Friday, July 22, 2016

Five Unlikely Beach Reads You Need To Toss Into Your New Summer Tote

If you haven't yet bought yourself a new bag for the summer, well, you simply must. Go look at my list of ten totes that will make your summer easier, pick one, buy it and then come back to order a few books to stuff it with.

Beach reads.

What defines a beach read?

Honestly, any book can be a book you take to the beach. We all know that. But sometimes, because we're sitting in the sun, sweltering, or hiding out under the umbrella with SPF 100 on our pale bodies, we need an escape that's filled with summer energy and flair. And because of that - we have the beach read category. I'm going to share with you ten books you'll want to bring to the beach, even if they don't quite fit into that category.

Here are five perfect books you need to toss into that new summer tote.

* As always, affiliate links are provided to make your shopping experience super simple. Just click and buy these amazing reads! *

Have you read anything by Sarah Addison Allen yet? If not, stop right there and order this book immediately. It's her first novel and it's fantastic. A story with a focus on family - and a touch of magic thrown in for good measure - and it's so beautiful. There's something about Addison Allen's style of writing that pulls you in and holds on tight. She includes mystical tones throughout and it's the kind that you find yourself believing in. Your heart can't help it, even if your head isn't so sure. Garden Spells is the kind of book you'll consider reading over and over again. But you won't have to - because you'll decide right away - maybe even before you finish reading - that you need all of her other books. Trust me on this one. I won't steer you wrong. 

I really loved this book. It was one of my favorite reads in 2015. In Secrets of a Charmed Life Susan Meissner has created the kind of story that sticks with you, along with characters you don't want to let go of. The story of Isabel weaves back and forth between the present day and a history that she has only just decided to share. It's a beautiful book - even without the cover - but how gorgeous is that cover, right? You definitely need to get yourself a copy this summer. 

I'm sure by now you've heard of this book. The follow up novel, After You, is out, as is the movie. But I read this book several years ago and loved it then. I saw the movie a few weeks ago and kind of want to re-read the book to see if the movie did as well as I seemed to think it did. Like, I think it was the best movie adaption of a book I've ever seen - honestly. Anyway, Me Before You is an amazing read. It's not just powerful and intense, it's emotional and raw. 

I find that you either loved or hated this book if you've read it. With the craze of books like Gone Girl being one that blew up over recent years and kind of went forward in a way that pulled other books with it, The Girl On The Train was a follow-up in the same genre. I will say it wasn't my absolute favorite book of all time, but you'd be hard pressed to compare to some of my forever faves. However, have a look at my review of this book, you can tell I kind of loved it, even if I don't remember singing its praises quite this highly. It's the kind of book you can read and find yourself shutting out the rest of the world to do so, so it's perfect for the beach, just don't forget the sunscreen on before you dive in. Also - note - the paperback just came out and it's less than $10, so that should make it even more appealing, because it's even less than the Kindle version. What a deal!

You guys, The Flood Girls is one of the most moving books I've read this year. I reviewed it back in February and personally my favorite line from my own review was: 

It's moving. It's gritty. It's entertaining. It's a great read. It's also disturbing in some ways. 

That sentence right there sums this book up in a nutshell. It's a phenomenal debut by Richard Fifield. It also left many of us (his readers) in need of therapy. I'm going to quote myself again to tell you that you want to take some time to check it out. Because you'll be glad, or maybe really pissed off, and then eventually glad again - that you did. Basically it's a must-read for 2016. And you don't want to wait until November for the paperback, I can promise you that. 

And if this list of recommendations is not enough, no worries, I have plenty more for you. 

Happy reading!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

In Twenty Years, Allison Winn Scotch

fiction, books, reading, amreading, book review, I recommend, must read, summer read, beach read

I've read several books written by Allison Winn Scotch and I'm a big fan of her work. Which is why when I had the chance to read and review In Twenty Years (links are affiliate links) for TLC Book Tours I took the opportunity.

Winn Scotch has a way of writing that leaves you connecting with her characters and feeling as though you know them really well. The men and women of In Twenty Years are no exception.

Whether you like them or you don't (some I did, some I didn't like quite AS much), you will find yourself feeling like you're friends with Bea, Catherine, Owen, Annie, Colin and Lindy. Or you're saying to yourself that you totally knew someone JUST like them when you were in college.

People seem to be referring to this book as a reunion book. I suppose it is - but to me it more represents the growth that we go through once we pass into a new stage of life. When kids (because we really were kids, even though we didn't feel like it!) graduate from college and go their separate ways so many things change. And whether it's high school or college you look back on, we all have those friends we were inseparable from, the ones attached at the hip. The ones we lived with, ate every meal with, did every-single-thing-imaginable with - and no longer speak to. The friends of In Twenty Years didn't all grow quite as well as many of us believe or at least hope we have.

Some of them are stuck in a rut. Some have lost track of their dreams. Some have simply put on a happy face and moved forward. We learn more about them as they each tell snippets of their story. As I have shared before, I am a fan of books written from the differing perspectives of a number of characters. Seeing things come together through each person's voice or thoughts often strengthens the story.

Each character has lived their own life over the years, distancing themselves from the group for one reason or another. But it was Bea's death that ultimately shattered the relationships they once held dear. Don't worry - her death is not a surprise - I normally wouldn't say it straight out, even though it's a huge part of the story - but it's importance is relevant here. It is Bea, after her death, who brings them back together.

