Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Sundays With Writers: Rare Objects By Kathleen Tessaro

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and if you haven’t been introduced to Kathleen Tessaro before, I’d love to introduce you! Today Kathleen is joining me for Sundays With Writers to share about her new historical fiction novel, Rare Objects. If you haven’t read it yet, I think you will find it a welcome and well-researched escape into another era in time.

Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

Set in Depression-era Boston, the book follows Maeve Fanning, a first generation Irish girl, being raised by her widow mother. Maeve engages in risky behavior that lead her to a psychiatric hospital where she strikes up an unlikely friendship with an unstable woman named Diana. Diana runs in an elite crowd, thanks to her wealth, and Maeve begins changing herself to fit in. Dying her red hair to blonde, she begins a job working in a shop selling rare artifacts, being romanced by Diana’s brother, and continuing to engage in her risky behaviors.  As Diana pulls Maeve more and more into her fold, Maeve begins to realize how dangerous it all really is.

Rare Objects was a fantastic exploration of social issues that I would not have considered (like being an alcoholic during the Prohibition, for example) and the dramatic differences in social classes.

This book was included in our Must-Reads for the month of May!

Grab your coffee and join me for a glimpse into Kathleen Tessaro’s writing process and research today!

Katherine Tessaro

How did the story idea for Rare Objects come to you? Since you have written so many historical fiction novels, do the initial ideas come easy or are you constantly researching to pull out a new story?

I do a lot of research and reading to develop new story ideas as I’m not one of those writers who finds it easy to come up with new characters and plots. Often I’m not certain what I want to write about or why a subject interests me until I’m done with the first draft – which is often where I discover what the book is NOT about. Rare Objects came from a notion I had about writing a novel in an antiquities shop and how each new object would have a history, a mysterious backstory, and that would be intertwined with the stories of the people who wanted to own that object. The basic thought was that it would be a venue upon which a series of stories might be built, using recurring characters.

Maeve Fanning, your main character, lands a job in an antiques shop catering to the city’s wealthiest collectors. What types of research did you do to create these collections and artifacts that you are describing in this shop? Did you have one item, in particular, that was your favorite to write about?

I lived in London for half my life, which is full of just the sort of shops I was keen to recreate in the book. I spent many years quite broke, wandering around its narrow streets, going from one establishment to another – constantly amazed at the eclectic collections of items and the detailed stories behind each one. I also spent time in Boston and New York visiting similar shops, which is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in any city. Afterwards, I researched particular items to create the specific stock of Winshaw and Kessler. All the items in the novel are taken from real life. My favorite would have to be the ring, which I discovered on a website called the Curator’s Eye. To my knowledge it’s still available although I’ll be extremely jealous when someone does finally buy it!

First Edition Ernest Hemingway

Do you own any rare objects of your own? What is your favorite antique or collection in your own home?

I used to collect old first edition books. Among my favorites are several Henry James novels, a Wilke Collins, Nancy Mitford, Evelyn Waugh, Edith Wharton, E. F. Benson and a rather battered first edition of Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, which I bought at the local Bryn Maar Bookshop for $3.00 in 1986. There’s nothing quite like finding a diamond in the dirt.   

You tackle big social issues that I would not have thought of people struggling with, like struggles with sexuality and alcoholism during the Depression era and the Prohibition. Why did you want to explore these topics through your storytelling and did you read any personal accounts that helped you develop these plotlines for your characters?

One of the reasons I write historical fiction is because I like to look back and see how other people handled the considerable challenges of their lives and endured difficult times. In short, I want to learn from the wisdom of the past. For example, the world economy dipped into a massive recession beginning in 2008 which continues to plague us today. Many of the factors involved in that recession (the unregulated mortgage market in particular) are shockingly similar to the unregulated stock market that brought on the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. And now we see the same fearful, isolationist stance developing politically that in the mid-1930’s developed into fascism and the rise of Nazi Germany.

The Drunkard's Progress- Prohibition

source: wikipedia

As readers face these challenges today, I want to connect the dots, show them how other generations survived and battled with the same issues. It’s important to have a historical perspective about where we are – and where we could possibly end up. Perhaps the issues of alcoholism seem modern but in fact, during the Prohibition period in America, the alcoholism level climbed dramatically especially among women who were previously forbidden from drinking in saloons and bars due to “propriety.”  The attitude towards immigrants was also similarly complex with many captains of industry – Carnegie, Ford, and Kellogg among them – openly funding eugenics research, an area in which America led the field. The idea that some people were genetically inferior was thus supported “scientifically” and greatly influenced the immigration laws of the time, severely limiting the number of Mediterranean, Eastern European, Hungarian, Serbian, Lithuanian and Jewish immigrants. The Italian ghetto of the North End that Maeve grows up in is real. Her red hair and Irish last name represent an authentic barrier in Boston, especially in a time when jobs are scarce. The stigma of her mental health issues is a shameful secret she must hide. And Diana’s confusion with her sexuality and her struggles to fit into the social role her family requires of her are echoed all around us today. None of these issues is recent or new. Life was always complex and challenging. And history teaches us the folly of considering ourselves unique at the risk of repeating the same mistakes.   

