Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Amy’s Notebook 09.24.14

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Tacos via Camille Styles

Source: Camille Styles

 

Pumpkin spice tacos- say what?!

A kitchen renovation like this is on my to-do list.

Fabulous tips for applying lipstick so it lasts all day.

Raspberry gin cocktail- you had me at gin.

Simple & elegant touches for fall decorating.

15 career tips from smart women.

Gold Leaf Art via Lovely Indeed

Source: Lovely Indeed

 

I love this diy gold leaf art.

I can’t wait to hang my daughter’s guitar like this- plus, the styling around the piano is fantastic!

I want fill my freezer with these quinoa burritos.

I want to try this 24 hour iPhone experiment.

A rainbow of gourds.

I’m in love with these dining room updates.

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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Sundays With Writers: Lifelines by Caroline Leavitt

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Sundays With Writers

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

Lifelines by Caroline Leavitt

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

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

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

Caroline Leavitt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edgard Cayce

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

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

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

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

Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for these magnificent questions!

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

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

 

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Tween Happiness, Red Lips, & Facebook Management

Friday, September 19th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

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

What If by Randall Munroe

What If by Randall Munroe

Tween Belly Laughs

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

Jinx.

Padlock jinx.

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

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

L'Oreal True Red Lipstick

The Perfect Red Lipstick

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

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

Which I don’t.

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

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

No Facebook

Goodbye, Mobile Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

striped shirt + leopard belt + skinny jeans + boots

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

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

Here are our top 3 posts this week!

1. 5 Ways to Date Your Husband This Fall

2. How to Spray Paint Furniture

3. Goodbye, Old Friend: Asking Jealousy to Leave

And here is your bonus happy today! ADORABLE!

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

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

Amy’s Notebook 09.17.14

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Yarn Garland via Design Improvised

Source: Design Improvised

 

DIY yarn garlands – so simple and sweet!

Bring on the red lipstick.

Why rest takes courage- I needed this.

Go ahead, have another cup of coffee!

The most stylish micro-apartments- sometimes you just don’t need more space.

Why cucumber is the new baguette.

Chocolate-Caramel-Latte-Muffins via Dine and Dish

 

Source: Dine & Dish

 

Chocolate caramel latte breakfast muffins to go with that cup of coffee- YUM.

2014 Man Booker Prize Shortlist announced!

Why it doesn’t matter how you feel about your friends.

Princess Anna inspired crochet hat to make for your favorite Frozen fan.

A sweet take on a bedroom for 2 sisters.

I am so inspired by the transformative power of a weekly dinner night with friends.

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: Better Mornings Edition

Friday, September 12th, 2014

3_little_things

Happy Friday! Geesh, sorry about the Charlie Brown edition last week, but thank you guys for your encouraging words and prayers. When my mom called me on Saturday she insisted I go to the doctor. And, yes, I am a 36 year-old woman who still needs her mother’s encouragement to go to the doctor. Turned out I had both a sinus infection and a raging ear infection. Lesson learned, always listen to your mother. One round of antibiotics later and I am feeling like a whole new woman. I was also happy to hear that I had not visited the doctor since last September so that is a pretty good track run! Go me!

Better Mornings

This edition is going to be about some things that are making my mornings better. I took this shot on Instagram to share a little bit about my progression towards a better morning. I am lucky and very unlucky when it comes to my mornings. Unlucky in the fact that I have to get a middle school kid on the bus by 6:30, but lucky in the fact that I am having productive and happy mornings thanks to getting up so much earlier.

Here are some things that are making me happy this morning.

She Reads Truth

She Reads Truth

I don’t talk a lot about religion on here, but faith is an important part of our family life.  I have fallen off the wagon, so to speak, in diving into my Bible on my own and relying on Sunday sermons to power my weeks. It is usually in the Fall that I am seeking something to fill the void in my day.

Here is the honest truth. Working at home is a beautiful thing and it can be very isolating especially when you find yourself alone at home with no adults or even children to talk to for the day. There are days where the only interaction I have with anyone is at the gym  which isn’t good for someone who loves constant noise in her life.  I wouldn’t change my job for the world, but I definitely find myself seeking something when I feel a little empty and I am feeling empty.

