Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Sundays With Writers: Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I love finding a fresh voice in fiction and Molly Prentiss certainly brings a beautifully fresh perspective to the mix with her debut novel, Tuesday Nights in 1980. This is the story of a writer who was willing to give up many words to carve a better book and spent seven years crafting the voices she wanted for this story. Tuesday Nights in 1980 is unlike any other book I have read and gave me a lot of food for thought, making it an excellent book club selection if you are looking for something to discuss. I am so excited to share about Molly’s inspiring publishing story in our Sundays With Writers series today. How fun to talk about Tuesdays on Sundays…

 

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

Welcome to the art scene in SoHo in the 1980’s. Prentiss, much like an artist herself, vividly paints the art scene during this time and the story of two unlikely men whose lives become intertwined in surprising ways. The book follows James Bennett, an art critic whose writing is made more beautiful because he has Synthesia, and the rise and fall of that gift when it disappears. Raul Engales is an Argentinian painter running away from his past and the Dirty War who finds that he can use an art studio on a college campus just by pretending he is a student there. When tragedy strikes, Raul & James became friends as Raul’s paintings bring back the gift of synesthesia that James had when seeing his work. They both make tragic missteps along the way though and that is where the depth to the story is truly added.

It would be impossible to not learn something new and fans of art and the Manhattan scenes in the ‘80’s will definitely find plenty to love in this ambitious debut novel. Her descriptions are like paintings themselves, vivid and full of life! 

I included this book in our May Must-Reads

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Molly to talk about her unique debut novel!

Molly Prentiss

You chose to open your story with a focus on Argentine politics. I’m ashamed that I really knew very little about this time in history. What inspired you to make this a part of your book? Were there any real stories of people during this time that helped shape the story of Franca?

You shouldn’t be ashamed at all – so many Americans do not know anything about this brutal moment in Argentine history. It was mostly kept out of the media while it was happening and afterward, since the US was actually supporting the Argentine military government and training their soldiers, so we did not want to be caught in the blame for the mass kidnappings and killings. Obama actually JUST brought the issue to national attention this year, and apologized for the US involvement. It is astonishing to me that something so terrible could be happening on the continent below us and we would not know it was happening, which is part of the reason I chose to speak to it in my book.

Pasillo de la memoria UTN FRA (2015) 11

 

(Photographs of victims of the 1976-83 dictatorship-wikipedia)

 

I learned about the “Dirty War”, as they call it, in a class I took in graduate school called The Violent Task of Remembering. It was taught by an extremely inspirational and intelligent woman named Claudia Bernardi, who is from Argentina and has done countless projects informed by disappeared populations around the world. I had already started writing my book when I took her class, and as I continued to learn about the atrocities that were happening in Argentina during the same period I was writing about in New York, I realized I had to bring that story into the book. It ended up sort of bookending the story, as well as existing beneath the surface as a sort of dark weight through the book.

 One of the most intriguing elements of your book is that James, an art critic, has synesthesia. Did you know anyone personally that had this or interview anyone with it to shape his story? Did you find it challenging to write out the ways he would experience things like art and people in such a unique way or did this come naturally to you?

I have only met one person with synesthesia, also during graduate school. After class one day she came up to me and told me I was the color peach. I was confused at first, but when she began to tell me about her condition, I was completely intrigued. I absolutely had to write about it. And when I did it was so much fun. It was one of the things in the book that was not difficult at all for me, mostly because I adore writing metaphors, similes, and creating unexpected connections through language. I basically just used my own associations with certain colors or people or works of art and gave them to James. It gave me permission to sort of go wild with my words.

Art spills all over your book through the gallery experiences, Raul’s own paintings, and the art critiques that James writes. I understand that your life is filled with artists (siblings, father, and your fiancée just to name a few!) and you even do illustration. Did you find it easy to immerse yourself in writing about art because of this? Did you consider adding any art elements in your book for the reader?

Yes, I guess you could say that I am attracted to artists! I love being around them and witnessing in their processes and sharing their spaces. So I guess it was natural to want to populate my book with them and be around them for the seven years it took to write it.  I did at one point consider including an artwork at the beginning of each chapter, but then I decided against it. It felt a bit forced. I ended up attempting to create the visuals using words, hoping that the reader might come to his or her own vision of the art works as he/she read.

Seven years is a long time to devote to a book. What were your biggest hurdles with this book and what would you say to another writer that is discouraged that the process is taking longer than they expected?