What was your biggest challenge when writing this book and what did you find came together the easiest for you?

The whole thing is challenging. I have to do many rewrites and take on board a lot of notes from my agents and editors. I’m extremely lucky to work with such talented people who are so patient and supportive.

Maeve’s mother was one of my favorite characters in the book because I so admired her sense of style even though they didn’t have any money. I also admired her bravery for finding a way to make a community for herself. Who was your favorite character to write?

I too have a fondness for Nora because, as you noted, she’s a survivor and extremely resourceful. I like people who don’t give up and don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves. She’s taken a potentially impossible situation and created a narrative that makes sense of it and gives both her daughter and herself a workable past and future.

Maeve and Diana come from two very different social classes and form a friendship in spite of it. Do you think a friendship like this could ever work? Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this where you just couldn’t fit in?

Absolutely! I see people from different races, backgrounds, faiths and upbringings forming friendships and helping one another through difficult times on a regular basis. One might argue this is the very basis of modern day 12 Step program groups like AA, Al-Anon, and Narcotics Anonymous, as well as a legion of other self-help organizations throughout the world. In fact, many of these groups were founded in the mid-1930’s on just such principles.

Rare Objects Book Release Party

follow Kathleen on Facebook!!

As a working mother, do you have a tip for those of us that are struggling with balance between work and family?

No. I won’t pretend to have a sense of balance. I veer between one extreme and the other and, for what it’s worth, so does my husband, so I don’t think it’s a goal that women alone should be aiming for. As a matter of fact, it might be better to simply not concern ourselves with it at all. I suspect it’s one of those vague terms, like “happiness” that everyone bandies about as the Holy Grail but has little to do with reality. Can you imagine people at the turn of the century anxiously wondering if their lives were balanced? What a luxury!

We have more important things to do than take our emotional temperatures and worry about some illusory ideal state that was probably concocted by advertising executives. If anything, I want other women know that I respect their accomplishments as well as their right to get their hands dirty in life, on their own terms, without judgement or criticism from me or anyone else.  Be messy. Try. Fail. Try again. And above all, never apologize.

Editor’s Note- You bet, I highlighted that whole answer! What a great way to think about the myth of balance!

You can connect with Kathleen Tessaro on her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter! 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: Ping Pong, Entryway Dreams, & Pokemon Mania

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

mary-visit

Well, hey there! I hope you are having a wonderful summer! So much good stuff has been happening over here that this happy list is a genuine one. I headed to Nebraska Medicine for a second opinion on my health issues and the doctor added a pill to assist with the pain I have been experiencing and I FINALLY feel like my old self again. I am virtually pain-free after six months of unbelievable pain.

I truly feel like it is a miracle to feel this good.

Lucky for me, we got in great visits with friends while we were there, I ate my way through Omaha (and I mean it- hello, pajama jeans!), and drank far too much wine…but, hey, worth it!

I hosted a gathering for my girlfriends, once we rolled back into town, in our backyard and in our little she shed. I am always thankful that we had this beautiful table made to be extra long so we always have room at our table for our friends. We had a Salad Bar night for our evening meal (someday I will do a post on it!). I provided the greens, roasted chicken, and dressings for the group. Then everyone came with toppings and drinks to round out our meal. Such a fun and easy night in the backyard without stress on the hostess or the guests.

Here are three other things that are making me happy (and I think would make you happy too!)

Boot Tray Insert

My Boot Tray Got More Awesome

When I did my house tour, one of the most clicked on items in that was our boot tray and I don’t blame you. It is one of my favorite Target finds that we have gotten for our home. That said, anytime we had wet or dirty shoes, they would just sit in the tray in the puddle of water and dirt…

Well, that is, until now.

I was wandering around Target (always a dangerous pastime) and saw this incredible boot tray insert that fits right over my existing boot tray. It gives a place for wet shoes to drip, it’s black so it doesn’t show everything, and it actually looks decorative too. SUPER happy with this purchase!

Narrow entryways will bask in functional glory with this fun addition!

