Category: Memoirs

Mar 02

Amy Poehler Wrote a Book? Yes, Please!

Audio Books, Humor, Memoirs 12

Bookworms, My Darlings,

We need to talk about Amy Poehler. I know I talk about audio books all the time and I know that a lot of you are hesitant to give them a whirl. If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, I implore you to start with Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.

yespleaseWhen it comes to memoirs, I often feel that I can “hear” the author’s voice in the printed page, and that goes double if I actually know the author’s voice from TV or whatever. ACTUALLY listening to the author read the book is a super fantastic bonus. (Honestly, I feel like I missed the boat by not listening to Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey’s books, but that’s a story for another day, and another couple of Audible credits.) But extra, extra fun? Guest voices. Listening to Amy’s parents read was the cutest friggin thing that has ever happened in the history of ever. Hearing her banter with Seth Meyers? A delicious SNL flashback. Kathleen Turner popping in to narrate salacious bits? Priceless.

This book reminded me of Tiny Beautiful Things (review) only HILARIOUS. Amy (yes, we’re on a first name basis. She’s my FRIEND, damnit!) serves up funny childhood stories, behind the scenes famous person stuff, and a heaping helping of heart. Her take on the Mommy Wars is basically perfect. “Good for you, not for me,” should be everyone’s mantra. Amy managed to discuss a wide range of topics (including her divorce!) without ever coming across as angry or bitter. She acknowledges mistakes she’s made and her less-than-proud moments. (Not her most embarrassing moments, though. She doesn’t have to tell you about those, and you don’t have to tell anyone about yours either! Amy said so!) I didn’t think it was possible for me to love Amy Poehler more than I already did, but she is made of magic and sunshine, so OF COURSE my admiration increased. Read this book, you guys. For reals.

Tell me Bookworms, do any of you have a celebrity you like to pretend is your friend in real life? I can’t be the only one, right?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Jan 29

I’m WILD about Cheryl Strayed

Memoirs 38

Howdy Bookworms!

Remember back when we read Tiny Beautiful Things for The Fellowship of the Worms and all I wanted to do was hug Cheryl Strayed? I picked up her memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, and the desire to hug her has only intensified. (No, I have not seen the movie. I kind of want to, though, since Reese Witherspoon and I share a birthday.)

wildFour years after the death of her mother, Strayed’s life was spiraling out of control. A series of poor decisions led to the collapse of her marriage and descent into drug abuse all while desperately mourning for her mother. One serendipitous day, Strayed comes across a book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and despite having absolutely no experience with punishing long distance hiking, Strayed decides to tackle the PCT. What follows is her tail of the trail, self discovery, and the world’s sorriest pair of feet. (Seriously, my feet WEPT in sympathy.)

I adored WildI typically dig memoirs, and this was no exception. I goggled at Strayed’s endless moxie in taking on the PCT hike, but I spent a lot of time cringing just the same. I am NOT a risk taker, so my inner monologue kept yelling things like “Just ask for help! I’ll buy you a Snapple Lemonade!” and “For heaven’s sake stop accepting rides from strange men!”

I also appreciated that she explained the fact that she changed her last name to Strayed post divorce. For years I’ve been mentally saying “Stray-Ed” all Shakespearean-like because I assumed it was her birth or married last name and as such would be pronounced slightly differently than the regular word. It is NOT. It is actually JUST the regular word. Enlightening. (I mentally pronounce Jojo Moyes as “Moy-Ez” which is probably wrong, too. I’m still having trouble hearing Rainbow Rowell as “Row” like “WOW” and not “Row” like, your boat, despite having heard a very nice NPR interview.) These aren’t even DIFFICULT names. The things wrong with me are many and varied.

Tell me, Bookworms, do any of you grossly mispronounce author’s names by accident? Just me?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Dec 15

Tiny Beautiful Things: A Fellowship of the Worms Event

Book Club, Memoirs 26

Greetings Bookworms!

