January Book Club: The Mothers by Brit Bennett Discussion

Welcome to our first-ever discussion post for our Book Club! In case you missed it, every month we will be reading a new book with some awesome gal pals (including Being Zhenya). At the beginning of each month, we will announce the book we will be reading so you can read along and join us HERE on our discussion post to chit chat, gush and or rant about the book we read! 

Our first pick this year was the literary debut from author Brit Bennett. It's a story told from multiple-perspectives that shows how one decision can impact an individual, a family and even an entire town.
One of the main reasons why we chose to read this book was because our favorite bookstore, Boswell Books, was hosting an author event in February where we could meet and discuss this book with the author herself. 


The event was eye-opening. Things we had not thought about the book were explained and discussed by the author. Before this, however, she read an excerpt from the book and it was remarkable to hear her words flowing from her mouth. She seemed down-to-earth and like someone we would be friends with. She answered thought-provoking questions about the book and about herself. We were shocked to learn that she spent about 7 years writing The Mothers. And this made us feel good about the novels we wish to write someday. Overall, it was an incredible event.


Below, you will find our individual reviews of the book. If you read with us, please join us in the discussion in the comments - there we can get into the spoiler-y stuff!

Kaitlyn
★★☆☆ (3.5/5 stars)

Overall, this was very well written. As a whole, I think Bennett should be super proud of this debut novel. The prose was beautiful and the characters were intoxicating. It was a simple story, however, perhaps it was a little too simple. Throughout the book I was waiting for something big to happen--I wanted there to be a little more. The novel brought up important issues that make you think about how one decision can impact many lives. Overall, I would recommend this book and look forward to reading more Brit Bennett.

(P.S. What was with those last two lines???)

Sarah
★★★☆ (4/5 stars)

I loved this book, I suppose, because I feel close to it after hearing Brit Bennet speak. Her writing is like honey - it flows and it's beautiful and it's sticky. It stays with you. While I did not relate much with Nadia, our protagonist, I found her to be an extremely interesting and complicated character. At some points she was so juvenile and stupid, other points she had to make hard decisions. In that way, I think we can all relate to her, dealing with the dichotomy of life. I can't wait to read more from Brit Bennett.

January Reads


Both of us love to read. It's something that started our close friendship and our apartment is literally covered in books. Hoarding isn't a problem when it's books, right? We don't think so. 

Every month, we want to do a quick review of what we read that month. So here's our list and reviews!

Kaitlyn Read this Month:


Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
☆ (4.5 stars)
Sarah told me to read this book about a year ago as it's one of her favorite books of all time. It's follows that story of the first and only execution of a woman in Iceland. This book totally tore out my heart. The ending was so terribly sad. It was extremely well written. It was atmospherically engrossing, which I really enjoyed. There were some parts that were a little too slow-moving for me, but that is my only complaint. I have a feeling that I am going to think about this book often.

Winter by Marrisa Meyer

 (4 stars)
I started the Lunar Chronicles earlier this year and was completely unable to put them down. This YA sci-fi series is one of those where you need the next book immediately after you finish the first one. I love these characters and I'm going to miss them. They were all unique and special and I loved them all together as a cast. Each book is better than the next.  This book dragged on a little too long for me (just felt like it was one conflict after another for no other reason than to make it longer). But I really enjoyed it overall. Would HIGHLY recommend this whole series. 

The Mothers by Brit Bennet 

☆ (3.5 stars)
This was our Book Club Book of the Month this January! Stay tuned for a blog post coming soon that will tell you all of our thoughts and feelings on this one. 

All The Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister 

☆ (4.5 stars) 
I absolutely adored this book! It's basically one giant essay exploring how the views and mindsets regarding single women have changed throughout history. I learned so many interesting historical facts and Traister clearly did her research and interviewed many people across the country. One of my favorite chapters was the chapter regarding sexuality in today's society. It was poignant and was unafraid to talk about real issues. This book is a truly fascinating and important read, not just for single women, but for women everywhere. It's not for everyone though; it's incredibly dense.