Joola Outdoor Ping Pong Table

 

We Have Been In Ping Pong Heaven

My husband loves playing ping pong and although I love our little house, things like ping pong tables just don’t fit in our tiny spaces.  This guy of mine has been working his tail off and needed a stress reliever that wasn’t in front of a screen and more than anything I wanted to give him a ping pong table to enjoy.

This summer it came time to break down our swing set (how bittersweet is that?) and I had to figure out something we could do in the backyard together that we would all enjoy.

In honor of Father’s Day we splurged on this JOOLA Outdoor Ping Pong Table. Yup, an outdoor table! Who knew?

I had been waiting to talk about it, in our favorite things list,  until we really used it (I hate sharing something we don’t REALLY genuinely love). This table is incredibly made, comes almost fully assembled, and is a breeze to put up and down. We got an outdoor cover (kind of like a grill cover for it) and we have enjoyed many evenings together playing ping pong in our backyard. My husband also discovered they make ping pong balls that are made for outdoor tables even since a windy day can sometimes be an issue. It’s been an incredible addition to our backyard.

In full disclosure, we had an awful surprise storm that knocked half of our table over due to some really crazy winds. One of the wheels broke off and I worried that we would have a broken table forever within the first week of purchase. I contacted the company and a REAL PERSON talked to me, he sent me extra wheels in case it happened again, and they emailed me a shipping notification so we could track our wheels until they arrived on my doorstep.

It was incredible customer service and our table is now happily repaired and awaiting many games together.

Want an inspiring ping pong documentary to share with your whole family? Watch Top Spin (on Netflix!!).  You can watch kids compete for the Olympic team and be wowed. This one is approved by our family for all ages! Yay!

After we watched that, we were all fighting over our turn at the ping pong table!

pokemon-go

I Love Pokemon Go (Even Though I Have No Clue What I’m Doing)

My kids are at a stage where they just want to sit in front of devices and do nothing. It takes a lot to motivate them so I was genuinely excited about the Pokemon Go app (FREE!!). You would have to be buried under a rock to not know about it, but here is a little more info if you haven’t tried it out yet.

My kids are MOTIVATED for evening walks and explorations at parks. Just in our neighborhood alone, we caught 5 of these critters looping the mile through the ‘hood.

Do I know a thing about Pokemon?

No.

I don’t give a flip, but my kids do and they are MOVING.

And they are HANGING OUT WITH ME.

And for the caption on this photo:

“Mom, why would you pose with that? It’s not even a good one. It evolves and won’t even look at you straight. It’s just a goldfish.”

Me: “But, I’m really proud of my goldfish. I worked hard for it. Take my picture with my goldfish.”#pokemonposeur

Sometimes finding something you all love with big kids is hard so I am thrilled we have found something we can do together… even if I don’t understand it!

Advanced Readers for July

Reading: All the Missing Girls and it is incredible! If you are looking for a gripping psychological thriller, you should give this one a try for your summer reading!

Pictured above are some advanced readers for books that should be on your reading radar! I have a lot of reading to do and am looking forward to enjoying these on a family vacation!

LOST STARS

HER EVERY FEAR

THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10

SAVING ABBY

BABY DOLL

SISTERS ONE, TWO, THREE

Eating: We fired up the grill and enjoyed Chicken Pesto Burgers this week and I even baked french fries to go with them. I hope to share that recipe soon!!

Watching: I can’t stop watching this- it’s absolutely incredible and one of the best Adele covers ever made. Amen.

Making:  My hands are finally working again so I am knitting up some Chemo Caps for a special girl- lift her up in prayer for me, won’t you?

Happy Friday, friends!

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

 

 

Amy’s Notebook 07.20.16

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

DIY backyard before and after via Apartment Therapy

Source: Apartment Therapy

 

Totally inspired by this clean, welcoming diy backyard before-and-after!

Mindful grocery choices you can start making today.

Roasted broccoli sweet potato chickpea salad for your summer dinners.

Why the homestead is relevant to the modern woman.

Pork chops with cranberry-mustard sauce & more 5-ingredient meals!

How to slow down summer.

15 wardrobe basics every girl should check off her list.

Stuffed pancake puffs via A Beautiful Mess

Source: A Beautiful Mess

 

Maybe our new pancake obsession?

10 brand new books to read in July.

Easy home remedies for summer wounds.

10 things to eliminate from your kitchen right now.

Saying “yes” more.

S’mores rice krispie treats- maybe the best of both worlds?

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

Amy’s Notebook 07.13.16

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

2-ingredient cocktails via My Domaine

Source: My Domaine

 

2-ingredient cocktails for summer sipping.

How to build a beach bonfire.

