The Vacationers

Last week I was able to sneak away from real life and escape to St. Barths for a few days with my husband.  Like every good Vogue and US Weekly reader, I was familiar with St. Barths' reputation as a tropical playground for the rich and famous and I am here to say that Beyonce is no fool, there is a reason why she and Jay-Z vacation there.  It is beautiful!  But you also have to be Beyonce to hang there in the shopping department.  For example, I found these adorable bathing suits that I thought would be perfect for Coco and Lucy's next adventure, so I took a picture to send to my illustrator, Annie Zimanski.  They were so well made that I figured I'd grab a few suits for my own girls who are, after all, the inspiration behind my two fictional characters.  Then came the price tag.  No go!  It was crazy, even in euros.  So sadly those suits are still in St. Barths waiting for some adorable little European sisters to take them to the beach.  Maybe their super stylish mom will pack Star Sisters in their beach bag once the series is such a huge hit that it gets translated into many languages.  Dream big, right?

Anyway, while on vacation I managed to devour three whole books (!) and I have to recommend one in particular - The Vacationers by Emma Straub.  It was a great summer story about a family of New Yorkers who travel to Mallorca for a two week vacation.  Every family member is struggling with something heavy but Straub keeps the book light by showing the complicated ways that family members dance around each others' problems.  It was both funny and deep, with a touch of love and a great European island setting.  A perfect summer read.  Plus, check out this cover.  Man, I love a good cover!

And of course, the perfect pint size companion to any adult summer novel is Star Sisters and The Big Showon sale now!  In this book Coco and Lucy rock some pretty cute bathing suits, even if they aren't St. Barths inspired! 

pg22.jpg



Bling It

My husband's been in California all week for work which is 99% terrible and 1% good.  Terrible because he's the best guy in the world and we all miss him.  (Especially this morning when my 20 month old came down with the stomach bug right as I was trying to get everyone off to school, that was awesome!)  But good because, as someone who is responsible for the feeding, dressing, bathing, entertaining, and general sheparding through life of three little people, I love having the house to myself at night.  I can order sushi and plop on the couch for some serious Bravo TV time without anyone questioning how in the world I can stand to watch such crap.  I just can.  There's no rational explanation.

I've also had more time to read at night and I'm currently loving The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier.  It's my favorite kind of historical fiction, one that intersperses a historical story line with a contemporary one.  A great example of this literary style is The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Meyes.  If you haven't read that or Meyes' other recent novel Me Before You please stop whatever you are doing and buy them.  Her novels are amazing.  I promise.  

But I digress.  In The Lost Sisterhood there is a bronze bracelet that is of great significance and weaves the two stories together.  It got me thinking about the emotional importance of jewelry.  I'm not just talking about engagement rings or wedding bands (although if you want to read a great novel about the history behind diamond engagement rings pick up The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan).  I'm thinking about unique jewelry that tugs at us for other reasons.  For me, one piece of jewelry that I feel really emotional about is my Heather Moore necklace.  Moore makes engraved custom pieces that are beautifully subtle.  Her golds and silvers are worn and antique looking, as if handed down from an older generation.  My necklace has four charms, one for each of my daughters and one for my husband.  It hangs low and makes this great clanking sound when I walk.  But what I love most is that my girls will often come up to me and ask to see their name charm, almost like they are checking on it.  And when my perfect little angels are less than angelic and get in trouble, they will reach out to find their charm and play with it while we are discussing their latest antics.  My littlest one still loves to put the charms in her mouth when I am leaning over to change her diapers.  I just love it.  

Maybe this is why when I needed something of significance for my Star Sisters ladies, Coco and Lucy, I chose a pendant necklace.  Coco finds her necklace on the streets of Paris and Lucy finds her necklace in the bottom of a trunk of her grandmother's clothes.  When the necklace are brought together magic occurs.  You'll have to read Star Sisters and the Royal Wedding to learn all about the necklaces' mysterious origins!  But here's a sneak peak from Star Sisters and the Big Show of the ladies in their magic necklaces.  They wear them everywhere, even to the local swimming pool!  Aren't they cute in their bathing suits?  I love these girls!

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

I know, I know.  You all read Mindy Kaling's hilarious book like 100 years ago when it first came out and I am way behind the times.  Don't care.  I loved it so much that I'm writing it about now.  Better late than never, right? 

It was thanks to rather genius combination that is kids camp and a toddler who takes a long afternoon nap that I was able to finish this book in two days while on vacation.  For a lot of that time I was laying on a beach chair next to my awesome future sister-in-law who was dutifully slugging through Anna Karenina.  Let's just say I got several looks of death as I chuckled loudly at page after page of hilarious commentary on Kaling's childhood in the Boston suburb where I live and what it's like to be a young comedy writer in Hollywood while my noble sister-in-law was deep in the frozen fields of Russia.  (BTW, I read Anna Karenina in high school and I agree it's an incredible work of fiction, but I think it's pretty clear who chose the better vacation read).  