There were so many hurdles. For me, the very difficult part about writing this book was giving the narrative a shape and a clear direction. There were so many drafts where the plot was all over the map. I had to create devices for myself to reign in my writing, which is why it all takes place in one year, and every section takes place on a Tuesday. But none of these things were set in stone for the first five or so years I was working on it, so a lot of pages and ideas and whole characters and plot points were scrapped. The key to overcoming those hurdles for me was to learn how to not consider the writing itself so precious. You have to be willing to throw things away and start over, in the service of making a better story in the end. You have to learn that rejection—whether it comes from yourself, your agent, or your readers—is part of the game. And you have to remember that the work is the fun part. You realize that especially once your book is a real thing, out there in the world. It’s amazing, but its not the reason you did all that work. You did the work because you loved the work.

Scout Press

I have had the unique opportunity to interview the first three authors published under Scout Press now that I am interviewing you today (editor’s note: check out my interview Ruth Ware & Bill Clegg). Do you think that signing under them helped in the promotion and success of your book?

Most definitely. The great thing about Scout is that they are a very new and very small imprint, so they can be dexterous and choosy. They only publish what they really want to publish, and when they do they put the whole weight of their team behind it. They did so much to make this book what it is today, and to get it out into the world in an exciting way. I am very grateful I signed on with them.

Molly Prentiss

I understand you are already working on your next book. Can you tell us a little bit about it and are you finding the process easier or harder after such great success with your first book.

Yes, I am at work on a second novel. In its current state, it takes place in a commune in northern California in the late 1970s. But now that I know how much a book can morph in its making I am hesitant to even say exactly what it’s about. It is both easier and harder to write a second book. Easier because you know what the process looks like, and you can avoid falling into certain holes that you fell into the first time. Harder because there are expectations: you don’t want to write the same book you wrote the first time, and yet you worry that that’s what the publishers and the public might expect.

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

You can connect with Molly Prentiss 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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Amy’s Notebook 06.08.16

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Spiralized-Carrots-and-Cucumber summer roll bowls via Skinnytaste

Source: Skip To My Lou

 

Ditch the rice paper with spiralized summer roll bowls.

A home that tells a story. #goals

A hack to pack more berries into muffins – um, yes!

Tips for a more productive workspace.

18 summers.

An education in chocolate.

fathers-day-coupon-book via Skip to My Lou

Source: Skip To My Lou

 

Fabulous printable Father’s Day’s coupons.

Loving this library kit. Gift one to your local librarians!

Swooning over these fresh ways to display photos at home.

Love these organizational ideas!

15 iPhone tricks Apple has been hiding from you.

Could you go a year without buying anything?

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!

Ruth Ware’s 3 Favorite Books

Monday, June 6th, 2016

Ruth Ware

Author: Ruth Ware (Check out her novels: In a Dark, Dark Wood & The Woman in Cabin 10. Read more about Ruth in our interview HERE!)

Ruth Ware’s  3 Favorite Books

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

I have to pick an Agatha Christie I think as she was a huge inspiration for The Woman in Cabin 10, so maybe And Then There Were None, which is one of her best, certainly one of her darkest.

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith has to be one of the best crime novels ever- it’s just beautifully constructed and written, with characters so real you can practically  pluck them off the page, and the premise is one of those ideas that just inspires pure jealousy of the “why the hell didn’t I think of that?” type.

Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford

Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford

And to finish up, something completely different, Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford is one of my desert island books. It’s just so indescribably funny, and moving, and matter-of-fact- and it captures a moment in history with effortless lightness of touch, and painful precision.

This post contains affiliate links! To learn more about the authors featured, please visit our Sundays With Writers series!

Sundays With Writers: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

Thrillers are my jam in the summer and today I am sharing a very special interview with my new favorite thriller writer, Ruth Ware. In a Dark, Dark Wood was the book that I selected this month for my local book club and we all loved this one for a fun escape this month. I was thrilled to get to share her interview a little early with my fellow book club members as we gathered in my dark, dark wood for a fun night out.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Leonora, a reclusive writer, receives a surprise invitation from an old friend inviting to her to a weekend away as one last hurrah before she gets married. Set in a glass house in the woods, the four acquaintances share revelations and begin to realize their party is not alone. Forty-eight hours later, Leonora (Nora) awakes in a hospital bed knowing that someone is dead. Nora desperately tries to piece together what happened, forcing her to revisit times in her past that she would rather leave buried.

I’m pretty picky when it comes to thrillers and this one delivers beautifully.  The pacing is perfect and reads like a great whodunit mystery. Enjoy the ride and then get ready to see this one brought to life on the big screen by Reese Witherspoon’s production team.

You can read more of the fantastic books I have read this month over in our must-reads post.

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in for a fun chat with Ruth Ware this morning!

Ruth Ware

I understand that the idea for In a Dark, Dark Wood came to you when a friend said, “I’ve never read a thriller set on a hen night.” Did your wheels immediately start turning when you heard this? What did your friend think of the story?