Elephant Rocks by Kay Ryan

☆ (2 stars)
This collection of poetry was a huge disappointment. The poems were quite elevated and the word choices were something I could appreciate. However, not a single poem made me feel like I could connect to it and not a single poem gave me any kind of emotional response. 

Mischling by Affinity Konar

☆  (3 stars)
This is a WWII story, following two identical twins and their experience as scientific experiments in a Nazi camp. Obviously, this was an incredibly sad and powerful story. However, I'm conflicted on what to rate it. The writing itself was beautiful and I found myself marking up a lot of the pages. On the other hand, the way the plot was constructed could have been better and neater and it was hard for me to connect to any of the characters. 

Sarah Read this Month:

The Nix by Nathan Hill
★ (5 stars)
This is a bold claim, but I'm going to say it anyway. This book might be my new favorite book. It's the kind of book I hope to read someday. The writing is fantastic, the characters are flawed and wonderful and the storyline is non-stop. I felt at home with the characters, while also completely separated from their lives and their decisions. I want to read this book again and again.

Saga, Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughan
☆ (4 stars) 
If you haven't read any of the Saga graphic novels, don't start with this one, as it is volume 6 in the series. I love this graphic novel series and will continue reading them until they are finished.

The Girls by Emma Cline
☆ (4 stars)
This book was a wee-bit too pretentious for me, which often comes with an author's debut novel. But the writing was great and the storyline had me on the edge of my seat. If you're into Charles Manson cult-esque stories with disgustingly good writing, check this one out. I will definitely be picking up this author's next work.

Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson
☆ (4 stars)
If you couldn't tell, I read a lot of graphic novels. This one, by arguably my favorite graphic novelist, was wonderful. Awesome artwork with a storyline that was way more than surface level deep. 

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan
☆ (3 stars)
Another graphic novel. Not as great as the rest, but definitely worth a read. Lots of girl power!

The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
★ (5 stars)
Now here is a graphic novel I could gush over for hours. Isabel Greenberg combines beautiful illustrations for an innate storytelling gift. I'm obsessed with this book. Here was my review on Goodreads:
"
Wow. Breathtaking and fascinating and imaginative and remarkable. I love Isabel Greenberg's illustrations and storytelling. If you're looking for a female empowering graphic novel, this is it. Gahhhhh and I love Cherry and Hero."


The Mothers by Brit Bennett
☆ (4 stars)
This was our Book Club Book of the Month this January! Stay tuned for a blog post coming soon that will tell you all of our thoughts and feelings on this one. 

The Unseen World by Liz Moore
★ (5 stars)
Ok, technically I'm still reading this one. But I'm practically finished and read the majority in January and there's no way I'm not giving it 5 stars. It's a heartbreaking story of a daughter and father, the latter diagnosed with Alzheimers. It's gotten a little hard to read, as it is so poignant, but I love it.





What is your favorite book that you read this month? 




January Favorites


A couple of years ago, we rounded up a list of our favorite things each month. It helped up reflect on the month, as well as celebrate our favorite things, makers and people. So we wanted to bring it back! The things listed below aren't necessarily "new" this month, but things we've experienced this month. Here are our favorite things from the month of January:


  • Blogger of the Month: Nicole of Writes Like A Girl. We've had huge crushes on Nicole for such a long time. Basically we just want to be best friends and have endless coffee dates with this woman. She's hilarious, intelligent and body positive, and just all-around a kick-ass lady. Check her out. 
  • The Women's March. This month was hard for us politically and as a nation. However, this march and seeing millions of women and men march the day after the 45th president's inauguration was a powerful experience. But the work isn't done. Here's a link to help figure out your next steps
  • Along those lines, the speech/spoken word poem Ashley Judd gave at the Women's March on Washington is a powerful, all-inclusive piece of art and rally cry. 
  • If you don't know, Sarah desperately wants to be a mermaid. And this month, Kaitlyn got Sarah a mermaid tail blanket for her birthday. One a few more steps away from becoming a real mermaid and not just a land mermaid.
  • This tweet from Chrissy Teigen casually showing off her stretch marks.
  • THE BACHELOR IS BACK! Our number one pleasure (not even guilty) is watching The Bachelor. Every season, we gear up with our brackets and band together every week with wine, chocolate and snacks to witness love and drama unfold. It is seriously the best. And if you don't think it's the best show on television, then you haven't watched it. What do you think of this season? Nick? OMG CORRINE? Can we talk about how perfect Vanessa is? And dolphin-girl, can you please be our best friend? 
  • Our local zoo has triplet tiger cubs and they are too die for. Bernadette, Eloise and Kash. Cutest things ever.