She Reads Truth is a free devotional series that I am doing to get back into the daily discipline of reading my Bible again. You can download the app or subscribe to the emails to get the latest devotion. The lessons are real, they are applicable, and they are current.  I had never read Hosea before so I decided to read that series and, boy, could it fit me more?  It’s all about being an unfaithful servant…which is ME.

I think God might be telling me something in these morning chats with Him and maybe I needed that silence and loneliness to find Him again.

One Line a Day Journal

One Line A Day

I struggle with journaling, but since I was getting my mornings back on track, I wanted to make this a priority.  Have you heard me talk about my One Line a Day journal? It is one of my favorite things. One page holds five years of memories, giving you the chance to see how your day changes from year-to-year. My biggest struggle is at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is jot down my thoughts on the day. I am exhausted (see bus time above) and all I want to do is watch mindless television or read a book.

In the morning, after much coffee, is a great time for me to journal so I just jot down my thoughts from the previous day which works much better for me and makes me really happy that I am finally putting pen to paper again. You have to make good habits make sense to your life and this just makes sense.

The best part is that this little journal costs less than $10, but can give you FIVE YEARS of joy.

Gallery Wall Ideas

My Gallery Wall

For two years this wall has bugged me and every morning when I would come down the stairs I would see it and wonder how I could finish my gallery wall. I am a slow decorator because I want things to have meaning in my home, but I just didn’t know what to do with this wall. I finally finished it and this is the first thing I see when I come down the steps and it makes me so dang happy.

Gallery Wall Ideas

Gallery Wall Ideas

Gallery Wall Ideas

After organizing my photos this week, I updated the prints with some of my favorite shots that I took this year. I added this free printable and this free printable to the space to round out the corners.

Gallery Wall Ideas

Gallery Wall Ideas

My favorite things on the wall though are the special things that make us, “us.” I hung my great-grandmother’s biscuit cutter that she used to make biscuits for us each morning when we would stay with her in the summers on the farm. My husband’s grandfather was quite the ping pong player and his ping pong paddle (with his name handwritten on it) hangs on the wall to honor him. The, “It Is Well,” hymn (from this AMAZING Etsy shop owner)  is my absolute favorite and one I loved to BELT OUT (as only a girl like this can do!) at church so I hung this print on the wall.

I also love this beach photo that my hubby had snapped with my phone when we were in Saugatuck that I transferred into watercolor using the Waterlogue app. All those things make this wall oh-so-us.

Happy, happy!

And if that doesn’t cut it- cut a rug to this adorable video with your kids.

 

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule (note the transition from heat wave to Fall- yay!). Grab more inspiration on my Fashion Capsule Pin Board.

bow top + black a-line skirt + mint belt

Gap Black Skirt (purchased second hand on Twice)/Ann Taylor Loft Pink Print Collared Shirt (purchased second hand on Twice)/ Mint Belt (owned- Target)/Pink Sandals (Owned-see here for details!)

belted coral t-shirt + rolled jeans + nude flats

Mossimo Short Sleeve Coral Shirt (purchased- Target)/Seven Skinny Jeans (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Nude Ballet Flats (owned- Gap)/ Bow Belt (owned- Ann Taylor Loft)

cozy sweater + long tank + black leggings + brown boots

Free People White Cowl Neck Sweater (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ The Essential Leggings in Black (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Boots (owned- see details here!)

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

Here are our top 3 posts this week!

Gluten-Free Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

How to Make Glow-In-The-Dark Jell-O

DIY Minecraft Costume Ideas

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

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

Amy’s Notebook 09.10.14

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Hello Fall Printable via Nest of Posies

Source: Nest of Posies

 

Loving this hello beautiful fall printable.

Glam-rock chain cuffs would be a fun DIY for my fashion capsule project.

Frugal and adorable bobby pin storage.

Love this peek at a barn restoration (and the realness of updating your space).

How to ask your kids about their school day – I need this!

Adorable crocheted boat shoes.

I love this removable sweater lampshade cover.

Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls via The Kitchn

Source: The Kitchn

 

Slow cooker chicken burrito bowls- it’s like Chipotle at home.

World’s cutest baby shower idea.

This floral infinity scarf made from a thrifted dress is a great upcycle.

How to lengthen and embellish your shorts.

