Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Julie Buxbaum’s 3 Favorite Books

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Julie Buxbaum

Author: Julie Buxbaum (Check out her novels: The Opposite of Love, After You, & Tell Me Three Things. Read more about Julie in our interview HERE!)

Julie Buxbaum’s 3 Favorite Books

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I have few distinct memories from childhood, but I do remember sitting on my mother’s lap and her reading The Secret Garden to me. I found my copy again just before I left for college (only a couple years after my mom died) and I re-read it only to discover that it’s a story filled with healing and magic and a little orphaned girl who grows strong even in the face of grief.  I’ve now re-read the book maybe fifty times since then, in part as tribute and in part as therapy, and each time it leaves me soothed. I can’t wait to read it to my own daughter one day soon.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith White Teeth by Zadie Smith

I loved every page of this exuberant novel and it is one of those books that made me want to be a writer. Not because I ever thought I could write anything like Zadie Smith—no one can write like Zadie Smith—but it was so inspiring to me to see a young woman writing with such clarity and zeal and wisdom while still in college and getting recognition for it from the literary establishment.  I haven’t re-read the book in a while, but I still read everything Smith writes, and every single time she takes me by surprise and astounds me with her prose.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

This is one those slow, quiet books that has more in common with poetry than your typical novel. It is lyrical and beautiful and deserves to be carefully read. It’s a meditation on…well, everything and it is one of the most considered and thoughtful and thought provoking piece of fiction I’ve ever encountered.

This post contains affiliate links! To learn more about the authors featured, please visit our Sundays With Writers series!

Sundays With Writers: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

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I have some really fantastic writers lined up in the next few weeks to share about their new books and today’s guest is a special treat because I have loved her ever since her debut novel, The Opposite of Love. It’s been awhile since I have seen Julie on the shelves and I was so thrilled to see her again, writing a debut YA novel, Tell Me Three Things.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Let me tell you a little bit about, Tell Me Three ThingsThis is the story of a teenager named Jessie, the loss of her incredible mom, and the abrupt new marriage of her father that relocates them to Los Angeles. When her father meets a woman from his support group, he elopes and moves them into the wealthy woman’s home, switching Jessie into the wealthy prep school that her new stepbrother attends. Of course, Jessie doesn’t fit in at all.

When she starts receiving emails from SN (shortened from Somebody Nobody) offering her help and support in these uncharted waters, a relationship blooms and becomes a huge support for Jessie. The reader gets to read this beautiful, hilarious, and always sweet exchange. When Jessie wants to meet SN in person though, the reader is led on the journey with Jessie. Is SN her soulmate? Is SN even real? I guess you will have to read to find out! This is a great one to pack in your beach bag this summer.

Delightfully sweet and everything I love about Buxbaum’s writing! I featured this book in our April Must-Reads this year. 

julie-buxbaum

I have been a HUGE fan of your writing since you wrote your debut novel, The Opposite of Love. It’s been six years since you published your second novel, After You, and you have come out with your first YA novel- what a treat that was for a big fan like me! What have you been up to over these years? You have said that it took you 24 years to get the courage to come up with a YA book. Do you think you will stick around in this genre moving forward?

Sometimes I can’t quite believe it’s been six years since my last book, but it really has! In that time, I had two children, wrote an adult novel that now sadly lives in a drawer, dabbled in television writing, and wrote two young adult novels: Tell Me Three Things, which just came out, and a book called What to Say Next which should be out Spring 2017. Yes, I very much hope to continue in YA. It has reminded me of why I love to write. And thank you for being a fan. I’m absolutely honored!

Your main character, Jessie, begins receiving anonymous emails from a person nicknamed Somebody Nobody (SN) who helps her to navigate her new school, the cliques, and which classmates she should align with. I understand this email exchange was inspired by an anonymous correspondence of your own. Can you tell us more about that?

It’s rare that something so magical and weird and wonderful happens in real life that it feels like the stuff of fiction, so when it did, I had no choice but to steal that material for a book. Shortly after I graduated from law school, I received what was essentially a secret admirer-type email from a classmate, and the note came at the perfect time. I was working crazy hours, feeling sort of lost and depressed in my first grown up job, and just feeling down on myself, and this single email somehow managed to change everything. I never found out who he was, and I’m not sure that I ever want to. Just the idea of him, just the idea of someone noticing me—I had never before thought of myself as someone who got noticed—was enough to shift me out of my rut.

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(follow Julie’s updates on Facebook!)

How much fun was it to create the subject lines for those emails? I was crying laughing as they changed from Jessie to SN? Did you have a favorite subject line or back-and-forth in this email exchange?

In my first draft, I didn’t have funny subject lines for the emails, and there was just banter in the emails themselves. That came later in the editing process, and yeah, they were super fun to write. I’m one of those annoying people who laughs when writing their own jokes, and they totally cracked me up. I was sad when Jessie and SN moved to IMing, because I didn’t get to keep coming up with them.

One of the most painful things that Jessie must deal with is the death of her mother. Your mother passed away, when you were at the tender age of fourteen, and you were able to use your own personal experience to help craft your story. Why did you think it was important to share a piece of your story in this and would you have any advice to another child who has had to face the unbearable loss of a parent at a young age?

Losing my mom as a teenager was an incredibly isolating experience so I very much would have liked to see myself represented in fiction. But back then we didn’t have the vast Young Adult aisles we have now. I wrote Tell Me Three Things for sixteen-year-old me and if it reaches even one or two teenagers who went through what I went through and can recognize themselves and be comforted by seeing their own experiences reflected in Jessie’s, I’ll be happy. As for advice for someone who is grieving, I think it’s important to be told that though the loss of a parent will never be okay, you will be.  My main character counts in days since her mother died. She tells herself that if she survived one day without her mom, she can survive two. If she survives two, she can survive three. I clearly remember doing that to get through that difficult time. But now, I get to count in years, and in some ways it’s a celebration. I made it, and I’m okay. And though it’s hard to see it right now through that grief haze, you will be too.

Your journey to publishing is such an interesting one! Can you share a little bit about why you quit a promising career as a lawyer to be a writer? What would you say to someone else who feels stuck in a career and feels a passion for writing like you?

I was miserable as a lawyer! I felt bored and uninspired and every Sunday night I would cry because I didn’t want to go to work the next morning. I finally gathered the courage to quit as part of a New Year’s Resolution (actually the only New Year’s Resolution I’ve ever kept!) and decided to write that novel I had always talked about. I didn’t really intend to become a writer full-time—the original plan was to write the book and then transition into a different kind of law—but I got super lucky and very quickly had a career. I never recommend that someone quit and pursue novel writing in the way I did—it was a stupid thing to do that just happened to work out for me—but if you have a passion for writing, make it a priority and fit it in any way you can. It’s not easy, but I find that most writers can’t help but write. When I’m not writing, I’m cranky.

I know that, The Opposite of Love, had been optioned for film and I read that Anne Hathaway had been attached to the project as the lead. Is this movie still happening? Can you picture, Tell Me Three Things, being optioned for film?

