Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Over. The. Top. That’s the best way to describe Kevin Kwan’s novel, Crazy Rich Asians. When I brought this one home from the library, the title was met by raised eyebrows from my family members. And no, the title is not some cutesy inside joke you’ll get once you read the book – it’s pretty literal.

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The novel went perfectly with my traveling color scheme, too 😉

The characters in Kwan’s novel are the antithesis of minimalists. The story follows a seemingly never-ending family tree that has three main branches: the Youngs, the T’Siens and the Shangs. When Nick Young decides to bring his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend, Rachel Chu, home to Singapore with him for the summer, chaos ensues.

You won’t get bored reading this one, as the perspective changes from character to character. You’ll laugh, gasp, and cringe at the riches and rituals that Rachel is thrown into. You’ll learn about all the idiosyncrasies of the family and their culture right alongside her.

I’m a little late on the Kevin Kwan train, as the novel became a bestseller back in 2013. Better late than never, though. It is certainly a colorful read! I can’t wait to read the sequel, China Rich Girlfriend, next.

Have you read Crazy Rich Asians? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments!

Colorfully Yours,

Haley

Eat a Lot and Don’t Be a Princess: The Ultimate Study Abroad Guide

Three years ago to this day, I was getting ready to board a flight to Barcelona, Spain, where I would proceed to experience the best four months of my life. While I am on the verge of being blinded by jealousy as my younger classmates prepare for their own semesters abroad, I decided to take the high road and share some of the most important tips I learned during my time in Spain. Here goes nothing!

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1) Branch Out

You’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but I can’t emphasize it enough. It may be a bit of a cliché, but it’s no empty phrase. When I chose my abroad destination, I didn’t factor in where anyone else was going. I knew where I wanted to go, and I knew I wanted to do it alone. My mom was worried about me moving to another country without a travel buddy, but I knew I needed to do it that way. As my departure date approached, I learned that a few Miami students were going to be in the same program. I didn’t reach out to stick together, though. I was serious about this whole branching out thing.

At first it seemed like everyone that traveled abroad did so with a gaggle of friends from home or school. Was I the only one that went solo? People were shocked that I chose to be assigned random roommates in an apartment. Guess what? It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. With no one around to restrict you to a certain identity, you really do learn a lot about yourself.

I even made one of my best, best friends while abroad. Rachel was randomly assigned as one of my roommates. When I saw her Facebook before getting to Barcelona, I was totally intimidated. I didn’t envision us being friends at all. Soon after arriving, though, we just clicked. We still talk constantly and have visited each other several times. In fact, this time next week I’ll be with her in Arizona!

2) Stop and Drink the Coffee

I mean this both literally and metaphorically. Being in a completely new environment and having pretty minimal responsibility is a winning combo. Take the long way to school. Walk around aimlessly for hours. Sit on a bench and people watch. Make each meal last for hours. Stand in line for an hour to get your favorite sandwich, and then sit on the steps of a nearby building enjoying every bite.

Discover your neighborhood hole-in-the-wall coffee shop and become friends with the owner. Don’t ask for a to-go cup – this isn’t America, after all. Watch as the barista decorates your café con leche with chocolate shavings in the shape of a heart. Be patient as you both try to make conversation in Spanglish. And if that fails, communicate with a smile. Sit down at one of the tiny tables with your steaming mug of coffee and just be still. You’re probably thinking this is really corny, but the moments like this in the café around the corner from my Barcelona apartment are some of my favorite memories from my semester abroad.

3) Go Out… Or Don’t

If you know me at all, it’s no secret that I pretty much hate going out. I’m a grandmother in that way. (Yet I chose Miami for college and Barcelona for my semester abroad – the irony is not lost on me.) Going into the semester, I was excited to take advantage of the world-renowned nightlife in Barcelona, but I was also worried about the inevitable moment when I would just be “over it.” Would all of my abroad peers be party animals, or would I be able to find someone to be the occasional grandma with?

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Luckily, Rachel (see #1) shared my internal conflict of wanting to be fun but also never wanting to leave the apartment past 11pm. There were many nights when we would just look at each other as our roommates got dolled up for the night, and just shake our heads. That’s when the convenience store down the street came in handy – $11 American dollars for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? Worth every penny. There were also a few nights that I was the only one who didn’t want to hit the club scene. But you know what? I decided that was ok. You have to go with your gut, even if people call you lame for it. The people that really love you will love you whether you’re drunk at a club or in bed reading Gone Girl on your iPhone for five hours straight.