It’s time, it’s time! I’ve been really excited to talk about Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things with you and it’s finally time! Yaaaaaaaaaay! WARNING: We will be discussing the WHOLE book. This will no doubt include SPOILERS. This isn’t a novel, so I’m not sure how you can really spoil it, but I feel like I should warn you anyway. If you did not read the book and would like to participate, pick up a copy of Tiny Beautiful Things and give it a read. This post will be here waiting for you when you finish. Now that the particulars are out of the way, I’ll remind you of the premise here. I’ll pose questions in bold and answer them in regular type.  If you don’t want your opinions influenced by my rantings, stick to the bold first. Feel free to answer them in the comments, or if you’re so inclined, leave a comment linking to your review of Tiny Beautiful Things on your own blog! I fully encourage shameless self promotion, so if you’ve reviewed this don’t hesitate to get your link on.

smarty-mcwordypants-199x3001. Did you ever read the “Dear Sugar” column on The Rumpus or frequent any other advice columns? I’ve mentioned before that I think I’m part bear, right? I mean, the minute it starts getting cold, I get the uncontrollable urge to eat everything in sight and hibernate for the winter. Apparently I also live in a CAVE because I didn’t know Dear Sugar was a thing before this book. Pitiful. But, more evidence of my bear-dom, so I’ve got that going for me.

2. Sugar uses a lot of terms of endearment in her responses. Do you like them? Does it bother you when you’re addressed with a term of endearment in real life? There’s something about being called “honey bun” and “sweet pea” that makes hearing difficult advice more bearable, in my opinion. Strayed’s use of the terms just made me want to hug her. In real life, it’s a whole lot more complicated. If a woman addresses me as “honey” in a genuine tone of voice, I kind of like it. It feels sweet and sisterly. If a dude calls me “sweetheart” condescendingly, my blood gets to boiling. That feels creepy and/or douchey. If a dude of any age has a English/Irish/Scottish/Australian accent and calls me “love” in virtually any tone of voice, I’ll squeal with delight. I have a wildly varying and unfair set of standards, don’t I? Maybe I should just stick with encouraging people to call me “Katie” and leave it at that.

3. Did any of the advice/questions make you uncomfortable? I wasn’t necessarily made uncomfortable by any of tinybeautifulthingsthese stories, but some made me desperately sad. I mean, the girls she mentored? The ones who’d “make it” if they grew up to hold a job at Taco Bell? My heart, my heart, MY HEART!

4. Did any of Sugar’s advice resonate with you? There were a number of essays I found touching (some hit closer to home than I’m willing to admit publicly), but “The Ghost Ship that Didn’t Carry Us” really hit me in the feels. It’s not so much that I’m torn about wanting kids, it’s more the idea that major life decisions lead you down a certain path that completely eliminates certain other possibilities. If you’d gone to a different college, what would have happened? If you’d taken a different job, where would you have ended up? If you chose to take a big risk or chose the path of least resistance, what would have happened IF? Sugar just GETS it, and MY WORD I want to hug the woman!

5. Strayed infused the “Dear Sugar” column with a heaping helping of memoir. Did her personal anecdotes add or detract from the advice she was trying to give to her readers? For me, Strayed’s personal asides only added to the book.What made Tiny Beautiful Things so powerful for me was that it felt like Sugar had been there. I don’t want to take advice from someone who’s always made the right decisions. I want to hear from someone who has royally effed things up and managed to come out wiser on the other side. We’re all broken, but we’re all going to be okay. Even when we’re not. It’s complicated, but you know what I’m saying, right?

Sound off, Bookworms! I want to know your thoughts. Tackle some of the questions in the comments, or if you’ve written a post on your own blog (discussion or review, anything goes!) LINK IT UP! 
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*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Nov 17

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J Maarten Troost

Audio Books, Humor, Memoirs 7

Ahoy, Bookworms!

