Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Sundays With Writers: Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

I am so excited to be featuring a new-to-me author that I discovered this month.  I read her 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 for your summer reading. If you don’t fall in love with these characters, I fear for you. It’s that endearing. As soon as I closed the pages, I did what any smart blogger would do. I emailed Susan and begged her to join me for Sundays With Writers so I could share it with you.

 

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

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 summer read that I highly recommend you add to your beach bag this summer.

Grab your coffee and let’s chat with Susan Crandall about this amazing tale of Starla Claudelle in her book, Whistling Past the Graveyard.

Susan Crandall

Writing in the voice of a child is one of those elements of writing that I am always fascinated with. Two books that we have talked about before, Room & The Bear, both used a child narrator and people either loved it or they hated it.

I can’t say I have ever heard a child’s voice captured more perfectly than in this book though. One scene that made me laugh is when Starla has the sex talk with her Dad and she is absolutely traumatized by it.

Do you hang out with a lot of nine-year-old kids or were you thinking about your nine-year-old self when you wrote this?

Thank you for the lovely compliment. Youthful characters are always fun to write, but with Starla as a main narrator, it afforded me many, many hours of reminiscing and amusement. I can’t say I’ve been around more nine-year-olds than most people. I’m the mother of two grown kids. I tapped into many things to give Starla her voice, and one of them was definitely my nine-year-old-self. It was a great trip down memory lane (although let me be clear, I was a rule following child, rarely impulsive, never sassy; for that I tapped into my younger sister).

Also, I have to admit, this character had a very distinct voice from the instant she walked into my mind. Sometimes I felt like I was taking dictation.

In one scene, Starla explains what Whistling Past the Graveyard means. She says, “My daddy says that when you do somethin’ to distract you from your worstest fear, it’s like whistlin’ past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away. He says that’s how we get by sometimes. But it’s not weak like hidin’…it’s strong. It means you’re able to go on.”

Have you ever done any whistling past the graveyard in your life?

Who hasn’t? That’s what makes the saying so applicable to many of the characters in this book. As for my version of whistling, I tend to bury myself in projects of various natures, the more brainless and physical the better, yard work, closet cleaning, house painting and the like. (From the looks of my house, I’m going to say that it’s been a while since I’ve needed that kind of distraction.) I can’t say I’ve ever honed in on a singular thing like Eula’s baking.

Plus I think there’s a lot of “whistling” we do as a society as a whole, so we don’t have to face our collective shortcomings.

Reading the scenes of abuse and seeing how broken Eula was were both tough for me. Did you have difficulty writing these scenes, particularly the scenes when Stella is captured?

I definitely had trouble making myself write those parts. But they were necessary to tell the full story, for Starla’s journey of discovery to be complete. When I write a scene, I mentally go to that place and endure it second by second along with my characters. Of course, no scene is completely fleshed out in one pass, so I had to fortify myself to go back there day after day.

One of the most difficult for me to write was when Starla meets her momma. As a mother it went against every instinct I had…that’s how I knew it was right.

Racial tension abounds in this book and there were a few scenes where I had a lump in my throat or had to speed read through to be assured that Eula & Starla would be safe. Did you do a lot of research about the ’60′s and what was happening during this time? What type of preparation did you do to really help us understand how hard it would be for a woman like Eula in the ’60′s?

I did extensive research. I do remember the mid-sixties, but grew up in Indiana, so my experience was much different than if I’d grown up in the South. That’s not to say there weren’t incidences of racism in Indiana that helped me sharpen my view. Fortunately there are plenty of resources from old news footage, documentaries, and I read several first-hand accounts written by African-Americans who lived through segregation in the fifties and sixties.

I think the way to really connect with any era, situation, or setting is through the common thread of our humanity. What would I have felt like in those situations. Of course, Eula’s inner trials were often beyond my imagining. One of the reason’s the entire book is from Starla’s point of view is because I can only say what Eula’s life would have looked like from the outside. I can’t imagine the fear and hardship in enough depth to write it from her perspective.

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

I’m working on a story set in 1923. Three people from very different backgrounds–a teenage orphan of German immigrant farmers, a debutant whose family has lost its fortune and a WW1 veteran pilot–are displaced from their lives and join together to travel the county in a barnstorming act. For those of you unfamiliar, in the early days of aviation after the first world war, many of the pilots took advantage of war surplus trainer planes and made a scrappy living by flying from small town to small town selling rides. They used farm pastures for landing strips, thus the name barnstormer. Flying circuses were formed when several pilots banded together to do daredevil exhibitions. They were quite the rage throughout the early and mid-twenties.

