privilege – summer vacations at Kiawah Island, studying abroad in Paris, a connection to Graydon Carter via a university contact – it was impossible not to be on her side as she detailed her scrappy climb up the career ladder. Growing up with the cards stacked in your favor only goes so far, and it was impressed upon me that it was her ambition that pushed her. Having spent the majority of my time in a southern town only to later relocate to a city, I related to her; I particularly identified with her post-interview routine of a hand written thank you to both the hiring authority as well as human resources.

The book opens with what likely the most uncomfortable hours in Williams’ life; her phone call with an American Express rep with a southern accent communicated to the reader how dire – and dangerous – the situation in which she found herself was. Her book discusses what led her to that point.

As a reader, it is impossible not to reflect on at what point one would personally draw the line should one find herself in the author’s shoes. I grew up in what I believed to be a lower middle class family and as such dutifully managed my budget and lifestyle. If you live small and within your means, you will always feel rich. Still, I wondered if Anna was so skilled in the art of manipulation that it would be impossible to avoid being pulled into her orbit once identified as a mark?

My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams

Don’t Book Back // Melissa Explains It All by Melissa Joan Hart

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I read Melissa Explains It All over my Fourth of July vacation. I purchased this book along with Danielle Fishel’s and Lance Bass’s memoirs and, while I read those last summer, I wish it had not taken me so long to get around to this one. It is easily digestible; I read it in two sittings.

MJH (I feel like I can call her that. Can I call you that, Melissa?) has always been such an affable and charismatic celebrity. She never seemed to be too cool for school and that is something to be admired, especially since she really is. Who did not look up to Clarissa {radical idea of Nickelodeon to develop a television show around a young lady to whom both girls and guys could relate}? Her older alter-ego, Sabrina, was a treat to watch on TGIF and later, the WB. Did you know that MJH’s mom, Paula, did not love the quality of roles that her daughter was being offered {she was onto this unfortunate, misogynistic trend much sooner than another one of my heroes, Reese} and as such, licensed the iconic Archie comic character for a television movie and later television series? With that, their own production company, Hartbreak Films was formed.

My adolescent impressions of MJH via Clarissa Darling were consistent with the stories that she recounts in Melissa Explains It All. As I was reading her memoir, my impressions of grown up MJH reflecting upon her experiences were self deprecating and candid; I especially appreciate when celebrities do not hold back or paint their pasts with rose colored glasses when it comes to their autobiographies. MJH does not hold back when it comes to disclosing her more risky behavior, which makes her all the more relatable. We have all been there right?

Melissa Explains It All by Melissa Joan Hart

Don’t Book Back // The Knockoff: A Novel by @Lucy_Sykes and @jopiazza

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Real truth: I started reading this about two months ago. Between a really rough and tough first quarter at work and moving across the country in March, I took in as much as I could. I found myself looking forward to finishing it, especially once I established a gym-going routine which allowed me to not only hop back onto the elliptical but also hop back in the book.

There were a few passages and phrases that stood out to me even several weeks after reading:

  • Had it not been for that apartment and that sense of ambition that can only be born out of struggle, she wouldn’t be who she was today.” This was part of the narrative in describing the protagonist but I also feel like it describes me. Does anyone else ever feel like that hardship and adversity she/he faced contributed to the inner grit and therefore better prepared oneself for facing the real world? For example, I knew that on paper, I was never special. I did not have a 4.0 GPA, but when I was in graduate school I took every internship, field school, and leadership opportunity possible.
  • Part of the technology component of the story reminds me of the affiliate reward networks that I (and pretty much every other blogger) uses.
  •  “‘Cashless currency. There is a chip in my wristband that connect to my credit card that pays for everything I do here at the conference.’” I am not saying that this book predicted Fyre Festival, but I cannot say that it did not give the originators ideas.
  • Have we all become so desperate to share everything that we’ve stopped enjoying our lives?” Authors Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza are nothing if not prophetic.
  • Naturally, the hot Asian boy designer mafia would be there: Alexander Wang, Prabal, Jason Wu, Thakoon, and Peter Som.” Years later and this statement is as relevant as ever. In fact, after I read this, I logged onto eBay and bought the Prabal Gurung for J.Crew exploded bow satin dress.
  • Still, even Donald Trump wouldn’t have gotten away with what Eve did.” This was written several years before the 2016 election. DT gets away with everything.


