Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Amy’s Notebook 07.01.15: M Challenge Travel Syllabus

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

m-challenge

As a wrap-up of each month’s M Challenge theme, we will be using the last Notebook of the month as a sort of “Cliffs Notes” edition of the challenge – a place where you can find a list of all the articles we’ve published for the challenge, as well as more inspiration and links from the web around the challenge theme. Our hope is that this will be something that you can refer to in the future as well as catch up on in case you’ve missed anything!

June M Challenge: Focus on Travel

More Links About Traveling:

I Heart Faces travel photography tips

Source: I Heart Faces

 

How to take the best travel photos.

Tips for surviving air travel with kids.

10 tips for your next family road trip.

18+ free road trip printables.

Things you FORGET to do before leaving on a vacation.

How to take traveling selfies.

Wonderful free travel planning printable kit.

Top places to visit in your lifetime.

Travel hacks to save you time, space, and money.

Printable Packing List from Just A Girl and Her Blog

Source: Just a Girl and Her Blog

 

Get organized with a free printable packing list.

What do you think – can you fly to Europe for under $200?

Best ways to carry money while abroad.

Pack for two weeks in a carry-on suitcase with these tips (great baggie tip!).

Airport hacks to remember for your next flight.

Ten travel commandments.

Insider tips on how to get cheap international flights.

Tips to help recover from jet lag.

amys_notebook

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!

 

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What The World’s Top Authors Say You Should Be Reading (Updated WEEKLY!)

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

What You Should be Reading According to Today's Top Writers (Updated Weekly)

When I started the Sundays With Writers series, I had no idea how beautifully it would blossom and how happy it would make me.  I decided to have one question that I would always end with when interviewing our authors. It was this…

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

Since I started asking that, I have discovered and read books that would have never found their way into my book pile. Of course, browsing through the entire series to find their answers can be a bit tedious so I am putting all of these responses into one post that I encourage you to bookmark, pin, and share with others as this will be updated weekly as we feature the gifted writers in our Sundays With Writers interview series.

If you wanted to read more about each of the authors that have shared their recommendations, a link is provided to our interview about their incredible books. There is a reason they have been featured and you will discover why when you open their books. It has been my honor to interview each of these incredible voices.  

What I have discovered is, if I really like a book that they recommend…chances are, that author is going to be a GREAT one to read since there is usually a reason why they are in love with a writer’s words.

Without further adieu, here are the books that the world’s top authors say you should be reading!

Please note, this file will now be updated after each Sundays With Writers. The list will start moving down from now on so the latest book will now be at the top. Keep this bookmarked for your library list!

Please also note, these are affiliate links.  A small portion of your sales goes to support the work we do at MomAdvice.com. Please follow me on GoodReads for more great book recommendations!  xo

Geek Love By Katherine Dunn

Read It: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Recommended By: Erika Swyler

I suggest people read it because it may freak them out. It’s also what fearless narration looks like. It’s bold and bizarre in all the right ways and full of incredible visual writing. It’s a book that stays with you long after you’ve finished. It’s the book I dream about writing.

 

The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett

Read It: The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett

Recommended By: Greer Macallister

My favorite book is almost always the book I’ve read most recently, since it’s fresh in my mind. In this case, that’s The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett. It’s about an Arctic expedition in the 1850s, during a time where men died regularly exploring that area. The story weaves together what happens on a particular ship with the lives of those waiting back at home for the ship to return. Barrett writes so beautifully and precisely about both the emotional and physical dimensions of her characters’ lives. It’s gorgeous and brutal. I loved it.

One by Sarah Crossan

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

 

Read It: One by Sarah Crossan, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, & Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Recommended by: Sarah Bannan

I think that’s almost impossible for me as I read constantly, and I am forever discovering my newest favorite novel…So, I’m going to choose my novel of the moment, which is Sarah Crossan’s ONE, which will be published by Bloomsbury in August. It’s a verse novel for young adults, and it’s a beautiful story about conjoined twins.It’s completely consuming and unlike anything else I’ve ever read.

(I should also say that I reread, every summer, Meg Wolitzer’s THE INTERESTINGS and Curtis Sittenfeld’s PREP. Two completely amazing feats of literary fiction and coming of age…I know this is cheating but it’s hard for me!)

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Read It: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Recommended By: Celeste Ng

I’d go with The Bluest Eye, because Toni Morrison is one of my all-time favorite authors and that book says so much about race and culture and identity and love, and it’s beautifully written to boot.

 

Room by Emma Donoghue

Read It: Room by Emma Donoghue

Recommended By: Chris Bohjalian

What makes this novel so remarkable is not merely how authentically Donoghue captures the voice of a five-year-old boy, but the deft way she slowly conveys the horrific reality of a mother and son’s captivity. If you want a poignant, powerful novel about a mother’s desperate love for her child, it doesn’t get better than this.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

 

Read It: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Recommended by: Rene Denfeld & Kristin Harmel

Rene says- Oh, that is a tough one, because there are so many wonderful books. I just read All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It was stunning.

