Book Review: Moving Forward by Karine Jean-Pierre

As my first review on Net Galley, I am feeling a great deal of pressure to get this right, but Karine Jean-Pierre has made my job much less difficult with her lovely memoir. Moving Forward focuses on her childhood in Queens and the daily work that is required of the eldest child of an immigrant couple, her own journey to naturalized citizenship, and her subsequent lively political and media career.

Sharing the same birth year I felt at one with Jean-Pierre as she traced her youth and early adulthood in the 1980s and 90s. She has a wonderful way with words and although our experiences are vastly different I was quite drawn in by the narrative. Her writing style helped me feel closer to her and the people in her universe. This is exactly what a good memoir should do.

Jean-Pierre’s retelling of aspects of her time in government, on various political campaigns and, ultimately, in the White House on the staff of President Obama, offers a clear and concise window into both the inner-workings of a campaign and the funny, sad, heart-wrenching, and joyous things that can happen along the way. It is by no means a comprehensive look at any one campaign, but the details she provided gave me just enough information to hold my continued interest.

I also greatly appreciated the additional information she provided on media awareness and specific news sources, pundits, and reporters that she feels are worthy of a readers time. Jean-Pierre has written this book to be used as somewhat of a manual for future politicos, explaining how she navigated that space through a successful career, but it is still quite a wonderful read for those of us that want to be involved at a more local level or just participate through our votes.

If you are looking for an interesting political memoir, Moving Forward is most definitely the book for you.

Huntsville Coffee Tour: Honest Coffee Roasters

Welcome back to the Huntsville Coffee Tour! The first location that we visited for the Huntsville Coffee tour was Honest Coffee Roasters. They provide excellent coffee and a pleasant atmosphere to hang out for a little while. When I was working part-time last year I spent a lot of my afternoons on my personal computer at Honest and they were always very welcoming. Being a busy location, though, has its downside. Sometimes it is impossible to get a seat inside. Luckily there are many locations for excellent coffee in the Huntsville area and in this series we are rating them all. For a refresher on the rating system, please see this previous post, Huntsville Coffee Tour. And now, here are the results for Honest Coffee Roasters:

  • Beverages = 8
  • Atmosphere = 10
  • Location/Hours = 10
  • Price = 15
  • Staff/Service = 20
  • Social Media = 20
  • Total = 83 out of a possible 165
  • Rating = 50.3%

Being the first location to get a rating, this doesn’t seem awful. We don’t believe that any of the coffeehouses in Huntsville will get 100%, but it remains to be seen if 50.3% is a good score. Once we have more scores in we will see!

And now for a detour into my thoughts on coffeehouse culture, in general, in 2019…

One of the things that I really miss about coffeehouses in Buffalo (in the 90s) was the social interaction that occurred within those walls. Political and cultural discussions were plentiful. Drinking copious amounts of caffeine and smoking real cigarettes indoors while playing mancala and discussing the news of the day was standard. Nothing compares to that time in history and I realize that. This is why I’m not comparing the coffeehouses of Huntsville to other cities or other times in coffeehouse culture history.

The 90s in most cities was a very different scene than we see today. Technology has changed the way we interact in public spaces. The proliferation of WiFi and the welcoming of individual tech by coffeehouses has given each patron the ability to exist in public space without interacting with other humans. This severely shifts the culture of what coffeehouses were meant to be. For the current generation, this is a welcome outcome, but for a GenXer, it can be super rough to integrate into this new way of being in public. Although – I am typing this in a coffeehouse right now, with my headphones on, so it seems that I have made the transition pretty well. I still yearn for the days of interacting with the baristas and arguing with professors stopping in for their cups of java between classes. I miss the times sitting on couches and just chatting with someone I never would have talked to otherwise. That time is gone, but we can look back with fondness.

Peace and happy caffeinating!

Chantale aka hippiegrrl

If you are interested in reading more about the Buffalo, NY coffee scene in the 90s, check out my articles on

Buffalo, Then (Part One)
Buffalo, Then (Part Two)

July Reading Update


Happy July!

Book club

This month I skipped my book club meeting because I had 3 books in progress and zero new books (since the last meeting) completed. The great thing about the book club I am a member of, besides the fact that we meet at a brewery, is that we don’t all read the same book. I know that many people like that style of club, but it is not for me. I like the social aspect of the club more than the reading discussion, so The Book Report is more my speed. Since I skipped the July meeting, and I am currently on track to complete 3 books, August should give me a lot to discuss.

