Author Q&A: Stephanie Dray

My Dear Hamilton was no joke. This beautiful and insightful novel about one of the most influential men in American history — from his wife’s perspective — ranks in the top three of books I’ve read this year, mainly because of the emotions it dug out of me.

“I actually think my body and mind morphed into Eliza Hamilton’s,” I wrote in my review.

Such an impactful book had me dying to know the authors who brought this creation to life. Thankfully Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie provided us with details about their writing process in the back of their book, including all of the research that went into writing this masterpiece. Plus, their love for Fraunces Tavern instilled an instant connection. (Stephanie and Laura, let’s get a drink sometime!)

I was lucky enough to learn more about these inspiring women after exchanging a few emails with Dray. Check out our conversation below.

Stephanie Dray

Courtesy of Stephanie Dray.

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You’ve Got Me Feeling Emotions

  • What: My Dear Hamilton
  • Who: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
  • Pages: 621, soft cover (637 if you count the must-read “Note from the Authors” section)
  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Remember my post about July 4th reads? It’s time to add one more.

What can I say about this book besides it was a roller coaster of emotions? Oy vey. I actually think my body and mind morphed into Eliza Hamilton’s. At one moment, I was praising Alexander Hamilton as the greatest American who ever lived — oh how we should bow down.

The next, he was the scum of the earth.

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Then, he was OK. A typical man. Nobody’s perfect after all.

Then came the existential depression.

And just as Monroe was ushering in the Era of Good Feelings to our country, I was starting to balance out again too.

The capricious emotions this book evoked are nothing new; in fact, they symbolize America’s complicated relationship with Hamilton. We want to love him, but his many faults don’t always make it easy. I’m sure the Mrs. would testify to that.

My Dear Hamilton

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Shop ‘Til You Drop: Montreal

I’ve been bitten by the travel bug. When I look back on 2018, traveling will best depict this year, and I have absolutely no complaints about that. Since January, I’ve had first-time visits to ItalyPortland, Maine; Sea Bright, N.J.; Boston; Baltimore; and, most recently, Montreal. Gah … #blessed.

Now in Boston, I was much too busy reveling in our win for independence (see: Beth living out a fantasy) to think about bookstores.

I know I know.

Blasphemy.

But I picked up my own slack in Montreal by visiting three lovely bookstores that had their own flair and charm and, of course, books on books on books.

Readers, it’s time to shop ’til you drop: Montreal style.

Old Port

Many oooh and aaahs to be had at Montreal’s Old Port.

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Storied: (Un)Fortunate Son

  • What: The Forever War
  • Who: Joe Haldeman
  • Pages: 365, soft cover
  • Genres: Science fiction; classic literature
  • Published: 1974
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

I’ve always said sci-fi wasn’t really my “thing.” I don’t gravitate toward it at the library. I don’t look for the best sci-fi lists. I just click with other genres better. Enter the picture: Kyle, my partner of three years (whaaat?) and a huge sci-fi nerd. When we started dating, he was reading a gargantuan from Stephen King about a virus that wipes out the world.

Yeah. Not quite my thing.

But it is Kyle’s. Apocalyptic warfare? Intense technological enhancements? Human-erasing bugs? That’s him. I’ve read exactly one sci-fi novel in our time together (Station Eleven1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px). So it was only natural that when I closed the cover on Eleanor Oliphant a few weeks ago while sitting next to BF that he suggested I read one of his favorite sci-fi novels: The Forever War. I relented, but he reminded me how I always say I’m going to read one of his books and don’t (truth) and convinced me that the story’s undertones of the Vietnam War, in which the author served, would captivate me.

Ugh he knows me so well.

Fine. For BF, I will read sci-fi. The things you do for love.

The Forever War

Amid Kyle’s massive sci-fi collection.

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Beautifully Broken

Loneliness comes in many forms. It can be bestowed upon us by our peers, it can be a solace we seek, and it can also be all we’ve ever known. I’m a 26-year-old woman with a solid group of friends across the country, who’s in a happy three-year relationship, and who considers her family dear confidantes. Do I ever get lonely? Of course I do.

Nobody can evade loneliness, but author Gail Honeyman wrote to its all-consuming effects in her debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. She told British bookstore Foyles that the idea for her debut novel came to her after reading an article about loneliness.

“When I thought more about it, I realised that there were plenty of potential routes to a young person finding themselves in those circumstances, through no fault of their own, and how hard it can be, at any age, to forge meaningful connections.”

Honeyman’s approach isn’t all somber and sympathy though. Just as the title suggests, the main character is just fine; it’s not her that is different. It’s everyone else and the social norms that confine them that are mind-boggling. (Read Eleanor’s opinion of wedding registries, and you won’t disagree.) What Honeyman gives us is a beautiful novel that’s equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, something that evokes laughter while you simultaneously reach for a box of tissues.

Eleanor Oliphant

Thanks for the inspo, Idea Coffee NYC.

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Toe to Toe: Crazy Rich Asians

A friend of a friend (this is already so on par with the subject) told me that if you hadn’t read Crazy Rich Asians, don’t wait to do so before seeing the movie. The whole “it’s not like the book thing!” will sway your opinion of the movie. Well, I have one thing to say about that.

Lies.

If you haven’t read my review of Kevin Kwan’s bestseller, 1.) what are you waiting for? and 2.) you should know I love this book. It was easily five flames. Naturally, that gave me mixed feelings about seeing the movie. Books are always better than the movies they inspire (The Notebook being the only exception); even though I know this, I never want to leave a theater being let down.

Lucky for me, Crazy Rich Asians met my expectations on the silver screen; so much so that I would also say the movie is completely lit. But was it better than the book? Let’s find out as I take CRA toe to toe: book versus movie.

CRA

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Back to that Material World

Reading about a life you don’t lead can be pure pleasure. That’s the main reason Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians series is so intoxicating. When you don’t own a private jet with a movie theater, botanical garden, koi pond, and a karaoke lounge, you get a certain thrill pretending you could do so in another life. When you live in a 400-sq.-ft. apartment without dozens of reflecting pools, you’d gladly be swept away to where and how the other half (OK maybe the 0.5%) lives.

This escape and the hilarity that accompanies it are why we fell for the the first in this trilogy. The sequel, China Rich Girlfriend, amps up the drama to match the extravagance of the characters’ lives, yet the spectacle is a bit far-fetched. Is it possible for so many ridiculous moments to occur in lives that are almost unbelievably luxurious? To be fair, I mostly enjoyed Kwan’s second novel, but I’m choosing to be a tough critic here, and in comparison to Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend felt too unrealistic to really light me up.

China Rich Girlfriend

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