Book Review // June 16, 2014

Lately I’ve been enjoying period-specific historical fiction—especially anything that takes place in the early to mid-1900s. This led me to my latest find: Rules of Civility by Amore Towles. It was published in 2011, so it’s not a brand new release, but I loved it all the same.

What pleasantly surprised me about this book was the strong female lead. An independent woman in her early twenties, Katie Kontent is a native New Yorker making Manhattan her own in the post-depression era. Like any young woman starting out, she works hard and is doing her best to make ends meet. Katie’s partner-in-crime is Eve Ross, a fearless beauty from Indiana trying to take the city by storm after leaving her country roots behind.

This is a glimpse into the very early days of freedom for women; the beginning of a time when it was possible for them to work and take care of themselves. Together the girls take on the city as they swap dresses and hunt down the bars with the strongest martinis and the best jazz.
But this is just the beginning.

After meeting Tinker Gray, a handsome and wealthy stranger, one New Year’s Eve, the two girls embark on a life-altering journey vying for his affections. Although it’s clear that he’s interested in Katie, a sudden accident one night leaves him devoted to Eve and Katie is left in the rearview mirror.

The tragic situation leaves Katie confused—but she genuinely wants to be happy for her friend. She becomes determined to take control of her own life, forgetting the feelings she felt for Tinker and the reliance she had on Eve.

Katie moves into her own apartment. She quits her stable secretary job to pursue magazine editing. She makes new friends and begins to climb the social ladder on her own.

All the while, the reader joins Katie in her journey to stay true to herself despite the glitz of Manhattan and the desire she has to move into the upper echelon of New York society. Eve and Tinker move in and out of Katie’s life and offer mixed signals of what their relationship means, yet Katie never loses her poise and is careful to keep her distance. Only when Eve runs off to California, leaving Tinker behind, does Katie begin to let her feelings for Tinker take over.

Every page of this book is a treat. It examines several important themes: independence, honesty, friendship, determination and honor. I adored Katie Kontent for her honest approach to life and her strength. While Katie considers herself flawed, I found her to be the truest character in the story and it’s hard not to admire her. I loved reading about a strong female character in an era when many women were simply expected to give in and get married without the chance for a life of their own.

Rules of Civility will not disappoint. It whisks the reader quickly into 1940s New York and wraps her or him up with a mix of compelling characters and surprising situations where most would wonder what they’d do if they found themselves facing the same thing.

Published in Lifestyle

MW University // April 28, 2014

The best advice that I received during college: when on an interview, ask which books you should read before starting your new position. Self-help books written by CEOs and professional in your industry can be incredibly helpful when starting your new career. Books, such as Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office and Who Moved My Cheese?, are classics for those entering the workforce. Whereas a mentor can share their advice from personal experiences and answer questions, a book can offer a breadth of knowledge on the do’s and don’ts when you’re taking a leap from the classroom to the office. Welcome to the Real World, by Lauren Berger is a perfect example of a book to read when you are getting started.

Reading Welcome to the Real World is comparable to having lunch with one of your younger mentors on a sunny day with a glass of lemonade in hand. Berger’s conversational tone is notable and vibrant, and her advice is easy to implement.

The book takes a holistic approach, explaining what it takes to have a successful career. This includes how to roll calls, prioritize your work, build relationships in the office, manage your personal finances, schedule your time on and off the clock, and dress the part. Berger recognizes that the goal of the reader is personal success and this success is only possible when life is balanced and progressive. She also clearly educates her readers on office etiquette -- advice that may not be readily available on the job.

Berger’s advice is specific to today’s modern woman entering the workforce. For example, Chapter 4, “How to Work Your Personal Brand,” includes how to use social media to your benefit, including how often to post to Instagram, who to follow on Twitter, and how to define your Facebook audience. It also gives helpful advice on how to combat the “generation Y” stereotypes and how to navigate through relationships at work.  

All of the advice that Berger gives her audiences is based on her personal experiences and the experiences of the interns she helped guide with her company, Intern Queen. She has made a career out of her passion to advise those entering the workforce. She frequently references common workplace mistakes with specific scenarios and effective solutions— all very helpful! Berger has a background in the entertainment industry, and most of her clients work in similar fields. So, most of the examples are based on common occurrences in entertainment, and readers in other fields may not be able to relate to every situation. Berger’s workplace rules, however, apply to any entry-level position.

When I started my first full-time job after graduation, I experienced a culture shock. Everything I did and said in the workplace had to be premeditated. I was no longer on my own time and as one of the youngest staff members, all eyes were on me. Like Lauren Berger, I dropped the ball a few times, as is expected, but I may have avoided these small failures if I had Welcome to the Real World by my side. Berger’s vast experience working with entry-level employees makes the book well worth the read, and helpful to the ambitious women that are just getting started.

