Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

January 2015 Must-Reads

Friday, January 30th, 2015

January 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I promised you book reviews in the new year and I am delivering on that on the last Friday of each month. Did you know my dream job is to be a book concierge so that I could select books for other people based on their hobbies and interests? It really is. It thrills me to no end to share my favorite books with you and I try to read a wide range of books so I have something for everyone.  I am hoping that you will enjoy these special selections and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for my Sundays With Writers where I have the unbelievable job of interviewing the authors from my most loved books! I know, PINCH ME.

This month will be longer than most since I took two weeks off this winter to just read and be with my family over the holidays. Two of the books that I read ended up squeaking in on my best books of 2014 list- did you see it?  A few today, I have no doubt, will be on my 2015 best book highlights.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

This was an absolutely beautiful story about what it would be like to come to America as an immigrant. Told from alternating viewpoints all from immigrant neighbors in one apartment complex, it gives the reader the opportunity to see America through an immigrant’s eyes. From struggling to make ends to meet, to the struggle to communicate, to finding a job, to sending your child off to school, to the sacrifices that are made when leaving your own country for something you believe will be better than the life you are leading- it looks at it all through new eyes.

The story hinges around two sets of parents who have sacrificed everything for their kids and the blooming love between their children in a beautiful coming-of-age story. Honest, human, and so moving. A must-read this year.

I have reached out to Cristina to hear more about the story behind the story for our Sundays With Writers. Fingers crossed that you will be reading this interview soon- I can’t recommend this novel enough!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

If you are into vivid storytellers, William Kent Krueger’s novel is a book for you. After I finished it, I emailed Kent to see if he would like to share more about this book and you can read my interview with him on Sunday.

This novel is set in 1961 in New Bremen, Minnesota and is told through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Frank Drum.

When tragedy unexpectedly comes to call on his family, which includes his Methodist minister father, his passionate, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his years kid brother, Frank finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal.

On the surface, ORDINARY GRACE is the story of the murder of a beautiful young woman, a beloved daughter and sister. At heart, it’s the story of what that tragedy does to a boy, his family, and ultimately the fabric of the small town in which he lives.

This is a beautiful coming of age story that reminds us of our youth. While I was able to figure out the killer early on in the story, as this is meant to be a mystery, it did not take away from the beautiful writing that filled the pages. I really enjoyed the book and the author’s carefully crafted characters that made this story read more like a memoir than a piece of fiction.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

I’m not even going to lie, this novel is absolute perfection from start to finish. Never a lag, never a dull moment, audible gasps at shocking plot twists, a steamy sordid love affair…friends, THIS is unbelievable. Now as a disclaimer, the love affair lies between two women so if you don’t want to read that, then continue on with your life. That being said, it is tastefully done and the love affair scene is more Snow Flower & the Secret Fan rather than that cheap stuff in 50 Shades of Grey. I could not put this book down and actually bought it for my Kindle (due to its whopping 596 pages in length), and kind of already want to reread it again. Or just have you all read it so I can talk about it. I mean- it’s THAT good.

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a “baby farmer,” who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways…But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.

As a reader, you are taken on a Dickens-esque roller coaster ride with plot twist after plot twist. I could not put this down and can’t wait to dig into more of her books now that I finally know what all the fuss is about. This book was amazing!

45 Out of 5 Stars (I’m Not Kidding!)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Did you catch my interview with Karen Joy Fowler this week about this amazing book? You must read the book and then read my interview with her.

First, don’t read any reviews on this one. Just read it so you can have fun with the surprise- kind of like the shocking twist in GONE GIRL. It’s got that element of, “WAIT, WHAT?!”

Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind. Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man. And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined.

This is one of those books that you want others to read just so you can talk through it. I avoided reading any reviews on this and I am so glad I did because half of the fun in this one was making sense of this unusual family and just what makes them so unusual. So beautifully executed that it reads like a memoir, it was such an enjoyable and believable read that you want to go on a narnia of fact-finding on Wikipedia to discover all of the inspiration behind this novel and read more about how many of these cases featured were true.

Although the execution of delivering the information in a mixed up timeline can be confusing for the reader, the originality of this unique & heartbreaking story made this a book that I just couldn’t put down.

5 Out of 5 Stars

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

First, this was just not my favorite Rainbow Rowell book. If you are wanting to read something by this author, I can’t recommend ELEANOR & PARK enough. It’s YA perfection. This book was cute, but not my favorite. I am apparently in the minority though because this one won the GoodReads Choice Award Winner for the Fiction Category for 2014.

The story is about a troubled marriage where the couple end up being separated for the holidays and Georgie, the wife, discovers that she can communicate with her husband in the past through a landline phone in her childhood room. They chat at night and Georgie wonders if by chatting with him (pre-marriage)  she is changing their future or can repair mistakes from the past.

This had all the signature Rainbow Rowell charm with a touch of magical realism laced in where a relationship is revived through a rotary phone that can take the main character, Georgie, back in time to a pivotal moment in the relationship with her husband. I am always a big fan of books that explore the, “what if?” and this did that in a failing marriage and what could be done differently if given the chance. Although this one lacked the ELEANOR & PARK charm, I still thought it was a great little escape. Fans of Allison Winn Scotch’s, TIME OF MY LIFE,  will fall in love with this one as it builds on such a similar concept.

For me the first half was slow and the second half was cute. I recommend this one if you need a little escape or a lighter read between heavier books.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Wheat Belly by William Davis

Wheat Belly by William Davis

I’m trying to dive into a bit of nonfiction this year and thanks to our m challenge series and the monthly selection, I tackled my first nonfiction book this year.

WHEAT BELLY focuses on the quality of the wheat that we now consume and how removing wheat from your diet can help you to lose weight and live longer. The scientific research that supported this book as well as patient studies showcased not only the difference in the health of our body, but also how eating clean can help you mentally too.

Although every study and patient situation in this book seemed to have remarkable differences in their health without the gluten, I tend to not be an extremist when it comes to diet planning unless you have a health reason (like having celiac disease) that might not benefit from my, “all things in moderation,” planning.

The most interesting part for me about this book though were the studies on mental health, particularly the schizophrenia study, that showcased how much better patients did mentally with a wheat-free diet. I know that I have felt sluggish and out of sorts when I overload on carbs, but I never realized the benefits of wheat-free eating if you were suffering from a mental illness.

Overall, I really did enjoy this book and had the pleasure of listening to this one on audiobook this month thanks to my Scribd membership. I’m thrilled they are now offering an unlimited audiobook offering along with my book selections which has been a great way to absorb another book while tackling knitting or household chores!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls

I read and loved this one as a little girl and this month I read it with my little girl. The circle of life is a beautiful thing.  I think reading this again was even better as an adult. I am reading these with my 9 year-old daughter and am shocked how many scenes I can recall in vivid detail from my childhood. As an adult though, you certainly have more of an appreciation for all the work that Ma & Pa did to keep their household running smoothly. I also have found that Laura is a bit of a Ramona in this story- yup, she’s a little sassy and I love it.

This book really showcases all of the chores that the family must do and how they prepare their food for the long winter. The entertainment resides in Pa’s fiddle playing and making things from scratch.

This book is a treasure, no matter what your age! I look forward to reading the rest in the series this year with her.

5 Out of 5 Stars

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What Is On My Nightstand Now

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

I am over halfway through DEEP DOWN DARK and absolutely loving it. I heard about this book on NPR since it is their first Morning Edition book club selection and we know I am all about anything NPR-related. When a Chilean mine collapsed in August 2010, it trapped thirty-three miners beneath thousands of feet of rock for a record-breaking sixty-nine days. This book is the story of the miners and what they  experienced below the surface. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Hector Tobar gains exclusive access to the miners and their stories and tells these beautifully. It helps to offer an understanding of the families and the personal stories of these miners, as well as adds insight into what it would be like to work in this type of job.

When I read stories like this, much like the beautiful book UNBROKEN, I am reminded that I would die in the first day because I am a very weak, weak person. I could not exist in this kind of tomb-like existence. It is an incredible testimony to the strength of these men and the love they had for their families.

I really recommend this one, even though I haven’t finished it yet!

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

Inside The O’Briens by Lesa Genova

I was lucky enough to score an advanced reader of this book on NetGalley this month. I am a huge fan of Lisa Genova, particularly her novels STILL ALICE (have you seen the flick yet?)  and LEFT NEGLECTED. She truly has a gift for writing about illnesses and diseases that can affect the brain and mind. This novel promises a bit more of the same, but is exploring Huntington’s Disease.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

We are riding along in the wagon with Laura as her family leaves her little house in the big woods. I won’t lie, Emily started sobbing when the wagon found its way into the creek and their dog goes missing. I forgot how brutal this trip was.  Of course, I always loved the most depressing books when I was a kid, so this should come as no surprise that I remembered this one fondly. I also am reminded that I wouldn’t survive (see above for why).

