Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Amy’s Notebook 10.15.14

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Hard Cider Pumpkin Float via Dine and Dish

Source: Dine and Dish

 

Hard cider ale and a pumpkin pie gelato float? Genius.

David Fincher’s thriller ‘Gone Girl’ as a solid case as to why nobody should ever get married.

14 absolutely free ways to improve your cooking.

5 unmissable, easy to implement tips on how to finally say no.

Pick the brains of intellectual giants – here is a list of 31 best TED talks that will transform your life.

These hipster costumes make me laugh.

DIY Halloween Glassware via Sugar and Cloth

Source: Sugar and Cloth

 

Use cute non-permanent DIY Halloween glassware decals for quick and easy budget friendly party decor on cups you already own.

How to keep your toddler busy for an entire hour with free items.

50 cultural icons on their favorite books.

Looking for a new mascara? Check out these new mascaras for fall.

73 answers from Reese Witherspoon- I love her more.

11 hard ciders that are better than beer.

Parenting as a Gen Xer in a world of iEverything.

Abundance Quote via Be More with Less

Source: Be More With Less

 

Redefining abundance.

A good list of the best shows to watch as a family.

8 things you haven’t tried to make using cauliflower as a substitute – or have you?

Do you hate Facebook, or do you hate your life?

Easy leather bracelet DIY – 3 different ways.

Ebola is more than a news story to me – such a perfect reminder.

amys_notebook

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

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Sundays With Writers: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

I can be the first to admit that sometimes the size of a book can be intimidating to me.  All the Light We Cannot See has been in my book stack several times this year, but at over five hundred pages, I just didn’t think I had the time to sit down and really dive in deep with a heavy book.  It had been recommended to me by some of my most respected fellow readers and I knew I would love it, but it being named our book club selection for the month was finally what pushed me to just sit down and read.

And read.

And read.

And please leave me alone, I AM READING THE BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD.

I could not flip the pages fast enough. What will happen to these beloved characters? How will my life go on when this book ends?

Most of all, why did I wait so long to read this?

I wish I could give this book ten stars on GoodReads. I was held captive by it and could not put it down. The storytelling is superb, the characters vividly created, and the words read like poetry. My heart was in my throat for much of it and I could not turn the pages quickly enough so I knew what would happen with Marie-Laure & Werner. I loved how their stories weaved together and how the author created such striking details that made you feel as though you were witnessing it all firsthand.

All the Lights We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

 

In this story, Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

I can’t recommend this one enough- it will be, perhaps, in my top ten books ever read. I want you to set aside the size of it and just dive in like I did. 

I sent an email to Anthony, firmly believing that I would not get a response. At that time, he had been on the New York Times best seller list for twenty weeks. He certainly doesn’t need to do an interview with me to spread the word about his book.  I was shocked when I received the kindest response and so honored that Doerr would take time out of his busy schedule to answer his new #1 fan and her silly questions.

I hope you will love this interview and book as much as I love sharing about it. I already know this one is in my top ten for the year and, perhaps, forever.

Grab your coffee and let’s share a virtual cup with Anthony Doerr and his literary tour de force.

 

Anthony Doerr

I understand that this beautiful book took a decade for you to write which really speaks to your commitment to this novel. Tell me what it is like to devote ten years to a book like this and did you ever find yourself discouraged during the process of fleshing out this story? Did you ever dream that it would take that long to complete it?

Oh, I was crazy with doubt almost of the time. You invest so many months into a single project—shelves stuffed with WWII books, three separate trips to Europe, dozens of notebooks full of scribbled notes—and the terror that you won’t be able to pull it all together keeps you up at nights. I worried that if I abandoned the project I’d let down my wife, my kids, my editor, myself. And I never dreamed it would take so long—a quarter of my life!