I’ve always romanticized the idea of a deserted island. I mean, beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets, palm trees… Heavenly, no? Perhaps, if your deserted island isn’t a South Pacific atoll. I was positively stoked to discover my library had an audio copy of The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J Maarten Troost available to dispel all my deserted island fantasies. I mean, after how much I adored Headhunters on My Doorstep (review)?! I downloaded that sucker faster than you can say Robinson Crusoe.

sexlivesofcannibalsOkay, I’m just going to come out and say it. I freaking love J Maarten Troost! He is hysterical. Nothing could destroy my island dreams quite the way Troost’s colorful descriptions of life on an atoll did… And he made me laugh while doing it!

At the age of 26, Troost followed his then girlfriend to the island of Tarawa (part of Kiribati), an atoll in the equatorial Pacific. Youthful wanderlust gives way to the crushing realities of life on an extremely remote island and hilarity ensues. Intestinal parasites, folks using the ocean to defecate, marauding packs of wild dogs, and the incessant droning of “La Macarena”? Between the oddball expatriates making Tarawa their homes and the unfamiliar customs of the native population, Troost has QUITE the adventure.

After listening to The Sex Lives of Cannibals, I’ve begun to threaten my long-suffering husband with biting the nose off his face. Apparently, nose biting is totally an acceptable reaction to jealousy in romantic relationships in Kiribati. My threats are more often in reaction to bantering sessions I’m losing than jealousy, but I think the custom is under-appreciated. (Hubs used to threaten to purchase me a gold engagement nose instead of a ring after watching a documentary on the life of Tycho Brahe. He lost his nose in a duel and had a prosthetic made of gold. True story.) Gold noses might be JUST THE THING for the folks in Kiribati with mangled noses.

Y’all, if you like funny books, J Maarten Troost is a MUST READ author. Take my word (and maybe my nose) for it!

Talk to me, Bookworms! Have you ever had a fantasy completely destroyed by harsh realities? Anybody moved to a romantic or exotic locale only to have it fall short of your expectations?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I will be investing in the Tycho Brahe Memorial Nose Fund… Which is something I’ve completely made up that will funnel money back into my book buying habit.*

 

 

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Sep 30

Author Event: I Met My Doppelgänger

Author Events, Memoirs 42

Greetings, Bookworms!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve always imagined that I look a bit like Danielle Fishel, the actress who played Topanga on Boy Meets World (and now Girl Meets World.) When I was 15, a stranger told me he thought I looked like “Topanga.” I was, of course, THRILLED, because Danielle Fishel was (and is) pretty! And famous! I like compliments, okay? Thus, I’ve stuck with the celebrity doppelgänger schtick for 16 years now.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I received an email from my IRL pal Chrissy (of Quirky Chrissy) saying that Danielle Fishel had 1. written a book and 2. was going to be doing a book signing on a Friday night a mere 2 hour drive from where I live. There were a LOT of SHOUTY CAPITALS included in my response. (The odds of me making this trip for any other celebrity memoir <barring, of course, celebrities who are active comedy writers. Hi Tina! Hi Mindy! XOXO!> are slim to none. Clearly, extenuating circumstances were at play.)

normallythiswouldbeacauseforconcern

I went to the signing and purchased the book because 1. BOOK and 2. Danielle was under contract and not allowed to sign things that were not her book. (I didn’t ask her to sign my face. I bet that would have been allowed. But, you know. Sharpie. Meh.) I met up with my friends Chrissy and Lauren (of Filing Jointly…Finally) at said signing where we mostly behaved like fine upstanding citizens. (Well, Chrissy may have tried to cut in line, but attempting to cheat the system is kind of her thing.)