What were your favorite things in January? Tell us below!

Advice from Teens: Recognizing Our Privilege

By: Kaitlyn 

When I first started teaching, I wanted to tell of my experiences and what I've learned from my kids in a series called "Advice from Teens." In the past, I've generally written a reflection of when I was closing a certain chapter, but I've been blessed to have been working at the same high school for more than three years now. It's been wonderful to be in one place to get to know the same students year after year. 

I wanted to write this series (and wanted to become a teacher) because I think that there's a huge lack of respect toward the ideas and opinions of the young people in our world. Society tends to push away or ignore teenagers' opinions, dismissing them simply because they are "young" and "don't know what they're talking about." 

That is far from the case. Most of the time, my students see things and understand things in a way that most adults fail to. 

This was especially apparent in the election this past season. My students were able to have honest and open conversations regarding issues that adults were avoiding to mention (ie. race, sexism, sex, etc.).

This morning, I was chatting with one of my seniors that I've now known through his whole high school career. He's a young, black man that has struggled to gain respect, despite his efforts to always show it, and has faced the reality of the racism that still exists every day. 

He was telling me about his frustration with talking to his peers about politics (especially when it comes to economic issues). 

"The people that think they know it all, have it all," he said. 





I stopped him in his thoughts and wrote it down on a post-it and told him to autograph it. Because that's one of the most straight-forward truths I have ever heard. 

Privilege has been a buzz-word these past few years, but I fear that people still fail to recognize it. 

Sadly, in these past few months, empathy, listening and understanding have been lacking in our political and social lives. Most people think that they are correct and disregard people that disagree with them. But we fail to remember that when we disregard other people's opinions, we are also disregarding their experiences. After all, what shapes us more than that? 

It's so important to recognize the privilege in our own lives. I am a white woman raised in a middle-class family. Growing up, I never worried about where my next meal was coming from, I was never afraid of walking around my suburban neighborhood at night. That's the privilege I was born into. 

Not everyone is born into that privilege. There are many people born into this world where the color of their skin still dictates their path in life, where their economic status is destined to never change based on the lack of opportunity, where their lives are constantly in danger based on where they live and can't escape from. We need to recognize our own privilege and more importantly, recognize other's lack of privilege. We need to listen to each other and revalidate each other's experiences. We need to acknowledge that maybe we don't know it all and that our own privilege has made it unnecessary in the past for us to. 

But it is necessary to know it all. To validate and recognize all experiences. 

Until we validate experiences and learn to understand people who have had different experiences than we have had, we will never be truly equal.

I have hope that this will happen. I see it in our kids; I see it in our teens. They are shaping the world around us as we speak and they're shaping it with empathy and truth.  

January Book Club



Hello, lovely friends! Four years ago on this blog (oh my goodness, four years?!?) we had a book club called Forest Friends Book Club.  We had so much fun reading books with you all during that time and we missed it so much that we simply had to bring it back this year.

This year, we are teaming up with our dearest new neighbor and friend, Zhenya (from Being Zhenya) to bring you a Monthly Book Club!

Each month, we will be reading a different novel. We will introduce the novel at the beginning of the month, so you may grab your own copy and read along. At the end of the month, we will host a link-up where we can discuss what we thought!

This month, we will be reading The Mothers by Britt Bennet.  This debut novel is the story of love and secrets in a small town. We mostly chose this novel because the cover is stunning, the reviews have been phenomenal, and Britt Bennet is coming to Milwaukee for a book signing next month!

