This Week in Books: All the Feels

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Not feeling well this weekend, I got a LOT of reading done. Silver linings and all that jazz.

THEN

It’s incredibly unusual these days for me to read a book in less than 48 hours. I just happened to read two such page-turners back to back this week. Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin is delightful! With a clever premise of (most) humans knowing the day they’re going to die, we see how 17-year-old Denton Little chooses to spend his last few days. Surprisingly hilarious, I couldn’t get enough of Denton and his friends, and I can’t wait to read the sequel (yes, you read that right).

During my afternoon with Jay Asher, I knew that I’d like his newest book, What Light, but I had no idea that ALL. THE. FEELS would keep me reading it all night long. Besides being a really sweet romance and a great reminder that people are capable of change and deserve second chances, the premise of being a Christmas tree farmer and having two lives because of it (one on the farm 11 months out of the year and one in another state selling tress on a lot from Thanksgiving to Christmas) was fascinating.

NOW

A dystopian novel about a reality survival show, The Last One by Alexandra Olivia was difficult to get into at first with chapters alternating between the first-person perspective of the main character, Zoo, and an omniscient third-person narrator’s point-of-view (so that we learn about the other contestants of the reality show). Being a fan of Survivor, and reality TV in general, I’m kind of loving the premise. If the twist is what I think it is, the story is much darker than it first appears. I’m about halfway through and am looking forward to seeing where the story takes me.

NEXT

My friend Amy Carol Reeves, author of the awesome YA Ripper trilogy, invited me to Joy Callaway’s book signing on Tuesday where I picked up her hot-off-the-press historical novel, Secret Sisters, about the very first sororities. I can’t wait to dig into this rich history and learn these sisters’ secrets.

What does your week in books look like?

 

Linking up with #TWIB and Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop (Prompt 4: Book Review!)

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Mama’s Losin’ It

 

 

 

 

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#MotivationMonday 07.10.2017

You may have noticed that I’m not writing publicly as much these days. That’s because I’m doing a lot of work internally (and writing for myself). It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been so worthwhile in helping me figure out “What’s next?” (And what’s next is pretty darn exciting!) I haven’t done it alone – I’ve had a lot of help in the form of inspiring podcasts, books, processes, and friends – and I’m excited to spend each Monday here sharing with you a bit of my journey.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao Tzu

I walked past this beautiful scene during a rare evening walk this summer.

Happy Monday!

 

An Afternoon with Jay Asher

People who know me on a surface level are always surprised to hear me say that I’m an introvert. But I am (I’ve just become adept at hiding it. Thanks, theatre!), and because of that, I’m not a fan of going to events without knowing that a friend will also be there. I have no problem eating lunch or even going to a movie or a show by myself, but I somehow always manage to talk myself out of going to hear people I really want to see – authors, politicians, etc. – because of this hangup I have. Usually my FOMO (fear of missing out) kicks in when I see others’ photos, and I ultimately regret not making myself go. That’s why I refused to talk myself out of going to see Jay Asher at our local library last month, and I am SO glad!Jay Asher gives a talk at our local library.

When 13 Reasons Why first came out, I was pretty deep in the vampire genre, so it took a few years and a lot of hype before I read it. Once I did, I was just as moved as everyone else. I immediately wished the book had been out while I was teaching high school DOP, though I know I would have had to fight tooth and nail to have taught the book. I thought of a friend who had blamed me for her suicidal thoughts when we were growing up. I thought of countless students who struggled with bullying on a daily basis. The book, and its lesson, that words matter, stayed with me for years. After reading The Future of Us a few years later, I became a self-proclaimed Jay Asher fan.