Kristin says-  All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I realize that’s sort of a lame response, because the book is so popular right now, but it’s truly one of the most beautifully crafted and beautifully written books I’ve ever read. I recommend it all the time!

americanah-book-cover

Read It: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Recommended by: Maggie Shipstead

I just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I loved. That’s the book I’m talking up to everyone right now.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Read It: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Recommended by: Suzanne Redfearn

black-and-blue

Read It: Black And Blue by Anna Quindlen

Recommended by: Jillian Cantor

That’s a tough question! I don’t know that I can pick just one book. But my favorite author is Anna Quindlen. I read Black and Blue years ago and it has always stayed with me. Every time she has a new book out, I buy it right away!

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

Read It: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

Recommended by: Torre DeRoche

I don’t think I can prescribe a cure-all because books are so personal to each individual, but I’ll share with you the most important book I ever read—a book that burst open my imagination and taught me that it’s possible to create an incredible alternate reality on the page.

When I was thirteen, my older sister told me I had to read this book, giving me only the title and a pinch of her fingers to demonstrate its approximate spine width. I went to my school library to look for the book and, having no idea where to start my search, I said to a friend, “I’m looking for a book that’s about this thick.” I extended my finger to poke the spine of a random book. It was Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel: the very book my sister told me I must read. It was a bizarre, serendipitous first encounter. That book rocked my world.

Long Man by Amy Greene

Read It: Long Man by Amy Greene

Recommended by Patry Francis

It’s hard to choose only one, but Amy Greene’s,  Long Man has everything I look for in a novel: a compelling protagonist named Annie Clyde who faces impossible odds with great courage and resilience, an engrossing plot, and a setting so vivid, you really feel as if you are there.

The Stand by Stephen King

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Read It: The Stand by Stephen King, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, & Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Recommended by: Susan Crandall

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

father-of-the-rain

Read It: Father of the Rain by Lily King

Recommended by: Michelle Gable

I recommend Father of the Rain by Lily King to everyone. It is the perfect book.

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Read It: My Antonia

Recommended by: Heather Gudenkauf

My favorite book of all time is My Antonia by Willa Cather. My parents always had hundreds of books on shelves and in neat stacks around the house and for a long time I passed right over the thick novel with the illustration of a woman standing in a field of tall yellow grass and holding freshly picked wildflowers. I finally pulled it from the shelf when I was eighteen and immediately fell in love with Cather’s beautiful description of turn-of-the-century Nebraska and the lifelong friendship between a farm boy and a young Czech immigrant. I reread My Antonia every single year, each time with new eyes, always finding something new within the pages. Whenever I visit a bookstore I’m always on the search for a different edition of My Antonia to add to my collection.

The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

Read It: The Shadow of the Torturer

Recommended by: M.R. Carey

So many possible answers to that!  You could ask me a couple of dozen times and get a different answer each time.  Today I’m going to say The Shadow Of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe.  It’s the first volume in a tetralogy, so if you read it and liked it you’d have to read the other three.  But they’re so worth it. It’s a story of a far future Earth where the sun is dying.  Humanity has spread to the stars but that was long ago.  Now there are other galactic empires, other non-human civilisations that call the shots.  What’s left of humankind is back on an old, old planet that hasn’t got much time left to it.  But there’s a Messianic religion that preaches that the New Sun, sometimes known as the Conciliator, will be born on Earth as a man and rekindle all our hopes.  Reborn, rather, since he’s been here once before.  And Severian of the Torturers’ Guild believes this to be true since he’s found a holy relic, the Claw of the Conciliator, that heals all wounds.

It’s a very hard book to describe, and there’s no denying that it goes to some very dark places.  But Wolfe’s imagination is vast.  He creates a world and peoples it.  And he has a very serious purpose which takes in faith, physics and the importance of storytelling.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Read It: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien & Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Recommended by: Mary Kubica

My favorite book of all time is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This is one that I tell everyone to read. It’s a Vietnam War memoir, but is much more than that. You don’t need to be a history guru to fall in love with this book. When it comes to my own genre though, psychological suspense, Before I Go To Sleep is one I often recommend. I just loved this S.J. Watson novel.