Sadly, The Opposite of Love died in development, which happens to the vast majority of books optioned to film. I’d love for Tell Me Three Things to be optioned (and I haven’t given up hope that one day The Opposite of Love will get made somehow too!) I live in LA, so I have lots of meetings about both books, though so far we haven’t found the right home for either of them. But I can absolutely picture it as a film, and would love the opportunity to write the screenplay.

headspace

Do you have any tips for us on work/life balance? Any secrets that have helped you over the years to get in adequate writing time and be present with your kids? I know I am always looking for help in this!

I wish I had some magic secret, but I unfortunately don’t. I feel like the whole concept of balance is an illusion. I think it’s all about getting through each day doing the best you can. Do I end some days feeling guilty that I haven’t spent enough time with my kids? Absolutely. When I take the day off because my daughter has the flu, do I feel guilty for not working? Absolutely. The truth is I should probably stop wasting so much time feeling guilty and realize that I am doing my best on every front, and that sometimes I’m going to drop the ball. I’m human. All moms are, and maybe the first step to finding balance is to stop holding ourselves to ridiculously impossible standards. My kids will never have homemade Halloween costumes, my house is always a disaster, and we all eat more frozen food than we should. But in the grand scheme of things, none of that matters. What matters is the fact that my kids know they are loved and are well taken care of and I get to do a job I love. That should really be enough. I do meditate with the Headspace app, and I feel like that’s helped me feel present in my own life in wonderful ways, whether that’s time spent with my kids or at work. But balance? Never really going to happen. My life is just way too messy for balance.

The Incident On The Bridge by Laura McNeal

Who have been your biggest literary influences? Any YA authors, in particular, that you think we should be reading?

The answer changes daily to this question. There are a ton of writers whose work I deeply admire—Zadie Smith, Richard Powers, Marilynne Robinson just to name a few—but in terms of inspiring what I do each day, I’m mostly affected by whatever book I read last that made me wish I had been the one to craft it. I’m not so much inspired in the sense that I attempt to write like an author I love, but instead reading prose that makes me marvel has the wonderful side effect of making me go sit my ass back down in a chair and work harder on my own work. It makes me want to be better.

As for recommendations, I recently read The Incident on The Bridge by Laura McNeal, which is YA but is also very much suited for adult readers, and the book was lyrical and beautiful and heartbreaking and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’m now going back to read Dark Water for which she was a finalist for the National Book Award.

You can connect with Julie Buxbaum on her website and on Facebook! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Best of Summer

Friday, May 20th, 2016

little-things

Whoa, this was a rotten week. How’s that for beginning a happy list? I am trying to live in a truthful place on the web and my health is just awful these days. For those just joining my Debbie Downer train, I have a connective tissue disease and am in a health slump right now. I got to spend this week getting a foot x-ray after worrying that I had slipped a bone out of joint. Turns out I did and that I should have surgery to fix the side of my foot, but can’t get it repaired since I’m feeling so bad these days. Pain killers and taping are all I can do while this silly bone is floating in and out of place while I’m trying to sleep at night. Can you imagine waking up periodically like that- it’s awful.

The good news is that I have an appointment with a rheumatologist and I booked a massage for today to work on relieving the pains in my joint. I also ordered some of these (too tired to type that long name today!) because I read that many runners that struggle with knee issues take these and they help. Have you ever taken anything that has helped with your joints, particularly for arthritic issues? Have you heard of this stuff?  I’m so open to anything right now- ANYTHING. I hate feeling like I am 100.

stripes + denim jacket + nude heels + statement necklace

(anniversary outfit for tonight- shop this look!!)

Did I mention it’s our 16th anniversary today? I would say we are living in the, “in sickness,” and “for worse,” part of our wedding vows. He still loves me though and I’m thankful every day for that.

Since I’m in a mood, I thought I would share some of my favorite things for the summer. Here are 10 things I love that are worth sharing again this season!

Liner That Stays

 

 

Revlon Colorstay Eye Liner

Ever since I first started wearing make-up, I have always worn Cover Girl Eye Liner.  I have found though that in the summer, within hours it had faded or had moved under my eyes in other places.  I decided to try to find a new eyeliner to help remedy that and discovered Revlon ColorStay Eye Liner. It is the first eyeliner that I have tried that stays on until I go to bed. It goes on creamy, stays on all day, and is easy to remove with a little eye make-up remover.  I can’t recommend it enough. Perfectly lined eyes in the summer months are definitely making this girl happy!

Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs

Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs

I don’t want to brag, but when I was a kid the kids at school used to call me Casper. Well, who is laughing now, friends? This girl. Because I am TAN…on my legs… with make-up. So.

In all honesty, Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs is heaven-sent for a really white girl like me. It now comes in a liquid form instead of the aerosol. Squeeze a little on your hands and spread on your lightly moisturized (but dry) legs. Then just use your hands to spread the make-up on your legs and it all air dries in one minute. It is truly an airbrushed leg experience and, provided you blend well and pick the right shade for your own coloring, it gives a beautiful finish to your legs. It has a little shimmer to it too, but not overly noticeable.

The best part is that it is waterproof so if you are even at the beach, you will be fine. You need soap to get it off, otherwise it stays right where you put it. Since it has good staying power, one bottle usually gets me through the entire summer!

feedly

Feedly

Is it bad to be a blogger and share that you don’t read blogs? My own blog had taken over my life and I started to feel separated from my own community.  I decided to get back to blog reading and I started using Feedly as my reader. I absolutely love it and I think it has been so good to get back to blog reading again. While I eat lunch, I bookmark items to save for later that I think would fit well with our weekly notebook and I also have started bookmarking them for our Facebook community. Each day at 2:30 (eastern time), I post things to talk about. I think it has added so much more to both my life and our community and I am proud to be supporting people that make me think differently about life. We won’t always agree on these pieces, but I love the conversations that flow from these shares. It has been pretty dead over there so this is how I am working to restore that sense of community.

I can read all my blogs from my phone, my iPad, or from my computer.  Instead of scrolling endlessly through Facebook at piano lessons, for example, I am reading, learning, and bookmarking things to share with you. It’s a much better use of my time.

Although I don’t want to plug myself here, you can also subscribe to our site through Feedly. We need to change the title because it is listed under The MotherLoad, but you can find me over here.

Collapsible-Rolling-Cart

My Favorite Pool Accessory EVER

My best friend got these collapsible rolling carts one year when they were on sale at a local hardware store.  You may not have thought of a Rolling Cart as the world’s best pool accessory, but it really is. I load our entire cart up with our lunches, towels, pool toys, reading materials, sunblock, hats, and snacks. I throw them all in this cart and we wheel all of our stuff out to the pool, saving my back from breaking trying to lug all of our stuff out there.

The best part is that this cart is great in the off-seasons for library visits.  And, yes, we do horde that many library books when we go that we need a rolling cart to bring everything home. If you are looking for a book at our library and can’t find it, chances are it ended up in this cart.

Nads_Wax_Strips

Keeping Things in Check

Look, I’m not going to get into this kind of discussion because some of you barely know me.  I, personally,  don’t have weird body or facial hair at all, but this gal that I know has to keep things in check and she told me these Nad’s Body Wax Strips & Nad’s Facial Wax Strips might work really good to help resolve some issues you might be having.  She said that the best way to use these is to warm the strip a bit with a hair dryer and then follow the directions from there. If the strips leave behind any residue, a little baby oil does the trick to remove it.  If you need to keep things in check too, take some advice from my hairy friend. My hairy friend is super happy she doesn’t have to pay someone else to work this out for her.