Also, as an American, I had no idea this is what these were called! Thanks for educating this naïve reader!

Yes, it was like a little light bulb went on in my head! I immediately started thinking of characters and settings and I knew this story was begging to be written. And yes, my friend has read the book and loves it.

One of the fun things about writing the book has been finding out all the different bachelorette traditions around the world and how they vary. Rights have been sold everywhere from Sweden to Indonesia and as you can imagine, the local hen party traditions are very different – sometimes it’s small stuff, like I had no idea that Americans don’t use L-plates as part of their bachelorette celebrations, whereas in the UK, they are an essential part of the bride-to-be’s outfit (L-plates are the signs that learner drivers put on their car to show they are not experienced road-users. I have NO idea what they have to do with weddings!).  Sometimes there are very wild and weird traditions – in Sweden brides are often “kidnapped” for their hen party, sometimes in a worryingly realistic fashion! However differences aside, I think it’s a surprisingly universal celebration – most countries have some kind of pre-marriage send off.

You created a hen night in the middle of nowhere, in the woods, in a glass house, with no phone reception. Hello, nightmares! Why did you decide to put these poor people in a glass house and did any books or movies help inspire your scary premise for the story?

Actually, initially the glass house was very different, when I wrote the first few chapters the setting was a tumbledown cottage, much closer to the croft that Flo’s aunt demolishes to make way for her modernist house. But then, a few chapters in, I started to realise that one of the themes of the book is about having your public persona stripped away and people seeing the real you, and the idea of not having anywhere to hide from scrutiny. So I thought how much more interesting to make the house an extension of that?

I was definitely inspired by watching too many scary movies as a kid – there’s something so vulnerable about a house with a lot of windows where the inhabitants are being watched without knowing it!

How challenging was it for you to switch between your two plotlines? Did you write each plotline in its entirety or were you just able to alternate between the two when carving out your story?

I wrote it almost exactly as you read it – swapping back and forth as I wrote it. Many people are surprised at that, I think, but it’s the only way I know how to write – I find it too hard to keep up with what the reader knows if I write out of sequence. I need to keep pace with their experience as I write, or I get the tension and the moments of revelation wrong.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

source: reese witherspoon’s ig feed

Your book is a New York Times bestseller, a Sunday Times bestseller, and was optioned for film by Reese Witherspoon’s production team. What has this experience been like and what has surprised you the most about the success of this novel?

Oh – I mean, just insane. I honestly have no words for how much this has gob-smacked me, and I’m not a person who’s usually lost for words. I would have been delighted if a few hundred people in the UK bought my book – the fact that it’s sold in America, let alone places like Thailand and Estonia… I find it very hard to remember when I’m walking the kids to school or loading the dishwasher!

The thing that feels most surreal is probably the film stuff. I used to work in publishing so it’s a world I feel pretty comfortable in. Whereas I know absolutely nothing about the movie business – that really does feel like something that happens to other people, not my little book!

You were one of the first of three books to be published under Scout Press which I can only imagine was such a huge honor. Do you think that signing under them helped in the promotion and success of your book?

Scout have been indescribably amazing to work with. I actually didn’t know the whole deal about the new imprint when I signed up with Simon & Schuster, and I remember when I found out I had this butterflies-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach moment where I suddenly realised they were putting so much trust in my book, making it one of their launch list.

Publishing a book is a sort of weird experience because although writers often compare their books to babies, the truth is, you create this thing, but you’re not really responsible for sending it out into the world – that’s down to the publisher. They decide the look, the way it’s marketed, often even the title. And I’ve worked in this business long enough to know how painful it can be when a writer has radically different ideas about what their book is, compared to their publisher.

But from the moment I saw that incredible cover that Scout produced, I just knew I was in safe hands and I couldn’t have been more right. They’ve been amazing to work with.

Ruth Ware

follow Ruth Ware on FB!!

There is so much bravery in putting your work out there since writing, I find, is very personal. Did you struggle with this at all and what would you say to another writer who is struggling with unleashing their work out into the world?

I did struggle with this – I wrote a lot of books growing up and in my early twenties, and they all went under the bed because I was basically too chicken to show them to anyone. But in the end, I just got to a place where I realised that however bad I might feel if I failed, I’d feel worse if I didn’t even try in the first place.

I don’t know what I would say to another writer because I didn’t have the magic confidence pill back then, and I still don’t. Ultimately I think I wrote a book that I couldn’t bear to shelve.