At the heart of this story is the communication via radio that brings unlikely people together in beautiful ways. As an NPR junkie, I absolutely loved picturing Werner & his sister huddled beside the radio (as I may or may not do that myself while tuning in to my favorite shows) and others who were enchanted by radio broadcasting through this story. Why did you decide to explore radio and did you have to do a lot of research on the older models and how they worked in order to develop this plotline?

I adored radios as a boy and would often stay up late listening to baseball games under my covers while my parents thought I was sleeping. But that passion had waned a bit, until ten years ago, when I took a train from Princeton, New Jersey into New York City. I had just completed a novel and was searching around for a new idea, and had a notebook in my lap. The man in the seat in front of me was talking to someone on his cell phone about the sequel to The Matrix, I remember that very clearly, and as we approached Manhattan, and sixty feet of steel and concrete started flowing above the train, his call dropped.

And he got angry! He started swearing, and rapping his phone with his knuckles, and after briefly worrying for my safety, I said to myself: What he’s forgetting, what we’re all forgetting, is that what he was just doing is a miracle. He’s using two little radios — a receiver and a transmitter — crammed into something no bigger than a deck of cards, to send and receive little packets of light between hundreds of radio towers, one after the next, miles apart, each connecting to the next at the speed of light, and he’s using this magic to have a conversation about Keanu Reeves.

Because we’re habitualized to it, we’ve stopped seeing the grandeur of this breathtaking act. So I decided to try to write something that would help me and my reader feel that power again, to feel the strangeness and sorcery of hearing the voice of a stranger, or a distant loved one, in our heads.

That very afternoon, ten years ago, I wrote a title into my notebook: All the Light We Cannot See—a reference to all the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum (like radio waves) that are invisible. And that night, I started a piece of fiction in which a girl reads a story to a boy over the radio. I conceived of her as blind, and him as trapped in darkness, and the sound of her voice, carried by radio waves – light we cannot see — through walls, as his salvation.

 My heart ached for Werner so much especially his time in the Hitler Youth and what he must do to survive. Death, war, sadness, poverty…it is all there in this book, despite the hope that so much of your story brings in the end. I imagine that this was a very difficult time period in history to write about as an author. What scene was the hardest for you to write?

Yes, lots of the research for this novel was excruciating. The destruction of human beings during WWII, especially on the Eastern Front, occurred on a scale that is almost too large for the human brain to comprehend. So sometimes the source material would send me to dark places, and I’d have to take breaks by working on other projects.

As for scenes that were hard to write, there are many kinds of difficulty a writer faces: technical difficulty, emotional difficulty, syntactic difficulty. In terms of emotions, probably all the scenes involving Frederick were the most difficult, because he reminds me of one of my sons.

It is hard to say who my favorite character is because I found each one so endearing. The relationship between Marie-Laure and her father brought tears to my eyes though because it was so special. The books that he gives her for her birthday are so treasured and one in particular, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, turns out to be a very special one. Was this a childhood favorite of your own? What was it about this book that made you want to use it in such a unique way in your story?

Thank you, Amy. Yes, 20,000 Leagues was indeed a childhood favorite. The book is about wonder and technology, and it uses narrative to excite a reader’s interest in the natural world. This is so similar to the kind of projects I try to make with my own fiction, that – one day, when I started re-reading it — I decided Verne’s text might serve as an effective book-within-a-book.

The intricate puzzles that Marie-Laure’s father creates add so much beauty to your story. It made me wish I could find a puzzle for my kids to solve.  How did you come up with this concept?

A friend of our family’s once gave me a Japanese puzzle box as a present. It was a wooden cube that looked like an ornate, solid block of wood. No visible doors, no knobs, no handles, no buttons. But, as our family friend showed me, if you knew what side to push in on, then various panels would start to slide down, and by manipulating all the panels in clever ways, you could eventually slide open the top and discover a hidden compartment inside.

I played with that thing for hours, showing it off to friends, examining its construction, etc., then eventually put it on a shelf and forgot about it. A couple of decades later, working on this novel, the puzzle box came back to me, along with my fascination with it, and I decided to try writing a couple of scenes in which Marie-Laure’s father fashions puzzle boxes.