This painted floor is gorgeous (and thrifty!).

These no-bake breakfast cookies look delicious.

Bookmarking this list of books to read when I need a good cry.

A smart way to pack- the 5-4-3-2-1 rule.

A dozen diy wall art projects to try.

DIY lawn dice via The Merry Thought

Source: The Merry Thought

 

DIY lawn dice looks like a fun outdoor activity!

The movement for racial justice needs more White Americans to get involved.

DIY summer tote- so cute & simple!

Did you know there is a KonMari conference?

Zero pot dinners sound perfect for the summer!

9 ways to decorate above a bed.

Chasing after more when you already have enough.

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

 

June 2016 Must-Reads

Friday, July 8th, 2016

June 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

There is nothing better than a good book…except when that good book is read poolside! Am I right? I’m so excited to share with you this month’s reading list which includes everything from a mystery to science fiction to an epic love story. I can’t wait to hear what books you were enjoying this past month.

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

8 Must-Read Books I Read In June

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

The first adult book from Robin Wasserman and it is ADULT so, readers, be warned! Follow down the path of Dex & Lacey, two social outcasts who find comfort and friendship in one another through a mutual dislike for the high school queen bee. When one of the popular kids commits suicide in their small town, we are quick to see that things are often not as they seem as Lacey’s dangerous interactions start coming to light. Set in the ‘90’s with plenty of nostalgic flashbacks, it also laces in the beginning of the twilight of the satanic panic that plagued this era.

Due to the language, sex, and violence in this one, this will be a pretty polarizing book that you will either really love or really hate. I found it to be a great summer escape and a well-woven plot although, as a reader, I often wondered if some of the scenes were set up to shock you rather than to move the story forward.

Catch my interview with Robin Wasserman as she discusses why she made the leap to writing for adults and reminisce a bit about the ’90’s with us!

4 Out of 5 Stars

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go will be the psychological thriller you need to pull you out of a reading slump. The book opens with a mother crossing the street with her child. She lets go for just a moment and that child is hit by a car. This hit-and-run case leaves little clues to the killer and the reader follows this grief-stricken survivor as she tries to form a new life in a new town, far from the reminders of the accident. Hold onto your hats though because nothing is as it seems and the reader is taken on plot twists that will leave you gasping. This is, truly, the next Gone Girl, friends, don’t miss it!

Check out my interview with Clare Mackintosh and hear about the case that inspired her book and the life experience that shaped the raw grief of the mother in her story!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood

The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood

Ona is 104 and develops a fast friendship with a Scout who is obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records. He believes Ona has a chance of winning, thanks to her age. Unfortunately, the boy tragically dies and his father is left to fulfill his son’s duties. Quinn has never been much of a father though, but it is through Ona that he discovers just how special his boy is.

The book flashes back to the special conversations the boy had with Ona around her kitchen table, is laced with true Guinness Book of World record holders, and a road trip adventure that brings the boy’s parents closer to Ona as she tries to seal the deal on her very own world record. This story is touching, heartfelt, and beautifully told. My only complaint would be that it could have been trimmed down a bit to create a tighter storyline.

Stay tuned, Monica will be joining my Sundays With Writers series this month to share more about her story behind the story!

4 Out of 5 Stars

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

I find Reid’s writing to be just the right amount of heart with just the right amount of reality and her storytelling truly shines in this beautiful story of loves found and lost. When Emma’s husband dies in a helicopter crash, she is left to rebuild her life without her high school sweetheart and you feel that devastation through Reid’s words. After years of sadness though, she finds love again with an old high school friend and begins to find that happiness she has been missing. Just before her wedding though she receives a call that her husband, Jesse, is still alive and coming home to be with her again.

A heart aching love triangle is formed and Emma must choose between the man she loved and lost or the new love of her life. I couldn’t put this one down and read it in less than a day. Reid’s latest book does not disappoint and would be the perfect addition to any beach bag this summer!

Check out an interview I did with Taylor in our Sundays With Writers series as she discusses her ability to write such believable and beautiful love stories!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (available for preorder!)

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

I am not much of a science fiction reader, but there are those exceptions that have lead me to embrace a little sci-fi in my life. If you enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts, Ready Player One, or The Martian, do NOT miss Dark Matter.

It’s very hard to review this book without giving away some of the reader surprises. Crouch creates a fictional exploration that allows his character, Jason Desson, to explore different paths that his life could have taken if he had made different choices. When he is abducted on his way to the grocery store, he awakens and discovers that his wife is not his wife, his house is not his house, and nothing in his life is the way it seems. You are then lead through adventure after adventure as Jason tries to find his old life again in a rather unique way.