Don’t get me wrong – I had some of the most fun nights of my life out in Barcelona. There’s nothing like dancing with your girlfriends in a sea of basically anonymous people who are just as carefree as you are in the moment. Holding hands and belting out the latest club music at the top of your lungs while ignoring the boys trying to dance with you? The best. Which brings me to my next point…

4) Don’t Worry about Boys

You didn’t go abroad to meet the man of your dreams. And if you did, well, it’s time to reevaluate. This semester is about finding yourself, making amazing friends from all over the country, embracing the culture of a new country, and having fun throughout the process. It’s not about impressing the cute guy on your program or going on dates. Be yourself, be silly, be carefree. The funny thing is, when you let down your guard and don’t worry about what those boys think of you, you’ll probably find that you get more attention than you ever did before. If that’s what you want, then that’s cool. But if you want to shoo those guys away and make a barricade with your girlfriends so you can dance in peace, that’s perfectly cool, too.

5) Eat, Drink, and Eat Some More

Now is NOT the time to worry about how you’re going to look in that bikini. As far as you should be concerned, the word “diet” doesn’t exist. The only “watching what you eat” you should be doing is watching yourself shovel churroScreen Shot 2016-01-08 at 1.22.39 PMs and chocolate in your mouth. Trust me – you don’t want to get home from this European free-for-all wishing you had tried that paella or gotten Nutella on that waffle. Plus, you’ll be doing so much walking that it may just even out!

As for drinking, I’ll just warn you now that alcohol is often cheaper than water in Spain. Yup. When you’re out at a restaurant with your friends, just get a pitcher of sangria. It’ll be cheaper than if you each ordered water, and you’ll definitely have more fun
drinking it. Salud!

6) Travel, but Don’t be a Tourist

While you’re abroad, a lot of people on your program will seem to be traveling Every. Single. Weekend. There will definitely be times when you freak out and think you’re not traveling the world enough. Guess what? Not everyone has a proverbial money tree to fund constant trips around the globe. Yes, it is much cheaper to travel within Europe once you’re already over there, but I would never call it cheap on an average college student’s budget. Did I break down and cry over Skype one night when my parents knocked some sense into me and told me that I had to be frugal? I sure did. Did I snap out of it? You betcha.

As the semester went on, my friends and I actually became so thankful that we hadn’t been traveling constantly. We got to know our city, Barcelona, as our home. We explored nooks and crannies that those frequent fliers never did. We became regulars at certain restaurants and groceries. I went on “exercise walks” that turned into three-hour solo excursions. The people that went somewhere else every weekend had fun, I’m sure, but they had a totally different experience than we did. Don’t get me wrong, I traveled plenty – Portugal, Greece, the Netherlands, Ireland. But instead of squeezing fifteen trips into my short four months in Barcelona, I truly made it mine.

Another spin off of this tip is Don’t Plan Ahead. When I got to Barcelona, I quickly realized that a bunch of people had planned their weekend trips before they even got to Spain! These were, of course, the people that traveled in packs. I didn’t know anyone – how would I plan trips?! Well, this was the best thing I could’ve done. Trust me when I say you will make friends. And the people you travel with don’t have to be your besties! For example, Rachel and I rarely traveled together. This is one of those situations where your acquaintance can become your best travel buddy. You don’t want to be boxed in to plans and people before you even arrive. Things change – go with the flow!

7) Pack Light

My packing circumstances were a little different than most. I had to dedicate an entire carry-on suitcase to my medical supplies. That left me with one normal sized suitcase to fit enough clothes, shoes, toiletries, hair tools, books, etc. for four months in another country. When I first arrived at my apartment and saw how much my roommates had been able to bring, I freaked out. I thought I’d be the only girl constantly repeating outfits.

As time went on, though, we all realized that the last thing on our minds while abroad was how we looked. I’m serious! Sometimes Rachel and I joke when we look back on pictures – we note how bad we looked compared to the glamour shots that the latest batch of abroad girls post. But we don’t care, because we had the time of our lives. (And don’t forget, they have stores in Spain, too.)

When I went to Dublin for a weekend, I brought my tiny backpack. That was it. Hands down the lightest I’ve ever packed. Mind you, this was also the dead of winter, so the clothes I needed were bulky! I wore a lot of layers that weekend to vary my look. Not having to worry about lugging around a big suitcase as we hopped around was amazing. And guess what? Despite my lack of clothing options, that was one of my favorite trips. Go figure!

