Book Soundtracks

When I read a book, I like it to be a complete sensory experience. I suspect that’s why I read so seasonally; I even like the weather and the time of year to match my books in order to help me fully immerse myself in them. Sometimes, I even use music to complement my reading experience.

It seems I share this love of setting the mood for a book with other readers and even authors. After reading two of my favorite books (and then doing an embarrassing amount of online research about them when I couldn’t get enough of them), I discovered that their authors had made Spotify playlists to go along with their books!

Erin Morgenstern created a playlist for her extremely popular fantasy novel, The Night Circus:

And Anthony Marra made one for his novel in short story form, The Tsar of Love and Techno:

The party mix of Kalinka is iconic.

But then there are books that deal with music, but don’t actually have any official music associated with them. Take Daisy Jones and the Six, for example.

This book was all the rage back in 2019. Like so many other of this book’s fans, I was enamored by the music the titular band creates. If you read the Goodreads reviews for this book, you’ll likely see many comments along the lines of: why oh WHY can’t we actually listen to this band play!

As a substitute, I started listening to Baltimore-based band Duchess and the DeadBirds after reading this book. Their EP, Worlds Collide, will forever be associated with this book in my brain now; it just feels like summer, which is, no surprises here, when I read the book.

Most recently, when I decided to pick up journalist Roben Farzad’s book, Hotel Scarface, all about cocaine world in late 70s/early 80s Miami and the preferred hangout spot for dealers and players, the ostentatious Hotel Mutiny, I was immediately reminded of a video game my husband played a few years back.

The creators of Hotline Miami have credited the documentary Cocaine Cowboys (which also focuses on Miami during this time period) as well as the movie Drive as their inspiration, and so when I started reading Hotel Scarface, the soundtrack for the game was playing in my head the whole time.

Hydrogen by M|O|O|N will forever be my jam.

The soundtrack is amazing. It manages to be chilled out and tense all at the same time which really adds to the thoroughly surreal world the game places you into. That head space was perfect for reading the unbelievable and brutal story of the Miami drug world. Did you know that cocaine money basically built modern Miami? Because I sure didn’t.

I very much hope this won’t be the last time I discover an official or unofficial soundtrack to a book – even retroactively. It really does enrich the experience and makes the book so much more tangible in your memory.

So tell me: do you ever seek out or even create your own book soundtracks? If so, let me know what those are!

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*He’s* Making You Crazy?

I’ll never forget a moment that happened at the office of my old job. Our team was chit-chatting one morning as we normally did, and when we randomly got on the topic of TV shows, I revealed that I love watching reality TV.

The quietest dude on our team – a real starched shirt, Bud Light Lime, never-needed-to-develop-a-personality-because-my-parents-have-money kind of guy – whipped his head around to stare at me. “You watch reality TV?” I calmly explained, yes, resident Average Joe, the egghead and well-known bibliophile on your team also gets down with some “real” TV drama.

Maybe I should be ashamed of that, but I’m not. I find reality shows to be both mindless, relaxing binge-fodder, but also mini psychological studies. To even agree to be on a reality show establishes a ground level of narcissism, and when you as a viewer spend enough seasons with a group of people (not even mentioning rewatches), you start to get to know them well. Real well.

One of the shows (and the casts) I know best is Vanderpump Rules. Originally a spin off of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (let that fact sink in), the cast was sourced from “housewife” Lisa Vanderpump’s West Hollywood restaurant, SUR. She pitched the show to Bravo since her employees were a natural well of drama; six of them – three girls, three guys – were all best friends and had all paired up with one another. They also took turns hating and betraying one another and used the restaurant as the arena for their (literal and figurative) boxing matches. Lisa figured it would be reality show gold and, per usual, she was right.

The ever-expanding cast has long since abandoned pretending they actually work at the restaurant (with the exception of the newbies) since they’re now famous for being on the show, a detail that Bravo seems hellbent on not disclosing. Andy Cohen must believe that viewers will implode if that fourth wall breaks.

But since they are so famous, a few of them have snagged book deals. Stassi Schroeder released one last spring and is reportedly working on a second one, bartender pair Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix put out a cocktail book just in time for Christmas last year, and now, Kristen Doute, the ex-girlfriend feared around all around the Bravo-sphere, has just dropped a book all about, wait for it, relationships. It’s called “He’s Making You Crazy,” proving that Kristen will take her responsibility-shirking as far as the title of her debut book.

he'smakingyoucrazy

He even took my shirt. Can you believe him?