All three of my characters are running from something, each carefully guarding their secrets. They’re bound together by mutual need and yet have conflicting goals. It’s a great ride as we travel throughout the country with them, crossing paths with bootleggers, tycoons, farmers and tent revivalists. But their secrets are always right behind them. When they catch up … well, things get dicey.
It’s tentatively scheduled for release in July 2015

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

When I’m asked this question, I always reach way back, looking for a book that has stuck with me so vividly that I can remember the details of the characters very clearly even after a long time. I try to pick something that isn’t a classic, those already stand out and find audiences. I’m a character writer. Suspenseful plots are enjoyable, but it’s the beauty of the character and his/her journey that touches me. So after all that rambling, I always come back to two books, very different genres: Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry and The Stand, by Stephen King. I’m also a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s, Outlander (the first book in the series is my favorite).

You can connect with Susan Crandall on Facebook 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: Cheesy Popcorn, Probiotics, & Fizzy Water

Friday, June 27th, 2014

It's The 3 Little Things

Happy Friday! It’s a good Friday for us, indeed, because we are taking our first family vacation since last Spring. The Ohio Visitor’s Bureau offered to host our family for a weekend visit and show off all of the fabulous things we can do in Ohio to share with you all this coming month. Today we are exploring Columbus and I am so happy that this is a trip that we all get to do together instead of me traveling alone. I can’t wait to share what we discover in Ohio. I have a feeling that our vacation will be on my happy list next week so you have been warned! :)

Let’s chat about what’s making me happy this week!

Bio-Kult Probiotic

Probiotics That Actually Work

I have to tell you that if you aren’t taking a probiotic, it can be such a game-changer especially if you have digestive issues. My dietician recommended this Bio-Kult Probiotic to help heal my gut when I was so sick this past winter. I started feeling so much better after a week, but when I ran out, I headed to the store and got a cheaper brand of probiotics that I thought looked roughly the same. It did not work the same and once again, my stomach was a mess. I learned a lesson that this multi-strain formula works the best for me and, if I am eating what I am supposed to, that I feel like a normal person with a normal digestive system. Having a working digestive system, indeed, makes me happy.

La Croix Berry Water

A Great Substitution For My Soda Cravings

I gave up Diet Coke two years ago and I am so proud of myself for doing that. Other than the occasional one at the movies, I am completely soda-free. In the summer months though, I crave something bubbly, but since I quit soda, even flavored waters can taste artificially sweet to me.  I had seen the La Croix Sodas  pop up in my IG feed one day and when my girlfriend let me try one at her house, I was hooked. These have no artificial flavors, coloring, sodium, or calories. Or as my husband says, “Or taste.” If you like soda, these might not be your favorite.

This has been my midday treat and I prefer a hint of flavor and all the bubbles now that I kicked the soda can to the curb. I would say if you like sparkling water or even prefer drier alcoholic drinks, this might be a great substitution. The Berry and the Cherry-Lime have been my favorites so far! I’m anxious to hit Target and snag some of their exclusive flavors that they are carrying on shelves this summer!

All the bubbles, none of the junk. Who wouldn’t be happy about that?

Smartfood Popcorn

A Guilt-Free Snack (Unless They Catch You Licking the Bowl)

For Easter, my mother-in-law gave me a bag of this popcorn to enjoy while everyone snacked on her famously delicious and oh-so-amazing sugar cookies. If anyone chooses to eat gluten-free for a fad diet, I pity you. Why in the world would you choose this?  I can’t stand that I have to miss out on the treat table for holidays and this was pure torture… until I started munching on this popcorn. And I proceeded to eat the whole dang bag, licked my fingers, and raided my children’s bags for more popcorn, and may have licked the bottom of those bags too. Don’t judge.

If you like cheesy popcorn, let me introduce you to my little friend called Smartfood Popcorn.  White cheddar is dusted on every heavenly little piece and it goes great with that bottle of Chianti and whatever your latest Netflix binge obsession is this week. Snacks that feel like a guilty-pleasure are definitely a fun addition to any happy list!  Don’t believe me? Serious Eats conducted their own little taste-test and this popcorn won hands-down. So boom! ENJOY!

*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 makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Amy’s Notebook 06.25.14

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Here comes the sun house tour via Design Mom

Source: Design Mom

 

This home tour is simply inspiring!

Here’s a great list of 2014 summer books to stash in your beach bag.

Free printable last minute July 4th poster- I just love this print!

Read 9 decorator secrets to more style with less money. Love.

Slow cooker recipe for Greek gyros- what a yummy summer meal.

Wow, I like these “toy jail” printables so much – they will be coming in very handy this summer, I think!