13 Reasons Why and What Light signed by Jay Asher

Surprisingly funny and incredibly humble, Jay Asher stood before a room full of people of all ages and shared the story of his journey to becoming a published author. He never set out to write serious, issue-laden books; he spent the better part of a decade trying to publish humorous children’s books. He explained that 13 Reasons Why resulted from the marriage of two experiences that happened years apart. The idea for the narrative came first when Asher took his first self-guided audio tour. It struck him that alternating between audio narration and the thoughts of the listener would be an interesting – and unique – way of telling a story. He explained that he didn’t want to use this narrative style as a gimmick and thus sat on the idea until the right story presented itself, which it did several years later when a relative of his attempted suicide. After the inspiration struck to marry these ideas and write, as he had titled the book, Baker’s Dozen (and he had the blessing of his aforementioned relative), he realized that he didn’t know what it was like to be a teenage girl. He invited his wife and a few other women over to talk about their experiences, and he was struck by the similarities of the hardships they endured and how they stuck with the women through all these years.

It took Asher three years to write the book. And it was rejected 12 times.

A young girl in the audience asked how Asher felt about the controversy surrounding his novel, and now the Netflix series. He pointed out that the only way to avoid controversy is to not write the book. He said that based on the number of emails he’s received – from teens who credit the book with saving their lives because it was the first time they realized they weren’t alone; from teens who said the book made them reach out to someone who was struggling; from teens who said they saw themselves in the antagonists and vowed to change – the positive impact trumps the controversy. Even Asher’s relative, the one who inspired him to write the book in the first place, said that she wished his book had been around when she was struggling with suicidal thoughts, but if she had to go through her experience for Asher to write the story and help so many, it was worth it.

It was this kind of feedback at an appearance that inspired part of Asher’s latest novel What Light. The male teen was moved to change after reading 13 Reasons Why, but everyone treated him like he was still his former self.

As an incredibly amateur writer myself, it was fascinating to hear how Asher’s ideas for his stories developed over time and from multiple sources of inspiration. It was also interesting to hear that he doesn’t write in a bubble: He sent a draft of 13 Reasons Why to five different people for very different types of feedback; and when he was stuck on a character’s backstory for What Light, he talked it out with a writer friend during a walk. Much in the fashion of his stories, Jay Asher provided solid advice within the narrative of his publishing journey with refreshing honesty and humor.

After the talk (that I would have gladly listened to for at least another hour), it was book signing time. When the long line dwindled and it was my turn to speak with Jay Asher and get my two books signed, I didn’t tell him about the impact 13 Reasons Why had on me. It seemed trite compared to the girl who a few minutes prior had sobbed that his book saved her life. I instead told him how much I loved The Future of Us – that being a junior in high school in 1996, when the story took place, made the book delightfully nostalgic for me to read. He said that he was in college in 1996 and remembered that his first internet search was Def Leppard. It makes me wonder what mine was…

selfie with Jay Asher

Getting to hear Jay Asher in person was a definite highlight for me. I look forward to the stories he has to offer in the future.

Reading Roundup: What I Read in May

I somehow plowed through four books this month. Four books I read in May 2017While a few sleepless nights didn’t hurt the cause,  May was full of page-turning winners! My top two reads are as follows:

The Dollhouse

By far the best book I’ve read thus far this year is The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis, the one title that was not on my TBR list. I was in a browsing mood and clicked the “Try Something Different” link on my local digital library site. The Dollhouse showed up, and I was immediately intrigued by the synopsis:

Fiona Davis’s stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where in the 1950s a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side by side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.

When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed. (Goodreads)

The Barbizon is not only the setting of the story, but also a character in the book. The hotel plays a central role, evolving over time as much as Darby and Rose do. Like its effect on Rose, the Barbizon would not leave me alone; and days after tearing through the book, I found myself pouring over articles about the historical building and its famous residents.

Barbizon Hotel

photo by Dmadeo

A mixture of fascinating history, rich characters, and suspenseful mystery, this is a five-star story. I can’t wait until August, when Davis’s next book is released!

The Princess Diarist

I wonder how different the experience of The Princess Diarist would have been had I read it prior to Carrie Fisher’s death, especially considering the several references she makes to her own “future” obituary. Though her stream of consciousness sometimes bordered on rambling, I found myself wanting more. More sordid behind-the-scenes tales from the filming of Star Wars. More heartfelt (and surprisingly beautiful) poetry about her feelings for Harrison Ford. More Carrie Fisher period. It’s hard to come away from this book and not want to be Carrie’s friend.