My main tip would be to bring a lot of basics that you can layer and swap. One of my best examples was the chambray shirt I brought. It can look cute on it’s own, under a sweatshirt, over a sweater, tied around your waist, and more. You don’t have to have a lot of clothes with you to be fashionable – just know how to use them!

8) Sit Alone

You probably think I’ve harped on about the whole ‘sit down and drink a coffee from a mug’ thing enough. But I’m so serious! Some of my happiest times were spent alone, eating a jamón sandwich at a hole in the wall café or indulging in a slice of chocolate cake at a cute little bakery. Yes, I even ate cake alone. It may sound silly or obvious to some of you. But taking this time without any distractions really teaches you to be comfortable with yourself. I’ve carried these lessons over into my home life – I’m not so afraid to do things with just me, myself and I anymore.

This distraction-free thing brings me to my next tip…

9) Leave the Phone at Home

Not only is there no need for you to bring your iPhone out with you, it’s also a huge risk. Unfortunately, iPhones are stolen from clueless American hands abroad more often than you change your clothes. It’s a huge no-no to leave your phone out on your table while you’re dining. It’s even a pretty bad idea to walk through the streets with it in your hand. So the easiest solution is to leave it at your apartment. You won’t really be able to use it until you can connect to Wi-Fi, anyway. You don’t need to Snapchat every landmark and moment. Of course you’re going to take a ton of photos – as you should – and you’ll want to share them. But wait until you’re chillin’ in bed that night to do so. In the meantime, pick your head up and look at those sights with your own eyes.

10) Don’t Be a Princess

My last tip hits very close to home. If you couldn’t tell, I can be a bit of a princess at times. I like my creature comforts. While I don’t see anything wrong with that most of the time, your semester abroad is the time to let your high maintenance self tone down to a medium-to-low maintenance chick. This can take a lot of different forms.

For one, lower your housing standards. This isn’t your parents’ house or the Marriott hotel. There’s a 99% chan6602_10151394578102620_1849477385_nce you won’t have a dishwasher, a dryer, or a shower that runs hot water for more than ten minutes at a time. My roommates and I had to divide into AM and PM shower shifts for this purpose. Not to mention our bathroom floor flooded every single time we showered. But in a weird kind of way, it was fun.
Next, stay in a hostel – once or twice. I really don’t see the need to stay in one every time you travel, because I was able to find some amazing deals in normal hotels. But there are obviously going to be times when you can’t swing that. So, you bite the bullet and stay in a sketchy room with fifteen suspicious characters snoring within a two-foot radius of you. If you’re anything like me, you’ll sleep with your belongings under your pillow. And by sleep, I mean you won’t close your eyes because you’ll be too paranoid. Regardless, hostels are something that everyone should experience in their lifetime.

Finally, ride the donkey. No, that’s not some sort of code. I actually rode a smelly donkey up a steep cliff in Santorini, Greece. If I made any sudden movements, I may have fallen to my death in the Aegean Sea. Ok, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but it was scary! I knew immediately that I wanted to do it, though. If you don’t do weird, unnecessary things like balance atop a dirty animal on uneven terrain up the side of a mountain while you’re abroad, you never will.

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So there you have it. My ultimate study abroad guide. Do you have any tips to add or lessons you learned on your trip? Leave them in the comments!

For those of you studying abroad this semester, enjoy it for all of us.

Be safe, be smart, and above all, have the time of your life.

Colorfully Yours, 

Haley

Book Review: Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper…by Hilary Liftin.61qLRcOOXGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

That’s a mouthful, huh? Upon further inspection you’ll realize that Lizzie Pepper is a fictional movie star, but the novel is written as a faux tell-all by the character. The cover jokes that the novel is “ghostwritten” by Liftin, but she is truly the only author.

I started the book when I needed a reprieve from the heaviness of the historical fiction I’d been reading. I expected it to be a typical, superficial beach read. And for the first half of the book, that seemed to ring true. Lizzie Pepper is a B-list movie star who somehow falls into the arms of Hollywood’s most sought-after A-lister, Rob Mars. Their whirlwind romance takes place on private islands and private jets.

In fact, I wasn’t planning on reviewing it at all, because it was one of those books that isn’t necessarily bad in that it kept my interest but it wasn’t exactly good, either. The writing seemed to skim the surface rather than delve into any of the characters or events at great length, and parts seemed quite redundant.