Signing kids up for summer camps? You need this shortcut for filling out camp registrations.

Ice cold coffee gift via Saturday Crafternoons

Source: Saturday Crafternoons

 

A cold brew coffee with fun label makes a perfect birthday, thank you, or “just because” gift for a coffee-loving friend.

Simple wallpaper removing tips- I wish I had these when we got our first house!

You won’t believe this school bus transformation.

11 debunked DIY tricks on Pinterest- apparently 11 things I won’t be trying this week.

This DIY shuttlecock lights garland is absolutely adorable!

Joy the Baker: Baking 101- a handy series to bookmark for the pie-baking season.

 

amys_notebook

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

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It’s The 3 Little Things: Beach Waves, Ladies Who Lunch, & Chocolate Covered Cherry Coffee

Friday, June 20th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Thing

 

Happy, happy Friday, friends! I am so excited that we have another weekend ahead of us and thrilled that we have ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE TO BE. Hello, giant chair and book! We are going to be great friends this weekend. I hope you are still enjoying this feature and I love hearing about the success stories of things you have been trying from this list! Share those success stories in the comments below and let me know if you have tried something that made me happy that, in turn, made you happy. I love full circle moments.

Without further adieu!

Beach Waves

Beach Waves

You know when people essentially curl their hair and look like Shirley Temple instead of that pretty tousled beach wave hair?  Yup. That would be me. Instead of continuing to suffer, I found this amazing loose waves tutorial from my friend Sarah, over at Whoorl, and it changed my life. Have you heard of the Whoorl Curl? It’s a game-changer.  After following her directions, I FINALLY successfully pulled off a loose wave and I couldn’t be prouder. She offers advice on using a curling iron with a clamp and one without so you can use the advice with what you already have.

My Conair curling iron from HIGH SCHOOL finally bit the bullet after being dropped for the five thousandth time.  Since it was held together with one screw and had to balance without the stand, I decided to replace it with the exact same one because, hello? What lasts that long and only costs less than $20.  I use that and this Nexxus Touchable Hold Hair Spray for holding my beach waves (while still allowing for softness & movement). I highly recommend both, especially if you are on a budget.

We hit a beautiful wedding (dress from Luxe Wagon, designer Voom by Joy Han) and my beach waves made it until dancing the robot in the photo booth. That’s way strong, yo.

I have often thought of buying an expensive curling iron, but I would be this girl. I just know it. Why? Because I turn that heat UP to eleventy. I’ll stick with the cheap stuff.

Feedly

Feedly

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

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

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

Cacao Powder

Chocolate Covered Cherry Coffee

What better way to wake up than a cup of coffee that tastes like a Chocolate Covered Cherry?  For the last year or so, every morning I add a scoop of Cacao Powder to my coffee.  I had given up my coffee creamer, but I felt that the almond milk was too thin and bland compared to the creamer I had been using, so I started adding a scoop of this superfood to my coffee.  Here are some of the health reasons I recommend trying this in your coffee cup. One bag typically lasts me a month since I only add it to my first cup of the day. Once you try it, I doubt you will ever want your coffee any other way…that is, until I introduce you to Michigan Cherry Coffee Beans.

I am a Midwest girl who loves her Meijer Supermarket and Meijer has a whole bean (and ground coffee) in the Michigan Cherry flavor that is absolutely heavenly. They just price dropped their gourmet bags of coffee to $3.99 for WHOLE BEANS which is incredible so I buy a bag of this and brew a pot of it for myself every morning. It has great cherry flavor, but does not taste synthetically cherry-filled. Couple that with a spoonful of cacao, a little almond milk, and stevia and bring on that happy!

If you don’t have a Meijer, you could substitute with something from your own coffee house or buy a bag online. Regardless of where you get it, give it a try!

That’s my happy list for the week!

*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 makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Amy’s Notebook 06.18.14

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

DIY flower bobeches via Oh Happy Day

Source: Oh Happy Day

 

These cupcake liner flower bobeches are so smart for drippy candles and are adorable, too!

I think adding avocado to yogurt tzatziki dip sounds unique and delicious.

Love this free summer bucket list printable!

What a fabulous way to use thrifted items to create a fun diy serving tray.

15 tips for the highly sensitive parent- I am one and plan to work through these tips.

I’ve been wanting to make a mason jar hand soap dispenser for awhile and this had me at “foaming.”

 

Greek marinated tenderloin via Gather and DIne

Source: Gather and Dine

 

Greek-marinated pork tenderloin with tzatziki – such a fun twist on pork tenderloin.

Love this DIY kids clothes rack for families that lack closet space!

11 young adult books with happy endings to read this summer.