What did you read in May? Let me know in the comments – I’m always looking for the next great book!

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This Week in Books: My first five-star read of 2017

I never intended for this blog to be solely about books, but reading is pretty much all I’ve been doing outside of work and mommying. Cold, wet weather and time changes will do that.

Then: Have you ever read a book that you liked soooo much you simultaneously wanted to see how it ends but you never want it to end? Yeah, that’s how I felt reading Jennifer L. Armentrout’s The Problem with Forever. I finished the book late one night; as soon as I woke up the next morning, I reread the ending – not because I didn’t remember it, but because it was Just. That. Good. I thought about the main characters, Mallory and Rider, throughout the day and was reluctant to start a new book that night because I wasn’t done relishing Armentrout’s perfectly angsty love story.

Now: When I went to update my rating for The Problem with Forever on Goodreads, I discovered that Armentrout released another Lux novel, this time from Daemon’s point-of-view. Needless to say, I downloaded Oblivion (Lux 1.5) five seconds later and am enjoying my return to the world of Luxen and Arum.

Next? I’m in the middle of two other books (The Chemist and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years) that I’ve been ignoring during this latest YA bender, so perhaps I’ll pick one of them back up. Or maybe I’ll just stay off the wagon.

What does your Week in Books look like?

 

Mama’s Losin’ ItWriting Prompt: 2. Book Review!

This post is also linked to #TWIB.

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On the eve of your third birthday

To my Beloved Bear…

On the eve of your third birthday, I’m overcome with emotions:

Wonder for the amazing little person you have become.

Gratitude for the privilege of being your mom.

A tinge of sadness that your independence means you need me less.

Guilt for all the meetings that shortened our playtime together, for all the hours I put on the TV because I needed some downtime. 

Fear that I haven’t been enough.

Grief that my baby is virtually gone, as are the days of rocking you to sleep.

Pride for the big boy you’re becoming.


Hope that you’ll always be as kind and big-hearted as you are today.

Love for who you’ve been, who you are, and whoever you may be.

This Week in Books: Trouble Maker

My friend stumbled upon my blog for the first time the other day and said she really liked my Year in Books review and she found a good read from my post that she’s currently enjoying. It reminded me that as challenging as it sometimes is for me to write about books (English major PTSD?), I find the majority of books I really like from friends’ recommendations. Thus, I’m going to try to do a better job of highlighting what I’m reading on my blog this year.

Now: I’m finishing up Leah Remini’s Trouble Maker. It’s rare that I can’t put down a nonfiction book, but the actress’s tell-all about her experience in the Church of Scientology has been a page-turner. It should be noted that I’m fascinated by stories about people who live for decades as part of an extreme religious group and then leave the community. Remini’s tale is even more riveting than those I’ve read about the Amish or the Hasidism, perhaps because her story includes many A-list celebrities who are associated with the faith. Also, her BFF is J-Lo (not a Scientologist) , and who doesn’t want to read what J-Lo is really like? If you’ve ever wondered what the deal is with those people on Hollywood Boulevard who ask if you want to take a personality test, I highly recommend this book.

Trouble Maker On Duty with the Queen

Then: I FINALLY finished Dickie Arbiter’s On Duty with the Queen. After obsessively watching The Crown, my friend and I NEEDED. MORE. We saw a suggested reading list for fans of the show and decided to have a little book club about the Queen. This first title that we picked was meh. Reading about Princess Diana from the perspective of someone who knew her intimately was a delight. The behind-the-scenes look into the days spent planning her untimely funeral was heart-wrenching, but admittedly fascinating. Unfortunately, there was too much time spent on the author’s personal history, which I didn’t find as interesting as his profession and thus made the book drag for me.

Next? There’s a part of me that wants to continue down the rabbit hole of Scientology exposés. Going Clear or Beyond Belief are two intriguing possibilities. But I also have Veronica Roth’s new Carve the Mark burning a hole on my shelf.

What does your Week in Books look like?

 

Mama’s Losin’ ItWriting Prompt: 3. Book Review!

This post is also linked to #TWIB.

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