Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Amy’s Notebook 08.12.15

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Avocado-Lemon Zest Pasta via Design Sponge

Source: Design Sponge

 

Avocado Lemon Zest Spaghetti- my two faves in one dish!

The day technology left the building.

25 key lessons when you’re ready for a simpler life.

My jaw dropped- this diy faux marble tabletop is incredible!

100 swoon-worthy romances.

How to email someone you’ve never met (so they’ll actually reply).

Entertaining and educational YouTube channels for kids.

How to manage Instagram in 20 minutes a day.

What’s your spending personality?

Design Mistakes via Style by Emily Henderson

Source: Style By Emily Henderson

 

I need to take a peek at our curtains.

Adding a spiralizer to my wish list. Do you have one?

10 memoirs for armchair travel.

Fight for rest.

I struggle with sleepovers.

So powerful (and brave).

How to write a condolence note.

Nobody ever admits to loving money. Everybody just wants more of it.

#doitfortheprocess

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: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

There are some authors that I have waited for months to feature here and Jennifer Niven is one of those poor hounded authors that I worked so hard to get here for you today.  A girlfriend recommended that I read her book All the Bright Places and as soon as I finished it (you can read our review here), I emailed Jennifer to see if I could secure her for an interview. She happened to just be leaving on book tour though and said she would answer my questions when she returned. This one was worth the wait.

I am so glad she followed through on this interview with me especially amid her enormous undertaking of adapting this movie into a film starring Elle Fanning!! Yup, Jennifer is writing the script and I have been waiting to share that with you today. I’m so proud of this writer and this book she has created.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places is a beautiful story of two sweet kids who find each other just when they need one another the most. Niven sheds light on a topic rarely discussed in YA literature sharing the true struggles of mental illness as Finch, the main character, struggles with bipolar disorder.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

The stigma attached to mental illness and the reaction of his peers to this, make this a compelling read for any teen in understanding what it would be like to live with mental illness. This was heartbreaking, beautiful, and provided a thoughtful ending with a great resources & info list for kids struggling with (or who have family/friends struggling with) mental illness at the end of the book. I highly recommend this one for a well-captured idea of what living with bipolar disorder would feel like.

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in to learn more about Jennifer’s incredible book and the real-life Finch that inspired this beautiful story!

Jennifer Niven

 

In All the Bright Places, you send your two characters (Finch & Violet) on an epic road trip to discover Indiana. I actually live in Indiana so I really loved how you created this for them. Were these destinations real and, if so, did you visit them?

All of the destinations Finch and Violet wander are real except one—the bookmobile park. (But oh, how I wish it existed!) I grew up in Indiana, but I hadn’t visited all of the places until after I wrote the book. In April, I traveled from California (where I live now) to the sites with the producers and director of the upcoming All the Bright Places We saw the World’s Biggest Ball of Paint, the Blue Hole, Gravity Hill, the Ultraviolet Apocalypse, the Taylor Prayer Chapel, Hoosier Hill, the Purina Tower in my hometown (Richmond), and we even went up into the bell tower of my high school, which was where I envisioned Finch and Violet meeting.

Blue Flash Roller Coaster

But my favorite place of all was John and Sharon Ivers’ backyard roller coasters.We rode the Blue Flash and the Blue Too over and over again. And it was AMAZING.

You tackle the issue of mental illness in this book, specifically bipolar disorder. As someone who has personally known someone with this illness, you truly capture the manic highs and lows of Finch in a very real way. What inspired you to share about this mental illness and what has been your response from kids who have read this book?

Years ago, I loved a real-life Finch and he was bipolar. I witnessed up-close the highs and lows, the Awake and the Asleep, and I saw his daily struggle with the world and with himself. I also saw how funny he could be and how vibrantly alive. In knowing him, I experienced firsthand the stigma associated with mental disorders—both from the perspective of this boy I loved and from mine—and I realized that we need to make people feel safe enough to come forward and say, “I have a problem.  I need help.”  If we don’t talk about suicide or depression or mental illness, how can we expect anyone to reach out for help when they need it most?

The response to All the Bright Places has been emotional and overwhelming, and while I anticipated some of that, I had no idea just how emotional and overwhelming it would be. The thing I hear most from readers is that this book saved their lives in some way, big or small. They’ve thanked me for making them feel like someone gets them, and for reminding them they aren’t alone. But they’ve also written to tell me they see themselves in Violet and/or Finch and reading about these characters who they identify with so closely has helped them realize that the world really can be a bright place, no matter how dark it may seem. I’m hearing daily from many, many teens who are either struggling with their own mental health issues or know someone who is, and the first thing I tell them is to talk to someone they trust, whether that’s a parent, teacher, counselor, sibling, or friend. Being isolated only makes things worse, and you really, truly aren’t alone. (Here are some helpful links to organizations that get it, that care: check here and here for a resource list to assist.

All the Bright Places is going to be hitting theaters starring Elle Fanning as Violet. How involved are you in the adaptation of your book into film and what scene are you most excited to see come to life on the big screen?