Don’t forget, I also found this awesome cream for those with sensitive skin. It’s AMAZING!

Clinique-Almost-Lipstick-Black-Honey

Great Summer Lips

I love a fresh summer lip and this year my new favorite is an oldie, but goodie called Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey.  If you haven’t tried this lip color it is universally flattering and beautiful and I promise does not look anything like what is in its tube. You can pick it up at your favorite Clinique counter in the department store or they have it at Sephora. I absolutely love this shade for summer and I think you will too. It goes on like a gloss and moisturizes the lip. It’s the one you will want to buy extra tubes of so you can grab it and keep in your purse so you can touch them up while you are out and about.

logitech-keyboard

Turning My iPad Into a Laptop

I used to carry around my laptop, but when I got my iPad, I knew that I wouldn’t need to carry that around with me anymore because HELLO…BROKEN BACK. How many pounds is a laptop? Ouch!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stand trying to type on the touch screen, particularly when sending lengthy emails or trying to conduct anything for my business. I found this Logitech iPad Keyboard and it has been one of the best tech investments I have ever made. It instantly turns your iPad into a mini-laptop that you can carry in your purse. The battery life lasts forever before it requires a charge with a small cord, making it perfect for me to take to my conferences. The outside of it is metal and durable, helping protect your iPad screen and it latches together magnetically, as though they weren’t meant to be together from the start.

The best part is that it holds my iPad up for me while I am laying in my hotel bed watching Parenthood episodes so that I can hold my Kleenex and cry without having to hold the screen at the same time. Can you just imagine how hard that would be?

But it is also very important for business.

Yes, for business.

Pop_Culture_Happy_Hour

Happy Hour + Yard Work

I really loathe yard work. My whole thing is, you have to make a choice. There is no way that I can have a beautiful lawn and a clean home. If I am working on the lawn, my house looks like a tornado hit it. If I work on the house, people have no clue if the house was abandoned or not.  How do people have pretty lawns and pretty houses? That just baffles my mind. I think we should all just make choices and not judge each other on which one is more important.

My cardio routine on Fridays is to mow our enormous lawn and work on tidying up the sad beds. I started listening to NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour and (as if my neighbors weren’t already less than thrilled with us), I find myself busting up laughing randomly while listening to this show in the yard.

It is everything you might want to know about books, movies, the arts, and celebrities, but SMART. This not a junky entertainment blog, this is well-curated and thoughtful discussion on what is happening in pop culture with a lot of humor. I finally feel a little more with it about what is happening in the world and I am getting my terrible yard shaped up in the process.

And since I know you guys like happy lists, at the end of every episode they share what is making them happy each week and you want to have a notepad out to jot it all down to go out and find everything they are talking about.

Did I mention the NPR app is FREE? Seriously, you have nothing to lose!

L'Oreal Sleek It Iron Straight Heatspray

I Finally Have Frizz-Free Locks

I have the coarsest hair and in the summer months, it frizzes up in the heat and humidity. NO ONE BELIEVES ME. I decided to document some proof for you! YOU’RE WELCOME!  :)

Monica in Jamaica

I bought this awesome L’Oreal Sleek It Iron Straight Heatspray and I finally have frizz-free locks. It was one of those things that I picked up on a whim and decided to give it a try, but had no expectations that it would work well because it was only around $5.  The first day I used it, my girlfriend asked if I had done something different with my hair. It works that good.  Although I have never been able to go three days without washing my hair, it holds for that long and does a great job straightening your hair with just a blow dryer or can be used dry with your hair straightener. I highly, highly recommend this for your arsenal of hair tools.

Love,

Monica in Jamaica

Braun Silk Epilator

Taking Care of a Hairy Situation

Have you ever tried a new beauty routine that absolutely terrified you? Let me tell you, friends, using an epilator for the first time was the scariest thing I have ever done.  I may have lead you astray in my post about a hairy friend who needed wax strips. This is probably going to shock you, but I am the person who needed them. I know.  This happiness project goes out to all my brunette friends. The ladies who struggle with an armpit shadow even after they have shaved, the ones with the coarse unmanageable leg hair, the ones who have stray chin hairs that have suddenly cropped up since they hit their 30’s, the ones who get razor burn 24/7, whose skin becomes rashy from just seeing a razor, and the girl’s whose lily-white skin tells tales of painful hair removal routines.

I am fist bumping you right now.

I bought this Braun Silk Epilator and it has a million attachments which you can use to remedy whatever your hair situation. It rips the hair out by the roots. It feels as good as it sounds. It has forty tweezers that do it at the same time and can lift hair that is as small as a grain of sand. It really can because I felt every last pull.

The first time was really excruciating because I didn’t do a lot of research beforehand. Here’s what I advise- drink a gallon of wine,  soak in the shower for five minutes, exfoliate well with a loofah, shave so you aren’t grabbing long hairs out, hold it at a ninety degree angle right up close in the shower under the water,  and go all out with the highest setting. The legs are not terrible and the bikini line was a piece of cake since I wax.

The underarms…I almost passed out.  Probably the worst beauty pain of my life.

Now that I am over the first three times of doing it, I love it and am addicted.

Probably the same way people are addicted to tattoos.

It’s kind of sick, really.

I absolutely love how my legs and underarms look. My face is fuzz free.

I am living the blonde girl dream life!

around-the-house-6

(around our house- bucky)

Reading: Rare Objects and it is incredible! I had no idea she had another book out. I loved this book from her so much that diving into her words again has been such a treat! I love a good historical fiction escape and this one is delivering.

capsule-outfit-ideas

(follow my new account!!)

Enjoying: The creativity of putting my outfits together for my new Instagram account. I made a commitment that whatever I lay out for you, I must wear. I promise you, I’m really wearing this stuff. Not only is it good for my creativity, but it helps me feel good to feel put together and to get dressed each day. I’m also getting familiar with Like to Know which can send you an email about each outfit and ideas for replicating it. I have fun putting those together each day.

Sharing:  For my fellow Sweet Valley High friends, enjoy this imagined life for Elizabeth & Jessica when they are 40. Made my day!

Laughing: Since I’ve been down in the dumps, this could not have been timed more perfectly. No bad language and so hilarious that I bet your kids will be busting up too. I had tears rolling down my face watching this. Her laughter is contagious.

 

Happy Friday, friends! xoxo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!

Sundays With Writers: All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage (Interview)

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

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Today’s SWW interview is with Elizabeth Brundage to discuss her new book, All Things Cease to Appear. I devoured this book and couldn’t wait to interview Elizabeth about it, especially after reading about her real-life ghost story that had inspired this storyline. I had chills up and down my spine when I read her experience and I think you will too. I’m so excited to share this interview with you today and honored that Elizabeth would be so open to sharing with our readers!