But maybe… maybe my advice would be baby steps. Share your book with a trusted friend – someone who knows you well enough to be honest as well as supportive, the kind of person who you’d take clothes shopping and trust to say “you know what, that dress isn’t flattering on you.” Or if that’s too scary, find a writing group online.

And above all, try not to take it personally. Writing is personal, it has to be, but rejection rarely is.

I understand you are actually terrified of reading scary books. What is the scariest book you have ever read? Do you feel more in control of things, writing your own scary book, or did you end up terrifying yourself?

Yes, I’m a terrible coward! I’m getting sent a lot of books to blurb now, and I’m realising that there’s a whole swathe of crime that’s just waaaay out of my comfort zone in terms of horrible things happening to people.

It’s mainly prolonged violence and torture I find I can’t read – I skipped over all the Theon chapters in Game of Thrones, for example.

For plain scariness… maybe Black House by Peter Straub and Stephen King, which I read while on holiday in a very remote Dorset village, and it scared the daylights out of me. We were staying in a converted church, a fairly spooky location in itself, which probably didn’t help.

Two of my favourite scary books are The Haunting of Hill House and The Woman in Black which are my kind of scary – nail-biting but nobody gets locked in a basement and tortured.

But yes, it’s very different writing my own books – so much of scariness is suspense, not knowing when the curtain will get ripped back, so it’s very difficult to scare yourself to the same extent, I think. The element of surprise isn’t there.

We never give away spoilers, but how hard was it to craft the ending of your book? Did you try different endings out or did it all come together easily?

This is really hard to write without spoiling, but I had the ending in mind right from the beginning, but it slightly changed in the way it played out. And certain characters who were going to die, didn’t, and vice versa.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

What can we expect from you next? Any involvement in the film writing? Are you working on your next book or taking time to savor the success of this first one?

No-one’s asked me to write the film, but that’s probably a good thing since I know precisely zip about screenwriting! However I am not good at sitting on my hands, and I find the only cure for pre-publication nerves is writing another book, so I am hard at work on book three at the moment. (My second thriller, The Woman in Cabin 10 is already written and comes out this summer.)

in-a-dark-dark-wood

You can connect with Ruth Ware on her website and 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!

 

 

It’s the 3 Little Things: Mojitos, Disney, & Another Reason Not to Wash My Hair

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

pool-days

Today is the last day of school for my kiddos and our last day having children in elementary school. I can’t believe how the time is flying so I am looking forward to really slowing down this summer.

What did we sign up for them to do to keep them preoccupied all summer?

Nothing.

I am one of those moms that force them to be bored and entertain themselves all summer long.

My days will be spent in a lounge chair at the community pool with a stack of books and I can’t wait to make that a part of our daily summer routine! My health is forcing me to embrace a slowed down routine and to let some things go until I feel better. It was fortunate that I usually have that summer mindset, but now it has become more necessary than usual. I’m thankful I have the freedom to do that with this job. I know it is an enormous blessing.

Here are a few other things that are making me happy this week!

hello toothpaste

Mojito Freshness

This past year we made the switch to natural toothpaste and have been using Tom’s as our brand of choice. I liked it, but I felt like it lacked that tingling feeling that makes your mouth feel fresh, like you would experience with brands like Crest and Colgate. Hello sent me a big bag of adult and kid toothpastes for our family to try and I will admit that I was a little skeptical. I am a traditionalist when it comes to toothpaste flavors, but I decided to try their Mojito Mint and now I can’t imagine using anything else. It is the tingly freshness that I have been missing in my toothpaste and it is all natural. They have a ton of different flavorings to choose from.

My daughter also tried some of their different toothpastes and was nuts about the Bubblegum kid’s toothpaste they offered. She said it tasted like Extra gum and has been wanting to brush her teeth. If you have a tween, you know the struggle is real when it comes to daily hygiene.

It is a natural toothpaste line that is free of sweeteners, dyes, and preservatives. As a creative, I also really love the packaging on these.  You can find this line of toothpaste now at Walmart stores. I highly recommend checking them out!

American Experience: Walt Disney

American Experience: Walt Disney

I didn’t know a lot about Walt Disney, but now I feel like an expert after indulging in the American Experience: Walt Disney that had premiered on PBS and is now available for streaming on Prime. This two-part documentary explored the life of Disney from his childhood until his final days. It shares his successes and failures in a very real way with testimonials from colleagues and family. Historians round out the commentary with their takes on his film career.

This was so fascinating that both of my husband couldn’t wait to settle in for the second part after watching the first.  It was inspiring to hear the things he accomplished, but also really showcased the missteps in business that got us really talking together about what we could learn from it in our own work. I’m not a Disney nut like some of my friends, but I can still appreciate the legacy that he built and that our family has enjoyed on our vacations there.