Which character do you identify the most with in your book?

I do my best to identify with all my characters, even the bad actors—I think that’s probably part of the job description for any novelist, isn’t it?

This novel has 187 chapters, but they are beautifully segmented and sectioned for the reader in small doses, which created a lot of suspense for me, as a reader, and kept me pushing through your story so I could find out what would happen in the next chapter. Why did you decide to structure your story this way?

Obviously, there are an infinity of ways to write a novel, but for me “plotting it out” has always sounded scary and programmatic. I have to compose, revise, and re-revise scenes just to understand what should happen in them.So my process involves a lot of trial and error. I write hundreds of paragraphs trying to figure out where the story is going, and I usually end up cutting most of them. I knew early on that I wanted the two narratives to feel like two almost parallel lines that inclined toward each other very gently.

The structure was a big mess for a long time. It probably had 250 or 300 chapters at some points. All I knew early on — and wanted a reader to intuit – was that Marie’s and Werner’s lives would intersect. But it took me a long time to figure out exactly how that would happen.

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

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!

You can connect with Anthony Doerr on GoodReads or on Facebook! 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: FitBit, Workout Gear, & Gilmore Girls

Friday, October 10th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends!  I hope you are having a wonderful week this week. I am happy to have a quiet weekend ahead since that has been such a rarity these days.  I can’t wait to share the happy with you this week!!

Fitbit Flex

I Joined the Fitbit Club

I am one of those people that is slow to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to technology and gadgets. Before the Fitbit Flex even launched, my husband knew about it and wanted to buy it for me. Now that it has been enough time for the trend to pass, I figured I would look into getting one. I scored one for $70 off of eBay and this thing has changed my life.  One reason is related to fitness and the other is just related to my mornings as a whole .

Several of my girlfriends have these and I tend to have an annoyingly competitive streak so being in a competition for the most steps has been pushing me to hit the gym and go on an evening walk so I can compete against my athletic friends.  Two evenings I have walked with my daughter, just us two, and one night I challenged both kids to a Just Dance dance-off to try to increase my steps.  I scored bonus points for looking like a fun mom (which I typically am not!) and have been trying to aim for 10,000 steps a day.  I am sure the newness will eventually wear off, but I really love having a step goal each day.

The other thing that I am loving, not fitness related, is the silent alarm feature on the Fitbit Flex. I have to be the first one up in our house and when my alarm goes off, it triggers my husband to wake up and our cat to start the annoying meowing baby cry reserved for the morning alarm. You can set a silent alarm on the app and the bracelet vibrates to wake you in the morning.  I wake up happier,  my husband continues to sleep, and the cat doesn’t start her annoying meowing baby cry until she realizes I am up. Winning all around!

Danskin Performance Jacket

New Workout Apparel for Cheap

Since I am at the gym every day so I can get my steps in (OBSESSED!), I needed to get a few workout jackets for my morning workouts. I am madly in love with these Danskin Now Women’s Performance Jackets that I found for less than $15 at Walmart! Since I write for Walmart, I have gotten to see behind the scenes on how they create some of their workout gear, and I can attest to the quality of the items now that I have heard first-hand about some of their reverse engineering that they do to replicate that expensive athletic apparel right down to the thread counts.  Since hearing more about that, I have abandoned fancy workout gear and embrace my frugal side which is really not hard for a girl like me to do. Since I am a wee woman, I was thrilled to see that they are making X-Small apparel (something I haven’t been able to find before at the store) and am heading back to my store since I got so many compliments on these pullovers I scored.

They also have the coziest Danskin fleece jacket displayed right by these (I can’t find them online, but they look a lot like this) and I highly recommend them for Midwest winters. Again, $15! What do you have to lose?

Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls- #winning

Usually my work trips have me on and running from the time I arrive until the time I get on my plane. I hope you caught the Celestial Seasonings post I shared (I’m giving away over $100 in fun tea prizes!) where I talked about my trip last week. One of the best parts about this trip was they said we could arrive any time and to just “enjoy our day in Boulder.” Say what?! I should have been running all over the city to see everything, but I have been feeling so tapped out that I spent an entire day and evening laying around in my hotel room and it was GLORIOUS.

I happened to see that Kelly, from The Centsible Life,  had posted that Gilmore Girls was available on Netflix starting that day so I soaked in the deepest tub I have ever been in and watched episodes of Gilmore Girls on my iPad in the tub. And it was perfect. I mean, PERFECT.  Don’t judge me, but I had never watched Gilmore Girls before. I wish my daughter was a little older so we could watch it together, but until then..I am really enjoying having a new show to watch. Between that and Big Little Lies (downloaded for FREE on Overdrive through my library), I was one happy little traveler this past week!  Thank you, Celestial Seasonings! What a treat!

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule. Did I mention I traveled? I didn’t even make a steal- so proud!  Grab more inspiration on my Fashion Capsule Pin Board.

tunic + lace slip + tights + boots + large belt

Down With Damask Tunic (similar & owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Lace Slip Extender (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Brown Belt (owned- Maurices)/ Black Tights (owned- Target)/ Black Boots (6PM- Naturalizer)

bow shirt + long sleeve seamless shirt + track pants + boots + skinny belt

Ann Taylor Loft Pink Print Collared Shirt (purchased second hand on Twice)/ Mint Belt (owned- Target)/ Seamless Perfection Long Sleeve Tunic Dress in Black (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/ Black Boots (6PM- Naturalizer)/Mossimo Black Track Pants (purchased- Target)

black leggings + black dress + jean jacket + large belt + oxfords + large scarf

 Seamless Perfection Long Sleeve Tunic Dress in Black (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/ The Essential Leggings in Black (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Not Afraid of the Dark Denim Jacket (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/ Wine Scarf (owned- Forever 21)/ Tan Belt (owned- boutique)/ Oxford Shoes (Owned-Naturalizer)

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

Slow Cooker Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

How to Spray Paint Furniture

Knitted Sweater Coffee Cozies

*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 10.08.14

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Pom Pom Bat Cupcake Toppers via Oh Happy Day

Source: Oh Happy Day

 

Adorable pom pom bat cupcake toppers.

How about a cheese graveyard with Brie cut in a coffin shape for your Halloween party?

Five things your teen wants you to know.

Who knew flu shots could be so hilarious?

DIY Crow Halloween Wreath via Darice Blog

Source: Darice Craft Blog

 

Go outside the norm for Halloween with a black crow wreath.

How to make the perfect sweet potato fries.

Are you navigating the eternal screen-time debate with Minecraft?

Top 10 tricks for shopping at Amazon.

Beautiful words on marriage.

Apple Chip Burbon Cider via A Subtle Revelry

Source: A Subtle Revelry

 

Bourbon apple chip cider – sounds just about right for the fall, doesn’t it?

You won’t believe this wedding dress made for $30 during the crafty bride’s commute!

33 books to read to celebrate banned books week – or any time of the year.

World’s best parenting tumblr.

This is what brave means.

amys_notebook

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

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Shiny Pots, Cozy Throws, & Beautiful Books

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! This week I have had the unique opportunity to head to the Celestial Seasonings headquarters and learn all about their teas which is, seriously, one of the coolest opportunities ever for a super fan like me. If you recall, I raved quite a bit about my Sleepytime Extra tea that helped me break my melatonin habit and I even included their teas in a gift guide this past year for the holidays. I am a tea enthusiast so I feel so lucky to get to see how they create their products and share that with you in the upcoming week! Yay!

I am writing this on Tuesday night for you since I will be in Boulder this week and hopefully I am having a magical flight where I get upgraded for no reason, my suitcase is incredibly light since I have a mere fashion capsule wardrobe that I can make four million outfits out of a mere one or two pieces,  and I will be reading the world’s best book.  Let’s just pretend all of those things are happening right now!

Without further adieu- here’s the abbreviated happy today!

All the Lights We Cannot See

World’s Coziest Throw

As if the world’s coziest slippers were not enough, I could not wait for the temperatures to drop so I could spend my day curled up in the happiest shed on earth and read my library books! Last year I scored this throw on clearance for $10 and it has made my world so much cozier. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for it again as they seem to put these back out seasonally at the store and this is one to watch for. It is cozy fleece on one side and then the other side is a glorious faux fur.  They even had a free Better Homes & Gardens Magazine subscription attached to it which made the deal even sweeter.  I promise that it instantly makes all your reading time better- keep those eyes peeled for something similar at TJ Maxx, Marshalls, or Walmart!

A Beautiful Book

My book club read ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr this month, picked by my sweet friend Carrie. Everyone has been raving about this one and I am just going to have to agree that this is one fine piece of literature.  I loved it so much that I immediately emailed Anthony to see if he might do our Sundays With Writers with us and he graciously agreed!  If you want to read it before the interview, you will be so happy you did. I wish I could give this ten stars on GoodReads, it was that good.  I was held captive by this book and could not put it down. The storytelling is superb, the characters vividly created, and the words read like poetry. My heart was in my throat for much of it and I could not turn the pages quickly enough so I knew what would happen with Marie-Laure & Werner. I loved how their stories weaved together and how the author created such striking details that made you feel as though you were witnessing it all firsthand. I can’t recommend this one enough- it will be, perhaps, in my top ten books ever read.

Don’t be intimidated by the length as the chapter are short and help to keep the story moving.  It is one you will be glad you picked up and also will take you on a little Wikipedia narnia when you are done to learn more behind this beautiful piece of work! Stay tuned for a fun interview with Anthony soon!

Bar Keepers Friend

Shiny Everything

Tell me I am not the only one addicted to this stuff- Bar Keepers Friend is the best cleaner ever! You want shiny pots? A shiny sink? A shiny tub? Well, shine, shine, shine. I can think of very little that could not benefit from this cleaner! If you haven’t tried it, prepare to be amazed. My pots look like the day I bought them and I use this every night on my sink.  I can’t imagine my life without this little cleaner and if you have rust issues, this is a great one to have on hand.  A shiny home definitely makes this girl happy.

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule. Grab more inspiration on my Fashion Capsule Pin Board.

tiny-bangs

Did I mention it is Tuesday when I am typing this? I’ve got nothing to share this early in the week, but I did get my bangs chopped and I feel like a brand new woman.

There is that.

If you want to see what I’m wearing you can check my trip highlights on my Instagram feed! :)

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

Quick & Easy Knitted Boot Cuffs

Easy Knitted Ruffled Scarf with Sashay Yarn

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

*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 10.01.14

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Folded Leaf Garland via A Subtle Revelry

Source: A Subtle Revelry

 

Folded leaf garland – sometimes a simple seasonal update is just enough.

Have you ever wondered where to start when your style starts changing?

I love a good hollywood makeup trick!

An inspiring home tour that celebrates family.

Tips for getting organized, of which I can never have enough.

An amazing barn renovation.

7 foods you can cook straight out of the freezer for those busy weekday nights.

What to say to Mean Girls via We Are That Family

 

Source: We Are THAT Family

 

What we need to say to the mean girls.

Pumpkin pie spice…popcorn? Um, yes.

I want to try this 7-day smartphone detox.

Anthro-inspired mugs would make beautiful gifts for friends & teachers.

When blogging becomes a slog.

Breakfast hacks – ways to make breakfast easier.

amys_notebook

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

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Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I was so excited to get a chance to preview the new Jodi Picoult book, LEAVING TIME, that will be hitting store shelves on October 14th! Through a partnership with Walmart Moms, I was given the chance to take a peek and share my honest opinions of this new book with you.