Happy Spring Reading!

Published in MW University

Lifestyle // March 10, 2014

Reading is a passion of mine, in fact some people could probably call it an obsession... That girl borrowing five or more books from the library at one time? That’s me. Barnes and Noble takes a lot of my money and I’m not sure how I would survive without Amazon. I even have a journal completely dedicated to books I have read or want to read and a section on my blog that focuses on my yearly reading list. You think I’m a nerd don’t you?... That’s cool, I’m completely OK with that!

We all have that list of books that we swear we are going to get day. Because of our busy schedules we have to be pickier than most on what we give our time to. I think I am more than qualified to give you a list of books that everyone should be excited to read… just to get you started.

Inferno by Dan Brown

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t show at least some appreciation for a Dan brown book. From the The Da Vinci Code to Deception Point these books are page-turners. I read his last book The Lost Symbol in a day because I couldn’t put it down! (I may or may not have called into work sick.) This is why I am so excited to get my copy of his latest novel.

Inferno is another book in the series of mystery thrillers about protagonist, Robert Langdon. Langdon is a Harvard professor of symbology who is thrown into an epic treasure hunt/race against time when he wakes up in a hospital room in Florence, Italy. Throughout this book, Langdon tries to solve a puzzle directly related to one of history's greatest masterpieces, Dante’s Inferno, before the world is drastically changed.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I have been on the waitlist for this book over 6 months! It has been recommended to me by all of my fellow reading addicts and is on almost every book club reading list that I have found. It’s even popular enough to be turned into a movie that will be coming out in 2015. Although I am nervous that it won’t live up to the hype, I am still on the edge of my seat waiting for my turn to come.

Gone Girl takes place in a small town of North Carthage, Missouri where it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. It’s on this day that Amy disappears and the town is lead on a chase to find out where she is... or who killed her. Throughout most of the book, Nick is put in the spotlight at the number one suspect, but is he really a murderer?? Only time and the clues will tell.

Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman

A lot of you have probably already seen the show based on this book on Netflix and if you haven’t you NEED to check it out. It’s definitely one of the best new shows out there and you can currently watch the entire first season. This is one book that I have already read and I can definitely attest to its must read status. Especially if you are interested in watching the series!

Orange Is The New Black is the story of Piper Kerman who is sentenced to a year in prison for a crime she committed 10 years before. This book tells her story and everything she had to deal with while being locked up in a woman’s prison. Throughout this book you meet an array of characters ranging from mentally unstable, to overly friendly to downright scary and you see how Piper learns to live among them.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Ok, ok, you have all probably been forced to read this book in high school but I think after the latest Hollywood interpretation, it’s worth picking up again! I personally want to read it again with a more mature outlook and without a book report due after!

The Great Gatsby tells the story of the wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love and infatuation with Daisy Buchanan. While reading of lavish parties and extravagant excursions you begin to get to know a darker side of the man who everyone in the town envies and looks up to. This novel is a timeless story of infatuation, greed, love and lust and perfect for a night at home with a glass of wine.

Mother, Daughter, Me by Katie Hafner

This is another book that has been recommended to me numerous times. It has gotten rave reviews and has even been named “book of the week” by Oprah.

Mother, Daughter, Me is a memoir telling the story of Katie Hafner’s year spent living with her mother and teenage daughter. It tells of her triumphs and failures of trying to put back the pieces of a failed relationship between her and her mother and also trying to get her own daughter to have a connection with the woman who she never felt close to. This is a great story of generations and the love and hardships of family.

I know I can’t wait to get started reading these books! In fact by the time you read this I may be part way through the list. What are some of your must reads for the coming months?

Published in Lifestyle

June 18, 2012 

I am not typically a reader of self-help books, but when I finally closed the pages of Celia Ward-Wallace’s A Woman’s Guide to Having it All: Life Lessons to Live By I somehow felt stronger. With 30 life lessons divided into 30 chapters, there’s a lot to learn from this certified life coach and inspirational speaker. Whether you are seeking a healthy relationship, a better job or just want to be lifted out of rock bottom, this book is full of ways to find balance.

Not only a light and airy read, A Woman’s Guide to Having it All is a source for your own journaling, documenting--basically a “figuring it out” guidebook. Perhaps the greatest source for learning comes within the blank lines at the end of each lesson where you can fill in your own thoughts. I, for one, felt Life Lessons 20 and 21 in particular spoke to me: “You Teach Others How to Treat You” and “Ask for What you Want.” Listing ways to spend a few hours taking care of myself really made me re-prioritize my life for the better.