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

I love being part of a local book club and this past month we read, All Things Cease to Appear. I think it is important to set expectations with this one. Do you remember Everything I Never Told You (I interviewed the author too!)? Well, I felt like the setup of this book is similar. We are opening with someone being accused of murdering their wife and then working our way out from there. Some people get disappointed when things work in this direction (maybe thinking it takes away from the mystery of it all?), but I really loved that it opened this way and then the reader discovers more and more of the motive as the story unfolds.

The book opens with the murder of Catherine as the police began questioning the most obvious of suspects… her husband. The book builds out the story of this couple from the purchase of this farmhouse filled with secrets, the failing marriage, and George’s strange double life.

This book is a really deep character study into a sociopath. Brundage writes this book so well that things like the home, for example, become a character unto itself. This is slow, but worthy of the pacing with rich characters. I couldn’t put it down.

We included All Things Cease to Appear in our April Must-Reads list!

Oh, and I wish I could put you by a bonfire for this eerie tale and we could share it with a couple of flashlights! I guess coffee will suffice.  Settle in! 

Q&A With Elizabeth Brundage

Elizabeth Brundage I read a rather chilling story about the house that inspired the location for your book. Just like the book, the house had its own sad story. Can you share with us a little bit about the house you lived in that you were able to draw inspiration from and have you ever gone back to see it since you left?

The novel began with a real unsolved murder.  I first heard about it many years ago.  My husband was just finishing his residency in an upstate New York town and we were considering staying in the area for his fellowship. At the time, our daughter was three, and I was pregnant with our second.  I went to look at a house that had come on the market in a nice, suburban neighborhood.  I was standing in the living room looking out on the back yard and a sensation of darkness came over me – I know that may sound strange, but it did.  I told the realtor and she said that it wasn’t the house we were standing in, but the one just across the yard, shrouded in big pine trees.  She told me a woman had been murdered there with an ax while her young daughter, a three-year old, was home with her.  This story shook me, and stayed with me for years.

We ended up moving to Connecticut for a few years and then, after my husband’s fellowship, we moved up to the Albany area.  By then our daughters were 3 and 6.  We ended up renting a house in a rural area of Columbia County, south of Albany.  The house was a cape, built in the early nineteenth century.  My husband had just joined a cardiology group and I was alone a lot of the time with the girls.  Almost immediately strange things started happening in the house.  One day I was walking on the street and this man, a neighbor, came up to me and told me the house was haunted; the owner had moved away and was stuck renting it out.  He said the owner used to go out to dinner and come home to find the furniture rearranged.  We never experienced that, but there were things that freaked me out.  On Halloween, I turned on my computer and the printer started printing out a skeleton head made up of the word Boo.  This was before the Internet – the only thing running through the computer was electricity.  Then, around Thanksgiving, I came home with my hands full of groceries – I was holding a turkey as I recall – and tried to open the front door.  The knob wouldn’t turn, and then I could hear the doorknob being unscrewed from the inside, as if there was somebody behind the door.  The next thing I knew, the knob came off in my hand.  I wrote that scene into the book.  Once, I caught my youngest daughter, three, pointing at something across the room that I couldn’t see, giggling.  At night we’d get into bed and the mattress would shake as if someone – an invisible child – was jumping up and down on the foot of it.  Soon after my oldest daughter, who was six, informed me that three little girl-ghosts were living in the house. They had all died in a fire, she said, and their parents were up in heaven.  It was creepy, sure, but it was also very sad.  On the day we moved out of that house I happened to open a corner cupboard and discovered three pair of shoes, the sort little girls wore in the early 1800s, in age-appropriate sizes of the girl ghosts our daughter had described.

Both of these experiences came together to help me write this book.  I was interested in writing a ghost story that was not the usual terrifying horror story.  Instead, I wanted to show that the real terror in this world simmers among the living.  I have never been back to that house since, but I took the shoes with me I suppose to remind myself of that time, proof, perhaps, that there’s much we don’t know about this wondrous universe, and that every individual on this planet has a story worth telling.

You open your story right away with the murder of George Clare’s wife. Why did you decide to shape your book in this direction rather than building the story out and then ending with the murder?

I thought a lot about starting the novel with Cole Hale’s story of leaving the farm, but I ended up changing my mind.  The murder is still an open case, and it’s the reason I wanted to write the novel.  It presents a fascinating question to the reader, an invitation to investigate.  I was less interested in the murder as any sort of police procedural and more compelled to explore the people whose lives were irrevocably changed by it, including the murderer himself.

1944.91, 45339

(george inness painting/wikipedia)

Since George Clare teaches art history, did you have to do a lot of research to prepare for his role as a professor or have you always been interested in art yourself? Who is your favorite artist?

I’ve always been interested in art and have studied art history for years.  I did do research on the Hudson River School painters, George Inness in particular, which led me to exploring the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, an eighteenth century philosopher who had a very particular insight into life and death and the notion of an afterlife.  Teaching for many years at various colleges supplied me with plenty of source material to create the Art History Department at Saginaw, the fictional college in the book, and one of the main characters, George Clare, who is an art historian.  Halfway through the book George and his friend Bram have a conversation about the value of art.  I think art is extremely important.  I love many painters; I don’t think I could choose a favorite.

elizabeth-brundage-ig

(elizabeth has a gorgeous IG feed- follow her!!)

Did any real-life cases inspire this story and did you have anyone in your life that helped you craft the character of George?

The murder is based on a real cold case murder that remains unsolved.  Several aspects of the case intrigued me, primarily that the young daughter was left alone all day with her dead mother.  I think that is just heartbreaking.  No, George Clare is not based on anyone I know, thank God.

Do you think that George’s wife, Catherine, was as much to blame as he was in the crimes he committed? Do you think if she had done things differently she could have escaped?

I think Catherine Clare was somewhat repressed by the times.  It was the late 70s, the women’s movement was just getting under way.  Her husband, George, terrified her.  They were intent on keeping on the appearance of an ideal marriage, which, I think, many of us do to some degree.  For reasons that I try to explore in the book, she doesn’t have the where-with-all to leave him.  When she finally musters the courage, it’s too late.

Did you do a lot of research on sociopaths to create George? Did you have any scenes in your book that were difficult to write with George?

Once you get into the head of a character, they are pretty much calling the shots, so it wasn’t difficult for me to write George.  I found him to be a very troubled and fascinating character.  To him, everything he does makes perfect sense and is absolutely necessary for his own survival and reputation.  Some of the scenes when he’s with Willis were hard to write because I knew that he was the last person on earth she should be sleeping with.

Do you feel like you have a better understanding of sociopaths after writing this book? I don’t want to share any spoilers, but do you think that George got what he deserved in the end?

George doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to.  He even chooses his own fate in the end.  That falls in line with being a true psychopath, I think.  He has a spectacular ego.  Yes, I did some research on these sorts of disorders, but I believe that the best way to achieve a certain level of authenticity as a writer is to become a patient, thoughtful, and empathetic observer of life.

This book has a large cast of characters and it is almost like the town itself is a character. Did you have a favorite character you enjoyed writing?

My favorite character is Cole Hale.  Throughout the book, we watch him grow up and become the good man that he is.  I have a real soft spot for him.  I also loved writing his brothers Eddy and Wade.  Eddy has an edge to him, but a deep respect for life.  He never doubts himself because he knows who he is; I was a little in love with him.