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

My work life has been out of control these past couple of years and this year I really want to scale back.  This book is going to help me say no more to the things that don’t matter and make room for the good stuff. I am really enjoying this one and find myself highlighting the entire book. It’s the kind of book you want to revisit periodically when life feels out of control.  For me, it is like working with a business coach, but it doesn’t cost as much. I see so much of myself and my struggles in this and so much of my husband’s struggle with balance that we are both reading it right now and talking about it.  It is helping me to refocus this year.

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

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m challenge: Wheat Belly Book Discussion

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Wheat Belly by William Davis

I hope that you have been enjoying the m challenge this month and the information we showcased on health & wellness this month. Many apologies for the delay in our WHEAT BELLY discussion. Between having my home renovated and some family things going on, I got a little behind on our discussion. That said, I finished the book and really loved it.  Despite this topic being a little on the dry side for me, there was a lot of humour to keep me entertained while being educated on what wheat does to our systems. It was a good one to listen to on audiobook while I tackled my chores.

As you guys know I eat gluten-free almost 100% of the time, with a few indulgences around the holidays and the occasional, “JUST GIVE ME REAL PIZZA,” moments. For me, it has been transformative in so many ways. My stomach is finally quiet,  my skin is no longer as rashy, I have more energy, and even my hairdresser has remarked on how my hair doesn’t even feel the same.  Although I never had the colonoscopy to find out if I am celiac, it does run in my family, and I am aware that gluten does something to my body that isn’t good.  The change for me has been really transformative. I feel like me again.

WHEAT BELLY focuses on the quality of the wheat that we now consume and how removing wheat from your diet can help you to lose weight and live longer. The scientific research that supported this book as well as patient studies showcased not only the difference in the health of our body, but also how eating clean can help you mentally too.

Although every study and patient situation in this book seemed to have remarkable differences in their health without the gluten, I tend to not be an extremist when it comes to diet planning unless you have a health reason (like having celiac disease) that might not benefit from my, “all things in moderation,” planning.

The most interesting part for me about this book though were the studies on mental health, particularly the schizophrenia study, that showcased how much better patients did mentally with a wheat-free diet. I know that I have felt sluggish and out of sorts when I overload on carbs, but I never realized the benefits of wheat-free eating if you were suffering from a mental illness.

Dr. William Davis

On the Wheat Belly diet you eliminate all wheat, including bread, pasta, cereal, pretzels, doughnuts, etc. You may not eat anything made with wheat, barley, rye, spelt, or certain oats.

Unlike a gluten-free diet, Dr. William Davis cautions against simply replacing these items with “gluten-free” versions, which often contain cornstarch, rice starch, potato starch, or tapioca starch and will not aid in weight loss. The doctor says they trigger the same blood sugar response as gluten from wheat.

As someone who eats gluten-free, I have to agree that I don’t always feel great when I eat products that are gluten-free replacements. I try to eat these in moderation and make smart decisions. Unless it is gluten-free Girl Scout Cookies which happened to be my new discovery this year. If it is those, than I will do the best I can. *ahem*

Davis also suggests cutting out high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, salt, sugary foods, rice, potatoes, soda, fruit juice, dried fruit, legumes, and more. You should also avoid trans fats, fried foods, and cured meats on this plan.

The diet outlines that you can eat:

Vegetables
Some fruit (namely berries, apples, oranges), but much less of “sugary fruit” (pineapple, papaya, mango, banana)
Unlimited raw nuts, plant-based oils such as olive, avocado, coconut, and cocoa butter
Grass-fed, humanely raised meat and eggs
Full-fat cheese
Ground flaxseed

You can also eat limited quantities of:

Full-fat, unsweetened cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, and butter
Soy in its fermented forms: tofu, tempeh, miso, and natto
Olives, avocados, pickled vegetables, and raw seeds
After you’ve transitioned off wheat, you may eat limited quantities of other whole grains, such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, and chia, as well as beans.

As far as alcohol goes, wheat-brewed beers are definitely off the list, but Davis does support red wine for its heart-healthy benefits. You can read more on the Wheat Belly blog.

Although I don’t eat like this for weight-loss,  I can honestly say that I eat like this almost all of the time for my health.  At first, the transition was hard. I felt like I was detoxing those first few weeks. Over time though, and as so many other diets support clean eating pop up, it has become easier and easier. Almost everyone I know eats like this now.  As a disclaimer, although I choose to eat like this for myself, my husband and family still eat as usual except for the meals we share together. Why? Because ain’t nobody got time for cooking one meal, let alone two meals.

I’m curious for those who read this one what you thought about it? Were there any big moments in this book that made you think or have you considered/done/are doing a diet like this? Feel free to chat in the comments below!

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Sundays With Writers: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

It’s so good to be back to Sundays With Writers and sharing my first interview for 2015. Over my two week holiday, I read several really incredible books and one of those books happened to be,  WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES by Karen Joy Fowler.  I read about it in this fantastic list of 6 interesting and very different novels that are worth your time on Hollywood Housewife. Laura always has some unbelievably great picks so I knew that if she said this was worth my time, it would be. I avoided all reviews of the book and dug into it.

As a reader, I love a good surprise.

And this book was SO surprising….much like that delicious twist in GONE GIRL where you flipped the page and you were like, “Wait! WHAT?!”

After I finished it, I had to track down Karen Joy Fowler to see if she could share with us a little bit more about herself and her book.  Although this was a tricky interview to do, there are no spoilers in this interview.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind. Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man. And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined.

This is one of those books that you want others to read just so you can talk through it. I avoided reading any reviews on this and I am so glad I did because half of the fun in this one was making sense of this unusual family and just what makes them so unusual. So beautifully executed that it reads like a memoir, it was such an enjoyable and believable read that I will spend the rest of the night trying to find all of the inspiration behind this novel and reading more about how many of these cases featured were true. Although the execution of delivering the information in a mixed up timeline can be confusing for the reader, the originality of this unique & heartbreaking story made this a book that I just couldn’t put down.

I’m not the only one who loved this book though! WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES has won the Pen/Faulkner Award for 2014 and was nominated for a 2014 Nebula Award as well.  The book was also shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize- it’s that good!

Grab a cup of coffee and let’s chat with Karen Joy Fowler this morning about this intriguing book. Remember, no spoilers, friends!

Karen Joy Fowler

You have the unbelievable gift of writing books that cover a wide range of genres beautifully, which I find quite amazing as a reader. Would you find writing in one genre to be monotonous? Do you have a favorite genre that you feel most comfortable in?

I feel most comfortable between genres.  Actually I feel most comfortable when I don’t think about genre at all, but just do whatever seems best to me for the story at hand.  My recollection of the children’s room in the library where I grew up is that books weren’t separated by genre – none of that space rocket on the spine, cowboy hat on the spine that I found in later libraries.  So it was years before I understood that genre mattered, because it never had to me.

WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES explores the topic of animal testing for medical purposes and tells this story of what was happening in the ‘70’s in a truly unique way. How did you decide that this was a subject you wanted to tackle and what types of research did you have to do to prepare for this book? Did your father’s work as a psychology professor who studied animal behavior contribute to you wanting to explore this topic further?

My father’s work and my childhood perceptions of it, as best I can remember them, gave me the confidence to think I maybe could write this book, even though I had no experience or knowledge of chimpanzees beyond the basic when I started it.   The idea came during a conversation I was having with my daughter about my father’s work.  I comforted myself that, if I didn’t know much about chimps, at least I knew a lot about psychologists.  That gave me the nerve needed to begin the reading and research required.

Did writing this book change any of your own views about animal rights? Were you able to relate to one of the characters, in particular, and their viewpoint about animal rights?

I was always an animal rights advocate, but writing the book really expanded my sense of that.  Before I did the research I was most sympathetic to those animals with traits I could identify as human-like, those whose intelligence seemed to echo human intelligence.  I was well into the book before I took a closer look at my own assumptions.  Doing the research widened my circle of empathy as well as my fascination and respect for the cognitive abilities of our fellow creatures.

A few centuries back, Jeremy Bentham said:  the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?… The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes… “

I wonder if things have taken a bit longer than Bentham expected.

In the book, Lowell is something of an extremist, but I am quite sympathetic to him.

It is rare for a novel to take me by surprise, but you carefully crafted the first portion of your book with a big reveal halfway through that simply shocked me. It is actually preventing me from asking you questions I would like to because half of the joy of reading your book was in the discovery of this surprising twist. Did you always know that you wanted to set this story up in this way for your readers?