Equal parts science fiction adventure and equal parts a beautiful love story, there is SO MUCH to love in this book. The reader can’t help but root for Jason to be reunited with his family and there is never a dull moment with a hefty duty delivery of smart plot twists. The screenplay is already in the works so read this one before you catch it on the big screen!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

The Two-Family House is a sweet literary escape telling the story of brothers living in a two-family house in Brooklyn in the ‘40’s. While the men are away to work, in the midst of a winter storm, both of their wives go into labor and end up delivering their babies at home, thanks to one determined midwife. It’s the birth of these two babies that begins to threaten and unravel the two families, particularly their mothers, as they carry around a family secret that begins to impact them all.

A strong debut novel rich with characters and the raw emotional impact of family secrets, it is one that you will be unable to put down, and a storyline rich with lots to chat about for book clubs. If you prefer character-driven stories, this book is for you!

4 Out of 5 Stars

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

Twenty years ago, six Penn students shared a home together and formed a fast friendship that they thought would have forever. When Bea, one of their most faithful friends, passes away, her dying wish is to see them reunited once again twenty years later, on the eve of what would have been her 40th birthday. Of course, each of these friends is carrying their own demons and as time passes, secrets are revealed and the true nature of each of them is uncovered.

I have always been a big fan of Scotch’s books (Time of My Life still remains one of my all-time favorites) and have appreciated her storylines, particularly with love stories. Perhaps, that is why I struggled a bit because there wasn’t a strong love story for me in this one.  The book could have benefited from a bit of trimming to carve out a tighter storyline, but I still think this is a fun addition to your beach bag this summer if you are looking for a fun escape.

3 Out of 5 Stars

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

I am not big into series books, but I have heard from many of that you really love to sink your teeth into a new series. A Murder in Time is the first in the Kendra Donovan mysteries series and is a promising start for time travel and historical fiction lovers. It was this month’s selection for the Global Book Club (check to see if your library is participating in the Global Read to snag a free download of it).

The story follows an FBI agent, Kendra Donovan, that is involved in a case that goes horribly wrong and claims the life of her colleagues. When she finds out that they are using the murderer as an informant, she decides to take revenge at a period piece party he is attending at a castle. Hiding from him when her revenge takes an unexpected turn, she goes into a corridor and then comes out in the same castle, but in an entirely different era- the 1800’s. Her ability to sleuth out cases comes in handy though when a serial killer is on the loose and no one else can solve it. Without her modern day tools though, this case isn’t an easy one.

Oh, and she’s a woman and a low level employee at the castle so she’s not respected either.

Although far-fetched, as most time travel books are, this is a fun escape. I actually learned a lot about that era that I had never been before. Twist in a fun love story, and you have a great escape that fans of the Outlander series will enjoy with this fun modern spin!

5 Out of 5 Stars

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Read With Me This Year:

January Must-Reads

February Must-Reads

March Must-Reads

April Must-Reads

May Must-Reads

June-2016-Must-Read-Books

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

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

Amy’s Notebook 07.06.16

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

DIY Embroidered Sun Hat via A Beautiful Mess

Source: A Beautiful Mess

 

My new poolside hat – what words would you use?

Cauliflower burrito bowls for easy summer meals.

Love this colorful, yet calming decor.

Adorable braided bun.

Orange Frappe? Oh yes!

I want to be like Princess Diana.

Yarn Bombing via Crixeo

Source: Crixeo

 

Grab your needles and hooks and enter the yarn bombing movement.

Perfect Spanish tortilla.

Small kitchen solutions.

5-ingredient slow cooker apricot chicken.

Let’s remember to rest this summer.

Toy room organization tips & ideas.

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

Sundays With Writers: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

sundays-with-writers-1

It is rare to surprise me as a reader and it has probably only happened a handful of times over the past few years. Since I read so much, it is like I now know the lay of the land and where we are heading. When an author makes a plot twist that leaves my jaw on the ground…well, it’s a rare and amazing reader experience for me.

I Let You Go is a well-woven thriller that you will be unable to put down and when those twists come, I know you will be as blown away as I am. I am so excited to share an interview with Clare Mackintosh today. Not only is her thriller incredible, but she has a background as a detective that allows her to make more plausible crime stories with an attention to detail that few can possess without this background.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go will be the psychological thriller you need to pull you out of a reading slump. The book opens with a mother crossing the street with her child. She let’s go for just a moment and that child is hit by a car. This hit-and-run case leaves little clues to the killer and the reader follows this grief-stricken survivor as she tries to form a new life in a new town, far from the reminders of the accident. Hold onto your hats though because nothing is as it seems and the reader is taking on plot twists that will leave you gasping.