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

There have been so many books that I have loved that have influenced me.  Having to pick one is impossible, but I will offer Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, because it’s a great coming of age story full of fascinating, surprising, various, and brilliantly vivid characters my favorite of which is Miss Havisham, one of the all time greatest creations in literature.

You can connect with Elizabeth Brundage on her website ! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Perfect Stripes, Cooling Creams, & a Little Red

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Recital Day

If this picture doesn’t say happiness, I don’t know what does! Our daughter performed in her recital this past weekend and we were so proud of her.  This was her first year trying modern dance and the joy I see in her is inexplicable. She admitted to us, after her performance, that she was supposed to have a serious face during her modern routine. If you saw her on stage though, it’s like the happy was just bursting out of her little face. I looked over at my husband and we both had the goofiest grins while she danced- it was contagious. I’m so happy she has found something she loves that much!

Here are a few things that are making me happy this week! 

Stripes + Mustard Accessories + Driving Loafers

(follow my capsule wardrobe on IGperfect stripes/yellow belt, j. crew/shoes (similar)/jewels (goodwill!!)/jeans)

The Perfect Stripes (FINALLY!)

I had this perfect striped shirt that was just perfectly perfect that I got for Goodwill for $2.50 and I wore it until the little threads began to separate and it became a muddy color from so many washes. A few items that I had ordered for my capsule (two striped dresses & a jacket from thredup & this baby right here!)  trickled in and I’m not denying myself the pleasure of wearing them because I forgot to announce their arrival in my capsule wardrobe (ahem!).

I have been on the hunt for the perfect replacement shirt, I have tried on a million at the mall, I ordered four from thredup over the year (no joke!) and I couldn’t find THE ONE. Well, friends, this is it. It is 3/4 length sleeves, light in weight (for spring, summer, & fall), & the price is awesome too for this frugal shopper.  I would recommend sizing one down (this one pictured is an XXS and not tight at all!) for the perfect fit on the PERFECT shirt. I promise! I’m the one wearing it with the goofy grin at the top of this photo. I paired it with these amazing pants that never wrinkle ever. Perfect.

Also, how many times can I say perfect?

Noted.

doTerra Deep Blue Rub Cream Review

A Tool for Chronic Pain Management

Chronic pain is the worst! I want to openly admit that I am working on better pain management strategies. Pain pills and a heavy pour of wine are not ideal solutions for pain management in the evening hours even though they sounded like it (NOT!). I may have been in a bit of a slump.

This month I have started some new routines to help with the pain in my joints in the evening hours. I started taking a hot yoga class that is offered in the evening, soaking in the tub at night with these salts (with a good book on the ol’ book bath tray, of course!), and using this Deep Blue Rub cream on the sore spots before collapsing in bed. Way better, right?

I am one of those people that is a disbeliever when it comes to the oils craze (don’t throw rotten tomatoes please!). When I shared about the awful pain my joints my girlfriend sent me some samples of this cream and I fell absolutely in love with it and the relief it provided (thank you, Shawnda!). Then I came out in the afternoon one day and another girlfriend had left a tube of it on my doorstep as a gift because it had helped her mom so much with her arthritis (thank you, Andy!).

I don’t know what voodoo magic is in this tube, but it really has helped a lot with providing a little pain relief and it smells way better than the heavy-duty stuff I had been using that made my eyes water! It’s pricier than the stuff at the drugstore, but I’m finding just a little goes a long way. I wish it never wore off, but the moments of relief it provides have helped me a lot! Between these new routines and my favorite heated throw, I’m finding that I feel a lot better than my old pathetic “poor me” routines.

Salt Water Sandals in Red

A Great Birkenstock Alternative

I could never really get into the Birkenstock craze, but I can embrace a good comfortable sandal. ModCloth ran a flash sale on Salt Water Sandals and I decided to take the plunge this year since I have been coveting them forever. Of course, I got red, because RED. Have you heard of these shoes?

Fun fact, Saltwater sandals actually originated in the early 1940s as an alternative to traditional children’s leather sandals as a way to cope with leather shortages in World War II. The sandals were made primarily from scrap leather left over from making men’s shoes. More recently they expanded the line for Women so now you can enjoy these adorable shoes too.

Here is what I will say! These are ideal for those of us with WIDE feet. When you receive them the packaging shows how to fit your Salt Water Sandals for your giantly wide foot. You can stretch the leather out on the sides for an ideal fit and even bend the base of your shoe to mold around your feet. They are SO comfortable and I think a little more feminine than a Birkenstock for the summer. I had a hard time choosing between the Red & Tan, but I love a good red shoe so that’s what I went with.

I loved them so much that I ended up finding a good deal for my daughter this summer too in a pretty baby pink.

Around Our House

(oh, happy day print/yellow chair- they stack for small spaces!!)

Reading: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys and I just can’t put it down. Thanks to my amazing readers for recommending this one!  If you love historical fiction as much as I do, you won’t want to miss this incredible read. I’m on a huge reading frenzy right now for our SWW series so LOTS of great stuff coming up!!

Eating: These gluten-free pancakes are becoming a weekly favorite again. I love an easy weeknight meal that the kids can enjoy in the mornings too!

Sharing:  It is Ehlers Danlos Awareness Month and that’s what I have! Read about what it’s actually liking living with an illness or disability from these heroic people. Thrilled to see that EDS was shared here!

Laughing:  Alanis Morissette updates her lyrics to Ironic and it is hilarious! No bad language so you are good to watch without headphones!

Watching: Big Love- my girlfriend recommended this series to me and I’m LOVING it. I also love coming to the Big Love party a little late so I can binge on several episodes at a time. Have you seen it? I had no idea Tom Hanks produced this series!

Happy Friday, friends!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!

Amy’s Notebook 05.11.16

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

DIY Faux Flower Gift Topper Stickers via Sugar and Cloth

Source: Sugar and Cloth

 

Easy gift toppers.

Three truths about decluttering.

After The Biggest Loser- contestant’s bodies fight back against the weight loss in surprising ways.

IKEA hacks that look like a million bucks.

Honest post from a lifestyle blogger- made me laugh out loud.

9 cocktails made with LaCroix- this is on my summer must-try list!

How to find great books to read- what a great resource!

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese via The Modern Proper

Source: The Modern Proper

 

Four ingredient stovetop macaroni and cheese- yum!

Knitted pillows made with short rows. Gorgeous!!

How a blog post gets made.

Utility jacket outfit ideas for spring.

10 easy ways to simplify the kitchen.

Feel the guilt and do it anyway.

Obituaries my mother wrote for me while I was living in San Francisco in my twenties.

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

Sundays With Writers: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (Interview)

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

sundays-with-writers-1

I am so excited to be interviewing Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney this week to discuss her incredible debut novel, The Nest. I absolutely loved her book and couldn’t wait to interview her for many, many reasons.  Not only did she write her first book at 54, but she secured a really fantastic advance on it, becoming one of the most talked about novelists for 2016. I love, love, love hearing about writers pursuing a book later in life because it gives me so much hope to know that we can carve new paths at any age and there is never (TRULY)  an appropriate time to give up on something you have always wanted to do! It seemed an appropriate message to share this Mother’s Day.