I’d love to learn calligraphy!

Are you tired of being a stuff manager? Me too!

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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Sundays With Writers: Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Sundays_With_Writers-1_Final

Happy Sunday, friends! I hope your day is filled with great books and good coffee today. This week I have the pleasure of interviewing debut novelist Rebecca Rotert about her first novel Last Night at the Blue Angel. I will say that this one is racier than some of the books I have featured here in the past so if that isn’t your cup of coffee, so-to-speak, I understand.  The storytelling was so good in this one though and I had so many questions for the author after I finished that I wanted to share it with you in our Sundays With Writers series. I am not shying away from this book- I think it a beautifully told coming-of-age story and the characters are rich and vivid even if I didn’t always like their choices.

last-night-at-the-blue-angel

Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s Chicago jazz scene, a highly ambitious and stylish literary debut that combines the atmosphere and period detail of Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility with the emotional depth and drama of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, about a talented but troubled singer, her precocious ten-year-old daughter, and their heartbreaking relationship.

It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is a city of uneasy tensions—segregation, sexual experimentation, free love, the Cold War—but it is also home to one of the country’s most vibrant jazz scenes. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. Finally, her big break arrives—the cover of Look magazine. But success has come at enormous personal cost. Beautiful and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet extremely self-destructive woman whose charms are irresistible and dangerous for those around her. No one knows this better than Sophia, her clever ten-year-old daughter.

For Sophia, Naomi is the center of her universe. As the only child of a single, unconventional mother, growing up in an adult world, Sophia has seen things beyond her years and her understanding. Unsettled by her uncertain home life, she harbors the terrible fear that the world could end at any moment, and compulsively keeps a running list of practical objects she will need to reinvent once nuclear catastrophe strikes. Her one constant is Jim, the photographer who is her best friend, surrogate father, and protector. But Jim is deeply in love with Naomi—a situation that adds to Sophia’s anxiety.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, their powerful and wrenching story unfolds in layers, revealing Sophia’s struggle for her mother’s love with Naomi’s desperate journey to stardom and the colorful cadre of close friends who shaped her along the way.

I loved this book so much more than I had expected. This is a coming-of-age story placed in the sixties focused on the story of a daughter who constantly lives in the shadow of her mother’s stardom and her need to be the center of attention. We are able, as readers, to read how she evolved into this self-absorbed woman, while witnessing the heartache of her daughter lurking in the shadows of her life. There are beautiful plot twists in this one and I never saw the ending coming.

After writing the author and reading her answers, my only regret is that this coffee with her is done virtually and not in person. I hope you will enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed reading and sharing it with you today!

Rebecca-Rotert-headshot

You chose the turbulent sixties era and the city of Chicago for the setting of your debut novel. What was it about this time period and city that captured your attention for the setting of your book?

I seem to be thinking about race, class, sexuality and gender all of the time.  ALL of the time.  Whatever problem or issue I’m trying to sort out in my head…I go back in time to examine turning points or cultural shifts in an attempt to identify what was at play, what happened, what changed.  In this vein, I find myself in the 50’s and 60’s a lot.  In some ways it’s very personal. I’m often asking myself, What did the territory look like before I landed on it (I was born in ’71)? I want to understand the culture that created my parents and their generation, and the boom generation, and us. What wounds did we inherit? What unfinished business? So many questions…

Richard-Nickel

Richard Nickel (Source: Out of Chicago where you can see his amazing architectural photography)

Jim, a struggling photographer, was one of my favorite characters in the book. You based him upon a photographer named Richard Nickel who captured architectural photos. How did you happen upon his story and photography?  Was he the first character you really started fleshing out or did you develop him later as you wrote it?

Jim was there from the very beginning but he was, like, Jim 2.0.  I did a lot of research in Chicago, kept running into these very interesting photographs, discovered the photographer was Nickel, researched him, fell in love with him, then came back to the drawing board and grafted him into Jim 2.0.

As a mom, I could not relate to Naomi’s choices and putting her own needs and desires before her child. Was it difficult to write some of these scenes particularly adult moments that Sophia witnesses when she is so small? How did you feel about Naomi?