The tired saying that, “this book is the next Gone Girl,” has been said about many thrillers since Flynn’s incredible book.

This book?

Well, I think it really is the one and once you start reading it, you will see why!

Grab your coffee and let’s chat with Clare Mackintosh about her story!

Clare Mackintosh

You worked as a police officer for 12 years and then came out with a wildly successful psychological thriller, I Let You Go, that I can’t stop talking about or recommending to all my friends. Did you always want to be a writer and how do you think your time on the force helped benefit your story?

I spent 12 years in the police and loved every minute of it, but it became increasingly hard to balance a busy career with life as a mother of three young children. I took a career break and reinvented myself as a freelance feature writer, and at the same time I wrote I Let You Go. I signed a two-book publishing deal the month before I was due back at work, so I handed in my notice and never went back. The thread that links all three types of work is storytelling: as a detective I told victim’s stories on their behalf; collected witnesses’ stories to support allegations of crime. My job was to pull together all the threads of a story and present it to a court in such a way that they could decide on a verdict. In that way it wasn’t dissimilar to the work I now present to readers.

The book opens with a mother letting go of her child’s hand on a dark street and witnessing her child being hit by a car. I understand that this plot came from a real-life incident that happened in Oxford? What was it about this story, in particular, that made it stick with you so much that you would want to fictionally explore this?

In 2000, just after I started my career in the police, there was a tragic hit and run in Oxford, England. It killed a nine year old boy and sent shockwaves through the city. I didn’t work directly on the case, but I was profoundly affected by it. I couldn’t understand how anyone could drive away from such a terrible act, and I couldn’t see how the child’s mother could ever survive such a tragedy. Many years later I lost my own son – in very different circumstances – and I began to understand the impact grief has on one’s life. The more I considered this, the more a story took shape.

Jenna’s grief is so raw that, at times, I found it difficult to read what she was going through. I was so sad to read that you also have lost a child yourself. Were you able to channel some of that into shaping Jenna’s grief and loss?

My son died when he was five weeks old. It was, and still is, the hardest thing that has ever happened to me. I found some of the scenes in I Let You Go exceptionally difficult to write, and extremely emotional. There would be times when I would be sitting at my keyboard, tears streaming down my cheeks, wanting that particular scene to be over. It was just too raw, too real. But overall I think I did find it cathartic, just as I have always found it therapeutic to blog about the way I feel.

I Let You Go at the British Book Industry Awards

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I am a very seasoned reader so it is very difficult to take me by surprise, but your plot twists absolutely floored me. I truly mean that! Did you always have these twists in mind when you started writing your story and did you try to replicate that experience in your second book for the reader or were you worried it would be too formulaic?

The twist was the first element to arrive. I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve, and why I wanted to do it, and I knew that if I could pull it off, it would provoke an extraordinary reaction among readers. From there it was a question of letting the story take shape around it. I actively avoided adopting a similar structure for my second book, to avoid being predictable. I See You comes out in July 2016 in the UK, and spring 2017 for US readers; it’s very dark, and very twist, but in a very different way to I Let You Go.

I understand with your background, as a police officer, that you have found a lot of errors when it comes to writing of scenes in crime fiction. Is there anyone out there that is getting it right that we should check out?

When I’m reading crime fiction and thrillers I’m always impressed when the author writes authentic police characters. For me I’m less concerned about procedure being a hundred percent accurate – it is fiction, after all – but more sensitive to the realism of a situation. Police officers calling each other ‘Detective’, for example, is something I see a lot in British crime fiction, but never happens in real life! I always find it hard to swallow when UK police brandish guns about, or keep their police cars at home, or charge people they haven’t even interviewed yet. It suggests a lack of research that takes me out of the story. Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome is a great authentic contemporary detective – it’s a series worth following.

chiplitfest

I read that you have started your very own literary festival! Is there anything you can’t do? What compelled you to start one?

When I left the police in 2011 I was worried I’d be bored without a department to run. I set up ChipLitFest with some like-minded local people, with the aim of creating a community project that had national reach. We’ve had some fantastic authors – Lionel Shriver, Peter James, Brian Blessed, Joanne Harris – and last year we became the first literary festival to divide its profits equally between all the authors involved in the event. I’m hugely proud of it, and honoured to remain a trustee, although the hard graft is all done by other people nowadays. It’s been interesting being on both sides of the fence. It’s made me keen to support smaller festivals, and very understanding of the budget constraints they experience. I love doing events and enjoy small audiences just as much as big ones – often more.