I’m so excited! I’ve been asked to write the script, which I’m working on now, and I’m thrilled and honored to have that opportunity. The scene I’m most excited to see on the big screen is when Finch leaves his car by the side of the road because it won’t go fast enough, and as he’s running he passes a nursery where he collects flowers for Violet.

I don’t want to give away the ending of this book for those that have not read it, but I would love to know if you feel that ending the book the way you did ended with the right message about the topic of mental illness and if you entertained another way of ending this story?

I never questioned how All the Bright Places would end. I knew in my bones that the only ending could be the one I wrote, not just because too many stories about teen mental health are tied up in neat little packages with bows on top, but because it’s the ending I lived with the real-life Finch. It was the ending I knew to tell. In terms of the message it sends, from what I can tell via readers, especially readers who see themselves in Finch, they are walking away from the book with the right message: they are not alone. It is important to speak up, to ask for help. And even in the darkest times, it’s possible to find bright places.

I have read that it took you a mere six weeks to crank out All the Bright Places. This is such an incredible feat! Why do you think this story came together so quickly this time?

Because it was a story I had carried with me for a long time, and because it came from the heart.

You have tackled so many different genres as a writer, but this is your first young adult book. Is there a particular genre that you love the most and what did you love the most about writing a YA fiction versus the other genres you have tackled?

I love YA the most. As one reader put it, “Jennifer Niven thinks 18,” which I take as a huge compliment. I feel at home in the voice, and I absolutely love what’s being done in the genre—some of the bravest, boldest topics are being explored, and I think that’s fantastic. YA is fearless, and YA readers are the most passionate and voracious of all.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be (read ALL the recommendations over the year HERE)?

Wonder by RJ Pallacio.

 

You can connect with Jennifer Niven 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: Speedy Podcast Listening, Petite Fashion, & Epic Date Nights

Friday, August 7th, 2015

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! I hope you are having a wonderful week. This is our last lazy week before we start our new activities schedule at school. It’s a flurry of paperwork and purchasing trying to get our kiddos ready for their first day back at school.

I’m also contemplating what I’m going to be doing while they are off including brewing some new business adventures for myself.  I don’t know if I mentioned it yet here, but I’m working on my first product with Hazel & Ruby that will be part of a new line-up of Crafternoon kits that you will be able to find in JoAnn Fabrics nationwide for the holiday season. These kits are crafts that you can put together in an afternoon and my kit will be for the Christmas Crafternoon series, just in time for the holiday season for gift-giving.  I can’t say much, but knitters YOU WILL LOVE IT! You can peek at a video of what Crafternoon is all about over here.

I’m also working on developing my contribution to the LIVE course on the topic of making room for creativity in a busy life and I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching about how I can encourage women to make space for that.  There is so much I have to say about that and honoring our creative time so be sure to sign up for the course and learn from some of my incredible idols in this business (and maybe a little from me too) over the year.

Oh, and this book is making me happy this week- it’s just got these laugh-out-loud funny parts and mimic so much of my feelings about the mom-juggle that I can’t seem to put it down! I scored a sneak peek copy on NetGalley. If you are on the hunt for books though, I hope you caught my month of reading last month.

And I’m counting down the days until this trip with my family because we have never been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and this was their selection for their Choose Your Own Adventure Christmas.  Have you gone? Any tips?

PHEW! In the meantime, here are three things that are making me happy this week!

Overcast

Speedy Podcast Listening

I work on my notebooks a couple of weeks ahead of schedule and this week I shared I wanted to get back to podcasts (although it was a time warp since I said that awhile ago). There are certain things I struggled with though. I would search for podcasts and then forget to go back and check for updates, I prefer things to move at a swift speed since I don’t have a lot of time to listen, and I like knowing when new shows have been added.

Overcast

I added the Overcast app to my phone ($4.99 for premium features) for podcast listening and I can’t rave about it enough. Not only does it have Smart Speed,  where it eliminates any long pauses without altering the speed of the show, but it also offers the chance to speed up the podcast (which I love), reducing an hour-long podcast down into a 45-minute session without it being weird or distorted.

The other feature I love is the Voice Boost feature, equalizing and creating optimal sound throughout the podcast, which can be tricky when listening to less polished podcasts.

I made a playlist with all my shows (I am really loving Elise Gets Crafty right now!) and it sends me notifications with the titles when a new episode comes out. Between that and audiobooks, I have been really enjoying making the most of the time I spend doing household chores and getting ready for my day.

Lula Lu

Lingerie That Fits

I am a petite girl and I struggle finding lingerie that fits. I was browsing around on Pinterest one night, searching for Petite Fashion, and an image popped up that the girl had subtitled, “Bahaha! This is the kind of lingerie I pin.” It was the Lula Lu company geared towards women who are petite (in stature and in cup size- they even have AAA bras). I immediately went to the site and purchased this bra (after reading the reviews) and it has been a game-changer. I don’t have to wear a camisole to camouflage the gap and I chose one that didn’t have a underwire for maximum comfort. I finally have bras that fit perfectly. It has been one of the best investments I have made.