Mason jar succulents would make a cute outdoor arrangement.

10 TED Talks all millennials should watch for a source of inspiration – count me inspired!

Love this farmer’s market brunch idea for a day date with my hubby.

 

amys_notebook

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

 

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It’s The 3 Little Things: Summer Lips, Red, Red Wine, & Comfy Sandals

Friday, June 13th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

I love it when Friday rolls around, don’t you?  I’m excited to showcase the 3 things that are making me happy this week with a bonus happy or two for your day!

I have been getting asked lately if I am going to run out of things for this feature. I really hope not because I have heard from many that this is their favorite day of the week on here. I have a running list that I jot things down on to include each week, but it definitely starts to become more challenging as the weeks go by. I promise to try to do a good job though and not recommend things I am not completely nuts about because…hello? How would that benefit you at all? I am now looking for little things at the stores to share with you. I call this “business research.” Often conducted at CVS and through online shopping. I hope I can write it off for my taxes.

 

Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey

Great Summer Lips

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

Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey

I like when people show me what lip color looks like on so here is a terrible selfie I took of the lip color for you so you can see why I love it so much. Isn’t it perfect for summer? Between that and my favorite BB Cream with the built in sunscreen, I feel set! This retails for $15 a tube so it is a splurge, but I promise you that you will love it and get your use out of it this summer. If you have a universally flattering shade you love, please share it with me and I will see about making it a part of my happy list and featuring it here too. I am always on the lookout for a fresh shade!

Santa Bacelli Chianti from ALDI

My Favorite Red Wine + Orange is the New Black

Red wine is my favorite and in the evenings we have been watching the second season of Orange is the New Black while we enjoy a glass of red wine. My new favorite red might surprise you, but I promise if you are a red wine drinker that you will absolutely love the Santa Bachelli Chianti from ALDI. The bottle retails for $4.99 so you might overlook it as a good wine option, but this bottle is on par with bottles I have bought in the $12-15 range. It’s one of their award winners and I try to buy a few bottles to keep in our wine rack for entertaining. It’s rich, dry (but not too dry), with a rich black cherry and plum flavor. It’s best paired with the new season of Orange is the New Black.

We are only a couple of episodes into Orange is the New Black, but it’s already my guilty summer pleasure. If the show is too racy for you, I totally get that. I highly recommend picking up the book which is more G-rated and just as fascinating as the show.

If you are as into the show as me though, you might enjoy taking this quiz to find out which character you are. As if you didn’t find me boring enough, the quiz says I am Piper. Lucky for me, it seems she is getting tough this season so watch out.  I was really hoping for Crazy Eyes though.

Payless Dexflex Sandals

Comfy Summer Sandals

I bought two pairs of these Dexflex Comfort Vicki Low Wedges for summer and I can’t rave enough about them. The true test of a good sandal is if you can go on a trip, walk through the airport, and put in a 12-hour workday standing the entire time and not have back pain, go to the airport again,  hop off the plane, and then dance the entire night until 2AM to celebrate the world’s greatest person at a party. These sandals did that for me on my last trip and people kept stopping me in the airport to ask me where I got them. They happen to be on clearance right now (lucky you!) so the pink are for sale for $12 and the black are on sale for $17. That is a lot less than I had paid for them. I got these when I bought my favorite nude pumps- it was a great shoe day, I tell you.

There are no buckles, the elastic hugs your foot, but they don’t squeeze them too tight (important if you have a wide foot like me). The heel is low and the shoe is well supported in the heel. I I bought a pair in pink and in taupe at the beginning of summer and have been wearing them nonstop.

 

Fleetwood Mac Rumours T-Shirt

Luxe Wagon

Here is the pair that I am wearing non-stop in taupe. I don’t know if your store might have them, but I absolutely love them. These look great with my Fleetwood Mac t-shirt that I scored from our Luxe Wagon in town. Seriously, fashion on wheels? Be still my beating heart. You gotta check it out! I got the cutest things from there and the Fleetwood Mac Rumours album happens to be my absolute favorite record so I had to have this t-shirt.  I would call that a bonus happy to pair with these shoes.

Last Day of School

Dress: site sponsor, Flourish Boutique

 

My other bonus happy this week is that we are FINALLY done with school. I may have been toasting myself with that Chianti because I survived my first year with two kiddos at two schools AND my first year of middle school.

I can honestly say that this was one of the hardest years I have ever experienced as a parent. The transition to middle school was a tough one for my son and for me. I am so proud that we made it through and that he did so well with his grades. I wouldn’t torture him by posting a picture, but know that I am so proud of him. He worked very hard this year and we had excellent teachers and volunteer tutors from IUSB that donated their time after the school hours to help him succeed. It took a village this year, but we did it and I am so, so proud.