I highly recommend this one if you haven’t seen it yet!

Dove Dry Shampoo

My New Favorite Dry Shampoo

Dove happened to be a sponsor at Mom 2.0 and they are always generous with the offerings in our hotel rooms to give us a chance to try their products. As a girl with sensitive skin, I have always appreciated their skincare line, but hadn’t really tried their shampoos and conditioners before. As someone who hates to wash her hair (and I have the art in my bathroom to prove it) I was excited to try out their dry shampoo.

This dry shampoo is the closest I have gotten to feeling like I have truly clean hair without the washing. It smells amazing and leaves zero residue on my dark brown locks. I could be a sweaty mess at the gym and use this stuff and my hair smells like I just washed it. It’s also at a very affordable price point so as soon as I got home from my trip, I stocked up for the summer! If you are on the hunt for a good dry shampoo, I REALLY love this stuff!

Shed Makeover

Reading: Girls on Fire has been on my summer bucket reading list so I started with this one this week. Raunchy, dark, twisted. I don’t think this one would be for everyone (all the mature content warnings for this one!!), BUT I am really sucked into this twisted friendship and the mysterious suicide of a fellow classmate. This one is set in the ’90’s so I am appreciating the nostalgia of reliving a little of my youth.

Enjoying: An evening this week with my book club out in the She Shed. We read this book and you can catch my interview with the author on Sunday- yay!!

Addicted: To Blood Orange Candles from Grove. I just placed another order for a couple more because they make me so happy and my house smell so good!

Laughing: At your responses on this- so funny!

Happy Friday, friends!

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

May 2016 Must-Reads

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

May 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I’m excited to share what I have been reading this month with you. I have 8 great recommendations that would be be perfect for indulging in this summer. This month I tackled everything from historical fiction to thrillers to self-help to memoirs. I can’t wait to dig into another stack for June and share those with you too and I hope this post will inspire you to run out and get some fresh books too!

Want the inside scoop on what I’m reading each week? Join our online book club where we talk about books all day every day. This is not an exaggeration! Join me!

8 Must-Read Books for May 2016

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

I love when books introduce me to a time in history that I am unaware of. Set in 1945, Sepetys explores the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. This ship had promised safety to over 10,000 people, even more than the well-known Titanic. Uniquely told through the voices of four characters, all with different ethnic backgrounds, she explores a hidden time in history in a beautiful and heartbreaking way. This is, perhaps, one of the most researched books I have read as the author traveled to over a half dozen countries to take accounts from passengers, their families, and even deep sea divers to round out her story.  Fans of The Book Thief will appreciate this tragic YA story.

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

I received an ARC of this book- all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Outliers is the first book in a YA trilogy that begins with a single text, “Please, Wylie, I need your help.” When Wylie’s estranged best friend goes missing, she is led on a wild goose chase, with Cassie’s boyfriend, to bring Cassie to safety. The duo has no idea where they are going and the reader is led through over the half of the book to a surprising adventure that bends the genre from thriller to science fiction. Read the book before you see the film because this one has been optioned by Reese Witherspoon’s production team!

Be sure to read my interview this week with Kimberly and check out the 3 books she recommends we read!

4 Out of 5 Stars

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Leonora, a reclusive writer, receives a surprise invitation from an old friend inviting to her to a weekend away as one last hurrah before she gets married. Set in a glass house in the woods, the four acquaintances share revelations and begin to realize their party is not alone. Forty-eight hours later, Leonora (Nora) awakes in a hospital bed knowing that someone is dead. Nora desperately tries to piece together what happened, forcing her to revisit times in her past that she would rather leave buried.

I’m pretty picky when it comes to thrillers and this one delivers beautifully.  The pacing is perfect and reads like a great whodunit mystery. Enjoy the ride and then get ready to see this one brought to life on the big screen by Reese Witherspoon’s production team.

Ruth will be joining me this month in our Sundays With Writers series so be sure to watch for that one!

5 Out of 5 Stars

A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

If I could make a required reading list for parents, this book would top it. Klebold painfully writes openly about her son Dylan and his involvement in the Columbine shooting. A family, not unlike our family, that offered love and support to their son, becomes part of one of biggest tragedies in history, in part, because they were unaware of their son’s depression. Klebold has devoted her life to helping in the advance of mental health awareness and intervention, even donating all proceeds to organizations that focus on mental health issues.