Oof.  It was tough.  I swear there were scenes that were just…viscerally painful to write.  I sometimes asked myself, What would I do here? And then had Naomi do the opposite.  My feelings about her are complicated.  My reasoning behind allowing you to see some of her backstory was in order to cultivate some compassion for her. I don’t think Naomi has any idea what she’s doing.  She never learned. She sort of operates on desire and compulsion without taking into account consequences.  She doesn’t feel comfortable being a mother but she tries.  In the end, she chooses her art and her artist’s life over motherhood because she knows what she’s doing there. We all have Naomis in our lives…women we judge because WE would do it so much better.  They bring out our self-righteousness, which is of course a bar to all connection.  I wanted her to be galvanizing in this way and she is.

I understand that you are also a singer and songwriter, illustrating that you are a woman of many talents. How much of that background were you able to draw from to create Naomi? Have you also felt that hunger and struggle being a singer? Did this make Naomi more relatable to you?

In part, it was sheer laziness.  I know the vocabulary of performing well so I chose that as her art. And certainly I understand the hunger to make art; I’ve always had that in me. And I share with Naomi the feeling that art is often one of the few things that makes sense to me and that I’m good at. But in terms of fame, I just have no ambition whatsoever.  I know Box Turtles more ambitious than I.

My husband & I are obsessed with the jazz music from the ‘60’s and have quite the record collection going. What is your favorite song or artist from that era? Any in particular that you have Naomi sing that we should be hunting down for our record collection?

I love Mingus and Coltrane and Miles Davis. In terms of vocalists I’m crazy about Nina Simone and Jeanne Lee. In fact, Laura is named after the song/lyrics “Laura” from Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake’s album The Newest Sound Around.

A group I discovered during research, though not jazz, is The Boswell Sisters.  You’ve really got to listen to them if you’re not familiar.  Three harmonizing sisters in the 1930’s.   Go ahead and YouTube “Crazy People” to be delighted (see above!!).  Especially if you have, I don’t know, crazy people in your life.

Naomi’s love affair with Laura was brief, but ultimately shaped Naomi’s life journey. Is there any reason you didn’t have Naomi fall in love again with Laura later in the book and bring these two back together?

Ah, you are a savvy/intuitive reader, Amy. I DID bring them back together at the end but the more I worked on the end of the book, the more convinced I became that Naomi had to be alone at the end.  That she would get what she wanted but the price would be loneliness.  And Laura is strong. Naomi needs to…deserve her I feel.  And she doesn’t. Not yet.

Naomi has quite the parade of lovers and also learns her skills of being a lady from a very unlikely source. You did not seem to shy away from any topic- would you say that this book is provocative?

Um, I’ve been told it is.  It doesn’t feel at all provocative to me.  The next book, however…

You make a choice to do all dialogue in italics- why did you make this choice as a writer?

I’ve not yet described this well but today might be my lucky day….You know, when you put quotes around a line of text, you tell the reader, This is EXACTLY what was said….but so much of this book is about impression/memory/tone/perception/performance…I wanted there to be: Here’s what was said, yes, but also, Here’s what I heard/what I remember/what I tried to say…all those grey areas that color our sad efforts at human communication.  And everyone is performing in this book so a line of dialogue may represent an actual authentic feeling or thought but it may also be someone’s performance of a feeling/thought that may or may not be true.  So you see, all these sticky layers.  I guess I said to myself, Let’s put it in italics.

I will not say anything about the ending because I don’t want to spoil the book for our readers. Would you say you were pleased though with how this story wrapped up? Did you always envision this to be the ending for your book?

The exact ending, ie: last lines, came late in the process but the general ending I knew.  I would also say I could handle the end of this book because although the book ends, the story is to be continued.

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

IMPOSSIBLE. I NEED TWO AT LEAST AMY! However, a book I have to read over and over is Anthony de Mello’s Awareness.  It’s not fiction.  It might even be called self-help (choke).  It reminds me of the troublesome human pitfalls that can really muck up our short  little jaunt on earth.  I also return to Duras’ The Lover over and over because it reminds me of longing and waking up to life. These are a few of my favorite things, as the song says.