My Emily also had a fantastic year.  She got an Outstanding Student award and I can’t say I helped her too much with that because I was so preoccupied with middle school homework. She’s a hard worker and makes my job so easy. Her happiness is contagious and when I volunteer at school, she always says, “That’s MY mom,” and hugs me. At eight, my days are numbered so I am savoring it while they last.

What could make you happier than being a proud mama?

Chris-Bohjalian

Now that the kids are done with school, I am excited to tackle my summer reads at the pool. I happened to post about my latest NetGalley releases (remember that post about advanced readers?) and LOOK WHO WAS ALL LIKE, ” Happy reading, Amy,” on my personal Facebook status. Are you kidding me? Chris Bohjalian, well-played. Your book, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands has moved to the top of my book stack. I haven’t even read it, but I am going to recommend it for his comment. He is one of the greatest writers of our time so I already know it will be amazing.  Between that and our Scribd freebie membership this week, I won’t have to go to the library for awhile. Oh, who are we kidding, I already went yesterday.

 

*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 makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

The Best in Summer Reading With Scribd (FREE 3 Month Membership!)

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

The Best in Summer Reading With Scribd

 

*This post is sponsored by Scribd

I feel so lucky to be partnering with Scribd again to share a few of my favorite summer reads and an incredible giveaway they are offering for our readers so you can start tackling your own summer reading with their fantastic service.

I have really been enjoying my own Scribd membership over this year and, in fact, loved it so much that I gave it to my Dad for a birthday gift this year. It’s one of those services that I genuinely enjoyed that I just had to share it with my fellow book lovers.

Have you heard of Scribd? If you missed my last post about Scribd, it is an eBook service that works a lot like Netflix, but for books. You pay a low membership fee of $8.99 per month and can read as many books as you want on all of your major ebook reading devices like iPhone, iPad, iOS, Android & the Kindle Fire tablet. It also offers page syncing so you can move from device to device and simply pick up where you left off.

With Scribd you have unlimited access to over 400,000 books (and counting!) from nearly 1,000 publishers including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Kensington, Open Road Media, & New World Library. The catalog includes fiction books, nonfiction books (like cookbooks), young adult books, and children’s books. Basically, your entire family can benefit from this service, all with the cost of just one membership. I can think of no better gift to give yourself this summer!

For today’s post, I scoured the Scribd site to pull together for you a few of my favorite summer reads that I have enjoyed so much and I am also sharing what I would love to read this summer while I am sitting in my shady spot (I am awfully pale!) by the community pool!

Books I Recommend for Your Summer Reading List on Scribd:

Arranged

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

I have to say that this book is one of my favorite reads this summer, simply because it is deliciously fast-paced chick-lit at its finest.

Anne Blythe seems to have everything. She has sold her first book, has a fabulous life, and fabulous friends. When it comes to being lucky in love though, she can’t seem to ever find the right guy. novel. After her best friend announces her engagement and her latest relationship ends, she decides to take a risk and contact a dating service in hopes of finding the perfect match. Upon her first appointment with the dating service though, she realizes that it is not a dating service at all, but a matchmaking service for an arranged marriage.

Once she starts the process, there is no turning back and Anne finds herself traveling to a Mexican resort where she will meet and marry (all in the same weekend) her “perfect,” guy.

This book has great twists and turns that you will really enjoy and after devouring this book in a mere day, I can’t recommend it enough for a fun reading escape!

Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

If you are looking for a psychological thriller that will have you guessing until the very last page what is happening, then I have the book for you.  This is the best thriller that I have read this year and can hardly believe that it is the author’s first book.

Every single day Christine wakes up not knowing who she is, where she is, and who her husband is.  It is the same scenario every day as she makes her way to the bathroom, where pictures are layered upon the mirror that explain who she is and who her husband is. Each day she must go through the heartbreaking discovery that she has had a terrible accident that has caused her to have permanent amnesia. People she thinks are alive have died.  She can’t remember if she is a mother. She doesn’t know why she doesn’t have any friends. Some days she wakes up and she believes she is in her twenties and cannot even recognize the woman who looks at her in the mirror.

When Christine begins meeting with a doctor, he encourages her to begin journaling each day to help jog her memory of what has been happening in her daily life. As each day opens, Christine opens her journal and begins to read and as she reads, she begins to discover that the life that she is leading might not be all that it seems to be.  As Christine becomes more and more aware of her story and begins to challenge the information that her husband is feeding to her about what has happened, the reader is left wondering if Christine is obsessing about details because she can’t really recall them or if the stories she is hearing are even real?