This was one of the most difficult books I have ever read, but eye-opening that this could happen in ANY family and that it is our job as parents to keep our children’s mental health in check just like we would their physical health. I would recommend reading Columbine before diving in to really get familiar with the story and the inaccurate media portrayal before reading this one!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

Set in Depression-era Boston, the book follows Maeve Fanning, a first generation Irish girl, being raised by her widow mother. Maeve engages in risky behavior that lead her to a psychiatric hospital where she strikes up an unlikely friendship with an unstable woman named Diana. Diana runs in an elite crowd, thanks to her wealth, and Maeve begins changing herself to fit in. Dying her red hair to blonde, she begins a job working in a shop selling rare artifacts, being romanced by Diana’s brother, and continuing to engage in her risky behaviors.  As Diana pulls Maeve more and more into her fold, Maeve begins to realize how dangerous it all really is.

Rare Objects was a fantastic exploration of social issues that I would not have considered (like being an alcoholic during the Prohibition, for example) and the dramatic differences in social classes. This was another solid read from Tessaro that could have only benefitted from a bit of trimming in length for a tighter storyline.

Kathleen will be joining us this month for our Sundays With Writers series- stay tuned!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Tuesday Nights in 1980

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

Welcome to the art scene in SoHo in the 1980’s. Prentiss, much like an artist herself, vividly paints the art scene during this time and the story of two unlikely men whose lives become intertwined in surprising ways. The book follows James Bennett, an art critic whose writing is made more beautiful because he has Synthesia, and the rise and fall of that gift when it disappears. Raul Engales is an Argentinian painter running away from his past and the Dirty War who finds that he can use an art studio on a college campus just by pretending he is a student there. When tragedy strikes, Raul & James become friends as Raul’s paintings bring back the gift of Synthesia that James had when seeing his work. They both make tragic missteps along the way though and that is where the depth to the story is truly added.

There is a lot of meat in this story, but there is a feeling that Prentiss could have expanded so much on the storyline of Raul’s sister and what the Dirty War was all about. That said, it would be impossible to not learn something new and fans of art and the Manhattan scenes in the ‘80’s will definitely find plenty to love in this ambitious debut novel. Her descriptions are like paintings themselves, vivid and full of life!

I am so excited that Molly will be joining me this month for Sundays With Writers too! I can’t wait to interview her!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax

Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax

Fans of Masters of Sex will appreciate this fictional exploration of Dr. John Watson and his research that was revered by so many to not spoil children based on his research that he developed during his time at Johns Hopkins. Disturbingly, tests are performed on infants to yield responses from them, all being assisted by Rosalie Rayner. An affair develops between the two that taints their reputation in the medical community and adds strain to an already difficult marriage. When they have children of their own, Dr. Watson uses his own research as a basis for how they are to parent which creates squeamish moments for the reader. Despite it being an uncomfortable storyline, it held my interest all the way through, even when the characters were most unlikable.

Andromeda will be joining me this month for our Sundays With Writers series so be sure to check back for that one!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

If you work in the creative field OR if your heart has always desired to make room for creativity, you will truly appreciate the messaging of Big Magic. I listened to this one on audiobook, with Gilbert reading her book, and it was like listening to an incredible life coach about not giving up on your creative dreams, doing creativity for YOU and not just for the glory of it, and being okay with making mistakes. It is the gentle nudge (and sometimes in-your-face nudge) that you need to hear to get moving on projects that have been pushed away because of risk of failure or lack of time. It’s one I would listen to again, particularly if faced with a slump in my creative life.

Although, self-help books aren’t usually my cup of tea, Gilbert’s no bullshit mantras, are inspiring rather than cheesy.

5 Out of 5 Stars

 

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Read With Me This Year:

January Must-Reads

February Must-Reads

March Must-Reads

April Must-Reads

May 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

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 06.01.16

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

How to make flower arrangements via Yummy Mummy Kitchen

Source: Yummy Mummy Kitchen

 

DIY floral centerpieces made with grocery store flowers. LOVE!

Have you seen The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge? This is so awesome (and I still haven’t really watched Gilmore Girls, but now I want to!)

Madly in love with this room- love the bookcase styling!!

DIY almond milk French press hack- nice!

Kids backyard field day party – the perfect idea for summer fun!

Ten tips for easy entertaining- I need to work on this.

22 things every woman needs.

Father's Day Cake Toppers via Oh Happy Day

Source: Oh Happy Day

 

Father’s Day cake toppers DIY.

Inspiring kitchen remodel!

DIY room freshener.

A minimalist summer reading guide- fantastic picks!

This is so fun and inspiring for smaller spaces!

Exhausted? It’s time to focus!

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!

Kimberly McCreight’s 3 Favorite Books

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Kimberly McCreight

Author: Kimberly McCreight (Check out her novels: Reconstructing Amelia, Where They Found Her, & The Outliers. Read more about Kimberly in our interview HERE!)

Kimberly McCreight’s  3 Favorite Books

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations by  Charles Dickens

The book that first made me want to be a writer.

On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner

On Becoming A Novelist by John Gardner

The book that made me feel okay about wanting to be a writer.

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

The book I still read to my daughters even though they are too old for it—actually no, they will never be too old for it! It still makes me cry every time.

This post contains affiliate links! To learn more about the authors featured, please visit our Sundays With Writers series!

Sundays With Writers: The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I have such a hard time committing to series books, but when I heard that The Outliers was 1) written by the wildly talented Kimberly McCreight and 2) that this one had already been optioned for film by Reese Witherspoon’s team…well, who could resist? Just like Julie Buxbaum who joined us last week, Kimberly also took the plunge into the YA genre for the first time in this highly anticipated trilogy. I am so excited to share a little bit behind this creative idea that Kimberly has created for her storyline.

The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

FYI- I received an ARC of this book- all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Outliers is the first book in a YA trilogy that begins with a single text, “Please, Wylie, I need your help.” When Wylie’s estranged best friend goes missing, she is led on a wild goose chase, with Cassie’s boyfriend, to bring Cassie to safety. The duo has no idea where they are going and the reader is led through over the half of the book to a surprising adventure that bends the genre from thriller to science fiction. Read the book before you see the film because this one has been optioned by Reese Witherspoon’s production team!

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in for a chat with Kimberly this morning!

Kimberly McCreight

I was so surprised to see that you have started publishing in the YA genre after years writing in Women’s Fiction. In an interview you stated that the “boundaries between Adult and YA are more fluid than ever before,” making it an easier transition for you as a writer. Do you think this fluidity between genres creates more adult readers to your books or do you just think that YA books are just becoming more and more adult in language & nature, helping bridge the gap between the two?

I think wonderful books are wonderful books whether classified as YA or adult. That’s always been true. But if adults might have once hesitated in picking up a YA title for themselves, that has certainly changed. The majority of those who purchase Young Adult books are adults buying for themselves. Also I think the lines between all genres are becoming increasingly blurred as writers experiment and readers become more flexible in their expectations—there are literary novels that are sci-fi and historical, mysteries that are women’s fiction and also literary.

The Outliers is the first book in a planned trilogy that you are developing. How did you come up with this creative concept to explore emotional intelligence in this way?

The Outliers was inspired by my daughter who has always been preternaturally empathetic. This has genuine advantages—it helps her move more easily through tricky social situations and deepens her friendships. But it can also be a burden, causing her to be on the anxious side. And these are qualities we share—for better and for worse—as do most of my closest female friends. It was in pondering this connection between my daughter and I that I came to consider a connection between emotional intelligence and anxiety, particularly in women. It was in this “what if” that the seed for the trilogy was planted.

I noticed that you thanked many doctors in the acknowledgements of your book. What type of doctors did you consult in the development of this story and how did they help you round out your book? Did they find this idea of women utilizing emotional intuitiveness as a power plausible with the fictional research you created for Wylie’s dad?

Some of the doctors were Emotional Intelligence researchers, some were neuroscientists and others were simply professors whom I consulted about life as a researcher. Each was enormously helpful even if it was just in getting me the name of someone else might be able to answer my questions. With regard to the specifics of the EQ/Intuition issues, responses ranged between rejecting the proposition outright, to pointing out potential limitations in my hypothesis. But there was one well-known researcher who called my idea intriguing. And, yes, it was a thrill.

However, to be clear, the book is fiction. It not an accurate representation of the state of the research. That’s not what I was trying to do. I was speculating about a set of facts hasn’t been proven—but maybe hasn’t been categorically disproven yet either. Results are always influenced by the way a study is conducted and the book proposes something discovered because unexpectedly because something else is tested in a new way. That is how many discoveries are actually made: accidentally.

If I was tested for emotional intelligence I REALLY feel that I would be an outlier too. I carry around the weight of everyone, I’m extremely empathetic (sometimes to the compromise of my own emotional health), and I am high anxiety. Basically, I’m probably a toned down version of Wylie. Are you empathic, anxious, & attuned to others too? Do you think this is something that many teen girls struggle with?

First, you and I should totally hang out because I am definitely an Outlier too! We’d probably be BFF’s.

And there’s no doubt that teenage girls struggle with anxiety at a much higher rate than boys—the statistics show that. This gender disparity persists into adulthood. However, the jury is out on the cause of this difference—socialization, hormones, or brain chemistry are all possibilities. There is also research to suggest that girls are better at reading facial expressions of emotions.

Do I personally believe that there is a connection between anxiety and gender and intuition? Yes, definitely. But that’s where the scientific aspect of my book ends and the speculation—and fiction—begins.    