I was quite surprised at the number of people who queued up at Anderson’s Book Shop in Naperville, IL (holla!) There were 250-300 autograph seekers crammed into a fairly small bookstore. I prefer a good deal more personal space, but I’m willing to make sacrifices. The good folks at Anderson’s handled the crowd admirably, though, it was quite an efficient operation they had going. They went around with post-its so people could have their books personalized. The staff was writing out the names, so I just told the clerk to put “Katie” on my post it. I was telling Lauren and Chrissy that I chickened out of asking the clerk to write “To My Doppelgänger” on the post-it when Lauren rather devilishly pulled a pen out of her handbag. We then had a discussion about whether or not the word “doppelgänger” has an umlaut in it and where it belongs (I thought it was over the “O”. I was WRONG.)

Amended post-it note

Amended post-it note. No umlaut.

When it was my turn, I approached Danielle Fishel bearing a hardcover book with a post-it reading “Katie, My Doppelganger.” (No umlaut. The only thing worse than ignoring accent marks is putting accent marks in the wrong places.) When she saw the note, she gamely smiled at me and said, “You’re my doppelgänger, huh?” To which I blushed and shrugged. “People have told you that?” To which I responded “Yes” in a rather sheepish voice. She then turned and smiled for a photo, and I went on my merry way feeling ridiculous, as per usual, and slightly disappointed in myself that I had not left her a Words for Worms bookmark like I planned. Panic trumps self promotion, apparently.

IMG_6759

I’m wearing a Pride and Prejudice sweatshirt and an Alice in Wonderland necklace. That’s how I roll.

Our interaction took all of 10 seconds, and though Danielle didn’t acknowledge our twinly status in writing, she was a remarkably good sport about the whole thing. She didn’t once say “yeah, I can sort of see the resemblance… You know, if I were to gain 40 pounds.” Which is EXACTLY what went through MY head when I saw the photo. Still. Twinsies. And this is why I shouldn’t be allowed out in public. Ever. You’re welcome, Internet!

Bookworms, talk to me. Have you ever met someone famous? Have you ever embarrassed yourself at a book signing? Do you know the proper usage of umlauts? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. So will Danielle Fishel, because it’s her book. Support your favorite look-alikes, would ya?*

 

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Aug 18

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

Audio Books, Humor, Memoirs 24

Hey there Bookworms,

I really love humorous memoirs, the more neurotic, the better. When I ran across I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley on my library’s list of immediately available digital audio books, I couldn’t help myself. The only think I love more than this book genre is cake! (I really like cake, damnit!)

IWasToldThere'dBeCakeIf you’re not sure audio books are for you, I encourage you to try a memoir that is narrated by the author. Crosley’s voice was a treat! Though her voice would have come across as wry and hilarious in print, hearing her tell her own stories was absolutely fantastic.

I was DYING at the Oregon Trail references. I don’t know how many times I (intentionally or otherwise) killed off my entire travelling party. Dysentery is a bitch. When Crosley related the tale of her creating a cookie shaped in the likeness of her boss’s head, I very nearly shot coffee out my nose. (Be careful with beverages if you’re reading and/or listening to this book. High snarfle risk.)

If you have any fondness for the humorous-literary-memoir-essay genre (say that three times fast) I Was Told There’d Be Cake is not to be missed. I’m very happy I took the neurotic journey into Sloane Crosley’s head.

Talk to me, Bookworms. Who likes cake? Anybody else get really disappointed when a wedding serves desserts OTHER than a ginormous cake full of frosting? Just me?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 26

Headhunters on my Doorstep by J Maarten Troost

Humor, Memoirs, Travel 16

Hidey Ho, Bookworms!

It probably won’t come as a huge surprise to any of you, but I’m a bit of a homebody. I like the idea of travel, but I seem to have been born with zero wanderlust. That said, I really like to travel vicariously though books. All the glamour, none of the bedbugs. When I was offered J Maarten Troost’s latest offering, Headhunters on My Doorstep, I figured I’d give it a try. With a title like that, how could I not? I received a  complimentary copy of this book for review consideration from the publisher. The fact that I did not purchase this book in no way influences my opinion on the subject. I feel the need to make that clear, because after reading this, I have a strange urge to become J Maarten Troost’s groupie. Do authors have groupies? Is that even a thing?

headhuntersTravel memoirs are a completely new genre for me, and I’m really glad this book was my introduction. After a stint in rehab to treat his alcoholism, Troost sets out on a journey to find himself. He intends to find himself by getting as off the grid as it’s possible to get in the modern world and retrace the travels of Robert Louis Stevenson (you know, the Treasure Island guy) in the South Pacific.