If you read one thriller this year, let it be this one. I promise you, it is truly amazing and will leave you stunned when you read the final pages.  I can’t wait to read more from this author.

mudbound

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound is storytelling at its very best and offers a beautifully rendered portrayal of race and politics in the South during the forties. This book is told from alternating points of view and shares the story of a Memphis-bred Laura McAllan who is struggling to adjust to being a farmer’s wife and living the idyllic dream that her husband Henry has for them to live off their own land. When Henry makes an error by trusting a handshake rather than a contract on the home they are renting, they find themselves living in less than ideal conditions in a shack that Henry had hoped to turn into his dream house. Laura not only must deal with the difficulties of living in this shack, but she has to do it with her racist father-in-law constantly judging and spewing hate at her.

As Laura struggles with this, the real story unfolds when Henry’s brother Jamie returns home from the war. Always the favored one, Jamie comes home as a raging alcoholic, struggling with nightmares and post-traumatic stress from the war he left. Ronsel, a son of the sharecroppers who have been hired to work on Henry & Laura’s land, also struggles with leaving the war after being a hero in fighting for his country; he is now seen as just a black boy and treated with only racism and hatred.

When a horrible crime is committed, the four lives of these main characters are woven into one and the reader is taken along on the journey every harrowing step of the way. Twist after twist creates a plot that illustrates racism in a very unique way.

This book is a fast-paced read, that will shock and grip you until the final pages. Not for the faint of heart- a great debut novel from Hillary Jordan worthy of the 2006 Bellwether Prize that she won for this.

Water For Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This is an oldie, but a goodie! I actually waited a long time to read this one, but I think I savored it even more! The book opens with Jacob Janowski who is ninety (or ninety-three, a fact he can’t remember) and now living in a nursing home.  His days are now spent being shuffled from his room to the dining area, suffering from the everyday minutiae of life in a nursing home. Of course, his life wasn’t always like this, in fact, Jacob’s life was spent with a traveling circus after the untimely death of his parents. Circus life was a hard life for Jacob and one that he jumped to unknowingly when he boarded a train to escape after his parent’s death.

Gruen’s writing is as vivid as a movie screen as the reader is swept away into the hard and difficult life of being a part of the traveling circus during the Great Depression. When Jacob is appointed to veterinarian, he has a difficult role under August, a paranoid schizophrenic, who acts as the animal trainer of the circus. The reader is swept into the sad life of the animals and the repeated abuse that August inflicts on the animals.

The only sparkle of light in Jacob’s life is Marlena, a beautiful performer in the circus, who Jacob cannot stop thinking about. Sadly, it is August’s wife that he has fallen in love with, and the reader will sit on the edge of their seat as Jacob risks it all to free Marlena from the abusive life that she has been leading with August.

More than a love story, it is an unbelievably well-researched look into the life of the circus at this time, and a love story of how Jacob & Marlena fall in love with an elephant named Rosie who makes a reader’s heart melt in her beauty. Equally impressive is how Gruen is able to capture the life of the elderly as Jacob reminisces and longs for his youth. The ending is perhaps a little too neatly woven, but is a satisfying conclusion to it all as a reader!

Vivid, descriptive, cinematic, raw, chilling… I felt as though I was on a roller coaster just reading this one! Definitely give this one a read before hitting the movie theater! Let’s hope the movie is half as good as this book!

Forgotten

Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

I can’t believe that I didn’t review this book sooner for you all! I am a HUGE Catherine McKenzie fan and this one is another excellent beach read that you won’t be able to put down.

Emma Tupper is a dedicated lawyer with a bright future. But when she takes a month-long leave of absence to go on an African vacation, she ends up facing unexpected consequences. After she falls ill and spends six months trapped in a remote village thanks to a devastating earthquake, Emma returns home to discover that her friends, boyfriend, and colleagues thought she was dead–and that her life has moved on without her.

As she struggles to re-create her old life, throwing herself into solving a big case for a client and trying to reclaim her beloved apartment from the handsome photographer who assumed her lease, everyone around her thinks she should take the opportunity to change. But is she willing to sacrifice her job, her relationships, and everything else she worked so hard to build?

In “Forgotten,” Catherine McKenzie tweaks a classic tale of discovering who we really are when everything that brings meaning to our lives is lost.

When She Woke

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Imagine if your sins were on display for the entire world to see?  Hillary Jordan creates a futuristic spin on how society would look if our skin was colored based on the crime we committed.  The story follows Hannah Payne who has recently been, “chromed,” and is red because she has committed murder.  Hannah knows that this is the cross that she must bear for her crimes, but she has no idea how horrible her life will be now that society knows the sins she has committed.