The book opened with Celia’s own unique story. She details her upbringing as a white girl in a very diverse Los Angeles neighborhood. Her parents were organizers, supporting the labor movement and the people around them. Ultimately, it was the loving home where Celia was brought up and the appreciation and acceptance her parents showed for others that led her to a life of helping others, herself. She went on to study intergroup conflict and prejudice as well as civil and women’s rights at UCLA and the People’s College of Law. After college, she spent several years directing a community center offering programs and services dedicated to helping people discover a better quality of life. Even when times weren’t rosy in her own life, Celia pushed through, kept learning and took nothing for granted. If that’s not being Made, I don’t know what is.

As you read the book it shifts focus further and further from Celia’s life to the reader’s own, as all self-help books should do. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the tidbits Celia shared about her own life to illustrate an example in each chapter. I felt I really got to know Celia by the end of the book. Her warmth radiates beyond the pages and her support of you and your own goals is genuine. The interplay between author and reader is what makes readers want to ultimately explore more and more about themselves.

What did I learn about myself after completing this book?  Sometimes it’s OK to seek the help of another through the published word. This book is an easy read, not preachy and makes you feel like you are sitting down to chat with a good friend. Lesson learned, indeed!

Published in Lifestyle
Monday, 23 April 2012 09:15

Entertainment | Made Woman's Must-Reads

April 23, 2012 

Most of us stay busy--it just comes with the title of Made Woman. But as Made Women we have to make time to read. It’s fundamental. Here’s a list of must-read books to check out next time you have some time on the train, in the salon chair, or (if you’re lucky) lounging on the beach: 

The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant – This is an incredible tale dating back to biblical times of women and the sisterhood that they shared. It puts a fictional spin on the women in the Old Testament and makes them very human. It's such a powerful story of how important women are and always were. ~ Jessica Dumont

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot – I don't think it's only a must-read for only women--everyone should read this. It provides interesting commentary on medical ethics. ~ Brook Turner

For Women Only, by Shaunti Feldhahn – This is a book EVERY woman should read if they are or ever want to be in a relationship with a man. It’s a great book about understanding men and how they think as well as understanding ourselves and what we can do to make relationships work. This book has worked wonders for my fiancé and I. There is also a For Men Only version which is equally great. ~ Lindsey Eilse

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The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho – An inspiring book that can change the way you look at life despite how simple it is. It’s a quick, meaningful read. ~ Lindsay Jones

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin – Great book for challenging the way you think about your life, happiness and dreams. ~ Nailah Blades 

Women and Money, Suze Orman – This book discusses money in a way that speaks to women. Before I read this I didn't realize how backwards my understanding of money was. I think gaining a better understanding of money and a better attitude toward money management is the first step toward gaining wealth. ~ Serena Watson

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald – It's not my favorite book, although it is up there. Fitzgerald's writing is ethereal, deliberate, beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. For me, it opened my eyes to the effect a few sentences could have on the imagination, and I've wanted to be a writer ever since. ~ Erica Crespo 

What are your personal must-reads? Let us know in the comments below!

Published in Entertainment

August 15, 2011

Cash a little tight? Gearing up for a large purchase? Or are you simply planning for a better financial future? (Get 'em Made Woman!) Whatever your motivation, these are our top resources that will help you get your money right in no time:

Women and Money

Even the most financially savvy ladies in my book club took something away from this one. In Suze Orman's signature no-nonsense manner, she relates how being confident and self-sufficient are directly linked to our financial well-being as women. Read "Women and Money" and then share with your mom, best friend, co-worker, aunt, nail lady....

Rich Dad, Poor Dad
In "Rich Dad, Poor Dad," personal finance author Robert T. Kiyosaki lays out his viewpoint on money in a way that is interesting and straight-forward. This is one to read NOW if you plan to be wealthy. It's also a good conversation piece when talking to other professionals, because most have read it.

I Will Teach You to be Rich

Don't sleep. In one of the most informative and simple money blogs out there, Ramit Sethi helps people cut the crap and figure out how to stack chips. That simple. What I love most is Ramit's conversational tone. As a Stanford graduate he could talk you in circles, but he takes a more laid back approach. Check it out. And then share it with your friend who is always broke. ;-)
A friend of mine recently shared this site with me. Thank goodness! Specifically geared toward women, Learn Vest simplifies tricky financial topics. The tools and calculators will show you where you stand financially, and they offer expert advice on handling things like taxes, major purchases, and saving for college. Add this to your favorites and your bank account will thank you.

Published in Personal Finance