It sounds silly to say that this changes how I feel about myself, but it really does. It’s been so wonderful and I feel better than I have had in many years! Check it out if you are struggling with the same issues!

 

Fiddler On the Roof

Epic Date Night

I met my husband 20 years ago in a high school production of Fiddler On The Roof. If you were wondering about our parts in this, I was Grandmother Tzeitel and he was Man With Fish #2. I saw that guy trying out for a role (intended to boost his resume for college), and I was head over heels in love. It seemed fitting to catch the South Bend Civic Theater’s production of the show to celebrate.

The night was beautiful, the cast amazing, and I sat holding this guy’s hand under the stars all these years later. The show is happening again this weekend so if you are local, I can’t recommend checking it out enough! If that isn’t enough, Fiddler’s Hearth was there serving up beverages and you can pack a picnic to enjoy together on the beautiful lawn of St. Patrick’s County Park.

It was a perfect date night and we were both a little more emotional than we expected, seeing it for the first time since that high school production.

Anyone else meet the love of their life in a theater production? That’s some sweet stuff.

xo

*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 08.05.15

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

DIY Yarn Ice Cream Garland via The Happy Family

Source: The Happy Flammily

 

DIY yarn ice cream cone garland- perfect for summer.

14 smart apps to improve your work/life balance.

5 minute coasters- my kind of craft!

A list of positive podcasts- DARLING.

Summer edition of 10 pieces, 15 outfits- capsule packing inspiration.

How to make a puppet theatre from a shoebox – in 5 minutes!

Pantry envy.

DIY retro summer brunch – too cute!

Road Trip Snack Boxes via I Should Be Mopping The Floor

Source: I Should Be Mopping The Floor

 

An easy and yummy solution to keep kids fueled on road trips!

I want to try my hand at flower arranging.

I need to get back to podcast listening- what are you enjoying right now?

Dotted garland- so cute!

What an incredible entry upgrade.

Excited to read this one!

The example we set.

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: Under a Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye (GIVEAWAY)

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

sundays-with-writers-1

Debut novelists hold a special place in my heart. I love the thrill of discovering new talent and also have experienced the struggles of writing your first book. The process of idea to publishing was so much harder than I had anticipated and I love bringing these new talents in front of you for those very reasons.  I received a copy of Under a Dark Summer Sky from NetGalley and it was one of my favorite reads this summer (you can read my review here). I just know that this will be a favorite for you too especially if you love historical fiction.

Under a Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye

If you have been waiting for the next The Help, friends, this is it. I really want to get this book on your radar because the story is so beautifully told and it is about something that happened in history that I was never aware of. Under a Dark Summer Sky is a perfect balance of fact and fiction.  I have no doubt, you will get swept away in the storm that hits Heron Key in 1935.

It is hard to believe that this was a debut novel- it was so perfectly executed. I love when I am transported into time in a historical fiction novel and learn something I have never known before and that was the case in this one. This well-researched book perfectly combines fact and fiction into an incredible story about a hurricane that ripped through the Florida Keys. The racial tensions of the people combined with a camp of misplaced disturbed war veterans creates an incredible conflict within the town when all of their safety is at risk as a hurricane approaches. I just know you will fall in love with this perfectly woven story (and learn a lot about the 1930’s in the process!

Grab your cup of coffee and let’s learn more about the real-life hurricane that inspired this incredible book today!

Vanessa Lafaye

I would consider your book to be the next The Help, tackling a time of racial tension and segregation between blacks and whites, but creating this perfect storm of emotion and disaster within the pages to play on these issues. It feels like you can cut the tension with a knife from the first chapter until you close the last page. What was it about this era that appealed to you and why did you decide to set the book up in Florida around a natural disaster?

I’m delighted with comparisons to The Help, as it’s one of my favorites.  I didn’t choose the era or the setting, the story chose me! I often say that this is the book that almost wasn’t.   I stumbled on it at a low point in my life, after I had cancer the first time and had failed to get 2 novels of women’s fiction published. By pure accident, I discovered the story of the veterans and the hurricane, and it captured my imagination.  I felt compelled to dramatize it although I had not written historical fiction before.  I was appalled that the events have been forgotten, even by people living in Florida.  The veterans changed the course of US history, and I was consumed by the challenge of bringing that story to life. I never expected to write a book set in Florida.  It turned into a big nostalgia trip, almost like a love letter to my home state.

As a reader, you really capture the hurricane so well that I felt like I was there witnessing it all. What type of research did you do to set up this pivotal moment in this community? Have you experienced any major hurricanes yourself?