The Knockoff: A Novel by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

Don’t Book Back // Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny by @hollymadison

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Over the past two weeks, I read Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny by Holly Madison while on the elliptical. Thinspiration, amirite?

Y’all, that was actually a sarcastic remark. Throughout the book, Holly discusses the body dysmorphia she experienced. As someone who thought she was chubby, circa 2002 (it has been awhile, people), at 6’2″ and 145, I identified.

Holly Madison gets in some zingers. I laughed out loud when she mentioned that the ever notorious Hugh Hefner’s bedroom suite looked like a set of Hoarders or as she put it, “Whore-ders.” I love that wordplay.

She discussed how diligently HMH documented his life by way of scrapbooking. “He was so fastidious about his public image and about having every moment in his life documented and recorded in a way that showed his life the way he wanted it shown.” Upon reading this, I thought of oh, so many bloggers who only show the parts of their life that is essentially everyone else’s highlight reel. Vintage scrapbooking sounds a lot like contemporary Instagram-ing, right?

When there is a story that feels super one-sided, I get suspicious. I wanted to believe that all of the tea that she was spilling was true, but save for Bridget Marquardt, she did not have many positive memories of anyone. I would have liked to purchase the seasons of Girls Next Door and trace her narrative from the book with that of the television show for further context. Unfortunately, the Girls Next Door is not available on iTunes, Netflix, or Hulu.

Would I read it again? Yes. Holly Madison’s book was juicy as eff and though I felt slightly suspicious of how she painted herself and others, I loved her end message. What was it? You will have to read it to find out.


Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny by Holly Madison

Don’t Book Back // Official Book Club Selection by @KathyGriffin

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I think there is something to be said for someone who can make fun of herself. Speaking for myself, for every time I poke fun at somebody else, I make three jokes at my own expense. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously, amirite people?

I think Kathy Griffin has the same perspective and you would not have to read her book, Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin to know that. Her Bravo reality series, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List lampoons her status as a perceived try-hard celebrity. Along with all of the Hollywood crazies and those who take themselves a touch too seriously (looking at you, Renee Zellweger), the common subject of humor in Kathy’s nineteen stand-up specials is…Kathy. Humorous self-deprecation is something that I admire in other people and she walks the walk.

Jokes aside, I was surprised at the candor with which she wrote. Kathy addressed a family issue that was uncomfortable to read about, but to gloss over it would lessen the authenticity of her memoir. Inevitably, others reading this book have been through a similar experience that she had and if it helps bring attention to the issue, then I have nothing but further admiration of her.

Kathy addressed her former marriage, which resulted in a painful divorce when she discovered that her then-husband had been stealing money from her. Beyond a betrayal, and especially since he spent so much time on the road with her, firsthand witnessing her hustle.

Like all of my reading, I was taking this in while on the elliptical in my gym. Imagine my embarrassment when I started crying when I got to the part when she addressed her father passing away. She told her father, who was on his last days, that she booked an especially notorious venue and though he was excited for her, he responded that next time she book an even more notorious venue. I love that she honors her dad through doing work. I really related to that, as I honor my parents who paid for the balance of my grad school tuition that I was unable to pay via scholarships and assistantships, by putting the pedal to the medal at work.

Okay, now I am crying again. Time to start her next book.


Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin by Kathy Griffin

Don’t Book Back // 2018 in Review

I set the goal to read more in 2018. While I went the first six months sans picking up a book, a mid-year vacation and a great book really kicked me into gear. Suddenly, I was consuming a book a week and subsequently sharing them on Lucindervention.

It was the first time I enjoyed reading since elementary school, with the exception of that summer before graduate school when I read all of Bret Easton Ellis’ books. Reading always seemed like a chore to be done along with homework. Even when it came to the assignments in grad school, I only read to glean what I thought the professor wanted us to know and to absorb something that I could bring up in discussion and consequently be proclaimed as insightful.