In the second half, though, I was majorly sucked in. The novel turned from a mindless romance to a pretty dark drama. It turns out that Mars is part of an exclusive Hollywood group that walks like a cult and talks like a cult, but denies that it is a cult. Scientology, anyone?! The organization is called “One Cell” and is known as a “Studio” as opposed to a church, but the author clearly took a page out of Leah Remini’s book. In fact, several things about Mars and Pepper seem kind of Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes-y.

As the novel progresses and Lizzie gets sucked into One Cell, she starts to realize that she may be in too deep. The ending was actually giving me anxiety as I read it because I felt like the Scientologists – uh, I mean One Cells – were watching me.

I don’t want to give any more away – I’ll let you read for yourself. But I will say that if you’re into celebrity romances with a creepy twist, this is the book for you. I know I am.

Colorfully Yours,

Haley

R+Co Review: Part Two

Remember my review of those R+Co hair products from a while back? Probably not, because it has taken me just under two months to post Part Two of that review. I know, I majorly suck. But even if it takes me a while, I never turn back on a promise. So:

Drumroll please…

Here is PART TWO of my R+Co product review!

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Whenever I blow-dry my hair (not very often, TBH) it ends up looking frizzy. Nice, but amateur. I was hoping R+Co’s Park Ave Blow Out Balm would solve my problems. And guess what? It actually did. A dollop of it goes a long way in preventing those ugly flyaways and frizz. Hellooo, smooth locks.

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Chiffon Styling Mousse


In Part One of my R+Co review, I admitted that I was underwhelmed with the effects of the Chiffon Stlying Mousse. I gave it another chance and followed the directions properly, and it definitely worked a lot better in giving my hair body. It still didn’t give me the “soft, girly curls” that it promises, but I’ll keep it around for the volume it provided. That, and the cutest packaging ever.

Vicious Strong Hold Flexible Hairspray

I don’t use hairspray very often, which is largely due to the fact that it makes me think of that tacky, hard, crunchy look that we’ve all had at NMC1UKN_mksome point in our lives when we went a little wild with the aerosol can. I used the Vicious Strong Hold Flexible Hairspray on my last few top-knots, and it has restored my faith in hairspray. Oh, you mean your perfectly coifed bun doesn’t have to turn into JLo’s mane circa the ‘Jenny from the Block’ days? Phew. The spray held my bun in place with no flyaways for hours at a time without ever feeling stiff and sticky.

So there you have it. I hope this helps lock in your best hair ever. See what I did there?

{A million thanks to Robert at Robert Jason Salon on Main Street in Andover for these products! As I mentioned in Part One, although I was given these products at no cost, all opinions are my own. I don’t sell out that easily, people.}

Colorfully Yours,

Haley

Wives Tales: Z and The Aviator’s Wife

Two of my most recent reads have been pieces of historical fiction from the perspective of the wives of acclaimed men: Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler and The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin.

While neither is the kind of novel that will keep you awake at night from suspense, they both offer a rare glimpse into the lives of the women ‘behind’ two of America’s most famous – or shall I say infamous – men.

Although the works are largely fictional, both authors ensure that they completed endless amounts of research so that the facts are correct – it’s the emotional side that they embellish. It’s interesting to try to figure out which circumstances are imagined and which truly happened the way they are depicted in the novels. 41oJOkSuGzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

I have always been intrigued by the excess of the 1920’s and beyond – the ‘jazz age,’ as F. Scott Fitzgerald coined it. Writers like Fitzgerald and Hemingway immortalized the time period through their novels, but we don’t often think much about their personal lives. Just like Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife did for Hadley, Ernest Hemingway’s wife, imagines what life would’ve been like behind the scenes for Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. The story reveals the demons that both Scott and Zelda battled throughout their lives together. A question is posed throughout the novel: did Zelda ruin Scott or save him?

Zelda reveals, “trouble has lots of forms. There’s financial trouble and marital trouble, there’s trouble with friends and trouble with landlords and trouble with liquor and trouble with the law. Every sort of trouble I can think of, we’ve tried it out – become expert at some of it, even, so much so that I’ve come to wonder whether artists in particular seek out hard times the way flowers turn their faces toward the sun.”

As can be said about a large portion of creative minds, Scott’s posthumous fame was preempted by years and years of struggle. Z leaves no dark stone unturned. Fitzgerald “had spent his life building what he’d seen as an impressive tower of stone and brick, and woken up to find it was only a little house of cards, sent tumbling now by the wind.”