Growing up in FL, hurricanes were a regular summer feature, but I never experienced a bad one.  When I discovered the story, I read some excellent factual accounts, which are referenced in the book.  I watched videos of survivor stories, also referenced in the book.  But when it came to write the storm scenes, I set myself the task of making the reader feel like they had been through a washing machine.  It was a huge challenge, using only words on a page, and harrowing to write those scenes, sometimes overwhelming.  So it’s good hear that you think it comes across.

bonus-marchers

(Source: Wikipedia)

The most surprising thing for me, as a reader, were how these World War I veterans were placed into these communities on projects after the war, and the havoc that it creates in these towns (both for the soldiers themselves and for the community members). Misplaced, homeless, and without work, these men were thrown into these racially divided communities nursing a lot of issues from being in the war. How did you learn about this occurring and why do you think it makes your story more compelling?

The story of the veterans in the hurricane led me to explore their experiences during and after the war, which is where I learned about the Bonus Marchers and their treatment by the government.  I found it incredible that these dispossessed, desperate men helped to bring down one President and damage his successor, yet they have disappeared from history.  Writing about a southern state in 1935, I could not ignore the issue of segregation at that time, which led me to study the treatment of African-American soldiers in particular.  Most of the veterans in the camps in the Keys were white.  I chose to focus on a black minority because of the links to the other characters that I wanted to portray.

I always have a favorite character in each story I read and there was just something about Henry that had me rooting for him from the beginning until the end. I loved how you developed him, particularly his experience from serving as a black soldier to his struggles to fit into a segregated community of unacceptance. Was there one character in particular that you had a fondness for and were there any in the story that you related to the most personally?

Henry is also my favorite. I admire him so much.  His experiences should have made him bad or crazy, but basic his goodness has survived.  I have a fondness for people who refuse to let life beat them down.  Henry is certainly damaged, but he’s not beaten, despite everything.  I relate most personally to Hilda – although I hasten to add that I was never a beauty queen!  I wrote her first scene when I had gained a lot of weight after cancer treatment and felt very bad about myself.  I couldn’t fit into my clothes. I poured all of that into Hilda’s character, which was quite therapeutic.

This book was published in the UK first under the title of Summertime. I am always curious about title switches when books come to the US. Why did you change the title?

Debut authors don’t have much say in these decisions!  The publishers know what will work in their market.  We get consulted, but ultimately it’s a decision for the professionals.  The book has a different title in each country where it is being published:  Norway, France, Italy, Germany, and Holland.  Norway is ‘Sommerstorm’, France is ‘In the Heat of Summer’, Italy is the equivalent of ‘Summertime’, and I’m looking forward to seeing the others soon!

I have a special fondness for debut novelist and this book does not read like a debut novel to me, but a seasoned veteran in the field of writing. How long did it take you to research and write this story? What has been the most surprising thing to you about the process from story to publishing?

It’s great to hear that you’re fond of us debutantes, because it’s a big old hill to climb, for sure. It took me 2 years to research and write – but I was working 2 jobs at the time as well!  I don’t have kids, which is what made it possible, I guess.  And I was very highly motivated to get the story out.  I really wanted it to be published during the centenary of WWI (2014-18)! The most surprising thing about the process has been working with bloggers like you.  Before I had this experience, I had no knowledge of book bloggers, or their importance to the whole publishing industry.  I worked for 30 years in academic publishing, which is very different, and has nothing to compare.  So I was astounded to learn of how many bloggers are out there, how much time and energy they devote, and just how much influence they have over readers.  It’s been a revelation.  You guys have transformed fiction publishing.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be (read ALL the recommendations over the year HERE)?

It’s actually 3 books: The Regeneration Trilogy, by Pat Barker.  Is that allowed?  These books were among the first, along with Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, which opened my eyes to the history of WWI.  Before that, like most Americans, I was ignorant of this period, but it’s a huge deal here in England.  I finally understood what the veterans had sacrificed in that awful, stupid war.

Vanessa has graciously shared 3 signed copies of her book to give away on the site this morning (all the way from England)! Enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget below to enter to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can connect with Vanessa Lafaye on GoodReadson 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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July 2015 Must-Reads

Friday, July 31st, 2015

July 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I can’t believe that summer is already coming to a close in just a few short weeks for our family. Summer reading is my favorite kind of reading… you know, the kind done poolside? I have snuck in quite a few books this month and I’m excited to share a fresh stack with you. We have everything from teen angst to historical fiction to developing good habits in business to family dramas to comedy to a little smut. What are you in the mood for? I am pretty sure I have a great pick for you this month!

Let’s dig into my July pile, shall we?

My Notorious Life by Kate Manning

My Notorious Life by Kate Manning

I renewed my Scribd membership this month so I have been digging into some of the books that I have had in my library for awhile. One of those books was, My Notorious Life.  If you are a fan of Dickens or have enjoyed Fingersmith, I think you will really love this incredible story.

Inspired by a real midwife who became one of the most controversial figures in Victorian New York City, Manning weaves a rags to riches story of Axie Muldoon. The impoverished child of Irish immigrants, she grows up to become one of the wealthiest and most controversial women of her day.

Axie goes from orphan to midwife to lady to prisoner,  and Manning creates a compelling story of what it would be to be like to work as a midwife under scrutiny of the law for your services in the mid to late 19th century. Controversial in her services and notorious in her community for offering birth control to those who needed it, it’s an incredible journey to follow and keeps you on the edge of your seat. A beautifully woven love story between two orphans (one being the infamous midwife, Axie) who met on the orphan train and find each other later in life adds to the beauty of this story as they create a business together as adults.