While one author in particular was unhappy with a comment I made in a review of her book (in which I mentioned the book was better than her last, which TBH was a total dumpster fire, just ask the Amazon reviews) and aired her thought out on Twitter, this was an excellent exercise for me. Despite an unfortunate reaction by said author, after a short hiatus, I will continue the series into 2019 starting next week. Until then, allow me to share with you the favorites that I read (and re-read) in 2018:

  • Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of 80s and 90s Teen Fiction had me laughing out loud on the elliptical. I don’t know what made me more sore, the elliptical I was exercising on while digesting the book (and more than an hour at a time) or the belly laughs induced by this book.
  • I am shocked that #fashionvictim: A Novel did not blow up to Crazy, Rich Asians level. The take on the slasher genre meets Instagram culture is underrated and the perfect read leading up to Halloween. The satirical perspective kept me from getting too uncomfortable in reading it and I loved it.
  • Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs is always worth the revisit. I know I have read this in full at least four times, the first time being in one sitting. It is never lets me down when I need a laugh but at the same time, Dave Holmes provided a candid look at his life in the framework of song titles. Fitting from the iconic VJ.
  • Sex and the City and Us by Jennifer Keishen Armstrong was gifted to me by The Bradshaw Boys. It is a fantastic book providing insight into the development of the iconic series and its subsequent impact.
  • Have you ever encountered a rut in your professional life? Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill It In Your Career. Rock Social Media is the antidote to a career slump and it made me look at what I was pursuing from a different perspective. It was a long overdue wake up call.

Don’t Book Back // UnSweetined by Jodie Sweetin

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Does anyone else watch Hollywood Darlings? I cannot recall how I stumbled upon it two summers ago…or was it last spring? Regardless, it is a sitcom in which three former child actresses portray exaggerated versions of themselves in the vein of James van der Beek in Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23. Along with Jodie Sweetin, the series stars Beverley Mitchell and Christine Lakin, and y’all, it is the funniest show that the world is sleeping on. It airs on the Pop Network over the spring / summer transitional period and hopefully will air a third season in 2019.

It was after I finished season one of Hollywood Darlings, I Googled the series in hot pursuit of finding out whether it had been renewed. And with that I fell into a Wikipedia rabbit hole. As I wormed my way out, I realized that I had also purchased Jodie Sweetin’s memoir from iBooks.

It had been a few months since I purchased Jodie Sweetin’s memoir, which was published nearly a decade ago. Once I finished reading Paperbook Crush, I was still doing cardio and needed to pick something else, and quickly. UnSweetined was near the top of my unread queue and I was in the mood for some juicy child star antics.

I read the memoir over the course of three days on the elliptical. Jodie Sweetin’s story reminded me of a west coast version of that of Cat Marnell. So candid and so raw. While she acknowledges that she did not call out all of the bad stuff, she really does not sugarcoat anything. (See what I did there?) I was so relieved when I read that she never traded sex for money or drugs. Her days as Stephanie Tanner bankrolled her addiction.

It is when people share such personal stories and make themselves vulnerable that really gets me in their corner. I hope for a comeback or a Cinderella story for any underdog or anyone who is in a life pit. With Hollywood Darlings concluding a second season and Fuller House just releasing its fourth season, Jodie Sweetin has come back for her second act.


UnSweetined by Jodie Sweetin

Don’t Book Back // Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of ’80s and ’90s Teen Fiction by Gaby Moss

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Every woman who ever wished she could enroll in Sweet Valley High or join The Babysitters Club needs to read Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of ’80s and ’90s Teen Fiction. Easily one of my favorite books of recent memory, I took this book out over the course of three days. I looked forward for quitting time at work so I could go home, hit the gym, and read this gem.

The prose style reads in a way that the author, Gabrielle Moss, is talking to a good friend. The amount – and quality – of zingers she gets in, is not only impressive but also had me doubled over and laughing out loud as I read it. I was on the elliptical machine at the gym and nearly fell off more than once. Her hypothetical title, Nancy Drew and the Mystery of Getting on Birth Control without My Dad Finding Out still has me in stitches.

Should you read this? Yes, and yesterday.


Paperback Crush: The Total Radical History of ’80s and 90’s Teen Fiction by Gabrielle Moss

Don’t Book Back // Man Repeller: Seeking Love. Finding Overalls. by @LeandraMedine

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Over five days, I digested Leandra Medine’s Man Repeller: Seeking Love. Finding Overalls. Being that it was published back in 2013, I am late on reading this book. I only recently discovered that she had written this and upon the revelation, immediately purchased it on iBooks.

Leandra (after reading such personal experiences, I feel like I can call her by her first name) filters her personal experiences through the lens of the articles of clothing she associates with or wore during notable life experiences.

The experiences leaving the biggest impression on me were a weight gain due to a summer at camp / the seersucker bermuda shorts she lived in after the gain (I went through a similar phase recently) and her first menstrual cycle / her period underwear (because who has not been there…save for maybe just the entire male population).