One part travelogue, one part meditation on addiction, and all parts hilarious, Headhunters on My Doorstep took me on a journey I wasn’t expecting. I typically go into nonfiction expecting that it will be more of a challenge for me than a novel. I chewed through this book in two days. I simply couldn’t put it down!

One of the reasons for my fascination has to do with Survivor. Yep. The reality show. When I was in college, I took a class on Small Group Communication. My professor was really fun, and he realized that Survivor was an excellent way to illustrate small group dynamics. We were required to watch the show as part of our homework, and the season I watched? Season 4: Survivor Marquesas. The only season of Survivor I have ever watched dovetailed PERFECTLY with Troost’s travels. Serendipitous, no?

The other reason I’m so gaga over this book is that Troost is hilarious! Snarky, witty, self depricating- everything I adore in a humorist. I’ve noticed that this book has not gotten as many rave reviews as some of Troost’s earlier books, which honestly has me excited. If this book isn’t considered his best work, what sort of joy do I have in store as I check out his back catalog?! Two super enthusiastic thumbs up for this one, Bookworms. Check it out!

Since this book was set on (very nearly) deserted islands, let’s play a game. What books could you not live without if you were stranded on a desert island? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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May 19

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Memoirs 36

Hello my darling Bookworms!

I know I’ve been a bit out of touch, and I do apologize, but I had a lot of good quality Aunt-ing to get done over the past week. It’s been wonderful, but I’m hopping back in the saddle. I suppose now would be an appropriate time to make a joke about being a prisoner to my book habit, because we’re going to PRISON, y’all! You know that super mega popular Netflix show everyone is talking about, Orange Is the New Black? Well. It was a book first and I’m gonna talk about it.

orangeisthenewblackYou know how when you’re in your early 20s you do crazy things? I mean, I know I spent the ages of 22-24 knee deep in a pile of very saucy novels…  (I’m basically the squarest square that ever was. Why I’m the very root of square. See what I did there? I made a math joke to prove what a nerd I am. But I digress.) When Piper Kerman was in her early 20s, she spent her time following her lady love around the globe as she conducted a drug smuggling ring. As one does when exploring her sexuality and indulging her sense of adventure.

After a while, the big smuggling bosses aren’t content to simply have Piper along for the free drinks and vacation spots. She’s asked to smuggle a suitcase of money through an airport. Everything goes according to plan, but Piper takes her stint with smuggling as a one-time-only thing and moves on with her life.

Several years later, however, her past catches up to her. Piper is convicted of a drug charge and sentenced to 15 months in a federal minimum security prison. An intriguing fish-out-of-water story, Orange Is the New Black is Kerman’s memoir of how those 15 months were spent. With the benefit of her Ivy League education and unshakable support system, Kerman is able to use her experiences to examine the unique predicament of non-violent offenders in the US Prison system.

Interspersing her narrative with statistical evidence, Kerman questions mandatory minimum sentences, the treatment of female prisoners, and the concept of prison as rehabilitation. As thought provoking as it is amusing, Orange Is the New Black is a fabulous read.

I had not seen an episode of the TV version of the show prior to reading this book, but after I mentioned it to my BFF, she insisted I watch a couple of episodes with her… While snuggling a 2 week old baby who has no concept of profanity or appropriateness, naturally. Despite the fact that I wouldn’t shut up about the inconsistencies, the show was super entertaining in its own rite. I think I’m going to have to get a subscription to Netflix.

All right, Bookworms. It’s time to own up. How many of you when watching a film or television version of a book rather loudly point out the inconsistencies? (This question is framed assuming you’re at home, of course.  It’s just RUDE to be loud in a theater.) 