Yes, before I had written a word, I’d planned to withhold this crucial bit of information until partway in.  My reasons for doing so were not just for the surprise, although I like that side effect.   My reasons were the same as the ones Rosemary offers when the reveal finally happens.

Your book reads like a memoir to me and the way you crafted the story through Rosemary’s eyes made me check the listed genre again after I was done to make sure this wasn’t a true story. Was it easy to create Rosemary’s voice for this book? How hard was it to develop the psychological angle of the loss of Rosemary’s sister?

Having never remotely gone through anything like Rosemary’s life, I was forced to simply imagine it all.  I could do the research I felt I needed for Fern (and besides, I’m never inside Fern’s head, so an outside, researched view will do.)  But creating Rosemary was the most difficult, and also the most fun, part of the book for me.  I find that most difficult and most fun often go together.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

I’m not sure I can answer this question.  It would depend on the anyone – I don’t think books are a one-size-fits-all sort of thing.   But a current enthusiasm is Kelly Link’s new short story collection, GET IN TROUBLE.  Coming out in February.  I will be so happy if you all buy and read it.

You can connect with Karen Joy Fowler on her website and become a fan on GoodReads! 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!

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My Top Ten Books of 2014

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Best Books of 2014 from MomAdvice.com.
I still have one more month of reading to go, but I always like to deliver my top ten reads to you for holiday giving and for you to enjoy reading over your holiday break. I have read 47 books so far this year and I read so many incredible books that it is a difficult task to narrow it down to just ten. Since it is so hard, I will be sharing some honorable mentions as well as my top picks this year from what I have read. One special feature that I added to our site this year has been our Sundays With Writers. Many of the books on this list also include a discussion with the writer where I get to ask them my most pressing questions about their stories. My heart always pitter-patters like crazy when I send out an interview request, but even the most seasoned writers have been gracious and generous to share on our site. I haven’t had a single writer turn me down yet and it adds another element to these stories for me and for you.

As always, if you are looking for a little inspiration this year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!

Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks of year.  If you want to see more of what I am reading,  please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.

In no particular order, here are My Top Ten Books of 2014:

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Do you ever pick up a book completely outside of your normal genre and find yourself completely swept away in a world you never dreamed you would escape to? It happened a couple of times for me with The Hunger Games series and Twilight series, just to name two types of books that I never thought I would love.  If you would have asked me if I would have fallen head over heels in love with a book with a plotline firmly planted in science fiction with a zombie apocalypse theme or even just another dystopian thriller ( a genre I had grown very tired of), I would have probably laughed at you.

No, this is not your typical recommendation on here and I loved it because it was so different and so awesome.

All the descriptions of this book state that Melanie is simply a special girl. You don’t know what makes her special until you dive in and discover the girl and all her gifts.

This book is wildly imaginative, suspenseful, and leaves you wondering who you should be rooting for as the story develops. I really, really loved this book.  Unfortunately, it is just the kind of book that you shouldn’t talk about so that each reader can go on the journey with this child and find out just what makes her so unique. It’s a book that you will want to finish and share with friends. It reads like a movie and is just the type of literary adventure I would recommend if you have been in a reading slump.

After you finish this one, dive deep into our exclusive interview with M.R. Carey about his amazing book. It was one of my favorite interviews I got to do this year!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Two books slipped into my top ten of the year just this week and one of them was Station Eleven. This book was absolutely incredible and finally a new take on a pandemic world captured through the storytelling of a Hollywood actor and a band of traveling actors that risk it all to perform their art during a flu apocalypse. The storytelling jumps and weaves through time making it a treat to read from start to finish about what life was like before and after a fatal flu strikes the country.

Masterfully woven characters, particularly with the use of the three wives in Arthur’s life, the author brings these stories together in a way that makes you feel like you know each character. The ending was abrupt, but perhaps leaves it open for a sequel story.

I really enjoyed this one and can’t wait to read more from this author!

All the Lights We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Although I hate to rank my books, I must say that this was my favorite book of the year.

I can be the first to admit that sometimes the size of a book can be intimidating to me.  All the Light We Cannot See has been in my book stack several times this year, but at over five hundred pages, I just didn’t think I had the time to sit down and really dive in deep with a heavy book.  It had been recommended to me by some of my most respected fellow readers and I knew I would love it, but it being named our local book club selection for the month was finally what pushed me to just sit down and read.

And read.

And read.

And please leave me alone, I AM READING THE BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD.

I could not flip the pages fast enough. What will happen to these beloved characters? How will my life go on when this book ends?

Most of all, why did I wait so long to read this?

I wish I could give this book ten stars on GoodReads. I was held captive by it and could not put it down. The storytelling is superb, the characters vividly created, and the words read like poetry. My heart was in my throat for much of it and I could not turn the pages quickly enough so I knew what would happen with Marie-Laure & Werner. I loved how their stories weaved together and how the author created such striking details that made you feel as though you were witnessing it all firsthand.

In this story, Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

I can’t recommend this one enough- it will be, perhaps, in my top ten books ever read. 

Once you finish this beautiful book, be sure to read my author interview with Anthony Doerr. I was so incredibly honored that he took time out to answer my questions when he has had such a busy year with this endeavor. The interview is just as captivating as the book!

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

I read this beautiful book, Whistling Past the Graveyard,  in just a couple of short days and absolutely fell in love with it. It was the kind of book that I thought about for many days after.  I would say that if you are a fan of, “The Help,” or young narrator’s with lots of spunk, you will want to get this book right away. If you don’t fall in love with these characters, I fear for you. It’s that endearing.

In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother’s Mississippi home. Starla’s destination is Nashville, where her mother went to become a famous singer, abandoning Starla when she was three. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. Now, on the road trip that will change her life forever, Starla sees for the first time life as it really is—as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.

This book is so  beautiful your heart aches. A coming-of-age story about what it means to be family and how the most unlikely people can be a part of that despite all racial and societal barriers. Set in the ’60′s, the spitfire child narrator captured my heart. This story is a perfectly satisfying read that I believe anyone would love. 

Once you finish the book, grab a cup of coffee and settle in with my interview with Susan Crandall- it is a fun one!

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

In this novel, two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child named Havaa.  Havaa is just eight years old when her neighbor Akhmed finds her hiding in the woods, watching her house burning down. Akhmed knows getting involved means risking his life, but her father is an old friend, and he risks it all deciding to take her to an abandoned hospital where a woman named Sonja Rabina runs a hospital almost single handedly.

Sonja does not love kids…at all. Akhmed convinces her to keep Havaa for a trial, and over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will change in ways she never imagined. The reader is taken on a journey through each of these character’s past on an extraordinary journey of love, loss, and ultimately what it means to be human.

I found myself completely swept away into each of these characters and what they had to overcome.  Although the book was about war and suffering, the book was also all about love and what we do for love.

This entire book was so beautiful that I found myself rereading scenes and even saying them out loud because Marra’s words read like poetry to me. The writing is just unreal and it is impossible to not get swept away into the story.

Be sure to read my interview with Anthony Marra once you finish it. I was so honored to get a chance to interview him this year and to learn more about how he developed this storyline.

Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

Not sure if you can get on board with a non-fiction pick? Just picture me laughing until tears are rolling down my cheeks ever since I picked this book up. Then picture me reading aloud almost the entire book to my husband, while trying to read it to him, still laughing with tears rolling down my cheeks and trying to catch my breath so I can read every word to him. It is that funny and that awesome.

City girl, Torre DeRoche,  isn’t looking for love, but a chance encounter in a San Francisco bar sparks an instant connection with a soulful Argentinean man who unexpectedly sweeps her off her feet. The problem? He’s just about to cast the dock lines and voyage around the world on his small sailboat, and Torre is terrified of deep water. However, lovesick Torre determines that to keep the man of her dreams, she must embark on the voyage of her nightmares, so she waves good-bye to dry land and braces for a life-changing journey that’s as exhilarating as it is terrifying.

It is hilarious, harrowing, and a true story of what it would be like to sail around the world.  I could not put this book down and loved every moment of it. I really think you would love this one too!

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

If there is one thing I love it is a well-written thriller. There is nothing  better  than a book that you can rapidly flip through and sit in suspenseful moments as the story unfolds. Those kinds of books that your eyes can’t read fast enough because you just HAVE to know what is going to happen.   If you have been waiting for the next-big-thing since Gone Girl, then I have the just the book for you!

The book opens with the following words, “I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”

Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia is unlike her parents in every way, content with her life as an inner-city school teacher. When she finds herself at a bar one night alone, after being stood up by her boyfriend,  she meets a guy. Her plans for a one-night stand turns into the worst mistake of her life.