Is there something you have always wanted to do?

DO IT!

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Let’s chat about, The Nest. Do you love dysfunctional family stories? I know I do! The Nest reminded me a lot of Jonathan Tropper’s, This is Where I Leave Youin that regard. This book centers around four grown children and the inheritance (AKA- The Nest!) that they are supposed to be inheriting. Leo, the unreliable alcoholic sibling in the story, ends up getting in a terrible car accident and has to pay the accompanying passenger a large sum to keep the story quiet. His mother gives him the majority of the inheritance as hush money for the car accident, unbeknownst to his siblings.

The story then really unfolds with all of the siblings and what this inheritance would have meant to them is uncovered. As a reader you see what life looks like without the money they always planned on. No spoilers, but imagine that you had made financial mistakes, but always knew you would have a large sum to bail you out and find out that the money doesn’t exist. Awful, isn’t it?

I think some people will find the ending a little dissatisfying, but I also know that most dysfunctional family stories don’t have tidy endings. I loved it- laughed a lot and sympathized with many characters. This was a great escape! Read More…

Now grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Cynthia today!

Q&A With Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

You landed a seven-figure advance as a debut author and became one of the most buzzed about novelists this year. It’s sad that this is so notable in this industry with all of the incredible writers out there, but it truly is amazing (I couldn’t be happier for you!)! Did you find that it put more pressure on you to deliver because you had so much hype surrounding your book? How did your family react to this incredible news?

Unlike non-fiction, which a writer can sell with a book proposal, fiction is usually sold once the manuscript is completed. So Ecco/HarperCollins bought the book I’d already written. There was still back and forth with Megan Lynch, who is my wonderful editor at Ecco, but I knew from our initial conversations that she and I were very much on the same page about the edits and that she wasn’t looking for extensive revision. In fact, I was excited about making the changes Megan and I discussed because I knew the result was going to be a stronger book.

I have to say, as I near the age of forty, that hearing you became a novelist at the age of 54 gives me a lot of hope for the opportunities I might have to look forward to and how I could transition my career path when my kids are grown. Was this a more recent dream to publish or have you always known you wanted to write a book? Was it a hard transition to switch from nonfiction writing to fiction?

I sold the book when I was 54, but I’d started writing fiction 7 or 8 years earlier and, yes, it was hard – mostly because I didn’t know what I was doing a lot of the time, mostly from a craft and technical perspective. So I took classes and in 2011 I decided to return to graduate school to get my MFA in fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars. I graduated in 2013 and started The Nest there as my thesis. But I think the hardest transition was from writing because I was hired and paid for a project to writing in the hope that on some distant, unknowable day a publisher might be interested in the book.

It sounds like your literary agent had impeccable timing for when to release your manuscript. Can you share with us when she sent it?

First I’d like to share that my agent is a he! Henry Dunow had the brilliant idea to send out the manuscript the Monday after the Thanksgiving break when everyone was returning to work after spending the holiday with their own families in the hopes that the book would resonate more clearly. I don’t think either of us expected the kind of response we got that week, but I’ll always be grateful for his artful sense of timing.  

Amy Poehler

I understand that you were in a book club with Amy Poehler and when the book club didn’t take off, a friendship was formed over drinks and your love for fiction. Amy also wrote such an incredible endorsement that’s placed on the cover of your book. When did you share the book with your friend and was she one of the first people to read it?

I met Amy at a book club that included lots of funny, smart women in the improv/comedy world of New York City in the late 90s. The book club kind of petered out mostly because of everyone’s performing schedules (not mine; I had two small children and was itching to leave the house whenever I could manage). But Amy and I would see each other socially and we reconnected when I moved out to Los Angeles. She’s a huge reader and loves fiction and was very supportive and enthusiastic when I went back to graduate school and started a novel. I didn’t want her to read the book until I felt I had a solid version, but she was definitely one of the first people I sent it to after I turned in the final draft to Ecco. 

Just because I think this is such an incredibly sweet story (and then we can stop talking about Amy), can you share how you were worried that you wouldn’t be able to use the title The Nest because of a project she had in the works?

I found out shortly before finishing my book that there was a movie coming out with Amy and Tina Fey called The Nest. To be honest, I wasn’t really worried because I know publishers change titles all the time. But when the book was out on submission, everyone I spoke with kept saying how much they liked The Nest. I just kept my mouth shut about the movie and figured I’d give everyone the bad news later. A week after the book sold, I had dinner with Amy who told me that only days earlier the movie The Nest had been changed to Sisters, which was a complete coincidence and felt a little bit like kismet. So the title came back my way.

This book is very focused on an inheritance that is supposed to be given to the siblings in this family. I read your interview with NPR where you shared about the inheritance your parents gave to you and I just loved it because our family hopes to give experiences rather than things to our children. Do you have a favorite family trip from this inheritance given? Is this the type of inheritance you hope to pass on to your kids?

My family –my parents and my siblings—still vacations in the same little town in Maine every summer. My parents started taking us there when I was ten. They still stay in the same tiny rental cottage and as our family has grown, we rent houses nearby. We don’t all always manage to make it every year but we mostly do and our children have grown up with that tradition and I’m sure they’ll be passing it along to their kids.

There is a large cast of characters in this book and I would have a hard time picking a favorite, but I would say that I related the most to Melody’s struggles. Did you have a character, in particular, that you related to and which one was the most fun to write?

I relate to every character. I think if you put all four Plumb siblings together, you would probably have a pretty good approximation of me. Leo was the most fun to write and probably the one I miss writing the most.

Who have been your literary influences as a writer?

Jane Austen, Elizabeth Strout, Jonathan Franzen, Ian McEwan, Tessa Hadley, Alice McDermott, Meg Wolitzer, William Trevor, Nora Ephron, David Rakoff – I could go on and on! Everyone I read influences me in some way.

I’d love to vaguely talk about the ending of your book (so we don’t give any spoilers away). Is this the ending you had envisioned for these characters? Do you see any potential in this being a sequel or do you think this is where you would like to end their story?

I was probably a little more than halfway through the first draft when I felt I had a sense of where everyone would end up and I don’t think anything changed in the writing. I do believe this is where their story ends for me and I’m content with it. No sequels!

Jill Soloway Directs The Nest

While I was reading your book, I was already picturing this becoming a movie. I know you might get asked that a lot, but would you be open to that if the opportunity presents itself? Did you picture any actors for these characters when you were crafting them?

I did not picture any actors while writing and I’ve been asked so many times who I imagine but I can never think of anyone because the characters exist in my head as they exist in my head, if that makes any sense. But that will have to change eventually because I sold the movie option to Amazon Feature Films (editor’s note- check out Amazon’s plans for films!!!) . I’m adapting the book to screenplay and Jill Soloway is producing.

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

Ah, the most dreaded question for any writer. Or for me at least because it’s so hard to chose. New love? Old favorite? Funny? Sad?  Both?  Maybe I’ll do all of those (sorry, I’m cheating).