 I know you must get asked this a lot, but is there any possibility of a sequel with this book?

Definitely not. I’m aware that some people feel the ending is ambiguous, and it’s impossible to discuss here without spoilers, but I’m always happy to talk about it at book groups or via private messages. Suffice to say, the story – as far as we’re concerned – has been told, and I have no plans to return to these characters.

I Let You Go translated in many languages

I Let You Go translated into many languages!

 Even after you have sold your books, I understand that you spend a lot of time rewriting them. Why do you think these rewrites are so important to the success of a novel?

The first draft of I Let You Go took about nine months, then I spent the same time again editing it before I found a publisher, and another year doing more rewrites with the help of my editor. It was a long process! I wrote eight drafts in total, and each one made the book stronger. They brought out nuances, made characters more three-dimensional, and tightened the twists. Every draft was necessary, but that didn’t stop it being a fairly painful process at the time!

I-See-You

preorder I See You

 I understand you took an entirely different writing process with your second book and are using visuals of your characters to help craft your story and their backstories. Did you find writing the second book to be easier than the first or do you feel a lot of pressure after all of the accolades with your first book?

With I Let You Go there was absolutely no pressure. My deal had been relatively small, which meant I didn’t feel the weight of expectation from my publishers, and there was no pre-publication hype from the UK media. The book’s success crept up gradually; there was an online buzz first of all, on Twitter and Facebook, and it just got bigger and bigger. With my next book (I See You) I felt under enormous pressure to deliver something just as good, and it was hard not to let that get to me. In the end I just focused on simply writing the best book I possibly could; I couldn’t do any more than that. As for the approach, I’m still learning what works best for me. It’s been different each time, and I fully anticipate it being different for book three, too!

You can connect with Clare Mackintosh on her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter! 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: Today We Sit

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Happiness Challenge: SITTING

When we bought the furniture for our home, all I wanted were comfortable places to sit.  Years of uncomfortable furniture had created a wanting in my heart for the biggest and comfiest couch we could fit in our space. Although the aesthetics were important, it was far more the depth and the sinking-in-of-it all that was the most important to me.

We recently had some new (and old) friends to our home and took them on our little renovation tour of our very own fixer upper. The remarks often were regarding the comfortability of our spaces that I had worked so lovingly to create to help our guests feel welcome. Often the remarks were, “How do you get any work done when you have this cozy place to sit?” 

These were the places they said they couldn’t resist.

Yet, I resist them.

What might look, at times, like a cushy job (and believe me, cushy moments do exist), is a lot of sweat and hustle to create. I am not complaining, but sometimes that glamour shot you see is nothing like my life.  Many moments are spent hunched over the computer and in some state of frantic panic over a post that, honestly,  I’m lucky if people might scan briefly through with their morning coffee.

What there isn’t a lot of, for me,  is… well, SITTING. The corners that people might envy are rarely enjoyed by me so I challenged myself to SIT in every one of those corners this week because I deserve to rest.

I am worthy of that.

I soaked in a good book on my giant leather chair, I snuggled up with my cat and watched a television show, I knitted in my shed sanctuary, and I curled on my bed in the evening to browse my blog reader. It sounds so silly, but for the first time in probably a few years, I just enjoyed sitting in the places I had made for myself.

All the places.

If you don’t do a lot of sitting at your house either, consider this a challenge to sit in those beautiful and cozy corners you created. They aren’t just for company, they are for YOU. 

I thought it might be fun to creatively explore a bit on this post so today might seem different than usual.

I’m glad.

I want you to enjoy the REAL over in blogland and that can never be cultivated if I’m not honest with you. I want to explore how I’m working towards the happy in my life. As always, I am a big work in progress.  

Tell me, do you struggle with being still too?  

Here are 3 other things that make me happy.

Hania Sandals from Naturalizer

Amazingly Comfortable Gladiator Sandals

Oh, I am loving this year’s sandal trends, BUT I have stupidly wide feet so I am not always able to embrace the trends. I had to break my rule of not buying shoes during my capsule challenge because a joint fell out of the side of one of my feet (I kid you not) and it hung off the side of my sandal in a really uncomfortable way. I totally demoed it for my husband to justify said shoe purchase.

Come on. You would too.

I found these gorgeous, gorgeous sandals from Naturalizer (the Hania Sandals in Gingersnap)  and they are PERFECT in every way.  This has a comfortable wedge on the bottom that gives a petite girl some height without compromising her balance. If you are looking for a gladiator shoe that you won’t have to break in, these fit the bill perfectly!

Although you may not have a joint falling out, my sister remarked that only I would find a way to make bracing this travesty fashionably. What can I say? I’m an EDS warrior these days.