Book challenges

This week (22-28 July) is The Reading Rush! Formerly booktubeathon, this book challenge week has been going on each July for several years. The old challenge was simpy to read 7 books in 7days (RIGHT!), but this year they have added some individual book and social media challenges. Each member can earn badges for books read and challenges completed. I have chosen 5 books to use for the week, but I’ll be happy if I can just complete 3 of the 5. That would be huge for me considering I am struggling with the 2 per month challenge I set for myself at the beginning of 2019.

TBR list for the reading rush week:

1984 by George Orwell (aka Eric Blair)
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston
This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins
Cinder by Mariss Meyer

Books completed since my last update with ratings and Read Harder Challenge results:

12. The Universe Has Your BackTransform Fear to Faith by Gabrielle Bernstein
Rating = ***
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge = n/a

13. Paper Girls, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
Rating = ****
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge = n/a

14. The Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps
Rating = ****
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: n/a

I am slightly disappointed in myself at this point in the year since I have only met 2 of the Read Harder Challenges, but I have also been really enjoying what I’m reading, so there is something to be said for that! And in case you are not familiar with the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, here is my initial post (this year) on it, which includes the list and here is the official post on the Book Riot site!

What I am feeling really GOOD about is the fact that I have completed 14 books and we are in the 7th month. And, in fact, I believe that I will be AHEAD by the end of July. If the reading rush pushes me a month ahead, numbers-wise, it will have been worth it. 

I hope that your month of reading is going as wonderfully as mine is! Reading is power!

Peace and happy learning,

Chantale (aka hippiegrrl)

Currently Reading…

Living a Feminist Life
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
The Artist's Way

Chantale Onesi-Gonzalez’s favorite books »

Huntsville Coffee Tour

It has been 10 months since we moved to Huntsville and I have yet to tell you about the coffee culture down here. If you know me in real life, or simply from this site, you know how much I love the java, so it didn’t take me long to visit all the spots around town, once I got my bearings.

The winter was quite rainy and so there were many occasions to sit inside, with a latte (or chai or black coffee) and read a book. My ratings, therefore incorporate several variables. Being a social scientist at heart, you know I had to have a few scales and some stats to back up my scoring.

On that note, here is the key I will be using to score each location:

  • Beverages:
    • Not good = 0 points
    • Semi-good = 2 points
    • Good = 5 points
    • Excellent = 8 points
    • Superiour = 10 points
  • Ambiance:
    • Cozy seating = 5 points
    • Stellar sound system = 5 points
    • General vibe is favourable = 10 points
  • Location/Hours:
    • Easily accessible by car/mass transit = 5 points
    • Extended hours (nights/weekends) = 5 points
    • Open on Sundays = 5 points
  • Price:
    • Variable price structure = 5 points
    • Espresso drinks are under $5 = 5 points
    • Offer a low priced, drip coffee option = 5 points
    • Donates a portion of proceeds to a cause = 10 points
  • Staff/Service:
    • Staff is friendly and upbeat = 5 points
    • Staff is knowledgeable = 5 points
    • Staff is not condescending = 5 points
    • Service is quick, relative to the beverage being created = 5 points
    • Table service = 5 points
    • Recycling available = 5 points
    • Reusable containers = 5 points
  • Social Media:
    • Strong social media presence = 25 points
      • Updates Instagram/Twitter/Facebook frequently with interesting content
    • Mediocre social media presence = 10 points
      • Updates at least one social media site weekly
    • Has a website = 5 points
    • Website link does not go to Facebook = 5 points

And now for the locations…

  • Alchemy Coffee
  • Flint River Coffee
  • Gold Sprint Coffee
  • Honest Coffee Roasters
  • Offbeat Coffee Studio
  • Old Town Coffee
  • Sugar Belle

In the coming months, I will be revisiting each of the coffeehouses for scoring and post a review after each visit. This is a summer endeavour, so I am hoping that these coffeehouses really deliver during these next few months! I have a front runner in mind, but at this point it could really be any cafe that takes away the top ranking. There won’t be actual prizes, but bragging rights are a win. So, get ready for some great coffee and come back often to see which coffeehouses I have visited and my take on each location. If nothing else, I will be heavily caffeinated and get A LOT of writing done, right?!

Peace, love, and caffeination,


June Reading Update

Happy June! I have been doing really well on my reading this year. In fact, I have surpassed my 2018 TOTAL already and it is only June! My goal for 2019 was 24 books read and I am keeping pace – currently at 11 read – at just 1 book behind. The book I am reading now is almost done which will get me to 12 books completed by the end of June.