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

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

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It’s the 3 Little Things: The Charlie Brown Edition

Friday, September 5th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Oh, I want to bring the happy today, but I am feeling a bit like Charlie Brown. Things just didn’t go my way this week. I got the world’s most rotten cold, I haven’t slept in days thanks to a really annoying cough all night, and I felt overwhelmed this week with projects I had overpromised on. Since my attitude was so poor I felt underappreciated by everyone. They didn’t even see that just simple things like toasting bagels physically were hard for me. Running kids to activities when I can’t even hear because my head is so clogged and still asking about their day. Slogging my sad self to the grocery store to pull together a meal for unthankful people when I couldn’t turn my neck to even look down the aisle and see what was available.  The list goes on.

Sad Charlie Brown- Sigh.

I felt so bad that I didn’t even want to read a book, I just wanted to lay in bed, eyes barely open,  alternating episodes of Parenthood and Hoarding: Buried Alive so I could feel better about my personal clutter and life situation.  I am sure you wanted to come over here to listen to my griping about my first world problems, but it was just one of those weeks.  Sigh.

So this super edition is delivered Charlie Brown style (sad jazz hands!)

Bowl of Pho

My Only Source of Comfort

You would have never guessed I did theatre, would you? In all seriousness, if you haven’t experienced a big bowl of pho then you are missing one of the world’s best gluten-free comfort foods. Imagine the best bowl of chicken noodle soup you have ever eaten and then times it by two. That is what pho is. It is satisfying, you can dress it up however you like it, and it is the ultimate healing agent when I am feeling bad. In our town, THE place to be is Bowl of Pho. One regular sized bowl of chicken noodle soup will heal anything that troubles you.  I replaced my once a week coffee habit with a once a week soup habit.  When I travel, I call and pick this up on the way home to help settle my stomach on the way back from the airport.  When I am sick, I call sometimes twice to make sure I can flush out whatever is ailing me. This was a two bowl week and I don’t even have to leave my name anymore.

If there is one problem area in our budget it is probably my pho habit.

I could make it, but I won’t.

Neti Pot

My Only Source of Oxygen

The first time I used this Neti Pot it scared me almost as much as my epilator and you know that was terrifying. When you can’t breathe out of your miserable red nose, you will do anything especially at night when you want to sleep. I am a zombie on cold medication so I decided to give this a try and see if it could help me and it is the best thing in the world. Yes, I have read the horror stories, so use at your own risk.  And I do. It is the most disgusting, while simultaneously satisfying,  gift you can give yourself when you have a cold.  You don’t have to buy any extra solutions after you get one because you can make your own neti pot solution with salt & baking soda. If you suffer from allergies or colds, I can’t recommend this enough and it costs less than $20.

Appliance Hutch

My Only Exciting Activity- Moving a Microwave

I keep debating if we should go all out and redo our kitchen. Everything requires so much effort (and you know I am low on that this week). I decided to do some rearranging when I spotted this kitchen makeover and noticed the appliances in a built-in next to the refrigerator. I decided I would try and see if I could achieve that with my thrift store hutch and wouldn’t you know…it fits PERFECTLY. This is my new coffee corner and spot for my microwave which freed up a huge corner of my limited kitchen counter space and cost me zero dollars.

That was my only exciting activity this week. That and cleaning out two closets.

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule

This should be short and sweet- pajamas and workout gear where I pathetically tried to workout while sick (which was stupid). Here were three things I wore the week before to inspire me to do better next week.

crochet sweater + cami + rolled jeans + shooties

Black Crochet Sweater (owned- Flourish Boutique)/White Cami/Seven Skinny Jeans (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Madden Girl Shooties (Marshall’s)/Floral Belt (Owned-Target)/Mint Beads (Owned-Charming Charlies/Bangle- Forever 21

short sleeve shirt + chiffon skirt + braided belt

Mossimo Short Sleeve Coral Shirt (purchased- Target)/J. Crew Teal Silk Blend Skirt (purchased second hand on Twice)/Belt (Owned- Maurices)/Bracelet (Owned-Forever 21)- Outfit inspired by THIS PIN.

wine tank + crocheted mustard sweater + black leggings

(Yesterday. Powering through the sickness with caramel apple sangria)

Seamless Tank in Burgundy(owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Don’t Pull Me Down Mustard Sweater (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/The Essential Leggings in Black (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Bangle (owned- Forever 21)

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

Here are our top 3 posts this week!

