Book Review: “Braving The Wilderness” by Brené Brown

Melissa here. Before I even start this review, I want to tell you something:


My latest read, Dr. Brené Brown’s “Braving The Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone,” is the reason you have to make time to read. Now, I can get to the review.

5 out of 5 stars

If I could give this book higher than five stars, I would. Honestly, I think everyone should read this book, because the world would be a better place. Let me walk you through a few of my favorite takeaways.

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To really “brave the wilderness,” Brown walks us through four elements, which are each chapters in her book:

People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.

In this chapter, Brown talks about the incredibly divisive world we live, and what we can do to stop dehumanizing one another. She also includes a powerful interview with Viola Davis who says:

“We are all worthy of telling our stories and having them heard. We all need to be seen and honored in the same way that we all need to breathe.”

Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil.

This chapter explores the lesson of words being the ultimate weapon. She gives a few examples of this, but one stuck out to me most. It was about a son who verbally attacked his father for calling a neighbor he was helping “Oriental.” Instead of engaging his father in a civil conversation about how the term is outdated, both shut down. This stuck out to me, because I think the son was trying to speak truth to bullshit, but in excluding civility, ended up adding to the bullshit.

Hold Hands With Strangers.

This chapter was emotional for me. Brown talks about a few times in her life where she came together with strangers to mourn, celebrate, collaborate, and more. The one that stuck out to me was her recollection of the Challenger explosion. She was driving down FM 1960 in Houston, and a bunch of people were pulled off to the side of road. She joined them and learned the space shuttle had exploded. Together, they sat there for 10-15 minutes and just cried and grieved together. Then, they returned to their cars. Despite the tragedy, there’s beauty in coming together with complete strangers and being there for each other because it’s the right thing to do.

Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.

This chapter is harder to explain – you just have to read it! It talks about how achieving a wild heart isn’t a one-time effort. It’s something you have to work at every day. There will be days when there are haters, but be true to yourself, let attacks roll off you, and continue your quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone.

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I’m hoping to get Joey to read this one soon!  It’s one of the best books I’ve read in awhile. I’ve been coming back to it everyday to remind me how to be true to myself.

You should totally BUY IT HERE.


Book Review: “The Pisces” by Melissa Broder

It’s Melissa again, reporting for my Book Club! We recently wrapped up “The Pisces” by Melissa Broder. After reading “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel” by Gail Honeymoon, we chose this “erotic fantasy” as our July book  to shake things up, and we made a big mistake… But at least a 5-star night was planned to discuss.

1.5 out 5 stars

“The Pisces” by Melissa Broder tells the story of emotionally unstable Lucy, who has taken nine years to write her dissertation on Sappho. She has coasted through life on university research checks, and hits a new wall when she breaks up with her long-time boyfriend. Her concerned sister invites her to spend the summer away in Los Angeles, so she can escape her problems in Phoenix. During her summer away dog-sitting her sister’s beloved Dominic in her multi-million dollar glass box beach home, Lucy falls in love with a merman named Theo, who she meets on the rocks of Venice Beach – just a wagon ride away from her sister’s house. (Anyone who has read the book will get my wagon reference.)

I’m not one to typically be critical, but this book is just not good. Despite all the hype around mermen with Shape of Water being nominated for so many awards, this book is  simple and disgusting. I felt like I was losing brain cells while reading. The only reason I’m giving it a 1.5 out of 5 stars is because there were some moments you can relate to, especially if you have ever been a female in the modern dating world. However, this tragic book touches on so many disturbing moments I feel would have been better off not read. There’s nothing erotic about this fantasy. In fact, I think it should have been called a neurotic fantasy.

There were six of us at Book Club this week, and we all agreed this book was just too much and too weird. We hated the main character, Lucy, so much that we didn’t even feel comfortable picking an actress to play her, because there’s no actress we hate enough.

On a sort of irrelevant side note, I thought of one more positive I took from the book. In the book, Lucy visits Abbot Kinney fairly often. Abbot Kinney is a strip of shops and restaurants close to Venice Beach, which I will say the author does a great job of illustrating. After reading, I had a trip to Los Angeles planned to visit a friend (which you can read about here), and I was able to see the infamous Abbot Kinney strip Lucy throws up on, buys sexy lingerie from, and more. So that was cool, I guess?

Our Host, Hayley

My friend, Hayley, hosted Book Club this week, and here’s what she had to say about everything, which I think sums it all up perfectly:


If for some reason you’re still inclined to read “The Pisces” by Melissa Broder, you can at least get some great ideas from Hayley’s wonderfully themed evening:


There was sushi, “seaweed” (grapes on a stick), spiced edamame, cute little oyster cookies with edible pearls included, and let’s not forget the bite-sized brownies with fish sprinkles. Oh, and there was champagne and wine, because there was no way to survive discussing this book without it.