Hannah was always a good girl and was raised in a very conservative family where it was even frowned up on to wear anything with color or that would draw attention to her natural beauty. The climate of the government also leans towards conservative views and the laws go along with the government views of what is right and wrong in this dystopian society.  She has always been a girl that has done the right thing, but she falls in love with a married man who sweeps her off her feet and causes her to make a decision that she will now spend the remainder of her sentence paying for.  To protect the future of the prominent man that she has fallen in love with, she must bear the burden alone and is now melachromed for her actions for all the world to see.

When an extremist underground group tries to help Hannah and reverse the chroming that has been done to her, the reader is taken on a thrilling journey as Hannah risks her safety and life for the crime she has committed.

Hillary Jordan could not have picked a book concept further from her fantastic debut, “Mudbound.”  This book would lend itself well to book club discussions as it flips every political debate on its head.  From abortion to women’s rights to Christianity to punishment for one’s crimes, no political rock is left unturned.  While one might not agree with Hannah’s viewpoint or those of the extremist views of the underground group, the concept of chroming is rich with discussion and a true modern day take on, “The Scarlet Letter.”

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

I love debut novelists and the first book that I read on Scribd was The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.  This book deals with big topics like race identity and where we fit in the world when we are biracial. Rachel is the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.

Faith

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

Faith is a masterpiece of literature that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. The novel does have a slow build as it shares a bit about the history and the scandal of 2002 when many Boston priests were accused of molestation in the Catholic Church, but the story is worth the plot set up and is a book that you will want to share and discuss with your friends.

Art is the apple of his mother’s eye and is wholly committed to dedicating his life to God from the time he is a child and on. He lovingly serves his church and feels great satisfaction in his work as a priest. When suddenly he is thrust into the spotlight and is accused of molesting a child that he has grown close to through his work in the church, he is devastated as his life is under scrutiny by the media, by other church members, by other priests, and by his family.

While some in his family side with him, others do not. When shocking discoveries are made into his past and the relationship that he has had with the little boy, the reader must examine which side they might be on and see both sides of the coin as his family comes to terms with these accusations. How would you feel if your son, your brother, or the person you trusted in your church was accused of such an act? Could you stand beside them or would you shun them even if they told you they would never do such a thing?

Haigh’s writing is exquisitely rich and the story is told through a fresh set of eyes from the scandal that we witnessed in the media.  Haigh brings in an angle that led me to believe that there truly are two sides to every story.

Spin

Spin by  Catherine McKenzie

I would be remiss if I didn’t include one more book by Catherine. Her books are the perfect addition to your beach bag and this past month, she came up with a sequel to this book that I am dying to pick up. Although I don’t see the sequel listed on Scribd yet, you must read this first book and get ready for it because it is such a fun escape!

When Kate Sandford lands an interview at her favorite music magazine, The Line, it’s the chance of a lifetime. So Kate goes out to celebrate—and shows up still drunk to the interview the next morning. It’s no surprise that she doesn’t get the job, but her performance has convinced the editors that she’d be perfect for an undercover assignment for their gossip rag. All Kate has to do is follow “It Girl” Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop—and complete the thirty-day program—they’ll reconsider her for the position at The Line. Kate takes the assignment, but when real friendships start to develop, she has to decide if what she has to gain is worth the price she’ll have to pay.

Fun, fast-paced, and one I couldn’t put down- you will love it!

2014 Summer Reading List

Now that you have some tried-and-true ideas for your summer reading, here are nine books I am dying to read on Scribd this summer. Maybe you can read along with me?

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Unless by Carol Shields

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

In celebration of summer reading, Scribd is offering EVERY MomAdvice a free three month trial membership by using our exclusive access code. To access your free membership head HERE and then input the following code: momadvice0614.   I’m so excited for you to try this service and I just know that you will love it as much as I do! Leave us a comment and let us know what you are excited to read on Scribd! 

This post is sponsored by Scribd. I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and effort in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Amy’s Notebook 06.11.14

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Microwaved mug cake via Dessert For Two

Source: Dessert For Two

The BEST chocolate mug cakes made in the microwave!

Love this origami paper box tutorial for creative packaging of flowers.

Wow – with 80 Mexican themed recipes for your next party, this list has you covered!

How to easily turn a normal list into a checklist in Evernote- so handy.

Yes, she’s on food stamps and no, you shouldn’t judge her for it. Such a good piece on working on our quick to judge ways.

I am so inspired by Kristen’s summer bucket list!

Balsamic steak skewers: steak marinated in a tangy balsamic vinaigrette and grilled = summer perfection.