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans

How to Make a Care Package for the Homeless 

Easy Burlap Wreath Tutorial

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

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

This Is Where I Leave You (TIWILY) Book Club & Giveaway (Plus Caramel Apple Sangria Recipe!!)

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You (TIWILY) Book Club Ideas #TIWILYbookclub, #TIWILY *This post is sponsored by Warner Bros. Pictures

I am so excited that my book club was chosen to participate in a This Is Where I Leave You book club before the film hits the big screen on September 19th.  When I was asked to participate, I had heard of Jonathan Tropper, but had never read one of his books before.  I can honestly say that if you are wanting to add a little sparkle and hilarity to your book club discussion, This Is Where I Leave You is the book for you.

I read this book in a record two days and my husband kept finding me with it in some state of crying-laughing almost every moment I read it.  Although he isn’t much of a reader, I handed it to him and said, “You must read it.”  Each night when I crawl into bed, I hear random laughing and snorting on his side of the bed.  It is that kind of book that you finish and hand off to someone else so you can laugh about it together.

This Is Where I Leave You (TIWILY) Book Club Ideas #TIWILYbookclub, #TIWILY

When their father passes away, four grown siblings, bruised and banged up by their respective adult lives, are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and the frayed states of their relationships among the people who know and love them best, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide—driving us insane even as they remind us of our truest, and often best, selves.

This-Is-Where-I-Leave-You-Book-Club-Questions-5
In this story, each of the siblings are told that it is their father’s dying wish for them to sit shiva together as a family. The irony is that their father is an atheist who made it known he didn’t believe in religion, but with their mother’s persuasion, she manages to get their family together under one roof for one week. With no escaping each other and a lot of time to reflect on life and the choices they have made, it really makes for some hilarious moments of family dysfunction at its best.  What I loved about this story more than anything is the message that even when they drive us crazy, we will always love our family.

I love it in the way that I loved the movie Bridesmaids- so wrong and so right. Raunchy, hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming, and so perfectly pitched. I would highly recommend this one for fans of Arrested Development as it reads just like my favorite episodes of the early seasons of the Bluth family. The crazy family dramas are always my favorites and this family does not disappoint in the craziness department. For better or worse, they are family, with all that history and messiness and love. 

This Is Where I Leave You (TIWILY) Book Club Ideas #TIWILYbookclub, #TIWILY
Love stories told from male authors sometimes fall short for me, but that was not the case in this one. Tropper does such a fantastic job of sharing what a failing marriage looks like, what it would feel like to lose the love of your life (interweaving old stories of the couple and new), and how one can find love again. Even in the darkest of moments of this marriage, Tropper finds a way to bring the hilarity into even the depressing situations of losing your life partner.

Since the movie will be hitting the big screen on September 19th, I hosted our book club to read the book and then we plan to make an outing to see the book on the big screen.  Sometimes it is difficult to find a book that we all like, but this one fit the bill perfectly for our group and we used the time to have a delicious brunch together and celebrate the kids heading back-to-school.

After seeing the trailer, I already know that this is going to be one of my favorite movies this year. I have to say that after reading the book, the film could not have been more perfectly cast and I kept seeing these actors in these roles even as I read the book.  Many times the movies just don’t live up to the books, but I can already tell that this one won’t be the case.

This Is Where I Leave You (TIWILY) Book Club Ideas #TIWILYbookclub, #TIWILY

TIWILY Boozy Brunch Ideas

Here are some delicious brunch options for a fun morning with your girlfriends that are some of my favorite when I am entertaining. I am selecting these because they can be made before everyone arrives so that you can really enjoy book club with your friends.  You will also find a fun drink I have created just for your book club that you can sip while chatting about the book.

In the theme of the book and all the food that is brought to the family as they sit shiva, you could also make your friends bring you brunch dishes potluck style in excessive abundance, taking the pressure off of you as the hostess.

Perhaps you could even pass some of these recipes on to them and ask them to make them for you.

It just seems like something awkward that the Foxman family might try in the book.

Blame the theme.

Delicious Brunch Options:

Sausage & Vegetable Frittata

Slow Cooked Honey Crisp Apple Oatmeal

Easy Bloody Mary Mix

Baked Blueberry Donuts With a Lemon Glaze

Dairy-Free Crustless Quiche

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls

Blueberry Sangria Lemonade

What is a book club without a good discussion? LAME. Here are some of my favorite book club questions that I gathered for our discussion together!