In the meantime – I wanted to update my list of read books to see if it is aligning at all with the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. I love doing this challenge each year, even though I rarely complete it. It is fun to read books in genres that I never would have considered otherwise and it has actually brought me back into the Adult Fiction fold. Prior to doing this challenge the only fiction I enjoyed reading was in the Young Adult category, but I’m opening back up to the New Adult and Adult Fiction categories as well.

So – without further ado – here are the updates for mid-2019…

Books I have completed so far, with ratings and challenge #:

  1. The Four Tendenices: The Indispensible Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better by Gretchen Rubin
    • Rating = ****
    • Challenge = n/a
  2. Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
    • Rating = ****
    • Challenge = n/a
  3. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
    • Rating = ****
    • Challenge = n/a
  4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    • Rating = *****
    • Challenge = 3. A book by a woman and/or AOC that won a literary award in 2018
  5. Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
    • Rating = ****
    • Challenge = n/a
  6. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing
    • Rating = ****
    • Challenge = n/a
  7. Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus
    • Rating = ****
    • Challenge = n/a
  8. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
    • Rating = ****
    • Challenge = 13. A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse
  9. Era of Ignition: Coming of Age in a Time of Rage and Revolution by Amber Tamblyn
    • Rating = ****
    • Challenge = n/a
  10. The Latte Factor: Why You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Live Rich by David Bach
    • Rating = ***
    • Challenge = n/a
  11. Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matthew Wilson
    • Rating = ****
    • Challenge = n/a

And in case you are not familiar with the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, here is my initial post (this year) on it, which includes the list and here is the official post on the Book Riot site!

All the coffee

The coffeehouse industry in Buffalo is thriving and I am thoroughly missing it. Since we moved to Huntsville (in early August 2018) 3 new coffeehouses have opened in Buffalo. The Intersection (formerly Cafe Taza), Overwinter, and Roots Coffee and Tea all appear to be super cool spots to hang out on a cold evening and enjoy a cup of coffee with friends.

There are also the old standbys – Public Espresso, Sweetness 7, Caffe Aroma, Undergrounds, and Em Tea Coffee Cup. Each location with its own style and sense of what coffee should be. Public focuses on the hipster market, while Sweetness keeps the atmosphere very hippie. Undergrounds offers an extensive menu of sandwiches along with great coffee and Em Tea Coffee Cup is the perfect place to get a quick lunch any day of the week.

Aroma is the oldest of those listed (and holds a special place in my heart having been a regular customer there since the 90s) and has the most consistent shot of REAL Italian espresso in the city of Buffalo. The fact that you can have a glass of wine or a shot of Bailey’s in your Irish Creme Latte is reason enough to brave the evening crowds at Aroma after taking in a concert at Kleinhans or Rockwell Hall. Top that with a bit of homemade Tiramisu and your evening is complete!

Remedy House and Tipico are both wonderful spots if you are looking for an excellent pour over in the city. Both are located on the West side and offer coziness along with comfortable spots to work in relative seclusion. Tipico boasts some of the best toasts in town, my personal favourite being the walnut, honey, and chevre on the daily bread. Remedy House offers pastries on a rotating basis from local bakeries, most especially the Five Points Bakery located across the way from their corner location.

The spot that really makes me miss Buffalo, though, is Grindhaus. The owner is ever welcoming and provides the Allentown community with a wealth of vegetarian lunch options, along with excellent pour over and the best lemonades in town. If I could have a VLT and a blueberry lemonade for lunch every day, I would be in heaven. There is absolutely nothing like it in Huntsville and, honestly, nothing else like it in Buffalo. The open and inclusive atmosphere caters to groups as well and makes for a wonderful environment for meeting and planning the revolution!

When I return, to visit, Grindhaus will most definitely be one of my stops and I will probably be there a few times during my stay. There is just something so nostalgic and relaxing about this little spot on Allen street. Seriously – if you live in or near Buffalo, and you have not been to Grindhaus, make the trip. You will NOT be disappointed!

These are my favourites, what are yours? Please let me know in the comments.

Peace and happy caffeinating!


Read Harder Challenge 2019

So we are back where we started again, with this blog! I created this space to keep track of coffee and books and so far I have been pretty good at updating the books side of the blog (not so much with the coffee, but I’ll do that soon, I promise).

Now that 2019 is here, we have a new Book Riot Read Harder Challenge to contend with. I didn’t do great on the 2018 version of this, but I’m hoping to do better this year. My goal for books, in general, is to read 24 titles in 2019. The genres are varied and we will see if I can fit my reading habits into the book challenge list. So, without further ado, here is the 2019 Read Harder Challenge list!