New love: I just finished Empty Mansions, by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr., the story of the heiress and recluse Huguette Clark who lived to be 103. It’s mystery, biography and history all rolled into one fascinating page-turner.

Old favorite: Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge. I slightly favor the Mrs., but they’re both great.

Both funny and sad: I just finished watching the Nora Ephron documentary on HBO and it made me pick up Heartburn again. I’ve been telling everyone to reread it because it’s so deeply funny and so deeply sad. My favorite combination.

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

You can connect with Cynthia D’Aprix on her website or through Facebook! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

 

It’s the 3 Little Things: Coffee Pot of My Dreams, Glam For a Night, & Sensitive Skin Relief

Friday, May 6th, 2016

Spring throw pillows

It is so good to be home and with my people again. I had a blast at Mom 2.0, saw so many amazing friends, ate way too much good food, and indulged in a lot of wine (*ahem*). My husband also gave me the best Mother’s Day gift ever which was upgrading me to a first class seat. I had so much room for my awful knees, ate a good lunch, and got in some quality reading time. It was the best gift ever and I am incredibly thankful.  What are your plans this Mother’s Day weekend?

This week was a busy one on the site! SO MUCH GOOD STUFF! Get my must-reads list for this month (7 books picked just for you!!), find out about the fashion course I am taking and loving, make some funny faces with your kiddos,  and see what our community is reading right now.

GIVE ME ALL THE BOOKS.

Here are three other things that are making me happy this week!

hamilton-beach-12-cup-brew-station

World’s Best Drip Coffee

We have hard water so I am constantly fighting that problem on our appliances and the hard water build-up on the glass items in our home. After many bad inexplicable batches of coffee, we realized something was wrong with our coffeemaker. I went online and decided to research our next best option  and came across this Hamilton Beach BrewStation. It was half the price of most drip coffee makers, had INCREDIBLE reviews, and didn’t have a dirty looking carafe to deal with. You see that little bar on the back? You lean your mug on it and the coffee comes out like you are dispensing at the 7-11 or something.

It is so easy to program and brew and the smart design couldn’t be better. Your coffee brews inside the machine and offers the option of holding your coffee at the warm temperature for up to four hours. I can program it still for my mornings and just slide my giant cup under there to load up with my morning book.

No fancy mugs necessary, no cleaning a glass carafe, and with the purchase of a reusable coffee filter, this coffee couldn’t be better or more affordable. I had doubts that anything this cheap would be that great…I was wrong.

If you are in the market, this is my latest obsession for coffee!

Rent the Runway

(dress- Rent the Runway Dress,  shoes- comfy dexflex nude pumps, similar match)

My First Rent the Runway Purchase

They had the IRIS awards ceremony at my conference. It was such an honor to be nominated for Best Personal Blog after 12 years of writing. I didn’t want to wear the same old dress or waste precious space in my closet so I decided to give Rent the Runway a spin. Have you heard of it?

Basically, you can rent clothing, fancy dresses, and accessories for a fraction of the price. They send it all in a cloth bag with a return address label tucked inside and you return it within the designated time.

When I posted about it, people told me that they sometimes use it for their family photos. GENIUS! I am thinking this might be a fun investment for headshots as a business owner too. I am also thinking events like high school reunions, charity galas, weddings, and work trips might be worthy of a rental. Did you know that they even offer a monthly wardrobe service? It’s a little out of my price range, but I know many people spend more than that shopping each month.

If you haven’t tried Rent the Runway before, here is $20 towards your first purchase! If you have and love this dress, here is a link! It ran a little small and I am wearing a size zero (5’2, 106 pounds for reference!), but it felt more like a double zero. I would recommend this one for notsobusty girls.

Gigi Hair Removal Cream

Facial Hair Removal Cream (I don’t have any. I tested it for you. You’re welcome.)

Just in case you thought I was TOO glamourous in the last picture, I tested out a hair removal cream for people with sensitive skin and it is AH-MAZING! Being fair and reactive to everything, there is nothing a welted upper lip to let your hubby know what you have been up to in the bathroom for the last half hour. Especially, when said lip is welted for hours on end. THE SHAME!

Well, I finally found a hair removal cream that doesn’t hurt, didn’t make my skin red, and is more effective than the Sally Hansen stuff. Meet your new best friend- Gigi Hair Removal Cream. This stuff is amazing and works in five minutes. It causes no skin reddening or reaction (on me- test at your own risk!)  and costs just $4.50. I bought it on Amazon and it is the best hair removal cream I have ever used. A little goes a long way. Can’t wait to hear what you think of this stuff!

Teacher Appreciation Gift Idea

 

Reading: A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold. It is heartbreaking, raw, and open about her son and his struggle with mental illness as she recounts his involvement in the Columbine shooting.  Within the first chapter it was a book I would recommend to any parent- the awareness she brings is important. We are reading it this month for our MomAdvice Book Club. Feel free to join us!

Eating: Lemon Paprika Chicken & Veggies Sheet Meal on repeat this week. I am double batching it since my daughter’s dance rehearsal & recital is this weekend. I can’t wait to see my tiny dancer perform!

Enjoying: This thoughtful piece on aging and why Botox can be a gateway drug to elective procedures. So much of what she said echoes what is on my own heart as I grow older.

Appreciating: Our teachers this week! It’s never too late to say thank you! Here is a sweet & simple idea we did this year!

Pretending: To be a fashion blogger. See what I’m up to in my capsule by following me here! xoxo

Happy Friday, friends!

 *this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of  It’s the 3 Little Things

 

 

April 2016 Must-Reads

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

April 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Just in case you follow me on GoodReads and started to worry that I’m not reading anymore, I want to reassure you that I’m flipping the pages just as frantically as before. I started to realize that it is anticlimactic to share all my reviews there first and then round them up at the end of the month so I am hoping to add a little element of surprise to these monthly round-ups.

If you are a regular reader, you may have suspected what I have been reading thanks to our Sundays With Writers (SWW) series. It’s been so fun to interview these authors and you can expect lots more interviews in the upcoming weeks. I’m so excited to share those with you.

As you can see, April has a little something for everyone when it comes to my must-reads list. I took advantage of a few advanced readers from authors, read some of the most buzzed about books this year, and rediscovered an author I have loved for many years who released her first YA book.

Want the inside scoop on what I’m reading each week? Join our online book club where we talk about books all day every day. This is not an exaggeration!

7 Must-Read Books for April 2016

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

What starts as a mother’s collection of her child’s artwork and memories that people find enchanting & homey in the beginning of this family saga, we later discover it quickly balloons into a hoard of unlivable proportions for one woman and those who love her.

Hoarding is something that intrigues many, but few want to go into the trenches with a family and discover why someone feels compelled to keep things. This book dives into the dysfunction that grows from the loss of a child, the leaving of grown children, and the filling of a loneliness that only these objects seem to provide. There were some shocking secrets that came into play at the end of the book although you got the sense that things weren’t right from the beginning. A solid read with a lot of meat for a book club discussion.  Read More…

4 Out of 5 Stars

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

Try Not to Breathe By Holly Seddon

I received an ARC from Netgalley- all thoughts & opinions are my own!