A couple of things to note with this one. It’s  a long one (464 pages), but was a really incredible read that was worth diving into! Secondly, if you have strong opinions on women’s reproductive rights this one will give you a lot of food for thought and would lend itself really well to a book club discussion. I had many opinions of my own about reproductive rights and this one really illustrates the necessity of birth control options during such an impoverished time in history. It was an eye-opening read and I highly recommend it!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

I listened to the audiobook of this throughout the week through my Scribd membership and found it it to be absolutely fascinating, as did my husband.

The Power of Habit  was one of the most interesting books I have ever read on habits and routines. What could have been a very dry topic on our scientific responses and why we implement good/bad habits in our life, ended up being an absolutely fascinating piece. The book tackles everything from how DJ’s get us to listen to certain music, to how businesses use surveys to control our habits (again, both good and bad), and even how brands target consumers to make their products a part of our routines when they had never existed before.

The end of the book offers valuable advice on how to break bad habits by identifying your habit loop and how to get the good stuff back in your life. I wouldn’t say that this was a book of solutions (unless you count the last part), but more a share of research and science behind why we do the things we do and why so many of us can’t break our bad habits.

I really recommend this book for both professional and personal development and the audiobook version of it was fantastic!

5 Out of 5 Stars

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh  (currently available for pre-order, hits stores on August 18th!)

I received an advanced reader of this one from Netgalley.

In this story we learn that for fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.

Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.

It would be hard to follow up such an incredible book like The Language of Flowers and I think this was a valiant effort, although it might be missing some of that charm of the author’s first book. This book is beautiful in its own way though and it reminded me a lot of, The Same Sky as it tackles the issue of illegal immigration and two sweet kids neglected by their alcoholic mother, struggling with poverty and placement in society. I would recommend this one for fans of The Book of Unknown Americans.

I have asked Vanessa to join us in a future Sundays With Writers and I look forward to sharing more about her own very compelling story that shaped this incredible book next month!

4 Out of 5 Stars

You by Caroline Kepnes

You by Caroline Kepnes

I received an advanced reader of this from Netgalley.

Hey, remember the smutty book I was talking about in the opening paragraph? Yup, this is it. Avert your eyes if you can’t handle it! This book is dark, disturbing, twisted, erotic, psychotic…just try to put it down. Fans of Chelsea Cain & Gillian Flynn will love this book.

This is a twisted love story told from Joe, our obsessed narrator, who finds love in his bookshop after cyber-stalking a girl who used her credit card at his store. We watch as Joe becomes more and more unhinged as he discovers love is nothing like the books he’s read and the movies he’s watched- a fact that he is most displeased with. Twisted humor makes for laugh-out-loud moments and cleverly woven pop culture themes add a little lightness to the dark. This is an author to watch!

If you love it, you will be happy to know that it looks like the next book is in the works. This is one that would be fine as a stand-alone though, if you aren’t feeling committed to another series! Add this to your must-read steamy book pile!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

This is another book that I enjoyed through my Scribd membership this month and am SO happy that I finally read. It’s got the sweetness of Eleanor & Park going for it and made for an incredible slow build love story. Those are the BEST kind, in my opinion!

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

When two broken people find each other it is often a rocky road. This beautiful book takes you on an incredible journey as two sweet kids, bearing unfathomable burdens, find each other and discover that being broken doesn’t mean you can no longer experience joy or be loved. This book is perfect from start to finish and gets bonus points for the perfect last words spoken in a book!

Keep in mind, this is another long one (I can’t believe I tackled two big books in one month),coming in at 426 pages, but the pacing was just perfection!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This is another one I tackled on Scribd (that poor company is losing money on me this month- geesh!) and, yes, I know I am the last person in the world to read this one. I decided to go for it once I heard it was going to be made into a film and one of the casting decisions that was announced (yay!)

If I’m not the last person on earth to read this, I can’t recommend this one enough! This was the cutest quirkiest love story ever. Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

I fell in love with Don and found myself laughing out loud often at so many of the scenes in this one. I wish the ending had not felt so rushed and I did have a hard time figuring out The Father Project results (told from Don’s perspective), but I adored this book anyway! This was a great summer read!

Did you read the sequel to this one? I’m not seeing great reviews on it so I’m on the fence if I want to read it or not! Let me know!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Amy’s 2015 Bookshelf (join me on GoodReads):

2015 Best Books to Read List

Read With Me This Year:

July 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

January 2015 Must-Reads

February 2015 Must-Reads

March 2015 Must-Reads

April 2015 Must-Reads

May 2015 Must-Reads

June 2015 Must-Reads

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

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

 

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Amys’ Notebook 07.29.15: M Challenge Beauty Syllabus

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

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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!

July M Challenge: Focus on Beauty

Other Links for Our Beauty Focus:

DIY Hair Care Tips

Source: Parent Pretty

 

DIY hair care tips you don’t want to miss.