Over the years I have been a huge Picoult fan and I have read almost every book she has written. My love affair with her began with MY SISTER’S KEEPER and I was thrilled when she came to visit our town and our book club got a chance to meet her in person. She was as charming and genuine as I could have hoped so I continued to read her books despite the similar themes with courtroom battles and a surprising twist. Even though I wasn’t as enraptured as I once was, I decided to pick up THE STORYTELLER last year which ended up making my top ten list for one of the best books she has ever written. If I was going to make any recommendation at all, I would pick that one up and devour it immediately. It is, in my opinion, Picoult’s finest work. It is because of this book that I was so excited to see what she would tackle next.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

In LEAVING TIME Picoult embraces a mystery theme that brings an unlikely cast of characters together to piece together the disappearance of Alice Metcalf. Jenna Metcalf’s mother’s death is now a cold case and one that consumes Jenna’s every thought. Alice Metcalf mysteriously disappeared during a tragic accident at the elephant conservatory where she works as a scientist studying the grief among elephants, working alongside her husband. Jenna believes that there is a bigger story to her disappearance and hires Serenity Jones, a disgraced psychic, and Virgil Stanhope, an alcoholic private detective, to help her find out once and for all if Alice is alive or dead. The true question though, is what if Alice has been alive all along and never wanted a relationship with Jenna?

In predictable Picoult fashion, this story alternates between the different characters, and it also weaves in the scientific journals and observations of elephant behavior by Alice. As the story builds, more and more layers are added and we are given a host of possible suspects for Alice’s disappearance. As more of puzzle pieces are added, Jenna begins remembering more and more about what happened when she was a child as it all comes together in a shocking twist that readers will never see coming.

One element I thought worked really well was the storyline of Serenity and her rise and fall in psychic stardom and her struggle with no longer having the gifts she had before. I also loved the private detective and the demons that he was battling since this case was one he never thought he performed well. Most of all, I really appreciated the ending to this one that makes you want to reread the book again to find all of those hidden clues that Picoult placed in there for you that you might not have noticed before.

You can tell that Picoult has thoroughly researched this one, but at points the researched portions dragged on and on for me. Alice’s scientific journals add predictable parallels to her own mothering. At times though, the research was so long that it felt as though you were reading a nonfiction story.  If you are a fan of elephants or the struggles of elephant conservation, you will be swimming in all of the facts and have plenty to read. For me, I felt that this created a bit of lag in my reading and I found myself skimming through those portions to get back to the meat of the story.

Truth be told, the ending is really what makes this Picoult book shine and worthy of a read- I would recommend this book simply for that reason alone! The final forty pages have a way of tying this story together that will have you begging your friends to read it so that you can discuss the plot twist you never saw coming.

Walmart will be offering LEAVING TIME at a deep rollback discount! You can preorder your copy today at the price of, $20.52.

 

What is your favorite Jodi Picoult book? I’d LOVE to hear!

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Comfy Slippers, Cleanish Floors, & an Open Table

Friday, September 26th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! I am excited to share with you my quick list of what is making me happy this week and can’t wait to hear your lists too!

UGG Driving Moccasins

The World’s Coziest Slippers

You know you have hit middle-age when great slippers are making you super happy.  Every year I buy a cheap pair of slippers from Target that I trash and then have to buy another pair, usually mid-season. I discovered that UGG makes slippers (I know, I am so behind on the times!) and I decided to hunt on eBay to see if I could find a pair of slippers for myself.  I wanted something that looked like a shoe and not yo grandma’s slippers. I found these Gray Suede Driving Moccasins that were brand-new (just missing their box) and bought them for $55. Considering I am probably spending that much on two cheap pairs every year, this is a worthy investment. The best part is that they have leather inserts for warm days and then they have that delightful furry insert for freezing days. You can wear them to get the mail or the kids off the bus or just wear them around the house.  Between these and my thrift store UGG boots that I replaced the inserts on (who knew?),  I have the world’s coziest feet.