Our August Pick

I’m excited for us to return to a Reese’s Book Club novel this month. If you want to keep up with what we’re reading, my Book Club is currently reading and set to discuss on Wednesday, September 5, 2018:

“Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows: A Novel” by Balli Kaur Jaswal


Book Review: “King Solomon’s Mines” by H. Rider Haggard

Hey friends, Joey here! I know that I am typically the one to read more nonfiction and business-related books, but I have been on an adventure/fiction kick lately. Sometimes, you gotta shake things up to keep it interesting!

This time I read, “King Solomon’s Mines” by H. Rider Haggard.

It is a 5 Star read!!

I was recently recommend this book by one of my friends and colleagues, and I decided to give it a shot. I would consider “King Solomon’s Mines” a true classic novel full of adventure, brotherhood, and romance (not the mushy love stuff, more of the gritty traveler romance you might find in an Indiana Jones movie). The book is narrated by one of the three main characters, Allan Quatermain, who is an elephant hunter in Africa who meets his soon-to-be partners-in-crimes, Sir Henry Curtis and Captain Good, on a boat ride to Netal after a failed elephant expedition. Sir Henry and Captain Good are off in search of Sir Henry’s missing brother. Sir Henry’s missing brother was in search of King Solomon’s Mines, which is rumored to be full of diamonds and gold, but he never returned. As fate would have it, Quartermine was the last person to see Sir Henry’s brother AND have a map to the mines given to him on one of his previous elephant excursions.

After the three companions reached an agreement, they set out in search of the elusive mines and Sir Henry’s brother. The book takes you on their journey across the desert to a land inhabited with an ancient tribe where King Solomon’s Mines are rumored to be. Along the way, they fight against all odds the get to this sacred land where their battle does not end. Do they reach the mines and find Sir Henry’s brother accompanied with the riches rumored to be there? Or is it all a wise tail and they end up battered and empty handed?

I hope some of you decide to read this novel as it is a true classic and one of a kind. You can BUY IT HERE now. If you do read it, let me know what you think, I’d love to hear your opinion.

Cheers and happy page flipping!!


eats, life

Book Review: “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel” by Gail Honeymoon

It’s Melissa again. I recently wrapped up “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel” by Gail Honeymoon. After reviewing “The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn, we chose this as our June book, and we made another great pick! This time, it was my turn to host Book Club, and after reading this quirky story, I was excited to plan a completely Eleanor Oliphant themed evening.

First, let’s start with the review:

4 out 5 stars

“Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel” by Gail Honeymoon is the unique story of Eleanor Oliphant, a young woman who, after experiencing extreme childhood trauma, struggles to move forward in her life. Eleanor lives by a strict routine, from eating the same meals to scheduling out repetitive days of the week. When Eleanor develops a crush on a local singer, her beloved routine falls to the wayside, and she opens herself up to chaos. Along the way, she finds some friends who will help her pick up the pieces as she tries to uncover the truths of her childhood.

The book is brilliantly written and fun to read, which is why I give it 4 out of 5 stars. Gail Honeymoon does an incredible job of making you feel as uncomfortable as Eleanor acts at many moments throughout the book. Honeymoon also leaves you wanting to know more about what happened to Eleanor. Without giving away too much, Honeymoon also incorporates a twist at the end, which I had wondered about from very early on. Once you read, you’ll have to tell me if you had the same thought too! Overall, I highly recommend this book, and you should BUY IT NOW!

Hitting Close To Home

I wanted to include one side note about how this book hit very close to home for me. From very early on, the book talks about Eleanor’s caseworkers coming to visit her. Because of her extreme childhood trauma, Eleanor was placed in the foster care system. I work for Arms Wide Adoption Services, and we are dedicated to finding forever families for children in foster care. While reading, I found myself wondering,

“Had Eleanor been adopted, would this entire story be different?”

This question made for a great Book Club discussion. Although we decided we’re unsure adoption would have changed Eleanor’s life, we did decide people too often assumed Eleanor was fragile. We think if someone pushed her more about her past, she could have faced her demons earlier on. This may have helped her establish a healthier, more normal (but probably still fairly strict) routine.

Now, More On Book Club

I have mentioned Eleanor’s routine a lot so far! When she found something she liked, she stuck with it forever. Throughout the story, Eleanor would eat the same meal or drink the same beverage every day. That’s why I decided to offer an Eleanor Oliphant themed spread for our Book Club.

From left to right: Cheese scones, ingredients for vodka colas, Magners Irish Cider, and pasta a la pesto. Cheers to Book Club, and cheers to you, Eleanor Oliphant!

If you’re interested in making these delicious gluten free cheese scones, you can find my recipe here. I also show you how to turn it into a delicious B.L.A.T. sandwich!

If you want to keep up with my Book Club, we are currently reading and set to discuss on Wednesday, August 8, 2018:

“The Pisces: A Novel” by Melissa Broder


Book Review: “The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn

Hi, Melissa here. This time for the book review, you just get me and my opinion. (Sorry not sorry.) Joey hasn’t read this one, and I’m not sure he ever will, because it’s not really his style. Although Amanda in my Book Club said her husband, Aaron, was really enjoying it – so who knows?