Ways to save time on your beauty routine.

Effortless overnight beauty treatments.

Beauty products from your kitchen!

How to save money on hair care.

Beauty tips for hot weather.

22 beauty tips you should ignore!

10 Simple Beauty Tips

Source: All Day Chic

 

Simple beauty tips you can start doing today.

12 beauty hacks no one told you about.

Ways to get longer, thicker hair.

Fruits to eat for glowing skin- do you eat these?

How to care for your fingernails.

A list of the best cheap makeup.

Video: how to expertly use a nude eyeshadow palette.

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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!

Pin It

Sundays With Writers: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

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My husband laughs about how much research I do to prepare for these Sundays With Writers interviews, but I love researching about the people behind the books just as much as I love the books themselves. Today’s guest, Erika Swyler, is an author that I have found completely fascinating as I have read more about her.  She wrote a beautiful book called The Book of Speculation and instead of going about the whole writing process the traditional way at a computer, she did it longhand. Instead of sending files to land an editor, she decided to try binding books herself to catch an editor’s eye.

It’s because of her unique methods that I wanted to feature her today in our interview series. I can’t wait for you to read this book and this interview with Erika!

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

I knew I was going to love The Book of Speculation because it had so many ingredients in it for success with me- librarians, old books, a bit of magic, and a glimpse at the old carnival life. The book has been compared to Water For Elephants and Night Circus, but definitely stands on its own and is an ambitious debut novel from this first-time author.

When Simon, a young librarian, receives the gift of a book that is a travel log for a carnival in the 1700’s, he discovers a drowning death of a circus mermaid that is coincidental to his own mother’s drowning death (a former circus mermaid herself) that happened even on the same day. If their family is cursed, his sister could be the next victim and he will do anything to save her. The chapters alternate between the travel log (complete with unique sketch drawings) and present day as Simon tries to stop the curse on his family. The author manages to bring these stories together in a beautiful way with a satisfying conclusion to these mysterious drownings.

You can read my full review of this book here as well as a few other great must-reads for the month of April!

Grab your cup of coffee and let’s settle in with Erika Swyler today and learn more about her debut novel! 

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I can admit, I am a bit of a nut about books and movies that have to do with the circus. I understand that you lived at the library for months researching the history of circuses in America to write The Book of Speculation. What is it about the circus life that fascinates you and what is the most surprising discovery you made while doing your research?

Circus life fascinates me because it’s so much about people finding and building family. Shows are living, breathing things with all these fascinating interpersonal dynamics. The life seems so rootless, yet these intense bonds form between people in shows. When you look at circuses and carnivals closely they make you question your ideas about what a home and family are.

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It was surprising to discover how far back some families can trace their history with the circus. The Wallendas were already established and touring in the 1780s. That’s insane. They’ve been practicing circus arts for essentially half of circus’s history. That’s a bigger footprint than P.T. Barnum.

Your book has a lot of unique elements in it, but one of them that really stood out to me was the use of illustration in your story. Did this add more pressure to you to create these and how do you think it makes your book more interactive for your reader?

Illustrating added pressure, but it also offered me far more control than most novelists have their first time out, and it kept me mercifully busy. When most people are sweating and waiting for edits, I was up to my ears in charcoal and graphite. That was a very good thing. I had total freedom as to what the illustrations were, and that let me build on aspect of a characters I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. My circus master, Peabody, sketches in his journal. Actually showing the reader the illustrations says so much about him, his journal, and the plot. Illustration lets readers look at the exact images the characters in the book are seeing. That’s smashing a wall. You’re looking at the drawings, you’re in the book.

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I think the most surprising thing I discovered about you while researching for this interview is that I read that when you prepared your manuscripts of this book to send out to various publishers that you hand bound and tea-stained each of the copies to give them the feel of an old book, similar to the one that Simon receives in the beginning of this novel. Do you think that the work you did to create a unique reader experience for them ultimately helped you land your book deal?

Binding the manuscript put the story on the outside. It’s rare to see a book look exactly like what’s in it. I had an inkling that whoever connected with the manuscript as art would connect with the story, because it is about old books, bibliophiles, and beautiful objects. I also suspected that I was selling myself based on my ability to work hard. Making books like that is a huge time investment. I wanted people to know that I was willing to break my back to make this book happen. Ultimately, that came across. Once the manuscripts were out, things moved quickly. And I found my dream editor.

I understand you are now an expert in Japanese Stab Binding. For those of us reading our pathetic e-books, what is this binding process and why did you chose it for your manuscripts?

I’m more a jack-of-all-trades than an expert, but I’ve gotten pretty good with this type of binding. Japanese Stab Binding is a method where you sew through an entire block of paper rather than stitching together folded signatures. Each stitch goes through both covers and the pages. The stitches are visible, and the thread can be used to make decorative patterns. It’s used a lot in photo albums, for binding loose pages, and for quick and dirty paperback repair.

Stab binding made sense for the manuscripts because it’s relatively cheap, fast when compared to other techniques, and it’s visually striking. Being able to sew loose pages meant I was able to work with standard copy paper and splurge on covers rather than losing money on typesetting and printing. It’s also a very human stitch. When you see a book with a stab binding, you get a sense of how it’s done and that you understand it. It’s a binding that feels like history.

I often feel like I was born in the wrong era and it seems that might be something you and I have in common! I read you do your first drafts in longhand and on your collection of vintage typewriters. Do you have a favorite typewriter in your collection and why do you love these retro methods of book writing so much?

I write a lot longhand and on typewriters because it keeps me from editing. Computers have given us this terrible habit of writing a word then deleting it over and over again. You don’t do that longhand. I also find that characters and scenes demand different voices. Writing by hand feels very different than using a typewriter, which is a universe away from writing a laptop. Some characters want the typewriter. Sometimes if I’m really flying I switch around between hand, typewriter, and computer.

I do hoard typewriters. The oldest I have is an Underwood Champion from the late ’30s, but my favorite is a 1958 Hermes 3000. It’s mint green and fabulous. The keys feel right, it has great control over margins and spacing, and I can really move on it. It’s a beautiful machine. My husband got it for me. He supports what I do in a very deep way. He can’t write the words, but he makes sure I have the tools to write them.

There have been comparisons to The Night Circus and Water for Elephants with this book. In what ways do you think your book is different from these and why do you think there is such a fascination with the circus life in literature?

So those comparisons are huge and humbling. But there are some major differences. First, the fantastic element. Water for Elephants has both feet in a lush reality. The Night Circus floats in the fantastic. The Book of Speculation dances in between. I love the idea of everyday lives being infused with elements of wonder. I’m essentially mythologizing the ordinary—that’s the oldest trick in storytelling, but one that’s often overlooked. Then there’s scope. The Night Circus and Water for Elephants both span a lifetime (albeit magically enhanced in some instances). I went big and set my scope as 250 years of a family’s history. It asks readers to look for overlaps and intertwining stories. Essentially, I got to write historical fiction, fantasy, magical realism, mystery, a family saga, and literary fiction all at once.

Circus demands that you gawk, while also maintaining an intense wall of privacy. It’s impossible to watch a circus performance without wondering about artists and what their lives are like. Acts are billed as “the best” or “the only.” It’s the nature of writers to need to know what “the best” is like without makeup and lights. Combine that with a secretive culture and you might as well just wave a red flag at us.

Circus (PBS series)

Do you have any books on the circus or documentaries that you could recommend for people who want to learn more about the circus life?

There’s a wealth of information out there. The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top by Janet M. Davis is pretty fantastic. For that specific carnival cadence, Howard Bone’s Side Show: My Life with Geeks, Freaks and Vagabonds in the Carny Trade is about as atmospheric as it gets while revealing surprisingly little. That perfectly captures the “insiders only” feel of carnivals and circus. PBS also made a six-episode series, Circus, which is incredible. As far as access to modern circus life, it’s unbeatable.

 If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be (we will add it to our list of recommended reads for our readers!)?

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. 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.

 You can connect with Erika Swyler on GoodReads 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!

 

10 Questions

Friday, July 24th, 2015

In lieu of our typical 3 Little Things, I was tagged by Centsational Girl to answer ten questions today so I thought this might be a fun way to share a little with you today about some things I am loving right now! We used to do these quite often when I first started blogging so it’s a bit of a Throwback Thursday on a Friday today. Happy weekend, everyone! xo

deer-head

Share something you’ve pinned (or bookmarked) and why you love it.

I have been wanting to shape up our entryway table in our front room and I have these cardboard deer heads bookmarked for something I would like to hang above my little table. I also scored a 1964 1st Place Home Economics Trophy on Etsy this week as a place to tuck our keys and I am checking the mail every day in sweet anticipation for its arrival.

I’m enjoying personalizing this space right now and have so much fun making our space a little piece of us. I particularly love to add whimsy to our home and have been trying to add a touch of old from vintage pieces that have years of history in our house.  Unique spaces are my jam!

map-wallpaper

What’s your favorite color and where have you used it or seen it used in a beautiful way?

Oh, I love just hints of color on neutral surfaces. If I was going to model the color and style of a home in my own space, it would definitely be ANYTHING from The Inspired Room. In fact, I have more than once told Melissa that if she came to my house that it would be awfully awkward since I glean so much from her site. This map wall is something I have bookmarked for our entryway (as we have a narrow one that I never know what to do with) and I love the industrial schoolhouse lamps she has in her house. The pop of green is just perfection! I highly recommend touring her house and snagging her book for inspiration!

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If money was no object, what’s something you’d buy right now.

As many wells as possible for Burkina Faso. Clean water for everyone!!

Books for needy kids and more time to read with them. I have witnessed the transformation of kids learning to read and falling in love with books. It’s so big and it makes my heart so happy. Can you imagine if every poverty-stricken school had shelves overflowing and grown-ups who loved to read that just had time to help them fall in love? MAGIC!