Room by Emma Donoghue

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

The Bees by Laline Paull

 

Read It: Room by Emma Donaghue, Every Last One by Anna Quindlen, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, and The Bees by Laline Paull

Recommended by: Carla Buckley

Emma Donaghue’s Room, Anna Quindlen’s Every Last One and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. Just a few days ago, I finished Laline Paull’s fabulous debut, The Bees; I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Awareness by Anthony DeMello

The Lover by Marguerite Duras

Read It: Awareness by Anthony de Mello & The Lover by Marguerite Duras

Recommended by: Rebecca Rotert

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.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Read It: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Recommended by: Caroline Leavitt

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.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Read It: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Recommended by: Anthony Doerr

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

I, Robot by Iasaac Asimov

Read It: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Recommended by: Andy Weir

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

The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

Read It: The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

Recommended by: Kathryn Craft

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

Get In Trouble by Kelly Link

Read It: Get In Trouble by Kelly Link

Recommended by: Karen Joy Fowler

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

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Read It: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Recommended by: William Kent Krueger

My all-time favorite novel is To Kill A Mockingbird. Anyone who hasn’t yet read this American classic absolutely must.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Read It: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Recommended by: Cristina Henríquez

That’s so hard. But this one has been very much on my mind lately so I’m going to say Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

Read It: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, & The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

Recommended by:  Frances Whiting

Oh My! What a hard question! I love books so much, choosing just one is almost impossible. But I’ll bite the bullet and say…no I just can’t do it! So instead I’ll say The Shadow of the Wind, The Great Gatsby, anything by P.J. Wodehouse, The Last Anniversary, anything by Mary Wesley, Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons and Clive James.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Read It: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Recommended by: M.O. Walsh

This answer would likely be different on any day you asked me. There are so many great books out there!  Right now, however, I will say Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I’ve found myself missing that book lately, sort of yearning to go back and re-read it for maybe the 12th time.  Who knows why?  This is the great mystery of beautiful fiction; it speaks to us in fundamental ways that we ourselves don’t always understand. It’s a glorious thing.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Read It: Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Recommended by: Mary Louise Kelly

I would tell my brother to read Birdsong, the 1993 novel by Sebastian Faulks. It’s about a British soldier in France during World War I, and it is the most gorgeous epic of love and war and regrets. I’ve been telling my brother to read it for twenty years now, and he keeps refusing, at this point out of sheer orneriness. C.J., consider yourself publicly challenged.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Read It: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Recommended by Annabel Smith

My all-time favourite novel is Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, the incredible story of a prolonged embassy siege and the relationships which form between the hostages and their captors. Patchett has the most incredible insight into human behaviour and her prose is simply gorgeous. I have read this book at least half a dozen times and I get something new from it every time.

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Read It: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Recommended By: Amanda Eyre Ward

My favorite book last year was Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson. It’s dark, riveting, gorgeous, important.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Read It: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez & To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Recommended by: Jandy Nelson

Two books: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. My all time favorite novels.

Light Years by James Salter

 

Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

Read It: Light Years by James Salter & Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

Recommended by: Molly Ringwald

Light Years by James Salter. It’s just one of those books that I keep picking up again and again. There is not a lot of fiction that I read while writing because I don’t want to be overly influenced. His writing is somebody, of course I write differently, but I just feel like he is a master. I also love, and we were recently talking about Desperate Characters by Paula Fox is a really wonderful book and Jonathan Franzen wrote the forward on it!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara Read It: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Recommended by: Jessica Knoll

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I’ve been tweeting about this book a ton, and I am probably starting to scare the author a little. But it’s a stunning book—gorgeous prose, and an epic and powerful tale about friendship.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Read It: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Recommended by Tamara Ireland Stone

That’s easy. Jandy Nelson’s “I’ll Give You the Sun.”

If you like Every Last Word’s message about the healing power of writing, you’ll love the way this novel celebrates the healing power of art. It’s so brilliantly crafted, told in alternating viewpoints by brother and sister twins—his story tells the past while hers tells the present. I’m simply in awe of Nelson’s ability to weave together different timelines and points of view into a beautifully written, emotionally gripping story.

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Sundays With Writers: The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

A warm welcome to my new readers and fans of our Sundays With Writers feature! I was so honored to share on Hollywood Housewife this week my book recommendations for your summer beach bag. Laura’s blog is a personal favorite of mine and I love her book reviews so much that it was such a treat to be featured over there. She will be joining us this month sharing some easy summer beauty routines so stay tuned for that piece from her- it’s a good one!

One of the books I featured in this post was The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel. I reached out to Kristin to see if she would let me interview her for our Sundays With Writers and by the end of the exchange she was sending me recipes to replicate some of her favorite dishes she tried in Italy. She really is as warm and engaging as this beautiful book. This is my first book that I have read by her, but it won’t be the last.  In fact, The Sweetness of Forgetting is now on my summer reading list!

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

I am a big fan of books that explore the what-if’s in life and this one does it beautifully. When Kate loses her husband in a tragic accident she finally feels like she can move forward in a new relationship twelve years later. When her husband begins to visit her in her dreams though, she begins to fall into an alternate universe where the lines between reality and imagination are blurred.

One of my  favorite movies is Sliding Doors and this book reminded me so much of that movie. Harmel truly explores what does it take to move forward in life without forgetting your past.

In this story, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.

This is the best piece of chick lit I have read this year and I would highly recommend for anyone who needs a little reading escape! I have been telling everyone to escape with this one and I keep hearing how much they loved it too. It’s one I would be packing in my beach bag this summer, for sure!

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars in our reviews for the month of April!

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Kristin to talk about her beautiful book today! 

Kristin Harmel

I am such a fan of magic realism in stories and this beautiful book, with parallel worlds running, was amazing! How did you come up with this idea for a story?

Thanks so much for the kind words! And in answer to your question, would you believe I dreamed the whole story, almost completely intact? It sounds nutty, especially since dreams play a role in The Life Intended, but this has never happened to me before, and this is my ninth book! I was searching for a story idea around the time I was out promoting my previous novel, The Sweetness of Forgetting, and I woke up one morning with the idea for The Life Intended in my head. I jumped out of bed, grabbed a pen and a stack of paper, and began scribbling as quickly as I could before the story vanished. Of course I had to work out many of the intricacies later – research, character development, pacing, etc. – but the framework for the story was there from day one. I kind of think of this, therefore, as “the book intended!” Oh, it’s also important to note that I’m not usually a very vivid dreamer, so it was all the more unusual that I woke up with a whole book in my head!

Kate’s job is working as a musical therapist and she uses this to help kids in the foster care system to work through the emotional struggles they are dealing with. Did you know anything about musical therapy before working on this book?

No, I didn’t know much. I had to research music therapy from scratch, and I was also fortunate enough to receive the assistance of a lovely musical therapist in New York who helped answer many questions for me.  I put a ton of time into researching this book; I didn’t know much about sign language, hearing loss or the foster system in New York either, and those were all things that came into play, so I had to do a lot of work to get the details just right.

In the story Patrick and his family have a fun family tradition with silver dollars that they “pay forward” to others. Do you have any traditions like these in your own home?

Nope! But how crazy is this? It turns out that my father-in-law has a silver-dollar necklace, exactly like the one I describe Kate wearing, that his own father gave him. His family actually had a similar silver dollar tradition, and I never knew about it. What are the odds?

Kate ends up taking a sign language class to help her learn to communicate with her daughter, that helps her life take a much different path than she expected. What type of research did you do on the deaf and sign language to help you prepare for these scenes in your book?

I have a few friends with hard of hearing children, so I did a lot of talking with them – and a bit of talking with the kids. I also interviewed a few experts in hearing loss, did a ton of reading – especially on cochlear implants and how music therapy works for deaf or hard of hearing patients – and consulted a sign language interpreter to help me get the sign language scenes correct.

Did you learn anything that surprised you through your research on communicating with the deaf?

When I set out to write this book, I had no idea that music therapy was used with deaf kids. I was thrilled to discover this, actually. I love the idea that we’re capable of hearing music with more than just our ears. With kids who can’t hear at all, for example, vibrations play a role in music therapy. In general, I really like the idea of using unexpected techniques to create additional bridges between us, in every walk of life. Another thing I learned about deafness, which I hadn’t realized before, is that there’s a difference between “deaf” with a lowercase “d” and “Deaf” with an uppercase “D.” The former is simply the medical state of hearing loss; the second refers to the community of people who have a shared culture based on this hearing loss. I never understood that distinction before, nor did I understand that within the Deaf community, cochlear implantation is still a source of debate. That was fascinating to discover, and I include some of that in The Life Intended.

In one scene Kate says, “I’m a firm believer that music is a huge gift in life… it has the power to connect people to each other in a way that words just can’t.” What is one piece of music that you have felt really connected to?

Music has always meant a lot to me; not only can a piece of music touch you in the moment, but I also think that music can connect you to certain periods or memories in your life. For example, whenever I hear one of the New Kids on the Block songs I loved in the late ‘80s, I’m always ten years old again, and my long-dormant crush on Donnie Wahlberg reappears for an instant. (Don’t laugh at me! He turned out rather nicely, thank you!) Or when I hear Third-Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life,” I’m immediately transported back to my freshman year of college, because that was a song I really liked then. The theme music from the movie Superman always reminds me of my childhood and makes my heart swell, and the theme music from Somewhere in Time, another Christopher Reeve movie, makes me believe in true love all over again. I think it’s astonishing that music can evoke so many feelings, memories and emotions. It’s like a totally different language!

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

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I realize that’s sort of a lame response, because the book is so popular right now, but it’s truly one of the most beautifully crafted and beautifully written books I’ve ever read. I recommend it all the time! (Editor’s Note: Check out our Sundays With Writers with Anthony Doerr HERE!)

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, Amy! It was lovely having a virtual coffee with you!

You can connect with Kristin Harmel on GoodReads, on Facebook, or through 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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Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky (Plus GIVEAWAY!)

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

*This post is sponsored by St. Martin’s Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I am honored to get to share about Barbara Delinsky’s latest novel, Blueprints. With 21 books under her belt (published in 28 languages!), Barbara Delinsky is a household name in literature and today I have the opportunity to share and giveaway her beautiful new book that is on store shelves now.

Pinch me, please. How can this be my job?

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

If you haven’t heard of Blueprints, here is a little synopsis (without the spoilers!) to share a bit more about what you can expect from this book. On Caroline MacAfee’s 56th birthday, she is told that she is too old to continue hosting the home improvement show, “Gut It!” that she has been a part of for years. Her replacement doesn’t want to tell her about the switch. I mean, how do you break it to your own mother that her replacement is…well, her very own daughter?  There is, of course, conflict knowing that the job that Caroline loves and knows so well is being taken from her and there is sadness as Jamie finds the relationship she has with her mom is slipping away from her in this new role. When a traumatic death happens in their family, not only do these two realize that they will have to work together to pick up the pieces of their loss, but their entire life has went into a different direction than either of them expect.

Since this book tells the story of Caroline, at the age of 56, and Jamie, in her thirties, it is a book that you could share with your own mother and will appeal to women of all ages. The story of friendship between this mother & daughter duo made for a beautiful read and would be a great beach read escape this summer. The story particularly shines as Jamie learns to find herself and finds love for the unexpected family she has been shouldered with. Caroline’s blossoming relationship between her and her longtime pal also builds into a beautiful love story in the golden years of life.  I would recommend this book for fans of Kristen Hannah and Diane Chamberlain, two of my favorite authors for a fun escape from the heavier books.

At the heart of it all, this story is all about how the blueprints of our life change over time. We all have plans, but let’s face it… they rarely work out the way we expect them to.

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

I don’t know about you, but the blueprints for my own life are so very different than the ones that I started with.  To be honest, I didn’t start with very good blueprints from the beginning and, perhaps,  more comic book illustrations of a magical land for how life would work out.   I was one of those people that just figured things out as they came to me and lived in the clouds the earlier part of my years. I had no real goals or plans after college, I married quick, and I settled into life early in our marriage back in our hometown after an unexpected job loss.

We started with our “starter home,” a house that made me weep around every corner at all we would have to do to make it livable. This was not the dream home. We figured we would improve upon it and then get the heck out of here with a fat check for all of our hard work.

Unfortunately, in Indiana that’s a rarity.

Who knew?

As we started to put the elbow grease into our space though, we found that maybe JUST MAYBE, this home had some potential.

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

Once we got started on the updates, we found it hard to stop. We knocked down walls, we created a patio we could love, we spray painted, we stained, we renovated bathrooms, we added mantels, we made a bonus room out a shed…the list just goes on and on. Twelve years later, I have become so proud of our little home and we appreciate the size of it (less to maintain) and the beauty in adding our own signature touches everywhere we go. It’s in the big things like gutted spaces, but in the smaller things like knitted centerpieces.

The first thing people say is, “This house is so YOU.”

And I grin like an idiot because I am so proud.

How’s that for a blueprints switch?

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

Instead of buying a bigger house, we decided to do something different with our money… we have decided to see the world instead! We are six years away from paying off our home and we can’t wait to say that this home is REALLY our home. With the money we save on our mortgage, we can show our kids the world.

To me, these blueprints are so much better than our original plans. To see the world with the people you love FAR outweighs the care & maintenance (not to mention that mortgage payment) for a big, shiny new home. 

That doesn’t mean we are done with the projects though. We continue to discover that there is potential around every turn.  I am so thankful that God granted us this blueprint for our life.

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

To learn more about Blueprints! 

Learn more at BarbaraDelinsky.com
Follow Barbara on Twitter and Facebook
Use the hashtag #Blueprints to share about this book.
Read an excerpt HERE!

Today I am giving away TWO COPIES of Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky. Follow the instructions below in our Rafflecopter widget to enter to win!  Please note that you must be a US Resident to win! Good luck, everyone! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This post is sponsored by St. Martin’s Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Amy’s Notebook 06.24.15

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Inspirational Printable Art via Elegance & Enchantment

Source: Elegance & Enchantment

 

An inspirational watercolor for your wall.

When every single day is class picture day….yes.

This is black and white- thank you, Jon Stewart. We are praying for the victims this week.

An interview on one of my favorite books from last year.

Do you have a vague friend too?

14 ways to beautify your closet door. So inspiring!

30 books for the men in your life- bookmarking for my man!

Rainbow Smoothies via Love & Lemons

Source: Love & Lemons

 

Taste the rainbow!

I love this mantle decor (time to raid the yard!)

Daddy beauty school- ADORABLE.

Using Instagram for work & play.

A minimalist home with color.

Oh, to leave a legacy like this.

Did you read the NPR Book Club Selection this month? It’s on my list!

amys_notebook

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!

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Polyvore, Dandy Blend, & Books

Friday, June 19th, 2015

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! I hope you had a wonderful week this week.  I am loving being on summer break with my kids and am really savoring the slowed down days that we have been having together. Today we are looking forward to a pool day (finally!) and I can’t wait to sit poolside with a big stack of books- yay!

St. Margaret's House

Before we jump into the happy, I just want to thank you for all of your love and support of our site. The sponsored content that we share help so many charities and this week we were able to donate an entire month of classes to help the women of St. Margaret’s House (a local women & children’s shelter)  learn a new skill or trade including all those materials they need for class. I can think of no better use of money than empowering women to learn a new skill! Look at these beautiful scarves they have been taught to make and be amazed.  This winter, we were also able to supply a large donation valued at $1,500 in eco-friendly toiletries to assist the shelter through my partnership with ePantry. Your continued support makes donations possible to help those in need and I thank you from the bottom of my heart! I know sponsored content isn’t always your favorite thing, but this is how we can help those in need do big things. 

Today we have Cindy Bokma from Hello Dollface and author of A Thousand Dollars For a Kiss and To Marilyn, With Love  joining us to share her happy list!  Lori has been a longtime reader and loyal MomAdvice friend for many years. I am so lucky to know her and I’m lucky to get to share her favorites today! Please give her a warm welcome! If you are interested in being a guest poster on the 3 little things, send over a list of your 3 favorites and why to amy@momadvice.com and I will share them in the upcoming weeks!

Without further adieu, here are Cindy’s 3 favorites this week!

Polyvore

Polyvore

Between blogging and writing and reading, there’s Polyvore. This is like an  adult version of Paper Dolls which I loved playing with as a child. I pretty much love any activity that allows my imagination to run wild.
On Polyvore.com, you can create collages, outfits, interiors…basically whatever you want.  Its a fantastic stress release for creative people. I have spent hours designing things on here! There is nearly unlimited clothing, housewares, backgrounds, art, and so much more to work with.

Books

The happiest time of my day is the evening when I read. My day is over, chores are done, kids are usually finished with their homework and it’s time to relax. Sometimes I’ll go out at night and I can’t wait to rush home to whatever book I am reading! When I go on vacation I used to pack a bag filled with books, now it’s so easy (and lighter) to pack my Kindle or iPad! I always have several books ready to read and spending hours during the day with a book is the ultimate luxury!
I like real books followed by reading on my kindle, then the ipad. There is no greater joy than being really into a fantastic book! I spend a lot of time perusing new books on amazon and reading reviews on Goodreads. There have been times when I’ve whiled away a few hours just reading about reading!

Dandy Blend

Have you heard of Dandy Blend? When I was cutting back on coffee, I searched high and low for a good replacement to fill the void. I discovered this amazing drink which you can buy in tea or instant powdered form.
Dandy Blend is made from the roasted roots of dandelion, chicory and beets. There are numerous health benefits to this beverage which make it a constant in my daily diet. Its cost effective, contains zero gluten or caffeine and is not acidic or bitter. I have switched from drinking about six cups of coffee to one or two cups in the morning and Dandy Blend if I want a hot drink throughout the day!

How fun was that list this week? I am so excited to share more great ideas from you all in the weeks to come! Thank you, Cindy, for generously sharing the happy today!

*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 06.17.15

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Simple Schedule via NoSidebar

Source: No Sidebar

 

The secret to having a simplified schedule.

This summer book list looks promising!

I love frozen peach treats.

Four book suggestions that will radically simplify your home and work life.

Make summer reading goals fun! Use this gum ball machine printable to set goals and show progress. Printing now!

3 ways to dress a capsule wardrobe up or down.

Oh, I needed this one (ahem).

Shed Office via The Very Worst Missionary

Source: The Very Worst Missionary

 

This shed business is catching – see ours here.

A new Instagram account to follow, bookworms!

Oh, to meet Judy Blume!

How to learn to say no.

Summer capsule inspiration.

More books to get for my book stack.

Don’t miss it.

amys_notebook

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!

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Sundays With Writers: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

I love to interview writers about their books and I have found this year that many writers go above and beyond when it comes to being gracious and generous about their work. This is the case with today’s author, Tamara Ireland Stone. You will see the compassion that she has through this interview for her friends and family and her warmth and gratefulness that she has given me for sharing about her book is just as genuine. When you find authors like that, it makes you want to promote them even more so we not only included Every Last Word in our must-reads for the month, but we also want to share more about Tamara’s story here and the beautiful story of C. who inspired this book featured today.

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Mental illness books in the YA category seem to be a growing trend and I think it is a good thing. All the Bright Places, read and shared with you last month,  tackled the issue of bipolar disorder and Every Last Word sheds light on the difficulties of being a teen with OCD. Stone illustrates our common misconceptions of OCD (the main character doesn’t even have a tidy room!) and tackles the harder stuff like what it would be like to be obsessive with something like the number 3 and not being able to drive your friends because your odometer must always have that number on it.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

The camaraderie of friendship and group therapy through writing reminded me of the beautiful friendships in The Fault In Our Stars

The story is well-written and age-appropriate for teens (there is one sex scene), but I think it would be a great one to read and then talk about with your teens about the struggles of fitting in, how everyone struggles with something, and how important it is to be your own person. Samantha is a character that really blossoms on the page. YA fans who are moms will enjoy this one too as the book brings a satisfying twist at the end.

Today I invite you to grab your cup of coffee and settle in with Tamara Ireland Stone as she shares her inspiration for this story and the parallels of her own life she has faced that helped her be empathetic to the struggles of the amazing character she has created in Sam! 

Tamara Ireland Stone

Sam, the main character in your story, is a teen secretly struggling with OCD. Why did you decide to talk about this illness and what do you hope your YA readers will gain from sharing this story?

I first became interested in telling a story about a teen with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) when a close family friend was diagnosed four years ago, at age twelve.

We’re keeping her identity under wraps, so I call her C.

It was heartbreaking to hear how the disorder affected her. She couldn’t sleep. She felt powerless to a stream of negative, often terrifying thoughts. And her group of friends unknowingly made things harder. I couldn’t imagine dealing with something so intense, especially at such a young age.

In the years that followed her initial diagnosis, I’ve been so inspired by the way C and her family tackled this disorder—together. They worked in lock step with her psychiatrist, who prescribed medication to help her sleep at night and quiet her mind during the day. They interviewed therapists until they landed on one their daughter felt she could trust and confide in. And they helped her channel her energy into activities that made her feel good about herself.

They’re the reason I wanted to write this story. They set such a positive example, and it was one I felt inspired to share.

When I asked if I could write Every Last Word and draw upon some of their experiences, they agreed wholeheartedly. C hoped this story would help teens who are struggling with mental illness know they’re not alone, and not “broken.” And she hoped that this story would help people who don’t have to deal with mental health conditions see those who do through a kinder, more sympathetic lens.

This story is for her, and for all the special, powerful, brilliant, not-at-all-broken minds like hers.

There seems to be a growing trend to talk about mental illness right now in YA fiction. Why do you think it has become an important theme in this genre of literature?

It’s interesting to me that all of these stories are coming out this year. As authors, we obviously didn’t intend to start or be part of a “trend.” We all just happened to start writing books we thought needed to be written.

Many people in my life are dealing with various mental health conditions, either personally or with their children. We talk about it. And as parents, we’ve opened the conversation with our kids in an effort to make it a safe, judgment-free topic. I think that’s an important real-life trend.

My son was having some anxiety issues when I first started writing Every Last Word. He was barely 11-years-old at the time. I bought an illustrated book about anxiety, and we sat down and read it together. When we got to the symptoms—racing heart, shortness of breath, stomachaches—he broke into tears. He finally said, “It’s anxiety? I thought I had cancer!”

The fear he’d built up in his mind was so much worse than the reality.

Anxiety. There. It had a name. Rather than feeling the emotion accelerate and letting fear turn it into something completely different, he had a word. He could say, “I’m feeling anxious,” and we’d know what to do.

Words have such power.

As parents, we actively talk with our kids about exercise and eating well. We take them in for checkups and closely monitor their physical health and development. Why do we tend to treat mental health so differently?

I’m thrilled to see so many novels tackling mental illness in teens. Together, I hope we’re helping to change to narrative, using fiction to spread the message that it’s okay to talk openly about what’s going on in your brain, it’s okay if your mind works differently, and it’s okay if you need help.

Teens are under more pressure to be “perfect” than ever before. Let’s tell them they’re perfect exactly the way they are.

Sam really struggles to fit in with her peers and particularly struggles with a group of fake friends that don’t honor the real rules of friendship. Did you relate to Sam’s struggle to fit in from when you were in high school?

I was lucky to have great friends in middle school and high school, but my family moved a lot, so I was constantly making new ones. I was the new kid. And I was awkward. My friends never made me feel like the odd girl out, but I always felt like I was.

And yes, I’ve had those “mean girl” friends at a few points in my life, too. I definitely channeled a lot of my own challenges with female friendships into this story.

I won’t give it away, but you decide to create a really great twist at the end of the book that I, honestly, did not see coming. Did you always know you were going to twist the plot this way or did it come to you as you were writing it?

I did. That was always a huge part of the story, from the original outline. It was the trickiest aspect of the novel to write, but without question, my favorite.

In one line you state, “Everyone’s got something. Some people are just better actors than others.”  What is one thing you have acted your way out of in your own life that people might be surprised to know?

In my mid-20s, I landed my dream job with a fast-growing public relations firm. I climbed the ladder quickly, and before long I was managing some of our largest accounts. I loved my job, even though it was often stressful and overwhelming.

But there was one job requirement I couldn’t stand: Presenting. I hated speaking in front of people, with all eyes on me, and I did everything I could to avoid it.

I finally confided in one of the partners.

He reminded me that I was the expert. That I knew the client and the material better than anyone else. And then he smiled and said, “You know what they say, ‘Fake it till you make it.’”

I needed that. I made that my mantra.

Over the years, I’ve had this conversation with many business professionals, and more recently, with my author friends. Some of the most polished presenters have admitted that they feel terrified before they step up on that stage. That it takes a big dose of courage and a lot of “faking it” to make it through.

The poem in Every Last Word called “As If” was inspired by this idea. Sometimes we need to act our way out of fear.

Oddly, now I’ve gone and put myself in a career where I present on bigger stages, to more people than I’ve ever addressed before, where the stakes are even higher. And yes, it’s still scary. I always feel like I’m faking confidence when I fist step on stage and begin talking. But at some point, I begin to relax. I connect with the crowd and start to have fun, and pretty soon, I’m no longer faking it.

I’m still wondering when I’ll actually feel like I’ve made it.

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

That’s easy. Jandy Nelson’s “I’ll Give You the Sun.” (EDITOR’S NOTE- We LOVE Jandy! Check out our interview with the author HERE and our review of her beautiful book!)

If you like Every Last Word’s message about the healing power of writing, you’ll love the way this novel celebrates the healing power of art. It’s so brilliantly crafted, told in alternating viewpoints by brother and sister twins—his story tells the past while hers tells the present. I’m simply in awe of Nelson’s ability to weave together different timelines and points of view into a beautifully written, emotionally gripping story.

Please check this book out if you haven’t already done so. It’s a truly wonderful read.

You can connect with Tamara Ireland Stone on GoodReads, on Facebook, or through 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 (With Lori): Lemony Delights, A Great Run, & Bacon-Lovin’

Friday, June 12th, 2015

It's the 3 Little Things

 

Happy Friday, friends! We FINALLY made it to the last day of school over here so we are looking forward to many lazy days by the pool with books and a break from all the crazy running that we have been doing during the school year. We truly hobbled to the finish, quite literally. My daughter did a flip on the monkey bars on the day before school ending and hurt her arm and is rocking a sling this week. We are thankful for no broken bones though- that would have been a Judy Moody bummer summer moment, for sure.

Today we have Lori Downs  joining us to share her happy list!  Lori has been a longtime reader and loyal MomAdvice friend for many years. I am so lucky to know her and I’m lucky to get to share her favorites today! Please give her a warm welcome! If you are interested in being a guest poster on the 3 little things, send over a list of your 3 favorites and why to amy@momadvice.com and I will share them in the upcoming weeks! 

True Lemon

True Lemon

True Lemon’s basic product is crystallized, unsweetened lemon that comes in little packets like sweeteners.  You can add it to water, tea, etc., but it’s also great for cooking! True Lemon also makes True Lime, True Orange and True Grapefruit, all of which are yummy and portable.  Their Lemon Pepper, Lime-Garlic-Cilantro, and Orange Ginger spice blends are all salt free! I’ve tried all of these and enjoyed each one.  The Orange Ginger is to die for on baked chicken! And True Orange makes your plain Greek yogurt taste like heaven!

Run Keeper App

Run Keeper

Since I hit 40, I’ve noticed that the pounds creep on a little easier and are much harder to get rid of.  I’ve started walking a few times a week, and I use the free Run Keeper app to keep track of things.  What I like the most is that it gives me periodic audio updates on my walk (or run). It will turn my music down and tell me how long I’ve been walking, how far, the pace, the speed.  You can set it to tell you what you want to hear. It also keeps track of your path on a map that you can save after each event.  I’ve found I walk a lot faster, farther and longer since starting to use Run Keeper!

Bacon Wrapped Chicken

Image Source: Artsy Fartsy Mama

Bacon Wrapped Chicken

This recipe doesn’t exactly fit with my no salt diet and trying to lose the pounds, but it’s so easy and so yummy!! I tweak the recipe by cutting the breasts into smaller 2×2 inch “squares” and by skipping the pounding since I’ve cut the chicken smaller.  Then I wrap each square criss-cross with two pieces of turkey bacon, pepper, and whatever shredded cheese I have in the fridge. I highly recommend putting brown sugar on top! We usually eat it with a side veggie and some rice or a potato.  Super easy! And there are never any leftovers!

 

How fun was that list this week? I am so excited to share more great ideas from you all in the weeks to come! Thank you, Lori, for generously sharing the happy today!

*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 06.10.15

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Cake in a Bag via A Subtle Revelry

Source: A Subtle Revelry

 

Birthday cake baked in a bag!

A 2015 summer reading guide.

The most iconic coffee moments in film.

Matt Damon gives us a peek inside Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian.’ Did you see our interview with the author?

This Thai spicy pork and glass noodles – yum (bonus, naturally GF!).

Fun Father’s Day gift ideas.

Summer-ize Your Home via The Nester

Source: The Nesting Place

 

I love these tips for hushing your house for summer.

Epic road trip, anyone?

13 of your favorite books if their titles were honest.

5 ways to transition a room from baby to big kid.

Hosting a summer ice cream party? This topping may steal the show.

Or, just throw a regular party with one of these summer drinks.

amys_notebook

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!

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