  1. An epistolary novel or collection of letters
  2. An alternate history novel
  3. A book by a woman and/or AOC (Author of Color) that won a literary award in 2018
  4. A humor book
  5. A book by a journalist or about journalism
  6. A book by an AOC set in or about space
  7. An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America
  8. An #ownvoices book set in Oceania
  9. A book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads
  10. A translated book written by and/or translated by a woman
  11. A book of manga
  12. A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character
  13. A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse
  14. A cozy mystery
  15. A book of mythology or folklore
  16. An historical romance by an AOC
  17. A business book
  18. A novel by a trans or nonbinary author
  19. A book of nonviolent true crime
  20. A book written in prison
  21. A comic by an LGBTQIA creator
  22. A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009
  23. A self-published book
  24. A collection of poetry published since 2014

I will keep you updated on my ability to work through this list, but also any books I read outside of these categories (I’m already done with 2 books for 2019 and neither fit in these categories, so yeah, good start!)

Peace and happy reading,Chantale

from the archives: Birthday Month

Yes – It is November and tomorrow is my 44th birthday. I am both excited and tired. Moving to Alabama and getting settled in has been difficult. Last week was the midterm election and although it was good overall (we took back the House – woot!) in Alabama the election results were super disheartening. Voters here decided that it would be appropriate to display the 10 commandments on government property (see ya’ later seperation of church and state) and that a cluster of cells has more worth/value/rights than a fully formed human woman who is in danger of dying during childbirth (so long choice). The governer was re-elected by a wide margin and there were several, unopposed Republicans elected to the circuit courts. Super sad. So – at this point, until I can get involved in the next round of election races (for 2020) I will retreat into reading and writing. As I have had more time, since I’ve been working part time, I have had the opportunity to finish 2 more books! And here is my update…

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem *****

Simon vs. the Homo Sapeins Agenda by Becky Albertalli ****

That brings my 2018 total to 10 and brings me to an equal number of months to books read. All signs point to me completing my number goal of 12 for 2018 and maybe exceeding it with even more books from the book riot list!

And while we are at it – let’s look at my stats for that challenge as well…

Book Riot Read
Harder Challenge

CategoryBook to readCompleted Date
A book published posthumouslyAriel by Sylvia Plath
A book of true crimeWriting to Save a Life by John Edgar Wideman
A classic of genre fictionFledgling by Octavia Butler
A comic written and drawn by the same personPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi
A book set in or about one of the five BRIC countriesLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
A book about natureSilent Spring by Rachel Carson
A westernMy Antonia by Willa Cather
A comic written or drawn by a person of colorAmerica vol. 1 by Gabby Rivera
A book of colonial or post colonial literatureThings Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
A romance novel by or about a person of colorGetting Even by Kayla Perrin
A children’s classic published before 1980A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle
A celebrity memoirWe’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabriel Union3.11.18
An Oprah Book Club selectionSong of Solomon by Toni Morrison
A book of social scienceThe Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols2.16.18
A one-sitting bookBrown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson
The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade seriesCinder by Marissa Meyer
A sci-fi novel with a female protagonist by a female authorThe Awesome by Eva Darrows7.7.2018
A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or ImageMarch by John Lewis and Andrew AydinIllustrated by Nate Powell
A book of genre fiction in translation

A book with a cover you hate

A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author

An essay anthologySlouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60

An assigned book you hated (or never finished)The Interpretation of Cultures by Clifford Gertz

Not great, but I’m trying. We’ll see if I can get a few more checked off this list as I complete my reading in these last 2 months of 2018.

Happy Autumn and enjoy your reading!


from the archives: August is Almost Over

Many things have happened over the past month. We picked up our whole lives and moved from Buffalo, NY to Huntsville, AL. Yes, Alabama. In the heat of August, during the most oppressive season when even northerners hate to be outside for long periods of time, we decided to move  to the deep south. Well, it isn’t exactly the deep south, but it is definitely the south. In the whirlwind of having to move our lives in 3 weeks (School starts earlier in Alabama) I haven’t had a chance to pick up a book. Partially because I am busy and partially because I am thrown by the whole move, but mainly because I am tired.

Even so, I still wanted to post an update of my TBR.

So – here it is…

Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay ****

The Awesome by Eva Darrows ****

Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper ****

With those 3 books added, I am 2 books beyond the half way point for my 12 book challenge this year. That isn’t horrible considering I’m only 1 month behind. Now that I am working part time (that is a story for another blog) I will have more time to read as we settle in to our new apartment in Huntsville. I’m hoping that I can actually blow that 12 book challenge away and maybe work on more of the book riot challenge books as well. We shall see.

Now let me know how you are doing on your 2018 book challenge lists – comment below!