Kaling's funny, we all know that, but what I loved most about her book was that she struck this great balance between confidence and self-deprication.  She knows she's smart and witty, and she owns those traits with great pride.  But she's also clear about her faults and the realities of what it took to get where she is today.  Her book is a fun read, but much like Tina Fey's Bossypants, it is also inspiring without trying to be.  I particularly loved the chapter about how Kaling got her big break after writing and acting in a play she produced with her good friend.  She entered the play in festival and did some serious grassroots marketing, which Kaling describes as the "environmentally destructive pestlike papering of the entire boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn."  And it worked!  She put her work out there, she marketed her butt off the best way she could, and it worked.  You hear that, Star Sisters?

One last thing you have to know about Kaling is that she is so sweet in person.  Yep, I've met her.  Twice!  Three summers ago I ran into her two separate times in the town where I live and both times she was so awesome to my daughter.  I always wondered what she was doing in the area and it was with great sadness that I later learned that she was home caring for her mother who was dying from cancer.  I clearly remember her telling my daughter that her mom was her best friend and the love she has for her family is a constant back beat in her book.  Did anyone read this interview in Vulture that Mindy gave after the death of her mother?  This section makes me cry every time:

 “My relationship with my mom is really the single most profound relationship that I’ve ever had in my life,” she tells me. “By the way, it seems like I’m … I’m just blowing my nose. It’s not because I’m sad.” She has allergies and a cold, she promises. But her voice breaks when she starts talking about how she sat down with a pen and paper and asked her mother to give her all the advice she could possibly give her before she died, and Kaling realized she’d never be able to ask her mother for advice again. “I said to her, ‘Mom, I’m going to be so lonely without you.’” She’s crying now but keeps going. “And she just said, ‘You have to be your own best friend. If you always remember that, you will always have someone there with you."

 

A Love Letter

Dear Books,

I love you.  I love to read you and I love to write you.  Sometimes I get so emotionally involved with you that I park my enormous white minivan around the corner from my house so I can steal a few minutes alone in the front seat with you instead of going home, where I am needed.  Please don't tell my family.  

The other thing I love to do with you, dear books, is decorate my home.  I think you are the perfect style accessory.  Yes, I often judge by your cover.  And if I like what I see, I will steal you away and bring you home to live with me.  There you will stay for a long, long, long time.  At least until I can convince my husband that we should move so I can decorate another home and fill it with.....you!  Lots and lots of you!  

Love always,

Jen

Some shots of books that I've always loved (via pinterest):

Some shots from my own home:

photo-2.JPG
photo-3.JPG

You Should Have Known

There are a few things that I am sure about in this world and about a million, trillion, gazillion (as Coco and Lucy, stars of the Star Sisters serieswould say) things that I have no clue about.  One of the things I know for sure is that I am a reader.  And I always will be.  I am a much happier person when I'm reading a good book and when I'm in between books I always feel like something's missing, like the world is slightly off-kilter.  (Have I told you that I also have a propensity for drama?).

Anyway, my latest read was You Should Have Known by Jean Korelitz.  I picked it up after seeing a good review in People Magazine, which you know I simply must read for all my Star Sisters research.  You Should Have Known tells the story of Grace, a New York City couples therapist who seems to have it all - a successful practice, a violinist son enrolled in a top NYC school, a swoon-worthy pediatric oncologist husband, and a new self-help book that is so highly anticipated it's being featured in Vogue.  (A book review in Vogue?  Can you say dream come true?).

Grace's principle theory is that women don't listen to their own intuition regarding men, that they chose to ignore warning signs about the men they are dating that inevitably lead to disaster down the road.  I loved this part of the novel - the discussion about relationships, how they start and how they unravel.  As someone who spends a great deal of time people watching and wondering, I devoured these sections.  And I think Korelitz is a wonderful writer.  She gets deep in the head of her characters and expresses their inner worlds nicely.  My only complaint about the book is that Korelitz got too deep into her character's heads.  About a third of the way into the book, it becomes pretty clear how the plot is going to unfold.  But the unfolding part takes a long, long time.  It's tempting to skim certain parts which is a shame because the writing is so good.  

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  It's an interesting look at relationships as well as the NYC private school scene.  I just wish there were a few more plot twists and turns to move the reading along a little faster.

P.S. The Light Between Oceans is my absolute favorite novel of the year if you're in the mood for some incredible heart-wrenching drama and a really, really good cry: