Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Amy’s Notebook 07.15.15

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Roman Caprese salad via Camille Styles

Source: Camille Styles

 

This Roman Caprese salad looks divine.

4 People, 500 square feet. INSPIRING!

I want to try this cauliflower pizza crust recipe.

What an incredible life (and gift to read her words!)

Summer reading list: 23 Books to Read About Money

A little girl’s swan party- PRECIOUS.

TED Talks to watch instead of shopping.

DIY wildflower soap via Kelle Hampton blog

Source: Kelle Hampton

 

What a fun rainy day activity (Lord knows we have enough of them right now!)

The happiest of news.

A budget-friendly deck makeover. So lovely.

How this guy made seeing the world happen- really inspiring!

Bring on the lobster rolls.

One day I would love one of these.

amys_notebook
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: Weightless by Sarah Bannan

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

I have been so blessed to have such a great Sundays With Writers line-up this month. I hope you are enjoying this series half as much as I am!  I have another incredible writer to feature today and I think her book should be mandatory reading for parents of teens and also a great book for older teens to read.

Today I am sharing a virtual cup of coffee with Sarah Bannan to talk about her debut novel WeightlessThis book was an eye-opener for me about bullying today and how different it is from when we were kids… and, yet, in many ways how it is still the same. This is not a feel-good book today, but an unsettling look at how teens bully one another. I find her use of narrators (read more in our interview below) is what makes this book so compelling.

Weightless by Sarah Bannan

When Carolyn Lessing moves from New Jersey to Alabama with her mother, she rattles the status quo of the juniors at Adams High. Gorgeous, stylish, a great student and gifted athlete without a mean girl bone in her body Carolyn is gobbled up right away by the school’s cliques. She even begins dating a senior, Shane, whose on again/off again girlfriend Brooke becomes Carolyn’s bitter romantic rival. When a make-out video of Carolyn and Shane makes the rounds, Carolyn goes from golden girl to slut in an instant, with Brooke and her best friend responsible for the campaign.
Carolyn is hounded and focused on, and becomes more and more private. Questions about her family and her habits torture her. But a violent confrontation with Shane and Brooke in the student parking lot is the last attack Carolyn can take.

Bannan sheds light on how bullying happens now that kids have access to social media and creatively utilizes an undisclosed narrator who acts as an observer and participant in the bullying of a new girl at their school. Well-written and unflinching, it would be a great read for your older teen or for parents who want to see how bullying occurs today. I highly recommend this one! 

Grab your cup of coffee and let’s settle in with Sarah Bannan to learn more about the story behind this story!

Sarah Bannan

What prompted you, as a writer, to tackle the topic of bullying? Were there any real-life cases that were an inspiration to you when telling the fictional story of Carolyn?

When I was thirteen, my family moved to a small town in Alabama. I was in eighth grade at the time, and the move was something of a culture shock. My school was full of football and cheerleaders and cliques and the high school had an honest-to-god beauty pageant. We voted on class favorites and our cheerleaders and homecoming court. Everything seemed like a looks or personality contest, and that was a contest I knew I would never be in the running for, let alone win.

I had fantastic friends, and a great experience all through my time in Alabama, but I think I always knew that there was something in the town and the atmosphere of my high school that might lend itself to fiction. I’ve also found that my high school years and my friendships from that period still stick in my mind, all these years later. I’ve done a lot of reading about this – our obsession with our teenage years – and apparently it’s a time when you make some of your most lasting memories, in large part because this is the very time in which you are shaping and determining your sense of self, your individual identity. It’s also a time of firsts – first kiss, first drive, first break-up, first time away from home. And firsts are always a little easier to remember than second and third and fourth times. It’s one of the things about WEIGHTLESS that’s worth remembering, the degree to which it’s a document of memory: the narrators are looking back and trying to cobble together a shared truth of what happened over one school year. But they’re being really careful in the way that they do it, as they’re paranoid about accepting culpability or blame. Or defining themselves by what happened during the year.

Phoebe Prince

When I started writing WEIGHTLESS, I had my high school in the back of my mind. But I was also reading a lot about bullying, and cyber-bullying, in the news. I was very much haunted by the story of Phoebe Prince, the young Irish girl who moved to South Hadley, MA when she was 15. She was bullied, and ultimately took her own life. I read a great deal about her story, and the complexities that surrounded it, and also about similar, less high profile cases back in Ireland, and I started to get a picture of what it looks like to be a teenager now, in the age of social media. This frightened me, to a significant degree, but it also made me feel that this was exactly the story I should be telling.

The narration in your story is told in first person plural.  If that wasn’t unique enough, you don’t ever know the names of these narrators as they observe (and participate) in the bullying of Carolyn. Why did you choose this type of narration and why do you think this angle was the best way to capture the story?

I’ve said before that WEIGHTLESS began as a voice in my head that I just couldn’t shake. And that’s totally true. I had this chorus, in my head: a group of girls, sitting back, watching cheerleaders perform in front of them. They’re obsessed with the girls – with their childhoods, their appearances, their sex lives – and they seem to want to be them as much as they want to tear them down.

I tried, when I was first drafting the novel, to put it in first and third person voices – but it just didn’t work or, perhaps, I just didn’t have access to any voice else except this group of girls. They are watching from the outside, and passing comment on what they’ve seen, what they’ve heard, what they think they know.

It was only after I finished the novel that I realized what an effect the voice actually has and I think that’s why I felt I had to keep it, sustain it. Why I felt like it was the right way to go. The voice underlines the role of gossip in a town like this. Group-think. Rumor. Memory. Dissipation of responsibility. Avoidance of guilt.

Readers will notice when reading the book that it’s intercut with other forms of narration: Facebook feeds, newspaper articles, transcripts, committee reports. This was all in an effort to layer the narrative (the “we” can be awfully claustrophobic!) and highlight how the way in which what we hear often contrasts to what is reported. I wanted readers to feel as if they were picking up a kind of unofficial scrapbook for the year.

 There are so many moments in this book that feel like you are inside the head of a teenager; in fact, I had a few flashbacks of my own moments when I was young. For example this line: “We sat outside Sbarro’s and ordered cheese pizza and we took off the cheese and blotted it with our napkins. We would eat frozen yogurt later, topped with Oreos and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and M&Ms.” I REALLY remember doing this as a teen and had completely forgot about it.  How did you capture these teenage voices so perfectly?

It’s sad: it was eerily easy for me to access the actual teenage mentality, as I have not entirely matured, despite being 37 years of age! I don’t know. I mean, I just remember the boredom and contradictions of that time very clearly, and the same insecurities that plagued me then, still plague me today, but they are (thankfully!) not so pronounced or life-consuming.

In terms of some of the detail, one of my sisters is a high school English teacher in California and very kindly gave me advice around some technical things: brand names, technology in schools, cultural preoccupations. My other sister lives in Connecticut is the mother of two teenagers, and she was also able to give me insight into those matters – and her daughter kindly helped me with a number of important details, as did a cousin of mine. In some earlier drafts there are a few clangers – I think I may have even referenced a Nokia ring tone somewhere!

Raising compassionate kids is a really big thing for me as a mom. After all your research on cyberbullying, could you offer just one piece of advice for parents on how we can help our kids stand up to bullying?

Well, this is advice coming from a fiction writer…but I think we just need to encourage kids (and adults!) to be kinder to one another. When I went to school, I feel like there was a huge emphasis on self-confidence and achievement, and not much on character or empathy. I’m not saying we need to drop the first two, but we need more attention to the latter…and I think the best way to do this is to… read more literary fiction. I’m sure you’ve seen the countless studies about how reading literary fiction increases empathy and I know this to be true. It’s one of the few ways in which we can really get into somebody else’s shoes, imagine things from somebody else’s perspective. So…my advice is, surprise, to get kids to read more!

Were you ever bullied as a child or did you ever feel like you contributed in some way to the bullying of another? Was there one character in the story, in particular, you really related to?

I think there’s a distinction between bad behavior – or meanness – and bullying, and I was both the victim and the perpetrator of the former, but not the latter. I think this is the case, at least. I’m not sure that makes it better, but I think it’s worth making the distinction, and one of the things in WEIGHTLESS that emerges is the way in which we are sometimes a bit too quick to point fingers and apply labels of ‘bully’. And then ‘bullies’ end up being bullied and round and round and round it goes.

As I mentioned, I moved around a lot growing up, and every place we lived seem to contain these rituals and traditions that were almost designed to make kids, especially girls, compete against one another. And not in a healthy, esteem-boosting kind of way. In retrospect, it’s shocking to me that more shocking things didn’t happen, that there wasn’t more bullying. Kids, by and large, tried to be kind to one another, but only within our set little cliques. There wasn’t much mixing.

I love Carolyn the most, of course, of all the characters, but I was nothing like her in school: I was awkward and nerdy and of zero interest to guys. In many ways, in retrospect, I can see that this was a blessing. I wasn’t a threat to anyone at my school or in my town.

I suppose I identify with the narrators the most, and I’m sure this will make readers think I’m a horrible person, but I think young people, and adults, can be scarily lacking in empathy. And I was probably happy in the fact that I was rarely outwardly mean to anybody, but I also wasn’t in a position of power within my high school to do so. The narrators are neither as cool as they’d like to be, nor as lame as they think they are. They occupy this very important place in the middle of high school hierarchies, and I’m pretty sure it’s the place I occupied myself. I was never bullied, or not really, and I never bullied anyone, or not really. But I watched a lot of things happen. And I talked about it. And, in retrospect, I wish I had done more.

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

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!)

You can connect with Sarah Bannan 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: Addictive Shows, A New Way to Consume Books, & Distraction-Free Days

Friday, July 10th, 2015

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday to you all! After so many fun guest posts for the 3 Little Things, it’s so great to be back sharing with you today! On this weekend’s agenda? Host a sleepover for my son in honor of his THIRTEENTH birthday (hold me!). Luckily, the only request is video games and takeout pizza- I would say that is completely doable!

This is 13

I started this site when he was just one- barely, toddling around and filling up his mama’s days chasing him. I know many of you have witnessed him growing up online over the years. He is now bigger than me and I keep turning around and thinking, “Who is this man in my house?”

I feel blessed to call this sweet boy mine and I know God has BIG things planned for him. We hosted a family cookout to celebrate where we consumed this chocolate cake again, big buckets of fried chicken, and grilled corn on the cob. It was a sweet celebration! I still can’t believe I am OLD ENOUGH for this. So crazy! When they say that time with your kids goes by fast, it’s really true. I blinked and here we are.

Let’s get on to the happy list this week!

Orphan Black

Orphan Black

If you are looking to get sucked into  a series this summer, I can’t recommend Orphan Black enough. When browsing through what was available with our Amazon Prime membership we found this show on there. I suggested we watch it one night and it was one of those…How about one more? Well, maybe one more. Okay, seriously, last episode tonight….I mean it…Okay, just one more.

If you are late to the party like me, this series has everything in it it. It’s about a girl who is down on her luck financially. When a woman jumps in front of a train and commits suicide in front of her she happens to leave her purse behind.  The girl decides to go through it to grab some money, yet, the picture on her identification looks just like her so she decides to use her identity to break into her apartment. What she doesn’t know is that the lady was a cop…and that she isn’t the only one who looks like her.

What is amazing is that the same actress plays ALL the roles (I was counting them on IMDB and it’s about a dozen) and every single one feels like a completely different character. It is absolutely incredible how they shoot it and how amazing this actress is.

Get sucked into this one if you haven’t already! Luckily, Season 1 & 2 are on Prime so we should be set for about three days! (FREE-ish, With Amazon Prime)

Scribd Membership

Scribd

My Scribd membership had lapsed and I went to dig into another book and realized that I need to update my account information. I lasted about one day without it. I learned about it through working with them on a campaign, but now I am just an enthusiast for myself.  You can read my review of the services over here, but one new thing they now offer is unlimited audiobooks with your membership.

I have started utilizing my membership to listen to business books while I tackle the business of running this house (that sounds a lot better than cleaning toilets, doesn’t it?) and working on photography for our site.

I’m also challenging myself to dig into some books that might not be current, but should be on my radar. Next on my reading agenda is Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín. It is coming out in a film this fall (check out this trailer below- I’m in love already!) so I want to read this one before it hits the big screen.

If you haven’t tried Scribd, I can’t recommend it enough. As you put together your book lists of things you love, your preferences on the page for recommendations really begin to shape and it’s a lot like Netflix where you learn and discover new things based on what you like. Even more awesome is this kid’s selection which has helped keep my little bookworms busy this summer. Series books that are never available for my daughter have the entire series listed on Scribd (hundreds of Nancy Drew books!!) and you can read as many books and listen to as many books as you want all month long for about the price of one Kindle book.  We are loving it! (8.99 per month)

Kill News Feed Extension

Distraction Free Facebook

I can’t give up Facebook since most of my work relies upon social media sharing, but I found myself trying to update my Facebook page and I would be down a downward spiral of emotion trying to update my page. I felt like I should like and comment on EVERYTHING which is absolutely impossible and I was losing valuable hours of my day, oftentimes on things that no one would have noticed if I said anything or not. I was also losing out on time with my kids and my work was falling behind.

Enter Kills News Feed extension (available on all the different browsers- I’m just linking to Chrome). This throws up this message (see above) on my Facebook feed now and I don’t see anything at all. I can work, update, share on my pages and see comments on my own stuff, but I’m not being bombarded by the newsfeed anymore. Now when I have moments at appointments, downtime at the pool, or time to kill while running errands…I can see the newsfeed on my phone and like things, but it isn’t interfering with my day.

This is a WAY better idea for someone like me and WAY better for our family too. My productivity skyrocketed (well, sort of…) and I do feel a lot better without the weight of the world running in my head all the time. (FREE!)

*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 07.08.15

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Washi Tape Straws via Paper & Pin

Source: Paper & Pin

 

Sweet & simple- washi tape paper straws.

A guide to extreme food budgeting.

This would make rearranging a gallery wall easier.

S’mores hand pies recipe- how fun!

On cloud wine!

9 books to help you be a better person.

Narrow Entry Hall via Decorology

Source: Decorology

 

So inspired by this skinny hall entry that works hard and looks good.

Tour Judy Blume’s old neighborhood- so sweet!

25 Ways To Simplify Your Life

A stained vintage quilt solution- I love this!

Swoon over this beautifully curated home.

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!

Sundays With Writers: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this interview today! It’s not every day that a girl gets to feature the author of the #1 book on Amazon of 2014 so today is incredibly special. I have a feeling that many of you have read Everything I Never Told You and will enjoy hearing the story behind the story on this book.

We read this book in my local book club and I thought a lot about it after I closed it. It dealt with racial tensions that I had not been aware of and also spoke to me because so many of us have things we never tell the people we love and it makes you think about your own family and words that are unspoken.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You is a beautiful debut novel and Ng’s descriptive language is such a treat to read. When a family’s daughter goes missing the lives of her family members begin unraveling through Ng’s beautiful storytelling. The reader is taken on a journey from the very beginning of the relationship of the parents and moving through each family member, including Lydia, their missing daughter. Everything I Never Told You is every character’s story that was never told- from the disappointment felt by parents to not fitting in due to their race to what roles they were expected to fill in the family (whether wanted or not).

This is a book that would lend itself well to a book club discussion since it tackles the big issues of parental roles/expectations as well as the heartache of youth and the challenges with fitting in. I think it is important to set expectations though with genres and I did not find this to read like a mystery or thriller, but more of a character-driven piece. This is a beautifully written family drama and for fans of this genre, you will really fall in love with Ng’s storytelling.

This book was featured in our Must-Read List for March!

It is such an honor to have Celeste Ng join me today. If you don’t know how to pronounce her name- check out her Twitter handle (AWESOME!). Now that you know the important stuff, let’s settle in with a cup of coffee and hear more from Celeste about her debut novel.

Celeste Ng

You open with the death of Lydia in the very opening sentences of the book and then build the story from there. Why did you decide to start with her tragic death and then work your way out in the story?

In earlier drafts, the book began quite differently: “At first, they don’t know where Lydia has gone.” And neither did the reader, until about thirty or forty pages in. What I realized, eventually, was that this pointed the reader in the wrong direction. It prompted the reader to focus on whether Lydia was alive or dead, rather than on what happened within the family to lead to her death.

So in the last draft of the novel, I changed the opening and put Lydia’s fate right up front. Once you know that Lydia is dead, that information colors everything you read afterwards.

Race plays a big part in this novel and, to be honest, I was embarrassingly unaware of racial discrimination among Asians in the 70’s, particularly in the disapproval of the relationship between the white mother (Marilyn) & the Asian father (James) in the Lee family. Was this something that you had heard about, researched, or have you experienced this discrimination firsthand?

Unfortunately, discrimination among Asians isn’t just limited to the 1970s. It still happens today, both overtly and in what we might now call microaggressions: small actions, often not intended as malicious, that remind people of their otherness. With one exception, every moment of racism or racial tension in the novel is something that I or someone I know personally has experiences firsthand. And these moments aren’t rare: every person of color I’ve spoken with has experienced something similar, no matter where they live.

Your book was selected as the #1 book of the ENTIRE YEAR on Amazon in 2014. First, what was it like to find out that your debut novel was selected as this and, secondly, do you feel added pressure to deliver something just as epic in your next book?

Here’s how I found out about the Amazon pick: I was sitting in my living room drinking tea and playing with my son when someone tweeted “Congratulations!” at me. I actually had to tweet back, “On what?!” So the whole experience has been surreal, and I’m very grateful to Amazon’s editorial team for championing the book.

I do feel some pressure to deliver another book that will live up to the response for this first one—how could I not? But honestly, the expectations have an upside as well. Writing is such an uncertain job; you work for years on a single project and hope that when it’s done, someone will read it. Having so many people read and respond to the book makes me more optimistic that people will want to read the next one, too.

The title of your book, Everything I Never Told You, is the anthem of every character in this book as they all have their own secrets and struggles that they can’t seem to share with others. Was there anything you have never shared with someone that you wished you would have and what message do you hope your readers will walk away with from reading this book?

My father passed away unexpectedly over a decade ago, and I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye properly. (None of us did.) I think about that a lot, about what I’d have said if we’d have another chance to talk. And even now, I often think of things that I’d like to share with him—not important things necessarily, just jokes he’d have enjoyed or observations he’d have gotten a kick out of.  More than the Big Important Topics, those kind of small things are the glue that holds a relationship together. I guess I hope that readers will close the book thinking about how life is short—and precious—and will make a conscious choice to never take the time they have with loved ones for granted.

As a mom, I really struggled with Marilyn leaving her family behind in this book because she felt she did not get to pursue her own dreams. I will admit, I was actually pretty angry with her as this family hobbled along in her absence. I think being a mom does mean sometimes we have to put our dreams on hold in order to make our family lives work. Did you sympathize with Marilyn? Have you ever had to put anything on hold in your own life because of your family?

It’s totally okay to be angry with Marilyn! (She makes some questionable choices, as do all the other characters.) But you’re right, being a mom, you’re in a constant juggling act trying to balance the needs of your family and your own needs. This is true for any parent, of course, but in today’s world, it’s especially true for mothers.

As a working mom myself, I end up putting my family before my own wants a lot of the time—as do most parents, I think. Sometimes these are small things: maybe I’d rather have chicken one night but I cook spaghetti because that is what my kid will eat. Sometimes they’re larger: for example, I’d love to go on a writing retreat, like the ones at McDowell (where someone brings you your lunch every day while you work!) But that would be a huge strain on my family, so it’s off the table, at least for a while.

And in fact, I’d miss them too much if I were away for so long.  That’s the thing that makes it hardest: you’re not just choosing between something you want and something they want, you’re choosing between something you want and something they want that you want too. Your desires get all mixed up with your family’s and it becomes hard to even tell what you yourself want.  So yes, I have a lot of sympathy for Marilyn.

What can we expect from you in your next book?

The next book is still very much in draft form, so I won’t say too much about it yet—I’m still working out the details! But it takes place in my hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio, and focuses on a family living there and a mother-daughter pair (with some secrets in their past) who move in from out of town, and the ways those two families get entangled and stir up trouble for one another.

If you could tell anyone to read one book right now (other than your own) what would that book be? (read all the recommendations from authors HERE)

Just one? That’s a very hard choice to make. 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.

You can connect with Celeste Ng 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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June 2015 Must-Reads

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

June 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

 

June flew by, didn’t it? I had hoped to tackle a ton of books this month, but we have had so many fun projects going on for the site that I found myself barely able to stay awake for my evening reading routines.  These kids are just wearing me out this summer, I tell you! I have a huge list of books that I would like to work through this summer and I am also trying to read some advanced readers so I can get great new books on your radar before they come out!

Did you see this list I have been working on just for you? After each of our Sundays With Writers interviews, I finish the interview by asking our featured author to share one book that they think everyone should read (other than their own). After a year of responses, I thought it was time to start sharing those answers in one post with you. This list will be updated WEEKLY as we have new writers on for our interview series so be sure to bookmark it for your library visits!

This month I tackled two historical fiction, one incredible YA book, a thriller, and a romance! All of these books are beach bag worthy so let’s dig into my picks for June!

The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

What a fantastic read this was! Macallister writes a beautiful story of a female illusionist, something that was rare and provocative during the turn of the century, in this historical fiction debut. The story shows the reader things are not always as they seem even when it comes to the illusions we create in our own lives.

When a man is killed during her jaw-dropping act of sawing a man in half, The Amazing Arden is arrested and accused of the murder. The thing is, Arden has a story to tell about who that man really is and this murder just might be an illusion too. The story unfolds as she makes her confession to the officer who has arrested her as she confesses to the real crimes that have been committed in her life. There are some great plot twists in this one that kept me flipping the pages until the end and I really enjoyed it- I can’t wait to read more from this author!