I don’t want to say anymore because the beauty in this book is those plot twists you never see coming! If you have been looking for something to capture your thriller-lovin’ heart, this is the book for you. Be sure to read my author interview after you are done. It is a particularly moving story of a writer who didn’t give up on her dreams of being published- super inspiring!

The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis

The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis

This book is absolutely stunning from start to finish. It was filled with words that begged to be read again because they felt like poetry to me.  It is a  beautifully woven story with big moral messages about love, forgiveness, and redemption. The plot twists? I never saw them coming, which happens rarely when you are an avid reader like I am. 

Set in the close-knit Portuguese community of Provincetown, Massachusetts, The Orphans of Race Point traces the relationship between Hallie Costa and Gus Silva, who meet as children in the wake of a terrible crime that leaves Gus parentless. Their friendship evolves into an enduring and passionate love that will ask more of them than they ever imagined.

On the night of their high school prom, a terrible tragedy devastates their relationship and profoundly alters the course of their lives. And when, a decade later, Gus—now a priest—becomes entangled with a distraught woman named Ava and her daughter Mila, troubled souls who bring back vivid memories of his own damaged past, the unthinkable happens: he is charged with murder. Can Hallie save the man she’s never stopped loving, by not only freeing him from prison but also—finally—the curse of his past?

Told in alternating voices, The Orphans of Race Point illuminates the transformative power of love and the myriad ways we find meaning in our lives.

The author is just as fabulous as this book so be sure to read my interview with her after you finish it- her story of becoming an author is REALLY inspiring and made me appreciate this beautiful book even more!

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This book slipped in at the tail end of the year when I thought that I had chosen my list of ten. It was charming and a book for a true book lover.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore that changes his life forever…

This story is enchanting from start to finish. This book is a must-read for book lovers as it references so many of my favorite books and centers around a little bookshop in a seaside town. I could not put this one down and, truly, did not want the story of these beautiful characters to end. If you need a little winter escape, check this book out. I may just read it again, it was that simply that perfect.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

If you haven’t read The Girl You Left Behind or Me Before You, you must reserve them at your library because they are amazing. I don’t know how she does it, but this book made me laugh, cry, and connect with every character in this book. Moyes weaves an endearing story of a mother who is down on her luck and can barely make ends meet when her daughter is offered the chance of a lifetime to receive a scholarship for her excellence in mathematics that will cover 90% of her daughter’s education. Coming up with the other ten percent seems impossible, but she is determined to make this happen for her daughter. When she hears of a math contest happening in Scotland that offers a cash prize, she must do everything she can to get her there… including hitching a ride with the most unlikely man who could ultimately change their entire world. 

Anyone who has ever struggled financially or who would sacrifice it all to give their kids everything they need will appreciate this extraordinary book that, I hope, will be adapted to movie one day. It is that good! It’s one of those that just reminds me of a really great Hugh Grant romantic comedy film. It’s just perfect.  Amy Allen Clark- Best Books of 2014

If that isn’t enough books for you, here is my lengthy list of Honorable Mentions that you should check out this year!

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (get ideas for a book club around this one here)

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The Martian by Andy Weir (read my interview here)

Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert (read my interview here)

Life Drawing by Robin Black

We Were Liars  by E. Lockhart

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf (read my interview here)

Close Your Eyes Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian (read my interview here)

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable (read my interview here)

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead (read my interview here)

Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn (read my interview here)

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (read my interview here)

A White Wind Blew by James Markert (read my interview here)

Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

The Bear by Claire Cameron (read my interview here)

Best Reads of 2013

Need More Book Ideas? Here are my top ten lists from the past four years!

My Top Ten Books of 2013

The Best Books Read in 2012

My Top Ten Books in 2011

The Top Ten of 2010

For more great suggestions, check out the NPR Book Concierge- swoon! It is heavenly stuff!   Tell me, what your favorite books were in 2014 or share your links to your own round-ups! Anything I should 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!

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

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Sundays With Writers: The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

Debut novelists hold a special place in my heart. I particularly love novelists that never give up and those that spend years crafting the most perfect book. When I finished the final pages of The Art of Falling, I knew that I needed to reach out to the author. What sealed the deal though was Kathryn’s Q&A at the end of her book that really gave me pause. She is talking about one of those scary topics that we often dance around. She talks about suicide and how it impacted her personally and how it was reflected in the character of her book.

Robin Williams certainly brought the topic of mental illness to the forefront this year. I can honestly say that reading through my Facebook feed that sad day, I was disturbed by the reactions of people and the things they said about it- I think mental illness is still something so few of us understand.  For me, I just hoped that in these sad moments, people would find courage to seek help and that it might bring to light the struggles of the mentally ill.  I keep my heart pretty guarded on here, but I am no stranger to mental illness or depression. I think that is why this book touched me very deeply.

The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft

In Craft’s novel, we get to take a glimpse behind the world of dance with new eyes. All Penny has ever wanted to do is dance—and when that chance is taken from her, it pushes her to the brink of despair, from which she might never return. When she wakes up after a traumatic fall, bruised and battered but miraculously alive, Penny must confront the memories that have haunted her for years, using her love of movement to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.

 I am completely enraptured with the dance world and this really brought to life the struggle of a dancer and body image. What unfolds is a beautiful story of the unlikely friendships that pull her from her depths of despair, a mother who refuses to let her give up on her dreams, and finding movement again when confidence has been lost. Beautifully told and rich characters make this novel a fast page-turner that I just could not put down. I can’t wait to read more from Kathryn Craft! 

Grab a cup of coffee and settle in for this beautiful and heartfelt interview today with this week’s featured author.

Kathryn Craft

It is such an honor to feature your debut novel, The Art of Falling, on our site. I understand that this novel was eight years in the making. So very few people could dedicate themselves to one project this long- what an incredible feat.  Why did you think it was important to see this work through and did you have any doubts during this process that you would finish it?

Thanks so much for having me, Amy! Even as a teenager I used to say that “perseverance” was my middle name, so I guess I’ve always had that kind of intense focus—and I’ll tell you, as a writer that is a very handy quality! I can think of three ways to answer your question, though, and combining them galvanized my commitment.

The first is the reason I wrote this story to begin with. After my first husband committed suicide seventeen years ago, when our sons were just eight and ten, I got caught overly long in the grief stage of anger. I knew the way to emerge from it was to forgive him, but that required empathy for him I couldn’t conjure. He was 54, depressed, alcoholic, and financially reckless, all attributes unfathomable to a 40-year-old, responsible optimist. I needed to create a female character from my world who might be pushed to the point of such despair—and Penelope Sparrow was born. Penny is a dancer who blames her body for the ruin of her dream dance career, yet who survives what should have been a deadly fall due to the miraculous strength and resilience of that same body. I could relate to her. In the backstory, had I taken away enough of what she loves for her to consider suicide? I wasn’t sure—so I wrote the novel to find out.

But healing from a horrific event takes time. Years and years of time. Early readers could tell you that Penelope, like her author, started out a much angrier character. I knew my anger would be healed when agents started telling me she was now a woman whose arc they admired. A lovely side benefit was that my storytelling skills improved along the way.

Second, once the characters started coming alive to me, I knew I would hang in there with them for the long haul because I loved them. They never stopped sharing their secrets when I pushed them for more. They were troubled and brave—and honestly, I miss them since publication! I wanted to do right by them, and make sure their story was told.

The last reason was ridiculously pragmatic—I wanted something to go in my author’s bio! I was a dancer, choreographer, and dance critic. I was a biology major and I have a master’s in health and phys ed. The world of this book both surrounded me and lived in my body. I was the person to write it, and had credentials to back that up. I really felt this needed to be my debut title.

Penelope’s suicide attempt and your own life had some parallels. Why did you feel suicide was an important topic to explore? Has this process changed your own feelings about suicide and those who struggle with depression? Have you found writing this story to be therapeutic in your own journey towards understanding?

Therapeutic, yes, but I’m not done writing about suicide yet. My second novel, The Far End of Happy, due out in May 2015, is based on the true story of my husband’s day-long standoff against a massive police presence, novelized to feature the points of view of the three women closest to him as they await word and try to sustain hope. Our decision to choose life, every day, is just so elemental that calling it into question presents a fascinating array of story problems. Real world problems with no easy answers, as my next novel will show.

Case in point: I just happened to reveal my cover for this second novel on the day beloved comedian Robin Williams was found dead by his own hand. The outcry on social media was immediate: we need to offer a more sympathetic ear to those who are depressed! Wouldn’t that be nice if mental illness could be so easily solved, and people were that willing to be transparent? What I know now, from life experience and writing two novels, is that neither of these things are true. Like most subjects, once you delve into them deeply, you become more painfully aware of their complexity.