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Mar 06

Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall

Flowers, Memoirs 6

Greetings Glorious Bookworms,

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but it is STILL winter here. The eternal, never done snowing, frozen, messy, gray, icky winter is still holding on. That hasn’t stopped me from pining away for spring time and my garden, though. That’s part of the reason why I was super jazzed when I given the opportunity to read Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart by Carol Wall. *Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

mrowitaMister Owita’s Guide to Gardening is a sweet memoir in which Carol Wall tells the story of her unexpected friendship with the man she hired to tend her garden, Giles Owita.Carol had ZERO interest in gardening (heartbreaking, really), but is embarrassed by her bedraggled yard. When she sees her neighbor has hired landscaping help, she swoops in to see if he would be willing to take on another project.

Giles Owita is a Kenyan immigrant. In addition to his work as a landscaper, he holds jobs at a supermarket and a garden center. Carol, despite her best intentions, makes assumptions about Mr. Owita’s background and is mortified to learn that her assumptions were incorrect. Luckily, her sincere apologies for the occasional faux pas pave the way for them to forge a meaningful relationship.

The friendship between Carol and Giles is heartwarming. Between health problems and family complications, Carol and Giles support and encourage one another. And, of course, there are flowers. Let’s not forget about the flowers, because FLOWERS.

The only complaint I had about this book is that the conversations sounded a little too pretty… Real speech is full of “um’s” and fragments and awkward pauses. The dialogue was written in beautiful well-formed prose, but it didn’t hit me as conversational. Of course, that’s a teeny tiny complaint and it didn’t hinder my overall enjoyment of the book. If you’re withering this winter the way I am, give Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening a try!

And while we’re here and I’m still pining, let’s look at some of my flowers. I miss them so desperately!

my garden

What about you Bookworms? What are you looking forward to come spring? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Dec 11

Review & GIVEAWAY!!! Washing Cars & Wasting Time by John Oliva

Coming of Age, Humor, Memoirs 19

Greetings Bookworms!

I know, I know. I was MIA yesterday. I have a really good reason for going missing that has nothing at all to do with spending my evening having my hair dyed to camouflage my prematurely graying hair… Wait… I mean… Books!

I was recently contacted by John Oliva and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing his book Washing Cars and Wasting TimeI don’t often accept review requests from authors who contact me directly, but the premise of this book piqued my interest. Washing Cars and Wasting Time is the recounting of Oliva’s time working for his family’s business, a self serve car was on the south side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

washingcars

I was pleasantly surprised by this memoir! It’s a slim volume, but chock full of slice-of-life tidbits that make a car wash an oddly compelling place to work. Oliva’s eccentric father’s antics had me giggling, and the family’s elaborate system for counting and transporting quarters? Oh man. I’ll never look at a coffee can, a cookie sheet, or a closet the same way again… In fact, I’m a little disappointed that all the coffee cans, cookie sheets, and closets in my house are used purely for their mundane intended purposes.

At times this book reads a bit like a blog, though I say that in the most admiring way possible. (Well done blogs are a whole lot of awesome, dagnabit!) Oliva’s stories were entertaining, but it was his side commentary that really appealed to me. What can I say? I’ve BEEN to a Midwestern car wash in the winter… People are bizarre, and nobody wants road salt stains on their sweet rides, even when their “sweet rides” are held together with duct tape and chewing gum.

You know what the very best part about reviewing this book is for me, though? Getting to share it with you! John Oliva sent me a spare, autographed copy of his book to hand out to a lucky winner. Now get in there, and win yourself a fun, free book, y’all! This giveaway is limited to the US only. (International shipping is a beast, sorry guys!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I received a copy of this book for review and giveaway from the author in exchange for an honest review. If you choose to purchase a copy of this book through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I almost never wash my car, even when it’s covered with road salt and grime. I also need a refill of washer fluid.*

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