TIWILY Book Club Questions

1. What was your first impression of Judd’s wife, Jen? Because you see her almost entirely from Judd’s perspective, was there any chance to see her as a sympathetic character before Judd finds her so? Do you think that Judd and Jen have a chance at salvaging their relationship, with or without a baby girl to raise?

2. Discuss Judd’s mother and her relationship with each of her children. Do you think that Hillary Foxman was truly a bad mother? Was there any real irony in her being a child-rearing guru? What was your opinion of her character?

3. Most of the characters in this novel struggle against living up to an ideal established either by themselves or by a friend, family member, or spouse. Judd fails to be the perfect husband, brother, and son; Jen fails to be the perfect wife; Wendy fails to be the perfect mother and Alice fails to become a mother at all. Mort and Hillary Foxman, it turns out, fail their children spectacularly in some ways while succeeding in others. What do the lives of these characters reveal to us about perfectionism, ideals, and our expectations for ourselves and others?

4. For all of their faults, is the Foxman clan a likeable group of people? What makes them an endearing group of people? Who did you like the most, and who did you find the least appealing, and why? Were there any characters you would have liked to see developed further?

5. Clearly, Judd is an adult, yet this book can also be seen as a delayed coming-of-age story. What does Judd learn in the end about himself and his role in helping to create the world in which he finds himself?

6. Discuss Judd Foxman, the novel’s protagonist, from his very ironic and dry sense of humor (shared also by his brothers and sister), to his anger and vulnerability regarding his wife’s infidelity, to his conflicted emotions regarding his immediate family. What was your first impression of the protagonist/narrator of this novel? What did you find the most engaging aspect of his character? Did you find any aspect of him off-putting?

7. What comment is Tropper making about the role of trauma and tragedy in our lives? Almost every character in this book suffers or has suffered: Phillip from his neglected/overindulged childhood; Judd from his wife’s infidelity; Horry from his brain damage; Paul from the Rottweiler attack; Wendy from her unhappy marriage; and Alice from her infertility. What does their unhappiness, and the way each person copes with that unhappiness, teach us?

Be sure to head to the theaters to see This Is Where I Leave You on September 19th!

Want to connect more?

Visit the official website

Like This is Where I Leave You on Facebook

Follow @wbpictures on Twitter and Instagram

Share your own book club and hashtag it with #TIWILY #TIWILYbookclub

In honor of the movie, I am hosting a giveaway today for one (1) $50 Visa gift card and a copy of the book so you can enjoy reading the book and then catch the film in theaters September 19th! Please follow instructions in the Rafflecopter below to enter to win by September 12th! One winner will be chosen at random!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Caramel Apple Sangria

Caramel Apple Sangria
Recipe type: Drinks
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Nothing screams the Fall season like caramel apples. This recipe is just 4 simple ingredients and perfect for your next get together!
Ingredients
  • 1 bottle of Pinot grigio
  • 1 cup caramel flavored vodka
  • 6 cups apple cider
  • 2 medium apples, cored and chopped
Instructions
  1. Stir the wine, vodka, and apple cider together in a large pitcher or serving container.
  2. Add the chopped apples to the pitcher, or to individual glasses.
  3. Serve the sangria over ice.

 

*This post is sponsored by Warner Bros. Pictures.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

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Amy’s Notebook 09.03.14

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Peach splits via Smitten Kitchen

Source: Smitten Kitchen

 

Grilled peach splits- get in my belly.

French braid bun tutorial- simple & beautiful.

District 12 cowl wrap needs on my knitting needles stat.

I have craft room envy.

Swooning over book storage.

This one made me think.

Love seeing these quick tricks for Instagram editing.

Travel boxes via Cheryl Style

Source: Cheryl Style

 

A cute way to store the summer’s travel memories.

Plants for a black thumb like me.

9 incredible science projects by brilliant kids.

The Addams Family’s living room was … pink!? Who knew?

10 breakfast recipes you can make in a mug in the microwave.

The importance of the glorious failure.

Life lessons from 18 inspiring movies you must watch before age 40.

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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