Food for the hungry- can you imagine having the funds to stock the shelves until they overflow for those in need?

And if it was possible, extra time so I could give more time to others and still manage my daily life and work. I’m ashamed how much time I waste that could be serving other people in our community. I want to do better.

And if all the needs of the world were addressed, I would finally renovate that kitchen. Of course, this post really inspired me that it’s okay to wait and put my money somewhere else right now. So that’s what we’ve been doing this year instead and I’m proud we can do that.

Share something that scares you, something that comforts you, or both.

I’m a high-anxiety person so the list can be a long one.  As a mom, my biggest worry is the safety and well-being of my children. I worry so much for them in this world.  The comforting fact though is that we have worked really hard to raise good people and teach them good stuff that I am comforted knowing that someday we will be putting two really incredible people out into the world (that hopefully won’t be highly anxious because of their crazy mother).

I’m also comforted to know genuine love. I am one of the lucky ones to have a spouse who loves me unconditionally for so many years of our life.

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The perfect meal? Name it.

Any meal with people I love, great conversation, and delicious food is a perfect meal to me. My girlfriend’s family had us over one night for a shrimp boil and I thought, “It can’t get more perfect than this.” A spicy one-pot dish thrown on newspaper in the center of the picnic table and shared with great drinks and good friends. The best part? NO DISHES- just throw the paper away. I’m planning to post the recipe we used next week, but I think this is the perfect meal for a hostess who actually wants to hang out with her guests.

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What’s one decorating piece of advice you swear by.

Be you.  It can be easy to look at Pinterest and want to replicate someone else’s style or head to a home store and just buy everything without really thinking about what it will mean in your house. I want everything to have a story from the pieces of art we select from our travels to the handmade goodness that is our centerpiece.

Don’t let decorating hold you back from entertaining though. I still have a bucket list of projects that I want to do on my home to personalize it the way I want. I struggle with patience because I know I am capable of doing these things, but the money and time isn’t there.  Slow decorating is my new motto. I will bask in all the good stuff I am doing and be content knowing how far I have come. My friends will just have to witness the slow transformation!

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What’s your guilty pleasure?

Chicago Mix Popcorn, a generous pour of boxed wine, and a really good YA novel. I am working on this one right now and it’s so good!

milkshake

Tell a joke, the cornier the better, or share a meme or show that makes you laugh.

Does a t-shirt count? Although, the lack of apostrophe is slaying me right now.

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Congratulations, you just won an all expenses paid trip to           !  Fill in the blank.

ITALY and you can bring your whole family this time. My husband and I have been watching House Hunters International, scoping properties in Italy, and dreaming of how we can save for another trip back there. This trip was a dream come true and I am so thankful I got to do it with my best friend! It also made me realize, this world is so big and so many adventures are out there for us. I can’t wait to see more of it.

What advice would you give your twenty something self?

This will be one of the hardest times in your life- you will get married while your friends are still doing keg stands, you will have a baby and think you are ready for this parenting thing (and you aren’t), you will have a hard time financially, you will have a hard time professionally because you don’t know yourself yet, and you will have debt that will make you cry. You will get through it. Those moments will shape you, your marriage, your new business, and your new financial path… you will be better because you went through this.  The important thing is to never forget those moments because those are the moments where you can connect with others facing those same hardships and truly be empathetic. You will have so much to give to others so take a nap now!

This morning I tag: Hollywood Housewife, Redefined Mom, Blushing Basics, & Dine & Dish to answer the same ten questions!

1. Share something you’ve pinned (or bookmarked) and why you love it.

2. What’s your favorite color and where have you used it or seen it used in a beautiful way?

3. If money was no object, what’s something you’d buy right now.

4. Share something that scares you, something that comforts you, or both.

5. The perfect meal? Name it.

6. What’s one decorating piece of advice you swear by.

7. What’s your guilty pleasure?

8. Tell a joke, the cornier the better, or share a meme or show that makes you laugh.

9. Congratulations, you just won an all expenses paid trip to           !  Fill in the blank.

10. What advice would you give your twenty something self?

 

Amy’s Notebook 07.22.15

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

No Sew Coil Rope Basket via Allice and Lois

Source: Alice & Lois

 

DIY no-sew rope coil basket. NO SEW? I can do this.

I need to up my popcorn game.

Why you should still read “Go Set A Watchman.”

Another great viewpoint from NPR.

Why we don’t stress about choosing a school- AMEN.

Wonder Book Club ideas- so cute!

I love watercolors.

Come anyway- my new entertaining motto.

Poolside playlist!

Bedroom Inspiration via LittleGreenNotebook

Source: Little Green Notebook

 

Bedroom inspiration- love the layering on this bed!

More tiny home inspiration.

Coffee and tonic water – your new favorite summer drink?

The ultimate flower girl must-have.

Adding this to my summer reading list- have you read it?

A year-long shopping ban…I feel INSPIRED.

I want to do a career day with my kids!

Printable car parts for a “drive-in” movie- what a fun summer activity.

Let’s be people who see one another.

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!