If I had one critique on this one, I felt that the ending was a bit rushed and the book could have really benefited from an epilogue. With that tiny tweak, it would have been a really perfect read for me. I am still giving it a high rating for most perfectly written evil character and for tackling the topic of a female illusionist!

I have invited Greer Macallister to join us in our Sundays With Writers series and I look forward to sharing more behind this fantastic story!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Weightless by Sarah Bannan

Weightless by Sarah Bannan

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley to preview this month and I have to say, I have been thinking a lot about this book since I finished it. This is an incredible YA book on bullying today and the ramifications of what can happen when a child is pushed too far.

When Carolyn Lessing moves from New Jersey to Alabama with her mother, she rattles the status quo of the juniors at Adams High. Gorgeous, stylish, a great student and gifted athlete without a mean girl bone in her body Carolyn is gobbled up right away by the school’s cliques. She even begins dating a senior, Shane, whose on again/off again girlfriend Brooke becomes Carolyn’s bitter romantic rival. When a make-out video of Carolyn and Shane makes the rounds, Carolyn goes from golden girl to slut in an instant, with Brooke and her best friend responsible for the campaign.
Carolyn is hounded and focused on, and becomes more and more private. Questions about her family and her habits torture her. But a violent confrontation with Shane and Brooke in the student parking lot is the last attack Carolyn can take.

Bannan sheds light on how bullying happens now that kids have access to social media and creatively utilizes an undisclosed narrator who acts as an observer and participant in the bullying of a new girl at their school. Well-written and unflinching, it would be a great read for your older teen or for parents who want to see how bullying occurs today. I highly recommend this one!

I have invited Sarah Bannan to join us in our Sundays With Writers series to discuss cyberbullying and her inspiration for this incredible book.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

I have never read Barbara Delinsky before, but got the opportunity to assist with promotion for this book and so I toted this one back and forth in my beach bag. I didn’t realize how many of my readers do read her books though so I apologize that I haven’t read these books before to share them with you here!

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.

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.

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.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens (available for pre-order, hits stores on July 7th)

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley to preview this month.

Chevy Stevens delivers another fast page-turner that will leave you on the edge of your seat. It’s the type of thriller you devour quickly, flipping pages until the wee hours of the morning, and perfect for your summer beach bag.

The story centers around three sisters growing up in an abusive home who must escape with no food or money to avoid the foster care system. When their car breaks down on the side of the road, two boys pull over and offer to help fix their car in exchange for work at the family ranch. Despite the bad feelings, the girls go along with these two….and their lives will never be the same again. Switching from all different perspectives, this dark thriller is a well-woven game of cat and mouse from start to finish!

I spent two glorious nights with this book and even woke up in the middle of the night to sneak a few more pages in. Now I will have to wait impatiently for Chevy Stevens next twisty thriller!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Under a Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye

Under a Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley to preview this month.

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. A perfect balance of fact and fiction, 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!

5 Out of 5 Star

 

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

Books I Have Read in 2015

 

June 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Read With Me This Year:

January 2015 Must-Reads

February 2015 Must-Reads

March 2015 Must-Reads

April 2015 Must-Reads

May 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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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

Trampoline by Robert Gipe

Phenomenal by Leigh Ann Henion

Render: An Apocalypse by Rebecca Gayle Howell

 

 

Read It: Trampoline by Robert Gipe, Phenomenal by Leigh Ann Henion, & Render: An Apocalypse by Rebecca Gayle Howell

Recommended by: David Joy

I’m going to stay true to my neck of the woods and give you three recommendations—a novel, a memoir, and a book of poetry—from Appalachia because I think a lot of what comes out of this region is tragically overlooked. As far as a novel, everyone needs to read Robert Gipe’s Trampoline. It’s bar none the best debut released this year and it’s arguably the best debut we’ve seen from this region in decades. With memoir, I was really impressed with Leigh Ann Henion’s book, Phenomenal. I think her storytelling is brave and her insight into our relationship with the natural world is matured and beautiful. Last but certainly not least, everyone needs to be reading Rebecca Gayle Howell, especially the poems in Render: An Apocalypse, which are just gritty and raw and lovely. She’s writing scripture. So there’re three for you to get your hands on!

 

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Read It: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Recommended by: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

It is an incredibly intense book about racial inequality in our criminal justice system, but it is beautifully written and powerful, with just enough hopefulness to help you sit with the discomfort of the truth and think hard about how you can help contribute to a solution.  I recommend it to everyone I know.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Read It: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Recommended by: Jennifer Niven

The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker

Read It: The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker

Recommended by: Vanessa Lafaye

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.

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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