Bissell Steam & Sweep

Cleanish Floors

You know how people can be very OCD about one thing and not care about another. Dust gathering on shelves? Don’t care! Dirty floors? I CAN’T HANDLE IT (thus, why my feet are in slippers all the time).  I have tried many a floor steamer and the Bissell Steam & Sweep makes me so happy because it steams and sweeps at the same time.  I use this a couple of times a week on our bathroom floors and in our kitchen. It does as good of a job as my vacuum and I can be doing that while cleaning up spills at the same time in one swipe of this tool.  If you are looking for something to clean and sweep at the same time for floors, this is the gadget I recommend. It has saved me a ton of time cleaning which makes me very, very happy.

Gluten-Free Orange Chicken

Open Table

This article that I shared last week really inspired me to open my home up more to guests and that has, in return,  brought so much happiness to my life. Although I don’t feel equipped with our families busy schedule to devote one night a week to a dinner with all of our friends in my home, it did inspire me to think about setting aside some of my worries about our home not being completely renovated the way I want or always as clean as I want for the perfect entertaining experience and just allow people to see things as they are. The past two weeks we have invited family and friends into our home for meals, coffee, and conversation. We made new friends and I even had both my sister and my sister-in-law over in one week! It has helped motivate me to keep my home in some state of cleanliness just knowing that someone might need a meal one night and it has been good at curbing the loneliness that can happen sometimes with working from home.

I am calling it Open Table and I am opening my table weekly to someone and sharing a meal or a cup of coffee with them in my home.  It’s making my heart very happy and I hope it is making others happy too.

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule. Note that this week I finally cashed in on my steal for the month!! I am one month in and grabbed my steal on the very last day of the first month’s challenge- yay!  Grab more inspiration on my Fashion Capsule Pin Board.

white collared shirt + rolled teal jeans + oxford shoes

Converse White Collared Shirt (purchased- Target)/ Teal My Heart Skinny Jeans (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/Oxford Shoes (Owned-Naturalizer)/Chevron Necklace (owned- Charming Charlie)

wine colored maxi dress + mustard necklace + jean jacked + leopard belt + peep toe shoes

 The Must-Have Maxi in Burgundy (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/ Not Afraid of the Dark Denim Jacket (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/Peep Toe Shoes (owned- Payless Shoes), Mustard Necklace (owned- Goodwill)/Belt (Owned-Target)

utility vest + gray t-shirt + pearls + rolled jeans + ballet flats

STEAL OF THE MONTH: Utility Vest (owned- Groopdealz)/Old Navy Vintage V-Neck T-Shirt in Gray (Old Navy)/Old Navy Rock Star Skinny Jeans (owned- Old Navy)/ Ballet Flats (owned- Payless Shoes)/Pearl Necklace (owned- Flourish Boutique)

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

Easy Burlap Wreath Tutorial

How to Make a Care Package for the Homeless

Slow Cooker Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

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

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

Amy’s Notebook 09.24.14

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Tacos via Camille Styles

Source: Camille Styles

 

Pumpkin spice tacos- say what?!

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

Fabulous tips for applying lipstick so it lasts all day.

Raspberry gin cocktail- you had me at gin.

Simple & elegant touches for fall decorating.

15 career tips from smart women.

Gold Leaf Art via Lovely Indeed

Source: Lovely Indeed

 

I love this diy gold leaf art.

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

I want fill my freezer with these quinoa burritos.

I want to try this 24 hour iPhone experiment.

A rainbow of gourds.

I’m in love with these dining room updates.

amys_notebook

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

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Sundays With Writers: Lifelines by Caroline Leavitt

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Sundays With Writers

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

Lifelines by Caroline Leavitt

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

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

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

Caroline Leavitt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edgard Cayce

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

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

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

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

Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for these magnificent questions!

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

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

 

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