The Outliers featured on Reese Witherspoon's IG Feed

source: Reese Witherspoon’s IG feed!

It was announced that we can expect to see this book, The Outliers, in theaters now that it has been optioned for film by Lionsgate with Mandeville and will be produced by Reese Witherspoon’s production team, Pacific Standard. How did you find out this news and about Reese’s love for your book? Will you be involved in the writing of the screenplay?

I could not be more thrilled to be partnering with Lionsgate, Mandeville and the incredible Reese Witherspoon and Pacific Standard. The book was optioned fairly early in the process and they have been amazingly supportive and enthusiastic throughout. I won’t be writing the screenplay, as I’ve got the next two books in the trilogy to focus on, but I have felt wonderfully included in the process. Mostly, I sit around daydreaming about getting to sit in the audience.

Nicole Kidman

As a writer, you also have the unique insight on how this book to movie idea works since, Reconstructing Amelia, will also be made into a film. Is it exciting seeing your book to life? Nerve-wracking? How you picture it?

It is absolutely thrilling to think of both Reconstructing Amelia and The Outliers being brought to life on the screen. When I’m writing, the stories play out in front of me like a movie so I am especially delighted to think of sharing that visual experience with others. Filming has not yet begun on Reconstructing Amelia so I can’t speak to the specifics of how that will feel, but I don’t feel nervous in the least. Working with such amazing artists and studios—Nicole Kidman, Blossom Films and HBO for Reconstructing Amelia and Lionsgate, Mandeville, Reese Witherspoon and Pacific Standard with The Outliers. I have no doubt they will do a superb job in bringing the stories to the screen.   

You had a long journey into publishing starting with a completely different career path as a lawyer. I understand that Reconstructing Amelia was the 5th manuscript you had turned in before you finally reached your goal as a published author. Do you have any words of encouragement for writers that are struggling to see their first book on the shelves? What helped you not give up on this dream?

I was lucky enough to get some encouraging rejections early on, which I held on to as I kept working. It’s important for writers struggling to get where they want to be—whether that’s finishing a book, or seeing it on a store shelf—to know that both the process of writing and getting published are both really, really hard. Almost all successful authors have faced an enormous amount of rejection—and I mean usually in the order of five rejected books, decades of writing, hundreds of discarded stories. The key is to recognize that writing is a craft that we all get better with more practice. True salvation lies in focusing on the work in front of you, and the next idea tumbling around your brain.

kimberly-mccreight

follow Kimberly on Facebook!!

You wrote this book as a warning to your daughters about how the world they grow up in may include people who deem them unworthy. You wanted to remind them they are powerful enough to rise above it and to help them to trust their instincts. Why do you think these messages are so important today for teens and why do you think so many of us struggle in the face of it all to trust our instincts?

It’s important for everyone to learn to trust their instincts. But I do think it’s especially important for girls. We’ve made incredible strides toward equality. It can be easy to think we have arrived at our destination. But in many troubling and fundamental respects women continue to be regarded as less than men. And I do think that women and girls are more often encouraged to doubt their own instincts.

Can you name a time, when you were a teen, that you didn’t trust your intuition and wish you would have?

As a teen, I was exceptionally good at following my instincts. But I can give you an example from just a few weeks ago on vacation when I didn’t follow my instincts. We were snorkeling and the boat started to have trouble near shore while others were disembarking. I had the very strong sense that we should get off then—even though it would mean taking a cab back to our hotel. But I didn’t insist and when the boat ran aground moments later and the motor was killed, I was absolutely kicking myself for not having gone with my gut. In the end my husband, two children and myself all had to literally abandon ship and swim—in life vests—through pretty big waves until we reached the beach. The truth is, even as an adult, it’s easy to doubt your instincts.

The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

You can connect with Kimberly McCreight on her website and 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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Amy’s Notebook 05.25.16

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

gluten-free chicken nuggets

source: shutterbean

I can’t wait to try this crispy gluten-free chicken nuggets recipe!

A parent’s guide to Snapchat.

Who knew IKEA bed slats could be transformed into so much?

Absolutely LOVING these shorts (and I truly hate shorts!)

Charcuterie Board inspiration!

Memorial Day outfit ideas.

I love this guy- so happy for his success!

Summer Bucket List charm necklace- how fun would these be to make with your kids?

Money saving tools for lazy people.

Already impatiently waiting on the hold list at the library for this book!

Home-Coffee-Station

source: polished habitat

Organize all the things- such inventive ideas!!

Looks like the IKEA kitchen really does hold up well.

Finally, a plant that can survive in our house- lol!

Backyard inspiration!

A new use for your waffle iron- yum!

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!