Fans of The Girl on the Train will enjoy another unreliable narrator in this strong debut. Alex is an alcoholic who has watched her career dwindle away due to her inability to stop drinking. She is assigned a story and comes to research the topic of people in comas and recognizes Amy, a case that she remembers all too well. Amy was assaulted in the 90’s as a teen and has remained in a coma since then. Alex becomes obsessed with uncovering who hurt Amy and wants to try to find  who did this to her. But someone doesn’t want her to find out and will do whatever it takes to stop her.

I was really excited about this one because I love a good thriller. I found it enjoyable and a nice escape- this would be a good one to pack in your beach bag. I was disappointed to read that much of information about brain activity in comas was actually created by the author and not actually factual, but I still found it to be a nice break from heavy books. Read more…

3 Out of 5 Stars

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (deal alert- this one is on sale for just $1.99!!!)

If I had to pick a favorite this month, it would be this one. Please, please, please read it and come back and tell me what you think! This book is about three unlikely friends growing up in the rural South that are all fighting demons of their own. Dill’s father is a Pentecostal preacher, known for his snake charming church, that becomes part of a town scandal that has left his family open to scrutiny and struggling financially. Travis is obsessed with a book series called Bloodfall that helps him escape into another reality away from his abusive father. And Lydia is a blogger ready to start a new life in New York while struggling to leave behind what is familiar and those she loves. These three unlikely people bond together and end up facing a struggle none of them could have ever predicted.  This friendship is beautifully woven with humor and heart. I could not put this book down and read it in a single day.

Be sure to check out my interview with Jeff about this book. Want a fun fact? He wrote the book on his iPhone! Read More…

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

If there is one buzz book this year, this is it! As a debut novelist, Cynthia signed a one million dollar contract for this book and it has already been optioned for film. I don’t want to give too much more away on all of that though because Cynthia joins me this week in our interview series! Be sure to check back on Sunday for the scoop on this incredible novelist.

Do you love dysfunctional family stories? I know I do! This book reminded me a lot of Jonathan Tropper’s, This is Where I Leave You. This book centers around four grown children and the inheritance (AKA- The Nest!) that they are supposed to be inheriting. Leo, the unreliable alcoholic sibling in the story, ends up getting in a terrible car accident and has to pay the accompanying passenger a large sum to keep the story quiet. His mother gives him the majority of the inheritance as hush money for the car accident, unbeknownst to his siblings.

The story then really unfolds with all of the siblings and what this inheritance would have meant to them is uncovered. As a reader you see what life looks like without the money they always planned on. No spoilers, but imagine that you had made financial mistakes, but always knew you would have a large sum to bail you out and find out that the money doesn’t exist. Awful, isn’t it?

I think some people will find the ending a little dissatisfying, but I also know that most dysfunctional family stories don’t have tidy endings. I loved it- laughed a lot and sympathized with many characters. This was a great escape! Read More…

4 Out of 5 Stars

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

I love being part of a local book club and this past month we read, All Things Cease to Appear. I think it is important to set expectations with this one. Do you remember Everything I Never Told You (I interviewed the author too!)? Well, I felt like the setup of this book is similar. We are opening with someone being accused of murdering their wife and then working our way out from there. Some people get disappointed when things work in this direction (maybe thinking it takes away from the mystery of it all?), but I really loved that it opened this way and then the reader discovers more and more of the motive as the story unfolds.

The book opens with the murder of Catherine as the police began questioning the most obvious of suspects… her husband. The book builds out the story of this couple from the purchase of this farmhouse filled with secrets, the failing marriage, and George’s strange double life.

This book is a really deep character study into a sociopath. Brundage writes this book so well that things like the home, for example, become a character unto itself. This is slow, but worthy of the pacing with rich characters. I couldn’t put it down.

That said, I think readers may be unhappy with how the story works out. I know I was a little too. That is not to discredit Brundage or her incredible writing, it’s just not the big bang ending I had hoped for. She also does not use quotations around the words people are speaking. It took awhile for me to get the hang of that and you don’t want to space out when you are reading it when there is a lot of dialogue because you will forget who is talking.

If you are looking for a book with strong characters and a good ghost story, you’ll love it. Bonus!! Elizabeth will be joining me for a Sundays With Writers this month! She has a crazy real ghost story and a house that inspired this book. Don’t miss it! Read More…

4 Out of 5 Stars

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Have you read any books by Julie Buxbaum? She was one of my absolute favorite writers and then many years have passed with no books from her. Eternal sadness. I was so thrilled to see a book from her back on the bookshelves and with a surprise…it’s her YA book! Don’t worry, I am pursuing her for the scoop on this one and will be featuring her in our interview series this month.

This is the story of a teenager named Jessie, the loss of her incredible mom, and the abrupt new marriage of her father that relocates them to Los Angeles. When her father meets a woman from his support group, he elopes and moves them into the wealthy woman’s home, switching Jessie into the wealthy prep school that her new stepbrother attends. Of course, Jessie doesn’t fit in at all.

When she starts receiving emails from SN (shortened from Somebody Nobody) offering her help and support in these uncharted waters, a relationship blooms and becomes a huge support for Jessie. The reader gets to read this beautiful, hilarious, and always sweet exchange. When Jessie wants to meet SN in person though, the reader is led on the journey with Jessie. Is SN her soulmate? Is SN even real? I guess you will have to read to find out! This is a great one to pack in your beach bag this summer. Delightfully sweet and everything I love about Buxbaum’s writing! Read More…

4 Out of 5 Stars

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

I received an ARC from Netgalley- all thoughts & opinions are my own!

I am a huge fan of Mary Kubica- her thrillers never disappoint me (read my interview with Mary here- it is one of our most pinned posts!!).  The Good Girl remains one of my favorite books from her! Don’t You Cry is about the disappearance of Quinn’s roommate, Esther. As Quinn tries to piece together why Esther has disappeared, she begins to suspect that Esther is targeting her and plotting Quinn’s own death. Meanwhile, Alex is growing up with an alcoholic father and working as a dishwasher, when a mysterious woman appears in the coffee shop he works at and he finds himself drawn to her. The two storylines inevitably pull together as deep family secrets are revealed in this twisty book. Read more…

4 Out of 5 Stars

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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Amy’s Notebook 05.04.16

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

While Kitchen via Design Mom

Source: Design Mom

 

Kitchen goals.

Passion in the margins- a beautiful reminder.

Eating like Gwyneth Paltrow- I gotta admit. I’m feeling a little inspired (except for the breath thing).

The season’s most exciting fiction reads.

What happens when fashion becomes fast, disposable, and cheap. Exactly why the capsule wardrobe has become so important to me!

I’m feeling inspired to make one of these for our home.

The danger of protecting our kids from unhappiness.

Don't toss the tops via The Kitchn

Source: The Kitchn

 

Never toss the tops on these 5 veggies.

I loved the movie Brooklyn (and that book too!). How cute is this gallery wall inspired by the film?

​​From a father on the poverty line to a CEO millionaire on what they can afford.

Hoarding is a serious disorder and it is getting worse.

The poor don’t need our pity.

This was a really compelling piece.

American Psycho the musical? I’m intrigued.

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!