We learn that each one has his or her secrets. Each has their own hurdles to bear. We share in their memories and their new moments. We watch them reconnect. And we find ourselves wrapped up in the conclusion, though - since I'm being 100% honest - they leave us wanting a little bit more.

So while I'm not aware that Winn Scotch has a sequel in the works, I do have a handful of questions I'd like answered ... I think I'll hold onto them until I know for sure.

If you're looking for the perfect beach read, order yourself a copy of In Twenty Years on Amazon right now. It'll be on your Kindle or in your hands before you know it - just in time for your next trip to the beach, the lake, or simply your local coffee shop when you have a minute to escape.

And if you're looking for more reading recommendations, I have several posts available that will help  you out:

Happy reading!

* As indicated, I was provided with a copy of this book to facilitate my review. All expressed opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way for my review. *

Thursday, July 14, 2016

I Have A Voice

community, connection, friendship, social media, social awareness, cultural competency, respect

It's been a heck of a week (and then some) in our country.

One loss after another and my heart continued to break a little every day.

This past weekend my husband and daughter and I took a drive to Virginia and on the way he and I started talking about all the things that had happened.

My husband had only JUST heard about Philando Castile the day before. This was the 8th. It happened on the 6th. I just assumed he had heard, but sometimes when you're working so many hours you miss things in the news.

The night of the Dallas shootings he had just come home after midnight, maybe closer to 1AM, and I woke up, looked at my phone and felt sick. I remember whispering it to him, forgetting that as it was officially the next day it was his birthday. So instead of happy birthday, honey - he got - omg - police officers shot after snipers shot into peaceful protesters in Dallas.

Nighttime whispers.

Not the kind they should be.

And so, bringing you back to our Saturday morning car ride, we spoke for a bit and something struck me. And then? I broke.

Yes. I have the privilege of being a white woman in America who was able to wait several days before crying somewhat hysterically about the state of the world and the way that Alton Sterling and Philando Castile had been killed. And how there were innocent people - people who were being protected by police officers and the officers themselves. These people - their lives were in danger because they were raising their voices and doing their jobs.

All of that, my friends? Broke me wide open.

See, most of my day-to-day communication occurs online, unless it's with my 9-yo daughter. So the first face-to-face (side-by-side) conversation I had about the killings, the unrest, the fear, the loss, the pain, the hurt - the first time I actually spoke words to another adult about these things tore me to pieces.

And this post shouldn't really be focused on me. But I needed to write and share and let you know where I've been and what's been on my mind.

Please, know me well enough to recognize that I'm not posting this for any sort of consolation. This is not about me. But this is me, trying to keep it real. Trying to explain that the news finally sunk into my being and I lost the ability to hold off the tears. I know that it is my privilege that enabled me to last as long as I did. I don't worry about my husband and my daughter because of the color of their skin. I don't have to.

But I have so many friends who worry. Who I wish with all my heart did not have to worry, but they do. Dear G-d, what kind of world do we live in when we're watching people's deaths shared across social media? Where did the numbness come in to even allow that to be a norm? Because we can't be numb. We can't ignore what's happening around us. Social media does its worst, and it's freaking scary that this is our life today. Our world.

How can I be the voice to explain that when people say that Black Lives Matter they don't by any means mean that all lives don't? How to say things that resonate and encourage people to look through the eyes of those around them?

What words do I have to say to stress that when someone talks about the all too regular loss of life of black men because of law enforcement they do not mean that ALL police officers are bad? If you know me you know I've known many a LEO. I've loved and respected many. Personally I don't know any bad cops. But people, they're out there. And we're not saying they're your husband or your brother, your father or your friend. Bless your loved ones for the work that they do to keep the communities you live and work in safe, I have true respect for anyone who puts their life on the line in any such way.

But some police officers are not the cops you know and love. And that is heartbreaking. And life-threatening. Maybe not to me. And not to you. But to my friend. My neighbor. My daughter's classmate. Her teacher, even.

It's taken me such a long time to finish this post. I've been at a loss of whether or not my words would be the right ones and thinking so hard about how emotional these days are for so many.

And I know some people will read this and walk away. They'll think I'm jumping on some bandwagon (where is that bandwagon? I haven't seen it.) or taking a stand, sharing my stance, when I shouldn't be. But that's okay. It's taken me a long time to say something here on my blog, but I have been saying it on social media. Maybe not loudly enough - but still - saying something.

Just because the news has been quiet for a few days does not mean it's all over. It's not done. Not by a long-shot. And we, any one of us, can still use our voices. We can still raise them and stand up for what matters.

So to my friends who are hurting who might be reading this, I'm sorry it's taken me a few extra days. I'm still here for you. Beside you. Listening. Observing. Taking it all in. Speaking loudly. As loudly as I can. I'm here for you. You matter.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Motherhood: Simple Joys

motherhood, parenting, summer, keeping busy, small moments, family fun, kid-friendly

We've been running and running this past week. Or at least it seems like it. We did have some downtime over the weekend, so that was good - if not dull, due to overcast skies and whatnot.

But today we're home.

Me and the kiddo.

And the dogs. And cats. But who really sees the cats during the day?

Anyway, we're home. And it's hot as Hades out there.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Six Powerful Nonfiction Books You Should Be Reading

The following list of books includes some of my favorite fairly intense nonfiction reads.

These are not easy stories to fly through. Nor are they entertainingly humorous. They're legitimate memoirs or biographies that will keep your attention and leave you wide-eyed and wanting more.

As always, affiliate links are provided to facilitate your shopping experience.

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