Yet still I strive to write novels that resolve on a note of hope, what I consider to be the most critical component for a joyful life. This is the great calling of the storyteller: to rearrange the chaos of real-seeming events in order to create order, understanding, and change.

Kathryn Craft

Kathryn Craft dancing- source Barnes & Noble

You are a former dancer, choreographer, and critic so I know you know firsthand how harshly critical and taxing being a dancer can be on the body and mind. Penelope’s struggle with her own body image issues are a big focus in this book. Did you ever struggle with these issues yourself as a dancer? As a critic, did you struggle with reviewing other dancers knowing what it is like to be on the receiving end of criticism?

Despite my academic exploration of its inner workings and movement, our bodies ultimately are a mystery that can be influenced but not controlled. I think all dancers struggle with this to some extent but since I hadn’t experienced Penny’s specific issues I drew on other ways my body disappointed me to find that emotional connection: fair skin back when tan was “it,” fertility struggles and miscarriages when I desperately wanted children; inducement and flagging contractions when I wanted to deliver naturally; graying hair and wrinkles when I still struggled with acne (I mean come on, is that fair?). Yet despite the human body’s betrayals, there is no creation more magnificent. I wanted to write about that conflict.

Early on, as a critic, I had to own the fact that I was not criticizing other dancers; I was expressing one woman’s informed opinion about a work of choreography and its execution in a way that would be evocative for the reader. Otherwise, how could I have had the hubris to set fingers to keyboard for publication? I’m also a developmental editor, so I continue to use my critical mind, sharing my informed yet very personal assessments. This sensibility helps me as an author to establish an even keel as I read what others say about my work.

When Penelope decides that she can’t do dance anymore she takes a job as an aerobics instructor and then later a short-lived position in their family’s candy factory. What is one job you have had in your life that could not have been a worse fit?

Fun question! Had to be secretary. Imagine a dancer, confined to a chair all day. I used to fill in at my neighbor’s manufacturer’s rep firm, taking orders, filing, typing letters, and making coffee. Okay the talking on the phone part I could do (hello, I’m a woman). But I was a creative filer, my lack of touch typing and the resulting syncopation constantly had my boss shutting the door between our offices for his sanity, and since I didn’t drink coffee at the time—let’s just say it typically sat there all day until it burned. I resigned with a misspelled letter typed halfway upside down. My ex-boss has it to this day and will whip it out for another round of laughter when I visit.

The relationship I loved the most was the one you created between Penelope and her mother. There was such a good balance of the real love and strain of mother and daughter relationships. Were the scenes between them difficult to write especially when it comes to Evelyn’s own weight issues and Penelope’s growing insecurity that she is like her mother?

Heck no! The great fun of being a novelist is letting rip confrontations that you would never dare allow in real life. It was fun to let them butt heads, especially surrounding the turning point that many mothers and daughters struggle with: seeing each other as adult women. That said, it wasn’t all giggles, of course. I too find some of their scenes deeply moving.

Since you have been a dancer, choreographer, and critic, which of these characters, in the book, do you relate to the most?

Each of them carries a spark from me, for sure. To reduce inner conflict, can I plead the fifth?

I think it has to be the critic—any creative with a critical bone in her body knows how hard it is to turn off the critic! Plus, she’s the most misunderstood. She is a creative too—her art form is derivative, of course, but it is an art form (something we forget in this world of “everyone who can bestow a star rating is now a critic”). She is an advocate for dance excellence, and this one has a personal cause as well that is as worthy as my reasons for writing the novel.

Plus who am I kidding? I have to say the critic. If I don’t, I’m afraid of what she’ll write about me…

I’m obsessed with dancing and all things dance so I must ask, what is your favorite song to dance to and where is your favorite place to dance?

While on your basic wedding event dance floor, my absolute fave is “It’s Raining Men” by the Weather Girls. That song tickles the hell out of me and it’s such a great beat, with all the building swirl of a storm on top. My favorite non-traditional place to dance? Grocery store aisles! (Yes, you’ll now recognize me…)

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

Ah, the dreaded one book question, asked of a multiple-book lover! Since I know nothing about the reader, including why he or she reads—and given my answers to the question about critical subjectivity—I’ll assume your real question is “What book could someone read that would reveal the most about you?” You said “book,” not “novel,” for which I am grateful, since novels are such delicious slices of life it would be like asking if you could only taste one food what would it be. So I am going to go the nonfiction route and say The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. A brilliant life guide that I’ve read many times, my sensibilities are all over its pages.

You can connect with Kathryn Craft on GoodReads or 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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Sundays With Writers: The Martian by Andy Weir

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

This year one of my reading goals was to branch out into different genres than I typically reach for.

I blame you.

I want our Sundays With Writers to be a well-rounded selection of great books and authors and I want to challenge you to read something you might not normally pick up.  My first leap into science fiction this year was The Girl With All the Gifts and I wasn’t going to stop there. After reading about The Martian, I knew that this would be my next science fiction book for the year.  Can I be honest and say that after starting it, I started to wonder if my tiny brain could process all of this science?  This book, my friends, is heavy on the science in the science fiction. And it was geekily good. So geekily good, in fact, that this is the next book my husband wants to read.

Did I mention it is being adapted into a film starring Matt Damon?

I finished this amazing book and emailed Andy Weir to see if he might like to do an interview. He graciously agreed.

And then I wondered what in the world I could ask this genius that wouldn’t sound completely stupid?

Hello, anxiety attack.

I hope this interview does this great mind justice and I hope you will want to snag his book too. Let me tell you a little about it!

The Martian by Andy Weir

 

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

This is a suspenseful survival story of an astronaut who finds himself stranded on Mars and what he must do to survive. Science geeks will love this story of survival from the astronaut, Mark, from his ingenious ideas of how to grow food for himself to how he keeps his limited equipment running to stay alive until he can be rescued. Loads of unexpected humor in his logs, even in the most challenging situations, and a character you want to root for. I really enjoyed this one immensely and can’t wait to see it on the big screen!

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in for a chat with Andy Weir about his debut novel The Martian!

Andy Weir

When your short story The Egg hit the front page of Reddit, you said that you were a little sad that The Martian wasn’t as popular as the short story you wrote in an evening. Now that The Martian is finally getting the attention it deserves are you finding this project to be more rewarding than you expected?

Oh definitely. That was before The Martian really took off. Since then, it’s become more well-known than The Egg. It’s been a very exciting ride.

Some of my favorite scenes in your book are when Watney discovers what fills his crewmates USB drives. I love that they brought disco music and fabulous shows like Three’s Company. What would you put on your USB drive to take with you to Mars?

Probably a bunch of 1980’s music. And I’d bring the entire archive of Doctor Who. You may not have noticed, but I’m a nerd.

 Any thoughts on commercial space flight? Any plans to purchase a ticket?

It feels like it’s just around the corner. The trick is getting the price down. Most people can’t pay $200,000 for a trip to space. But if that were brought down to $10,000 it would probably have millions of customers. As for myself, I’m afraid to fly in ordinary planes; I certainly wouldn’t be able to go to space.

Do you see us putting a man on Mars in your lifetime?

That’s a tough one to predict. With our modern technology, we can make extremely effective rovers. It makes people ask why we should risk human life. There are lots of solid reasons to send people instead of robots, but that fundamental concern, and the tremendous cost increases associated with manned spaceflight, will always be a factor. Considering we haven’t gone back to the moon yet, I’m honestly not sure if we’ll see anyone on Mars soon.

Which do you think is a more technical challenge- the first time we put a man on the moon or putting a man on Mars?

Putting a man on Mars is definitely the larger challenge. Even when you account for the technology level of the Apollo era compared to now. The Moon is just so much closer and easier to work with.

I know that not many of our readers have explored as much science fiction and that is why I wanted to share about your book. Do you have any other great suggestions for readers just jumping into the science fiction genre?

Yes, I recommend “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. It’s my favorite book of the decade so far, and it has excellent crossover appeal. You don’t have to be a “sci-fi person” to enjoy it.

Do you think you would survive if you were stranded on Mars?

I doubt it. It would require great bravery and fortitude, and exceptional strength of character. I’m just a normal guy.

John Young

If you could dine with one astronaut, living or dead, who would you invite to dinner?

John Young. He’s the consummate astronaut. He was on numerous spaceflights including Apollo 16, when he walked on the Moon. Fun fact: Apollo astronauts wore bio-monitoring equipment, so their heart rate was recorded throughout their missions. As you can imagine, during launch, their heart rates tended to spike. Usually to around 140 or 150 beats per minute. John Young’s heart rate never got above 70 during the Apollo 16 launch. Nerves of steel.