Vanderpump Rules has featured some seriously toxic relationships (season one Stassi and Jax, anyone?), but no one has been in as many on the show as Kristen Doute. She started off the show in a long-term relationship with the above-mentioned Tom Sandoval, then she moved onto the pipsqueak DJ James Kennedy. She only recently ended things with the alleged sponger Brian Carter. Pretty much all of her relationships featured on the show started messy, stayed messy, and ended messy. It is the kind of thing that makes you wonder, good lord, if she’s like this in her 30s, what were her relationships like when she was younger?!

Well, in this book, Doute will tell you. She teamed up with the “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” author Michele Alexander to adapt her past exploits into a rom-com-style, do-as-I-say-not-what-I-do kind of tell-all. Kristen goes as far back as her childhood crushes, then takes us through the conveyor belt of attractive, yet slow on the up-take guys she’s gone for over the years. The guys made some serious mistakes in these relationships, as did Kristen, and, props to her, she almost takes responsibility for them in this book.

I know you can probably almost taste the shade I’m throwing, so let me state outright: I don’t hate Kristen. Certainly, she’s one of the best things that ever happened to the show because she cannot control herself. But on the other hand, she’s incredibly frustrating. Because she cannot control herself.

There are patterns in her behavior and in her relationships. I’ll give it to her – she’s certainly more self-aware than she’s ever been before, but on the first part of the season eight reunion that aired last week, it was revealed that Kristen hooked up with Max, the ex of not one, but two of her friends, one of whom was still interested in getting back together with him. It’s a situation uncomfortably reminiscent of her hookupwith Jax Taylor when Stassi, her best friend, was entertaining a reunion with him. It’s hard to buy into her “I’ve changed so much” brand when her behavior as of last fall was merely a slightly toned-down version of what she was doing seven years ago.

Also, for as much as Kristen says she spills in this book, there’s something I really noticed the absence of: the story of how she and Tom Sandoval really got together. Kristen is happy to give stories of how she found out men were cheating on her (and then gives you, the reader, step-by-step instructions on how to double down on a cheating man’s error by egregiously invading his privacy), but she doesn’t admit that she and Sandoval started their relationship off by cheating.

This isn’t a conspiracy theory: when the show starts, she says the two had been dating for four years, sleeping together for five, and later, when Tom gets with Ariana, Kristen says something to Tom along the lines of “we know how things go when they don’t start honestly.” (I feel like they’ve alluded to this elsewhere as well, but the examples aren’t coming to mind.) Yet, there’s not mention of this in the book. Nor does she talk about the numerous physical and emotional affairs she’s admitted to having with other guys while she was with Tom.

Basically, the point I’m getting at is two-fold: Kristen is repeating past behavior as early as this past fall, so the “this is what I used to be like” tone is blatantly false, and she leaves out stories that viewers know exist, probably because they are highly unflattering. It makes me wonder what she’s left out of the stories she does include.

But let’s get to the real question here: is this book worth reading?

As a self-help book? No. It’s not written like one (someone put some white out over the words “how to” on the cover – they don’t belong there) and shouldn’t be taken as one.

If you’re not a fan of the show? No. She leaves out names (for legal reasons, I’m sure), so only viewers of the show will fully know who and what she’s talking about. She’s a little too vague for non-viewers to understand; she’s assuming you’re a viewer. (That makes the “how-to” marketing on the cover that’s clearly looking to extend this book’s audience beyond viewers of the show pretty dang gross, but that complaint I’ll direct at the publisher).

If you love the show and want to read about Doute being Doute before she became famous? Oh yeah. You’ll get some gloriously messy stories, even if they are, as I suspect, incomplete.

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A grief memoir in a time of grief.

Though I make all of my reading public online, my friends and family largely ignore it, and I’m grateful for that. Thus, I do frequently get asked what I’m reading by people I know personally. When people have posed this question recently, I’ve had to awkwardly respond that, during this very unsettling time in the world, I’ve chosen to pick up a grief memoir.