I read The Aviator’s Wife because of how much I had enjoyed The Paris Wife a few years back. While the two are written by different authors, the novels are written in the same vein. The Aviator’s Wife follows the relationship of legendary American pilot Charles Lindbergh51faRUlBSGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh. While I knew who Charles was and I knew something had happened to their son, that was about the extent of my knowledge prior to reading this book. Just like the aforementioned novels, this one reveals the darker, more personal side of the so-called American hero’s life and marriage.

Anne’s mother warns her daughter in the novel: “You need to stop looking for heroes, Anne. Only the weak need heroes… and heroes need those around them to remain weak.” Anne herself discovers that “marriage breeds its own special brand of loneliness” and cruelty, especially when that marriage is to an American hero.

Now that I’ve essentially written a novel of my own, go pick up these two eye-opening books. Authors Fowler and Benjamin gave these strong women voices where they had none – and that is a beautiful thing.

Colorfully Yours,

Haley

Bingeworthy: My Netflix Picks

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If you’re anything like me, the onset of winter weather means one thing: hibernation. For those days and nights when you can’t even fathom opening the door to get the mail, Netflix is your salvation. Forget the stinging of the midwinter wind on your cheeks – instead, go for the stinging of your eyes as your brain melts from too much screen time.

One of the wonderful things about Netflix is that there is literally something for everyone. You want an animated kids show? Sure. You want a documentary about violent drug wars? You can have that too. All in the same place.

My family has long since marveled at my eclectic taste in TV and film. My media-critic brother, Matt, laughs at the fact that my favorite movies range from How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days and Grease to Blow, American Gangster and Munich.

With that in mind, I think I’m pretty capable of giving Netflix recommendations to a wide range of personalities.

Without further ado, here are my top binge-worthy Netflix TV shows for every mood.

Shows to fall asleep to:

New Girl

It took me a long time to get on the New Girl train, but boy, am I glad I did. I watched the first four seasons this past summer, and I’ve been waiting impatiently for the current season to debut on Netflix ever since. Jess will have you embracing your own quirkiness, while roommate Nick will leave you wanting to embrace him.

Baby Daddy

This show is so awful that it’s great. It makes you feel like you can do anything you set your mind to if these people are getting paid to act. But the corny jokes and loud laugh track make this the perfect show for those mindless nights when you just want to veg out. Plus, one of the lead actors is a Type 1 diabetic in real life, just like me! Doesn’t hurt that he’s gorgeous, either.

Friends

I know. Obviously, right? But, I will admit that I never used to see the appeal. I would catch a few minutes of the reruns on TV late at night, but I never really got why it was so popular. I finally decided to watch from start to finish and realized that it’s pretty darn great. That, and that I need some “friends” of my own.

Shows to stay up late to:

Mad Men

I love immersing myself in decades gone by. The outfits, the slang, the social scene. Mad Men gives you a glimpse into the late fifties and the sixties – the good, the bad and the ugly. There are so many characters you’ll love to hate and hate to love. I’m lookin’ at you, Don Draper.

Chasing Life

I’ve dedicated an entire post to this one before. It has since been cancelled, which makes steam come out of my ears. As I tell anyone who will listen, this was one of the last good shows with a lesson. We have enough reality TV and all that crap. Why does every show with morals and a storyline get canceled?!

Friday Night Lights

Let’s pretend that the last 1.5 seasons don’t exist. Once you get rid of those monstrosities, you can truly enjoy the goodness that is FNL. High school in Texas – football, relationships, bad decisions, Tim Riggins… what more could you ask for in a show? The answer is nothing.

Shows to have nightmares from:

Narcos

As I revealed above, I love a good drug show. I’ll just blame it on growing up with two older brothers, even though in reality I appreciate a drug drama more than they do. Narcos is dark, violent, and based on the true story of Pablo Escobar and the Colombian drug cartel. Grab the popcorn.

Breaking Bad

Oh. Em. Gee. I just finished binging this one. I finished all five seasons in less than a month. Let’s just say I didn’t get a lot of sleep. I’ll admit that the beginning didn’t totally grip me, but as the show went on I felt myself bursting with emotion. This show isn’t for the faint of heart – or the anxiety-ridden, but I broke that rule. By the end of the last season I was feeling pretty unstable. Get ready to combust.

Orange is the New Black

If you haven’t started OITNB by now, you’ve got some serious issues. Throw on your orange onesie and get ready to serve some time. I promise your time behind bars (uh, the screen?) will fly by, though. Relish it.

Have any must-binge recommendations for me? Let me know! And as my brother always reminds me when I get too wrapped up in TV, don’t forget to go outside and get some air.

Colorfully Yours,

Haley