Crochet ice cream cones via Oomanoot

Source: Oomanoot

Crochet ice cream cones – with no calories!

Are you a Costco shopper, or wondering if you should be? Then check out these 9 items that will single-handedly pay for your Costco membership.

Cotton candy ice cream- no machine required. What a fun summer treat – though there ARE calories in this one!

Wow your kids with this one- 45 rare creatures I can’t believe actually exist on earth.

7-layer dip tacos? Yes please!

It amazing how sweet and cute tin cans become when painted and DIY-ed to become vertical tin can planters.

amys_notebook

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

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It’s The 3 Little Things: Tiny Keyboards, Snacks on Flight, & a Claire’s Experience

Friday, June 6th, 2014

It's The 3 Little Things

 

As you are reading this, I am likely on a plane returning from a trip to the Walmart headquarters. I had a feeling you might be disappointed if I dropped the ball on this week’s feature so I am writing this all up for you on a Monday, sweetly awaiting the weekend already! Since I am traveling today, I thought I would share a few of my favorite things that that make me happy when I travel.

Logitech iPad Keyboard

Turning My iPad Into a Laptop

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

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

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

But it is also very important for business.

Yes, for business.

Aldi Cranberry Almond Bars

Inexpensive Gluten-Free Portable Snacks

I told you a few weeks ago that I stocked up on the ALDI gluten-free offerings and was so excited to try them. The hits for us were the brownie mix, the frozen pizzas, and the brown rice pasta was, “the best gluten-free pasta ever,”  according to my family. They did lose us on the pizza dough mix which my husband likened to eating a graham cracker…Hey, you can’t win over everyone!

That said, they had some gluten-free bars, but before they launched their line, they had these Cranberry Almond Bars that were a knockoff of those expensive Kind Bars, but these come in at $1 each and do not break your teeth. And you do not want to go on a plane with a messed up grill because EMBARRASSING. I pack a box of these in my suitcase because anything that is gluten-free and is sold at an airport will cost you ONE MILLION DOLLARS. I would say saving one million dollars makes me very happy, indeed.

Groopdealz Finds

 

Inexpensive Additions to My Suitcase

When I was a kid the ultimate, ultimate, ultimate best thing in the whole world was getting to go to Claire’s and spend my allowance. I would spend hours, if my mom would let me, just browsing those clearance racks to find something new and sparkly that would, for sure,  move me up on the totem pole of popularity. I may have picked the wrong earrings  though (*ahem*), but I still tried to wow my school friends.

That being said, my new email obsession that gives me almost that same thrill of swinging those earring displays around is my Groopdealz email.  I wanted to show off a few of my my finds this month- I got this sparkly necklace, a J-Crew knockoff t-shirt (priced for $44 on their site- what?!?) that I scored for $10.99 on Groopdealz, and this cute bird shirt.  The stuff goes fast and sometimes I put things in my cart and they have disappeared so if you really love something, I wouldn’t stew on it for too long because they have limited quantities. Nothing cost over $19.99 here and these are all traveling my suitcase with me this week!

 

And because I am absolutely TERRIFIED of birds, but love everything with birds on it (my cups, my shirts (see above!), my shelves, almost my entire house, etc…),  if you haven’t seen this bird skit from Portlandia, please ENJOY and laugh hysterically at me because my family does. All the time.

Fake birds make me happy.

Real birds make me scream and cry.

 

*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 makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Amy’s Notebook 06.04.14

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Cobb-Salad-To-Go-Tumblers via The Chic Site

Source: The Chic Site

 

What a great way to repurpose tumblers- cobb salad to-go!

Here’s a fun idea: a printable conversation starter for your and your children to anticipate summer.

Find 17 things you should avoid doing if you want to be happy.

Copycat chipotle burrito bowls – don’t these sound just right for summertime eating?

I’m loving these ideas for throwing a beautiful grown-up baby shower!

Pom-pom shadow boxes? Be still my beating heart.

 

Free-Printable-Watermelon-Icecream-Cone-Wrappers via Design Eat Repeat

Source: Design Eat Repeat

 

Watermelon printable ice cream cone wrappers- these are too cute!

Looking for something new and interesting to read? Here are five of the best book recommendation sites, services, or groups (of course you always have MomAdvice’s BookClub and Sundays with Writers series for great recommendations, too!).

Love this idea for creating a family swing area under a tree. How fun would that be?

22 DIY tricks to make parenting easier- who couldn’t use these?!

Organize a home bar with lacquer trays- so chic!

And finally, here’s a perfect example of scraps-of-life giving! So inspired to do a garage sale for those in need!

 

amys_notebook

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

 

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