Still: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Motherhood was written by a mother whose son’s heart stopped beating the day before his due date. Then, on his exact due date, a day she eagerly anticipated her little family would be ushering a new addition into the world, Hansen delivered a stillborn baby.

still

 

Shortly thereafter, on her blog (on which she had shared many details of their preparations for arrival of their son – named Reid ahead of time) Emma had to break to the news to her readership. She titled the post Born Still, but Still Born and it quickly went viral. A large number of women used the comments section to express condolences, but also to share their own experiences with stillbirth, a far more common occurrence than people may realize.

Hansen uses this book to tell her story, explain her grief process, and to honor Reid’s memory. In the aftermath, she chooses to study to become both a yoga instructor and a doula. She initiates the project #ninemonthswithreid, taking photos for Instagram over the nine months after his passing at significant locations where the expectant parents (as well as their friends and family) shared memories during Hansen’s pregnancy. As best as she can, she finds ways to cope. To forget, but also, more critically, to remember.

I doubt it would surprise anyone to acknowledge how heartbreaking this book is. The actual event happens early in the book and it’s beyond difficult to see this family go through something so unimaginable. A perfectly healthy pregnancy, a deeply wanted child. It seems like something so profoundly unfair that the universe shouldn’t allow it.

Reading a book like this during such a dark moment for our world is an odd choice, I admit. I got the review copy before the virus even took hold of patient zero and no one would have blamed me (or, frankly, noticed) if I silently gave it a pass. But not for one moment have I regretted sharing this experience with Hansen.

As I was browsing Twitter the other day (a horrible pastime, I don’t recommend it), I found an article entitled That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief. In it, the author suggests precisely what the title says: we’re all mourning right now. People are dying. Livelihoods have been lost. The economy is in free fall. People are going hungry. Small businesses have shuttered, some never to reopen. Families are separated. Everything exciting or promising has been cancelled. And we’re all deeply, deeply afraid while we look at the window and wonder if the world is ever going to be the same.

Toward the end of her book, Hansen notes, correctly, that dealing with grief isn’t something most of us (in the West, at least) are taught how to do:

Within my North American, largely non-religious culture, there’s so much discomfort around dealing with grief, and the death that brought it. I don’t understand why there is so little to assist us to feel it, carry it, and heal through it, and so much to help us ignore it. Movies that glamorize pain and substances to help numb it, rules put in place to eradicate the possibility of grief talk from our communities, no mention of death or loss in school systems. I don’t know why there is a lack of education about how to have a comforting conversation or give physical and emotional support when someone has suffered a loss.

And so, even after losing one of the most important people in my life two years ago, I stand frozen in the face of grief once again, unsure how to cope. I am, of course, worried for my life and the lives of the people I love, but I am heartbroken for all of us. I am furious that we lack the structures to protect people right now. I broke down in uncontrollable tears seeing news coverage of the lines at food bank in my city, my beautiful city of Pittsburgh, being inundated with people and stretching for miles.

foodbank

I feel as though, most of all, we’re all grieving the before. You’ll hear many people say, “I can’t wait for things to get back to normal.” There are signs all over my city saying, “we’ll get through this, Pittsburgh!” Indeed, the lucky of us will, but we’ll be facing a much different world on the other side.

There is something comforting in sharing an emotional experience with another. Though I often feel like part robot, I am not immune to many normal human impulses. Reading Still in this moment of grief, allowing myself to feel the surge of emotions this time is stirring, felt like companionship. It felt like sharing a deep connection through loss. Not the same kind of loss on both sides, but loss nonetheless.

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Saying hello to old friends.

I started this blog roughly four years ago, and with the sincerest intentions. I planned to use it, if not regularly, then at least semi-regularly as I continued making Booktube content.

As is made obvious by almost immediate cessation of content, I mainly forgot this blog existed.

Now, spending all this time at home, having so many thoughts that don’t seem to fit anywhere – in conversations with people, on my Booktube channel, in any written book reviews I’m doing – I’m beginning to remember what motivated me to launch this blog in the first place.

There are certain books I read that inspire connected conversations. Sometimes I can fit them into a video or written book review, other times it feels like those thoughts are too tangential to cram into those mediums. This blog was always intended to house those conversations as sort of a Booktube “add-on.” There’s a reason I thought it sounded like a good idea four years ago, and I’d like to give it another try.