Sidebar: I, too, clearly recall the outfit I was wearing during my first menstrual cycle. I thought I ruined my favorite pair of Calvin Klein jeans (worn with my Hang 10 white pointelle tank top) and a sleeping bag. That summer before Freshman year of high school, I was away from home and spent several weeks of the summer with both sets of my grandparents. My Grandma Joanne kept proclaiming that she just knew it was going to happen while I was staying with them. Did she discuss the possibility with my mom prior to the trip? Mortifying. And likely.

I identified with so many of Leandra’s experiences and points of view. She touched on cost per wear, a lesson I learned in my twenties. She touches on the oxblood trend of 2012; six years later and I still am hunting for the perfect pair of oxblood ankle boots. She even got send home for violating school dress code, which happened to me on my third day of high school. That see-you-next-Tuesday Ms. Boatner, after being instigated by the teacher who had the classroom in the previous block, sent me to the office for wearing a pair of American Eagle khaki shorts that many a high school gal had as part of her back-to-school wardrobe. (That story never fails to bubble up angry feelings.)

But Leandra had a similar things happen to her and I found comfort in our mutual experience. Between menstruating in public and ruining furniture and getting sent home for breaking dress code, I was ever impressed with her candor and by the time I wrapped up reading the book, I was an even bigger fan of hers.


Man Repeller: Seeking Love. Finding Overalls. by Leandra Medine

Don’t Book Back // Born To Be Brad by @mrbradgoreski with @mickeyrapkin

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I just finished reading Born To Be Brad by Brad Goreski. Like Fashion Victim, the reading material alone was enough of a carrot to get me on the elliptical.

I loved that Brad (and I am sure, to an extent, Mickey Rapkin) wrote in the voice that we all know from The Rachel Zoe Project and Its a Brad, Brad World. I would go so far to say that it truly felt like he was speaking to a friend, complete with interjections of applicable points of view and lists. For example, he discussed Madonna and in a pre-DVR, pre-iPhone world, we just had no idea what she was going to do next. He went on to mention her Vogue performance at the 1990s VMAs.

My own experience watching it? I vividly remember watching it as a five-year-old in the living room of my parents’ Maine house and being straight scandalized that a man stuck his head under her Marie Antoinette-esque costume. It never occurred to me until re-watching it much later in life, that the backup dancers were not attracted to Madonna, in the manner that Sean Penn was.

I love that Brad cited Unzipped as a way he was introduced into fashion, by way of Isaac Mizrahi. That documentary is vastly underrated. All of the supermodels were in the movie. Andre Leon Talley is in the movie. Again, the documentary is everything. It is on iTunes. Time to buy it. In addition to Unzipped, Brad suggests his other top nine fashion- and style-centric movies. (Cut to me binging them this weekend!)

Should you read this book? Yes, and you should have read it yesterday. It was an easily digestible read. (I took it out within five days, if that.) Reading the book felt like simply chatting with a friend, albeit an especially witty one. Particularly if you have professional goals, or find yourself in a professional rut, or just need inspiration, you need to read this book.


Born To Be Brad by Brad Goreski with Mickey Rapkin

Don’t Book Back // This Is How It Starts by @GrantGinder

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As mentioned in a past post about another novel taking place within the Beltway, I love reading fiction set in Washington DC. Especially since I have left the District, looking back on the specific time and era of these books takes me back and especially when written accurately, I can imagine that I lived in the same universe as these stories and the characters are people that I actually knew.

Add in Philadelphia references that allow me to relate even further, and that is one hell of a book cocktail.

I love that the protagonist meets a secondary character, who is on the low-low if you get my drift, at Local 16. These days (nearly a decade after publication) the bar is rather stale, albeit the rooftop is a great location for a University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation alumni happy hour, but when this book was released (2009), it and to a larger extent, the U Street corridor was still in its nascent stages of transition to the yuppie neighborhood it is today. All this is to say, is that Grant Ginder nailed Local 16 as the covert bar of the mid-to-late aughts.

I love the mention of The Express paper. My initial commute in the District was down the green line and west on the orange line. It was certainly lengthy enough to warrant reading material, especially since this commute took place in the pre-iPhone era, and The Express allowed me to avoid eye contact. That little publication was enough to keep me occupied with both pop culture nuggets and legitimate news, while awaiting my transfer on the L’Enfant station platform, through Farragut West. The Express was like an extended Skimm, before the Skimm.

Lastly the protagonist makes a metaphor with which I identify; it is to the effect that …everyone is dancing the tango, and I am doing the waltz… Marinate on that.


This Is How It Starts by Grant Ginder