I understand that you started your computer programming career at the age of 15. What came first, your love of computers or your love for space?

Definitely my love of space. I grew up with it. I can’t remember any time when I wasn’t interested in space travel.

I am trying to build a passion for science in my children. Do you have any suggestions for how to foster that passion in them whether it’s books, places to visit, or shows/movie recommendations?

First, find their passion. Whatever it is. Art? Music? Fast Cars? Doesn’t matter. Then show them how science makes those things possible. Because in the modern era, everything is a science. If they like art, show them the science of computer modeling. If they like Music, show them how musical instruments are made with modern machinery and precision. If they like cars, well you get the idea.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest sci-fi books of all time.

You can connect with Andy Weir on GoodReads or 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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Sundays With Writers: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

I can be the first to admit that sometimes the size of a book can be intimidating to me.  All the Light We Cannot See has been in my book stack several times this year, but at over five hundred pages, I just didn’t think I had the time to sit down and really dive in deep with a heavy book.  It had been recommended to me by some of my most respected fellow readers and I knew I would love it, but it being named our book club selection for the month was finally what pushed me to just sit down and read.

And read.

And read.

And please leave me alone, I AM READING THE BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD.

I could not flip the pages fast enough. What will happen to these beloved characters? How will my life go on when this book ends?

Most of all, why did I wait so long to read this?

I wish I could give this book ten stars on GoodReads. I was held captive by it and could not put it down. The storytelling is superb, the characters vividly created, and the words read like poetry. My heart was in my throat for much of it and I could not turn the pages quickly enough so I knew what would happen with Marie-Laure & Werner. I loved how their stories weaved together and how the author created such striking details that made you feel as though you were witnessing it all firsthand.

All the Lights We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

 

In this story, Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

I can’t recommend this one enough- it will be, perhaps, in my top ten books ever read. I want you to set aside the size of it and just dive in like I did. 

I sent an email to Anthony, firmly believing that I would not get a response. At that time, he had been on the New York Times best seller list for twenty weeks. He certainly doesn’t need to do an interview with me to spread the word about his book.  I was shocked when I received the kindest response and so honored that Doerr would take time out of his busy schedule to answer his new #1 fan and her silly questions.

I hope you will love this interview and book as much as I love sharing about it. I already know this one is in my top ten for the year and, perhaps, forever.

Grab your coffee and let’s share a virtual cup with Anthony Doerr and his literary tour de force.

 

Anthony Doerr

I understand that this beautiful book took a decade for you to write which really speaks to your commitment to this novel. Tell me what it is like to devote ten years to a book like this and did you ever find yourself discouraged during the process of fleshing out this story? Did you ever dream that it would take that long to complete it?

Oh, I was crazy with doubt almost of the time. You invest so many months into a single project—shelves stuffed with WWII books, three separate trips to Europe, dozens of notebooks full of scribbled notes—and the terror that you won’t be able to pull it all together keeps you up at nights. I worried that if I abandoned the project I’d let down my wife, my kids, my editor, myself. And I never dreamed it would take so long—a quarter of my life!

At the heart of this story is the communication via radio that brings unlikely people together in beautiful ways. As an NPR junkie, I absolutely loved picturing Werner & his sister huddled beside the radio (as I may or may not do that myself while tuning in to my favorite shows) and others who were enchanted by radio broadcasting through this story. Why did you decide to explore radio and did you have to do a lot of research on the older models and how they worked in order to develop this plotline?

I adored radios as a boy and would often stay up late listening to baseball games under my covers while my parents thought I was sleeping. But that passion had waned a bit, until ten years ago, when I took a train from Princeton, New Jersey into New York City. I had just completed a novel and was searching around for a new idea, and had a notebook in my lap. The man in the seat in front of me was talking to someone on his cell phone about the sequel to The Matrix, I remember that very clearly, and as we approached Manhattan, and sixty feet of steel and concrete started flowing above the train, his call dropped.

And he got angry! He started swearing, and rapping his phone with his knuckles, and after briefly worrying for my safety, I said to myself: What he’s forgetting, what we’re all forgetting, is that what he was just doing is a miracle. He’s using two little radios — a receiver and a transmitter — crammed into something no bigger than a deck of cards, to send and receive little packets of light between hundreds of radio towers, one after the next, miles apart, each connecting to the next at the speed of light, and he’s using this magic to have a conversation about Keanu Reeves.

Because we’re habitualized to it, we’ve stopped seeing the grandeur of this breathtaking act. So I decided to try to write something that would help me and my reader feel that power again, to feel the strangeness and sorcery of hearing the voice of a stranger, or a distant loved one, in our heads.

That very afternoon, ten years ago, I wrote a title into my notebook: All the Light We Cannot See—a reference to all the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum (like radio waves) that are invisible. And that night, I started a piece of fiction in which a girl reads a story to a boy over the radio. I conceived of her as blind, and him as trapped in darkness, and the sound of her voice, carried by radio waves – light we cannot see — through walls, as his salvation.

 My heart ached for Werner so much especially his time in the Hitler Youth and what he must do to survive. Death, war, sadness, poverty…it is all there in this book, despite the hope that so much of your story brings in the end. I imagine that this was a very difficult time period in history to write about as an author. What scene was the hardest for you to write?

Yes, lots of the research for this novel was excruciating. The destruction of human beings during WWII, especially on the Eastern Front, occurred on a scale that is almost too large for the human brain to comprehend. So sometimes the source material would send me to dark places, and I’d have to take breaks by working on other projects.

As for scenes that were hard to write, there are many kinds of difficulty a writer faces: technical difficulty, emotional difficulty, syntactic difficulty. In terms of emotions, probably all the scenes involving Frederick were the most difficult, because he reminds me of one of my sons.

It is hard to say who my favorite character is because I found each one so endearing. The relationship between Marie-Laure and her father brought tears to my eyes though because it was so special. The books that he gives her for her birthday are so treasured and one in particular, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, turns out to be a very special one. Was this a childhood favorite of your own? What was it about this book that made you want to use it in such a unique way in your story?

Thank you, Amy. Yes, 20,000 Leagues was indeed a childhood favorite. The book is about wonder and technology, and it uses narrative to excite a reader’s interest in the natural world. This is so similar to the kind of projects I try to make with my own fiction, that – one day, when I started re-reading it — I decided Verne’s text might serve as an effective book-within-a-book.

The intricate puzzles that Marie-Laure’s father creates add so much beauty to your story. It made me wish I could find a puzzle for my kids to solve.  How did you come up with this concept?

A friend of our family’s once gave me a Japanese puzzle box as a present. It was a wooden cube that looked like an ornate, solid block of wood. No visible doors, no knobs, no handles, no buttons. But, as our family friend showed me, if you knew what side to push in on, then various panels would start to slide down, and by manipulating all the panels in clever ways, you could eventually slide open the top and discover a hidden compartment inside.

I played with that thing for hours, showing it off to friends, examining its construction, etc., then eventually put it on a shelf and forgot about it. A couple of decades later, working on this novel, the puzzle box came back to me, along with my fascination with it, and I decided to try writing a couple of scenes in which Marie-Laure’s father fashions puzzle boxes.

Which character do you identify the most with in your book?

I do my best to identify with all my characters, even the bad actors—I think that’s probably part of the job description for any novelist, isn’t it?

This novel has 187 chapters, but they are beautifully segmented and sectioned for the reader in small doses, which created a lot of suspense for me, as a reader, and kept me pushing through your story so I could find out what would happen in the next chapter. Why did you decide to structure your story this way?

Obviously, there are an infinity of ways to write a novel, but for me “plotting it out” has always sounded scary and programmatic. I have to compose, revise, and re-revise scenes just to understand what should happen in them.So my process involves a lot of trial and error. I write hundreds of paragraphs trying to figure out where the story is going, and I usually end up cutting most of them. I knew early on that I wanted the two narratives to feel like two almost parallel lines that inclined toward each other very gently.

The structure was a big mess for a long time. It probably had 250 or 300 chapters at some points. All I knew early on — and wanted a reader to intuit – was that Marie’s and Werner’s lives would intersect. But it took me a long time to figure out exactly how that would happen.

 If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

Oh, gosh, my answer to this question changes all the time, but a novel I’m absolutely in love with right now is Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. It’s about family, siblinghood, memory, storytelling, and particularly about our society’s treatment of animals. It’s also structured in this beautiful, organic, perfect way—I hope a few of your readers will give it a look!