I’m attempting to use this time in several ways, but at the top of that list is reconnecting with people. Let’s tack this onto that initiative.

So, hello old friend. Let’s talk books.

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Book & Cocktail Pairings, First Round

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy a good cocktail. And if you’re reading a book blog, you probably enjoy reading as well. My question is…

porque

Why don’t we have both?

There’s nothing quite like experiencing two things that give you a similar feeling. Reading a book and listening to music that gives you the same feels. Reading a book and drinking a beverage that evokes the feeling of the book. It’s the coolest. So, in the spirit of enjoying well…spirits, I thought cocktail pairings for some of my favorite books would be a fun experiment.

The book: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The cocktail: Cider, Dark & Stormy

night circus  AppleCiderGif1

If you’re going to drink a cocktail while experiencing the magic that is The Night Circus, it needs to include cider. Preferably mulled cider that explodes fall all over your taste buds. This book needs a cocktail that blends sweet and spicy with a hint of darkness underneath everything. This cocktail blends all of that perfectly with the inclusion of both cider and ginger beer and the addition of the dark rum makes it not only dark in color, but deep in flavor as well. With an apple slice of garnish and a cinnamon sugar rim, how could you not want to be sipping on this while walking through the magical exhibits of the Le Cirque des Rêves? Now all you would need is some yummy and adorable chocolate mice to nibble on while you get lost in the book.

The book: Uprooted by Naomi Novik
The cocktail: Vodka Rosemary Lemonade Fizz

uprooted  vrlf

This book is rooted (see what I did there?) in Eastern European folklore, so vodka is a must. I like the addition of the strong citrus flavor since there is a strong female main character. I think the rosemary and its pine-like scent pay necessary homage to the evil Wood. And then there’s the fizz…for the sizzle of romance. WINK. (“Did you say wink or did you wink?” “He said that too, Dad.”)

The book: The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
The cocktail: Brown Derby

rules of civilty  tdb-brown-derby-1500x1000-2-300x300

Now technically, this drink is from the 40s in Hollywood and this book is set during 1938 in New York. But I think I can get away with it. I’m definitely getting away with it.

This is an old fashioned book in need of a classic bourbon cocktail. There is a scene in this book at a race track and I cannot help but get a “derby day” vibe from it. And I read it for the first time in the summer, so the addition of the sweet honey and the tropical grapefruit gives it the perfect summery taste. I think this cocktail gives the mint julep a run for its money and will certainly put you in the right head space to enjoy the hell out of this book.

The book: Faithful Place by Tana French
The cocktail: The Smoky Sour

faithful place  Smoky-Sour

Frank Mackey wouldn’t be caught dead drinking this. That’s fine. More for us.

This book (this whole series, in fact) is set in Ireland. So whiskey is a no-brainer. I’m personally a big fan of the whiskey sour despite an unfortunate first introduction on my 21st birthday. But to match the whiskey sour to this book it needs to be darker. More substantive. So enters the addition of a Lapsang souchong tea syrup. If you didn’t know, Lapsang souchong is a very smoky tea. Intensely smoky, in fact. I was first introduced to it when I had a blend known as Russian caravan tea which contains some of this variety. I think the deep smoky aspect represents the atmosphere of the book while the lemon, representing Mackey’s cutting sense of humor, balances out the overwhelming tea. And the creamy aspect of the egg white evokes the sensation of reading Tana French’s really amazing writing.

So those are all the book/cocktail pairings I have for today. I loved doing this, so there will most certainly be more of these in the future. Let me know if you try any of these. I certainly will be enjoying some of them during some of my rereads this year.

Cheers!

-Olive

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Welcome to Olive the Books!

I hope you like crappy puns, because there are going to be a lot of them here.

If you’ve found yourself here, lovely reader, then I’m assuming you’ve made your way from my Booktube channel. And I’m certainly glad you have!

This is a venture I’ve had in mind for a long while. I love my channel and remain committed to it, but some content simply makes for a better blog post than YouTube video.

So here we are! I’m planning on writing out more of my thoughts on some of the books I read and rather than put up 25-minute-long wrap up videos, I plan on expanding on my thoughts here on my blog.

There will also be some blog-specific content that I hope you will enjoy. Some of it will be intellectual. Some of it will be silly. Thus, it will be reflective of my character.

Let’s get started!

-Olive

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