We would love to read and discuss this book with you. Let us know if you're going to read along!

In 2017, I will...

By: Kaitlyn 

Just like any other year, 2016 had its ups and downs.  Gorgeous things were created and beautiful lives were taken away from us far too soon. Normally this time of year, I would make a list of tangible things to complete and do in this next year. I would say that I will work out three days a week, teach my tastebuds to like kale and write a best-selling novel.

But I don't want to do that. I want to focus on more livable goals. Goals that will reshape my perspectives and inspire my passion. This is what I want to do. This is what I will do:

1. Breathe. 

2. Listen to people I don't agree with. 

3. Have productive discussions regarding issues that need to be genuinely talked about.

4. Erase the stigma surrounding mental illness and heal myself and others through helping to tell our stories. 

5. Be a warrior for good on the front lines. 

6. Stand up in the face of hatred. 

7. Tell people how I feel. Tell them I love them without fear. 

8. Lift others up. 

9. Eat a crap-ton of doughnuts. Always. 

10. Live honestly, Live fiercely




11. Oh...and smash the patriarchy single-handedly. 



How will you live this year? 

There is magic in you

By: Sarah (yes, you read that correctly)

This post is scatterbrained and it's not everything I wanted to say and not necessarily how I wanted to say it, but here goes:

One of my goals for the year was to say yes to more things. Cliché, I know, but it was important to me. The year started off great. I was spending my nights and weekends going on adventures and putting myself into situations I normally would have stayed in bed for.

The biggest problem with this goal? I started saying yes to everything. I felt like if I wasn’t doing something after work, if I wasn’t spending time with a friend or family member, I was wasting that time. And while this yielded some remarkable opportunities and crazy escapades, at some point, I was too busy saying yes that I forgot to take care of myself.

The result: I am worn out. I am changed, but I am worn out.

I consider myself now to be quite the extrovert. I would rather spend time with people, doing fun things, than alone. But something I forgot about myself throughout the year is that I need that time alone.

I need time to read. And to write. And to think. And to breathe. And be.

By myself.

However, I’m so thankful for everything I’ve been able to do this year because I said yes. Here are some things that happened this year:

-Wrote lots of letters, co-hosted a letter writing event
-Saw so much live music/shows: San Fermin, Lizzo, Jose Gonzalez, Nick Offerman, Caroline Smith, Trevor Noah, The Staves (x2), Brandi Carlile, Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, Motion City Soundtrack, The Beach Boys, Daughter
-Traveled around the Midwest: Chicago, Sturgeon Bay, Bayfield, Elkhart Lake, Stone Lake (x2), Door County, Madison, Holy Hill
-Went to a murder mystery party
-Ran a half marathon
-Saw Hillary Clinton speak twice
-Designed a t-shirt
-Met Nick Offerman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-Took a beekeeping class
-Went to my first Brewers game
-Participated in a latte art throwdown
-Went to a few weddings (and stood up in one!)
-Went four-wheeling
-Participated in an underwear bike ride
-Discovered my love of stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking
-Explored an abandoned building full of graffiti
-Went to an adult summer camp
-Rode a motorcycle
-Went tubing down a river for the first time
-Explored a gigantic sunflower field and lavender field
-Read a new Harry Potter book (play) and saw a new Harry Potter movie and made Butterbeer
-Tried a lot of new recipes and found my love for cooking
-Went to Luke’s Diner (sort of) J
-Got new glasses for the first time in years
-Celebrated Galoween and Galentine’s Day
-Conquered my fear of and fed chickens
-Saw The Book of Mormon live and fell in love with it (new favorite musical)
-Broke my arm playing roller derby


And there’s still a little more than a month left of 2016. So while I will be spending time alone, I’ll still be saying yes to things when I want to. It’s all about balance.

1. Take a deep breath.
2. Drink water.
3. Read or watch something you love.
4. Remember there is magic in you.

Oh, hello!

Oh, hello!
We're Sarah and Kaitlyn, roommates from Milwaukee who started this blog to promote creativity and life.
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