Yes, you heard me correctly. I’m in a Book Club. It’s a fairly new club! We have only met twice, and the first meeting was to pick this book: “The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn. Although I missed that first meeting, I’m so glad this book got picked, and I can’t wait to tell you more.

5 out 5 stars

“The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn is an adventurous historical fiction following the stories of European female spies during the World Wars (particularly one named Eve Gardiner), and a female American college-aged socialite in search for her cousin after World War I (Charlie St. Clair). Somehow, their worlds collide together to unfold an unforgettable journey about courage, friendship, female empowerment, love, and revenge.

More Opinions

The book also touches on so many hot topics – from PTSD to unplanned pregnancies. It boggles my mind how people have been struggling with the same things for so long, and societal reactions are still so similar. But that’s a post for another time…

I think my favorite part of the book was the very end, where the author, Kate Quinn, talks about the true history behind her narrative. To learn the real-life stories about the female spies during the World Wars is fascinating! It’s not a topic I learned about in any of my history classes.

I highly recommend this book and encourage you to BUY IT NOW if you want to start an incredible reading journey.

If you want to keep up with my Book Club, we are currently reading and set to discuss on Wednesday, July 11, 2018:

“Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel” by Gail Honeyman

Meet Melissa

1005858_10153547807531263_8551729351876605581_nBorn and raised in Tampa, you can find me embracing the Texas heat. Our air conditioner never goes below 75 degrees because anything less is out of my comfort zone. I’ve never seen snow fall from the sky, but it’s not because I’m not adventurous. I have visited 10 countries and pride myself in being able to try anything once – especially when it comes to food. A large part of who I am is my adoption. It’s what made me want to work in the nonprofit sector. I am currently in fundraising and marketing for Arms Wide Adoption Services, an organization which places foster care children with adoptive families. Although most acquaintances know me for my caring spirit and can-do attitude, my close friends and family know me for snarky remarks and ability to tell you like it is.


Book Review: “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

Well, today you’re in for a special treat: A dual book review! As you may have learned from our book preferences post, you won’t get many dual book reviews, because we don’t typically read the same books. But today’s your lucky day, because we’ve both read “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline.

“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

Joey’s Take: 4 out of 5 stars

This might be one of the only books that we have both read, because we have pretty different book interests. Melissa read this during our honeymoon, and it took me until the movie came out to get motivated to give it a try. Now before you start jumping to conclusions, I read the book BEFORE I saw the movie.

I thought the book was very good and would give it a 4 out of 5 stars, because I would describe it as a page-turner, full of excitement and adventure. It is one of those stories that at the end of every chapter I wanted to keep going to find out what happens next.  Normally, I have to put a book down after a chapter or two and get to the next chapter in a day or so, not this book.

**If you like the book, don’t get your hopes up on the movie.**

Melissa’s Take: 5 out of 5 stars

This book rocks! I’m a sucker for anything related to pop culture, and since this book immerses you into a world of 80s movies and video games, I couldn’t help but love it. Although I didn’t catch every reference because I’m a 90s baby, I still enjoyed this spin on a dystopian society where everything in life is centered around a virtual world. You can be whoever you want to be in Oasis, and it was fun to follow who the characters were in real life and this virtual world. What did bum me out was that one major corporation dictated the future of an entire population, which didn’t seem so far-fetched to me, especially because I read this as everything with net neutrality was going down. Either way, this book is action-packed, and even has some romance for the ladies! If you love science fiction and fantasy, or even just 80s pop culture, you won’t be able to put this down, which is why I give it a 5 out of 5 stars.

**And Joey and I are in agreement about the movie. Completely different references. Completely different timeline. But it still has the same feel. It’s just definitely not as great as the book. Movie gets 2.5 out of 5 stars.**

Happy reading, friends!


What We Like To Read

From Melissa’s love of horror movies to Joey’s love of the great outdoors, it should be no surprise that we enjoy very different things – including genres of books. We wanted to explain our book preferences more in depth, so you could know what to expect in our upcoming book reviews.


What Melissa Likes To Read

I don’t even know where to start when it comes to books and my preferred genre. I love them all – from autobiographies to science fiction. I’ve always been an avid reader and writer. I’m not sure where my passion for reading began, but I would have to guess with my parents. They used books as tools for education. I learned early on how books could teach me things, from what it means to be adopted to how to treat others with respect (thanks, Berenstain Bears). Then, I learned you could use them to get lost in another world. One of my early favorites was Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.” But nowadays, you can find me reading less poetry and more autobiographies, murder mysteries, and science fiction.


What Joey Likes To Read

Most of the time you will find me reading motivational, business, and non-fiction books, which might come as a surprise to my family because growing up I was NOT a reader. I wanted nothing to do with reading and preferred to be outside playing in the Florida sunshine. (Sorry to my parents for the stubbornness). My passion for reading really didn’t start until after I graduated college, when I was recommended by a friend to read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. After reading that book it was like a light bulb went off in my head, and I had found the type of reading I really enjoyed. This is what you should expect from my book reviews. Now that’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good adventure book every once in a while and might throw a few other curve balls into the mix.  I hope you enjoy some of these as much as I do, cheers!