You can connect with Anthony Doerr on GoodReads or 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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Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I was so excited to get a chance to preview the new Jodi Picoult book, LEAVING TIME, that will be hitting store shelves on October 14th! Through a partnership with Walmart Moms, I was given the chance to take a peek and share my honest opinions of this new book with you.

Over the years I have been a huge Picoult fan and I have read almost every book she has written. My love affair with her began with MY SISTER’S KEEPER and I was thrilled when she came to visit our town and our book club got a chance to meet her in person. She was as charming and genuine as I could have hoped so I continued to read her books despite the similar themes with courtroom battles and a surprising twist. Even though I wasn’t as enraptured as I once was, I decided to pick up THE STORYTELLER last year which ended up making my top ten list for one of the best books she has ever written. If I was going to make any recommendation at all, I would pick that one up and devour it immediately. It is, in my opinion, Picoult’s finest work. It is because of this book that I was so excited to see what she would tackle next.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

In LEAVING TIME Picoult embraces a mystery theme that brings an unlikely cast of characters together to piece together the disappearance of Alice Metcalf. Jenna Metcalf’s mother’s death is now a cold case and one that consumes Jenna’s every thought. Alice Metcalf mysteriously disappeared during a tragic accident at the elephant conservatory where she works as a scientist studying the grief among elephants, working alongside her husband. Jenna believes that there is a bigger story to her disappearance and hires Serenity Jones, a disgraced psychic, and Virgil Stanhope, an alcoholic private detective, to help her find out once and for all if Alice is alive or dead. The true question though, is what if Alice has been alive all along and never wanted a relationship with Jenna?

In predictable Picoult fashion, this story alternates between the different characters, and it also weaves in the scientific journals and observations of elephant behavior by Alice. As the story builds, more and more layers are added and we are given a host of possible suspects for Alice’s disappearance. As more of puzzle pieces are added, Jenna begins remembering more and more about what happened when she was a child as it all comes together in a shocking twist that readers will never see coming.

One element I thought worked really well was the storyline of Serenity and her rise and fall in psychic stardom and her struggle with no longer having the gifts she had before. I also loved the private detective and the demons that he was battling since this case was one he never thought he performed well. Most of all, I really appreciated the ending to this one that makes you want to reread the book again to find all of those hidden clues that Picoult placed in there for you that you might not have noticed before.

You can tell that Picoult has thoroughly researched this one, but at points the researched portions dragged on and on for me. Alice’s scientific journals add predictable parallels to her own mothering. At times though, the research was so long that it felt as though you were reading a nonfiction story.  If you are a fan of elephants or the struggles of elephant conservation, you will be swimming in all of the facts and have plenty to read. For me, I felt that this created a bit of lag in my reading and I found myself skimming through those portions to get back to the meat of the story.

Truth be told, the ending is really what makes this Picoult book shine and worthy of a read- I would recommend this book simply for that reason alone! The final forty pages have a way of tying this story together that will have you begging your friends to read it so that you can discuss the plot twist you never saw coming.

Walmart will be offering LEAVING TIME at a deep rollback discount! You can preorder your copy today at the price of, $20.52.

 

What is your favorite Jodi Picoult book? I’d LOVE to hear!

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Sundays With Writers: Lifelines by Caroline Leavitt

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Sundays With Writers

I have a very special treat for you today and am so honored to be interviewing bestselling author Caroline Leavitt for our Sundays With Writers series. I have been a longtime fan of her work and recently requested a copy of her book LIFELINES on NetGalley to read. It was so interesting to see several all available for one author (a rarity for a reviewer)  and was so excited to read that Caroline’s backlist of novels are now being published into ebook format for her devoted readers.  I was not as familiar with how all of that works in the publishing world so I was so excited to interview her and let her tell us about this unique opportunity.

Lifelines by Caroline Leavitt

Let me begin with her book LIFELINES that I read last week. Honestly, you would have never known that the book was originally published in the ’80’s because the story is timeless as is the beautiful and rich relationship between the mother and daughter in this story.  This story is about a woman named Duse, a strong-willed psychic and Isadora, her daughter, who struggles to find her own identity. It begins with Duse’s supernatural gifts which lead her to palm reading and how these lifelines in her own hands help guide her in her decision to find love and begin her family. As Duse is open to her gift her husband and daughter do not believe in it and live their lives differently, often conflicting with Duse’s world and their own self-discovery. What happens though when these three worlds collide and what if there truly are things in the world that cannot be explained.

  I found this book to be a deeply moving story that illustrates the bonds and difficulties that often arise in mother and daughter relationships.  I would recommend this beautiful book for people who enjoy stories with lots of character development, descriptive prose, and a slower build in their books. As with everything I have read by Caroline, I find her storytelling superb and this book was such a treat to read. I had happened to read IS THIS TOMORROW recently too and I can say that from her earlier work to her more recent work, it is solid through and through.

Now grab your coffee and let’s chat with the wildly talented Caroline Leavitt today!

Caroline Leavitt

For those of us that aren’t in the publishing world, explain what it means to have your backlist published?  How did this opportunity arise and what is the gain for you, as an author, to see your backlist published?

Before there were-e-books, everything was just in paper, which meant that, for most books, after a while, the book goes out of print. If people want to read it, they hit the library (which is great, I love libraries), or used bookstores or private sellers, which often charge ridiculous prices like $2,000 for my novel Meeting Rozzy Halfway! That  price tag means I can’t afford to buy up extra copies of my own novel! My agent and I were approached by Dzanc Books who had a new series called REprints (that’s the right spelling, by the way!), where they were bringing back literary novels in e-book form and would I like to have my book list out? I was so completely thrilled! In fact, Dzanc is now going to publish another one of my backlist, Living Other Lives. That means all my books, except for my third novel, Jealousies, which everyone hated, (I was pushed into writing a “more commercial novel” by my then publisher), will be available!

I would be most grateful if everyone would take a look and/or order them all here:

I read your book LIFELINES, one of several titles that are making their way out into the world again and would love to hear what makes this book special to you? Do you feel your writing style has evolved since this was published originally in the ‘80’s?

What an interesting question! The book was special to me because it was my second novel. My first, Meeting Rozzy Halfway, had created a sensation and made me a kind of star, and everyone had huge expectations for Lifelines, which got rave reviews—and then the publisher went out of business and the book lost promotion and steam, and well, there you go. The book died. It has particular meaning for me because parts of it were first published in the Michigan Quarterly Review, which was actually my very first publication. They paid me $50! I was so thrilled! I was deeply interested in identity back then, who we are compared to others—(hey, I was really young and insecure). I wrote my first two books in first person, and then I began to branch out!

LIFELINES really, at its roots, deals with the bonds between mothers and daughters.  In one line you say, “Through it all, Isadora began to think that if you had to be mother and daughter, it was easier at a distance.” The complexities of these relationships are so rich and deep just as they often are in real life. What made you want to explore this relationship and do you think there is any truth to Isadora’s thoughts?

Another great question. Well, at the time, I had a tangled relationship with my mother. I loved her (and still love her) very deeply, but she was insistent that I live my life the way she thought I should, and it caused a lot of friction. At the time, I just wasn’t strong enough to say to her, “I love you, but it’s my life and I know what it is going to make me happy.” Isadora wasn’t strong enough to do that—plus, there were parts of her that wondered if she WAS living her life the right way because everything was going badly for her! It became a really useful way for me to explore my own feelings about who I was, who my mother was, and who we could be together.

Edgard Cayce

I have read that you always add a spiritual element into each of your books. LIFELINES deals a lot with the things that we can’t always explain like palm reading, the feeling of spirits moving through one’s body, and the power of hypnosis. Do you believe in the power of these things yourself? What type of research did you do to prepare for Duse’s gifts?

I am LOVING your questions. I have always been interested in magic, the unknown, etc. I blame my father, who used to give me books about Edgar Cayce, the minister who would go into a trance and be able to tell peoples’ futures and cure their ailments, and no one—including him—knew why. I loved reading about that! I saw possibilities everywhere!  My father also gave me these old magazines called Weird Tales, and one of them talked about there being hidden holes in the world and if you stepped in one, you would vanish and go into another world. I looked for those holes everywhere!  But I also started reading a lot of quantum physics for the layperson and the thing that struck me is the pieces always talked about how the universe is really more strange and weird than anything we can imagine. There can be parallel universes where you might be living out another live. Maybe we are part of a giant computer (they’ve recently found pixels in space!).

So I do believe that anything and everything is possible—and that anything and everything has a scientific explanation we just don’t know yet. Many physicists say that there is no time, really, that is all a loop with everything happening at the same time. Wouldn’t that explain how a psychic might know your future?

I didn’t really do research back then. (I know, crazy, right?) Instead, I used what I knew and the experiences I had had with psychics I had gone to.

Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt

As an author of nine bestselling novels, I am sure it might be difficult to answer this, but what is one novel of yours that you wish everyone would read? What makes that book particularly endearing to you?

Yikes, this is like asking a mom who her favorite child is. Each novel was extremely important to me at the time. I guess I would urge people to read Is This Tomorrow because that is my most recent and the most me.

You are not only an author, but also a critic of books for People, The Boston Globe and The San Francisco Chronicle. I wrote my first book and had such a hard time reading the feedback from it and have found that I prefer doing interviews with authors rather than reviews of books because I am now aware as an author of what it feels like to be on the other side of criticism. Since you receive criticism for your own work, do you find it difficult to critique others especially when so many authors are colleagues or personal friends? Do you publish feedback if you find you really hate a book?

What a great question. Before I became a critic, my reviews used to decimate me. If they were bad, I would hole up and cry for weeks. If they were good, I was skeptical and wondered if the reviewer was just being kind to me because he or she felt sorry for me.  My husband Jeff is a music critic and he used to talk to me for hours about how this is just one person’s opinion, and you have to weight the criticism, maybe learn from it and in any case, let it go. Becoming a critic was the best thing I ever did for myself because it made me realize how true that is. There have been books championed by every other critic on the planet that I just hated. And there have been many, many books I have loved that no one else even bothered to review, or if they did review, they tore the book to pieces.  It made me review and consider books more carefully. No one sets out to write a bad book, yet many reviews read as if that is truly the case. I think there is a right way to critique, to gently point out things that may not be working and to explore why in the context of what you believe the author was intending to do.

It’s considered deeply unethical to review a book by someone you know, even casually.  You are not supposed to review a book if you share the same publisher or editor or agent. Many papers I have worked for, including the NYT, make you sign a contract stipulating that you do not know the author. I’m very careful with that. Part of why I started my blog was so I could be above board about interviewing writers I knew and giving them some press for their books!

I also work privately with writers on their manuscripts because I love looking at books and figuring out what works and why, and what doesn’t work and how a writer could think about fixing that issue. It’s an intensive process—but it’s always done with great care and concern for the artist, because I know how hard a process writing anything is. And that process deserves the utmost respect. The difference between this and reviewing is that here, I can point out ways for the book to succeed on a higher level. A review is just a review.

That said, I don’t review books I hate. I don’t want to tear apart another writer. There’s so little review space available now, that I want to promote the books I love, instead.

I also read your book IS THIS TOMORROW and absolutely loved it. I’m a big fan of period pieces especially the 1950’s era and you weave a beautiful story about what it would be like as a single mother in this era and the scrutiny of those around her and the heartache of what it would be like for your child to suddenly be missing. I just felt like this one must be made into film.  Are there any plans to see this one being made into a screenplay? Please say yes.

Oh, thank you!  Thank you!  I have had my heart broken and smashed by the movie biz many times. My first novel, Meeting Rozzy Halfway, was supposed to be a film with Paramount and then there was a writers/directors strike. My novel Into Thin Air was considered as Madonna’s directorial debut for three days before she went on tour. It was later picked up by another producer, but nothing ever happened. Pictures of You was optioned and nothing ever happened. Living Other Lives was optioned by the guy who made some Stephen King films and it had a script written by an Obie winning writer. It was about to go into principal photography and then everything stopped. I never heard back from anyone, until months later, when the producer resurfaced in Nashville, but the project was inexplicably dead. Is This Tomorrow actually has a script! I submitted the first scene  (I wrote it) to Sundance Screenwriting Lab, and was a finalist! They take only 6 people, but I didn’t make the cut. There’s a producer interested who is looking at financing, and he’s told me to be patient—so I’m used to all of this. Having a movie made of your book is the brass ring, but the chances of it actually happening are so slim. Still, a girl can hope, right?

What do you have in store for us with your next book?

I’m just about to turn in Cruel Beautiful World, which was sold on the basis of a first chapter and a thirty page synopsis, and of course I’m terrified. It’s set in the 60s and early 70s, the time when all the free love movement was starting to turn ugly, with the Manson murders and Altamont. It’s about a 16 –year-old girl who runs off with her 30 year-old hippy teacher to join the “back to the land” movement that began in the 70s, a so-called-paradise that turns into a nightmare for her.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

The Great Gatsby. I hated it in high school, but then years later, I had to teach it in a high school, and I began to realize what a perfectly structured novel it is, how moving, how sad, and how beautiful a book it really is.

Thank you for these magnificent questions!

You can connect with Caroline Leavitt on GoodReads or 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: Tween Happiness, Red Lips, & Facebook Management

Friday, September 19th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! The week passes by oh-so-quickly and I can’t believe it is already time for another happiness list. Let’s not delay the happy one more minute.

What If by Randall Munroe

What If by Randall Munroe

Tween Belly Laughs

When your kid falls in love with a book, especially when that kid is a tween boy, it is pure magic. I heard an interview with Randall Munroe on NPR one morning about his book, WHAT IF?, and told my husband that I wanted to get this book for him. He had read about the same book that morning on a tech blog and asked if I would pick it up for him at the library.

Jinx.

Padlock jinx.

When I got it, I handed it to my son, and my husband hasn’t really read the book on his own since my son got his hands on it. Munroe explores the absolute craziest, “what if” scenarios and comes up with a truly scientific explanation of the outcome for each of them. It is accompanied by hilarious drawings of what might occur in these scenarios, making it a perfect book for boys who loved the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

What this kid doesn’t know is that his mama ordered a copy for him for keeps since he has been working hard on school and cross country this fall.  Hearing him belly laughing until he couldn’t breathe is such a rare and delightful thing for a mom of a tween boy. I can’t wait to give him his copy.

L'Oreal True Red Lipstick

The Perfect Red Lipstick

I shared with you the fun red lipstick guide I found on Oh Happy Day this week in our notebook and couldn’t wait to hit my drugstore for the perfect red lipstick. Although the color that was highlighted in their guide was called, “British Red by L’Oreal” next door to it in the display I found, L’Oreal Colour Rich Lip Color in True Red (#315) and fell in love.  A tube of this lipstick is just $5.99 and your lips stay pretty and hydrated. I ate lunch and it still hung on (perhaps not as bright), but it didn’t have that dried out effect that some of the other lipsticks I have tried before.

I happened to be picking up my last item from alterations and the sweet lady that altered my dress said, “Oh my! Don’t you look so pretty! You look just like Marilyn Monroe with that lipstick.”

Which I don’t.

But I giggled like a schoolgirl and skipped out to my car…where a sick daughter awaited in the back seat.

But we will pretend I threw on my sunglasses and drove away in my convertible singing about diamonds. Because you know…MARILYN.

No Facebook

Goodbye, Mobile Facebook

I have been complaining a lot about people tapping me out all the time which annoys myself, frankly. What I am coming to realize is that I can only be tapped out if I allow people to tap into me. Which I do. Constantly.  I removed Facebook from my phone this week and I am so much happier. I pop on my computer when I need to check it and I stay off of it when I don’t. I no longer see the number of notifications pending and I am no longer worrying about what that could mean. I can’t do away with Facebook because of my business and the connections that I make with other bloggers, but I don’t need to carry that around with me all day.  It’s amazing how much more productive I can be now!

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule (the I like my belt & cardigan edition).  Grab more inspiration on my Fashion Capsule Pin Board.

green cardiagn + lace shirt + leopard print belt + rolled skinny jeans + oxfords

 Forest Fairy Cardigan (owned- Flourish Boutique)/a’reve lace shirt (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Belt (Owned-Target)/ Pearl Necklace (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Seven Skinny Jeans (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Oxford Shoes (Owned-Naturalizer)

burgundy tank + green cardigan + leggings + statement necklace + two toned boots

Seamless Tank in Burgundy (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Pearl Necklace (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Belt (Owned-Target)/Forest Fairy Cardigan (owned- Flourish Boutique)/The Essential Leggings in Black (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Two-Toned Boots (owned- Flourish Boutique)

striped shirt + leopard belt + skinny jeans + boots

White House Black Market Blue Striped Collared Top (purchased second hand on Twice)/Old Navy Rock Star Skinny Jeans (owned- Old Navy)/Belt (Owned-Target)/ Boots (owned-see details here!)

3 Things YOU Loved This Week (you, lover of MomAdvice things, you!)

Here are our top 3 posts this week!

1. 5 Ways to Date Your Husband This Fall

2. How to Spray Paint Furniture

3. Goodbye, Old Friend: Asking Jealousy to Leave

And here is your bonus happy today! ADORABLE!

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

Now it’s your turn! What’s making you happy this week?