PS- if you have NARROW feet, they make this one in a narrow too, lucky ladies!

SYTYCD Next Generation

Kids Dancing Gives Me ALL THE FEELS

This seasons SYTYCD is all about the kiddos and it is absolutely epic this year.  If you want a great show to watch with your kids that will inspire them (especially if you have a tiny dancer on your hands too!), you MUST watch the show this year, SYTYCD Next Generation

Not only are the kids amazing dancers, but they have some compelling stories. Not to mention how hard their parents worked (ahem!).

The only UN-happy about this happy is that when a kid gets cut, I start weeping.

EVERY. TIME.

I mean, you can’t cut kids. Seriously. It’s awful.

That said, my whole family is just loving this season. Since we don’t have cable (you should cut it, you guys!!) we watch this through Hulu! Use this link (if you like) to sign up. Yay! That is one subscription we get our money’s worth out of.

a-murder-in-time

Participating in My First Big Library Read

My book club site is growing every day and I tell you, these ladies know their stuff. It’s totally free so join us and participate!  They told me about the Big Library Read and I jumped on the bandwagon this week to participate.

The Big Library Read is an opportunity for those with a valid library card to read the same digital title at the same time without any wait lists or holds. Participating in this event allows your library to offer a new simultaneous use title for community-wide access from your library at no cost. It’s a worldwide digital version of a local book club! 

Big Library Read

It’s not too late to join in so check and see if your library is participating and take advantage of another fun (and free!) book club opportunity. So cool!

I’m not going to tell you a ton about it because I want you to discover this one yourself. The book is called,  A Murder in Time and it is about a gal from the FBI that ends up time traveling into the 1800’s and helps work on a case of a serial killer on the loose. Unfortunately, she can’t use any modern day anything to solve the case so you can imagine it’s a tough case to crack.

Oh, and did I mention she’s a woman who is a servant in a castle?

Yeah, you can imagine how receptive people are. (wink, wink!)

Now go snag this book and join in over the weekend!

Happy Friday, friends!

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

 

Amy’s Notebook 06.29.16

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Slow Cook Chicken Tinga Tacos via I Heart Naptime

Source: I Heart Naptime

 

Slow cooker chicken tinga tacos- yum!

Curate your life and the rest will follow.

9 DIY rope rug projects to try this summer.

Beach wave tutorial- so cute!

Recipes to make with a farmer’s market haul.

Being bored is a way to make children self-reliant.

Summer capsule wardrobe inspiration!

Picnic like an Event Planner via Camille Styles

Source: Camille Styles

 

I want to picnic like an event planner.

You can’t read this and not feel inspired.

Never tie a water balloon again.

15 ways to use a rotisserie chicken.

What a sweet end-of-year tradition.

Birthday goals.

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

Robin Wasserman’s 3 Favorite Books

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Robin Wasserman

Author: Robin Wasserman. (Author of Girls on Fire and many more!)  Read more about Robin in our interview HERE!)

Robin Wasserman’s 3 Favorite Books

I’m terrible at “favorites,” but here are two books I’ve loved recently and then one of the only books that unquestionably counts as an all-time greatest hit:

The History of Great Things by Elizabeth Crane

The History of Great Things by Elizabeth Crane

Midway through this novel, I stopped reading and sent my mother a copy for mother’s day. (Which, fortunately, she appreciated, despite the fact that things don’t go especially well for the mother in the book.) This book, the ingenious and heartbreaking story of a mother a daughter trying to understand each other, is so unexpectedly smart and delightful and fascinating that I don’t want to tell you too much about it and spoil the surprise, so all I will say is that I would give quite a lot to be come up with a structure half as clever as what Elizabeth Crane is doing here.

Alice & Oliver by Charles Bock

Alice & Oliver by Charles Bock

Sad and sweet and brutal and funny, this is a novel about a family trying to battle its way through a cancer diagnosis, and about how to survive the possibility of losing the person who makes life worth living. You should read it; everyone should read it.

  A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace

I don’t think the world needs yet another paean to David Foster Wallace’s greatness, and if you’ve ever read one of these essays, it’s pretty self-evident, so I’ll just say that this is one of those books that cracked my world open. It’s not just that the book opened my eyes to radically new and enormous possibilities of what writing could do and be—though it did. And it’s not just that the book made me want to be a better writer, or a better thinker, or a better person—though it did that, too. It’s that, when I’m reading Wallace, I get a brief but glorious taste of what it might be like to inhabit life as he did. I get to mold my thoughts to his, and embody a person capable of and determined to deeply understand every piece of his world.

 

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