• Lists,  Top Ten Tuesday

    Top Ten Tuesday: Magical Realism Favorites

    Happy Top Ten Tuesday! Do you have a favorite genre? This is one of the most common questions I am asked – right behind my favorite books.

    I have a very black & white personality so it surprised me when I landed on an answer:

    Magical realism 

    1: painting in a meticulously realistic style of imaginary or fantastic scenes or images
    2: a literary genre or style associated especially with Latin America that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction
    It all started with Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman. And these days I read one or two from this genre each month. It was tough to narrow it down to my top ten but here they are, in no particular order.
    1. Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield – The perfect mix of mystery, lore and master storytelling combine to make this fantastic dark fairytale.
    2. Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi – A family recipe, a dark tale, and a teenaged daughter searching for the truth combine to tell an unexpected story.
    3. The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – If you enjoy a good time traveling story, this one is for you.
    4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – Heavy on the realism with plenty of Latin lore mixed in throughout.
    5. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges – If you enjoy this genre, this is a must read.
    6. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – I read this book when it was released. After discovering how much I enjoy this genre, I’m rereading it this month.
    7. The Nix by Nathan Hill – Another one that is heavy on the realism while the tale of the Nix is woven masterfully throughout the story.
    8. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – This is the first book in a series of three. Heavy on the magic and highly imaginative.
    9. Beloved by Toni Morrison – Another must read for many reasons.
    10. Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman – Three siblings with different gifts navigate New York, love, and life. One of my very favorites.

    What is your favorite genre?

    If it’s magical realism, do you have any books that I need to add to my TBR list?

  • Lists,  Top Ten Tuesday

    Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Years of Favorite Books

     

    Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Today I’m looking back over the past ten years and picking a favorite book published in each of those years. It was a lot of fun to revisit some of my favorites and being tempted to reread a few old favorites.

    • 2009  The Help by Kathryn Sockett – This book sparked my passion for reading again. I loved the characters and the writing.
    • 2010  A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – One of the first book recommendations I ever got from a friend on Instagram! This was before Bookstagram was even a thing.
    • 2011  Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – I read this book last year and it was fantastic. The characters were so well developed and the story arc was so well done. I actually enjoyed this book by the author better than his big hit, A Gentleman in Moscow.
    • 2012  The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman – Our Book Club for Introverts April pick! I missed this book when it was published and I’m so glad I finally read it with my book club.
    • 2013  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – I finished this one last month and it found a place in my top 3 books of all time. I’m really excited for the upcoming movie as well!
    • 2014  Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – After reading Little Fires Everywhere last year,I looked up other books by Ng. I was not disappointed and I may have liked this book even more than Little Fires.
    • 2015  A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – ALL the trigger warnings here for this book. Also one of my favorite books last year; it emotionally wrecked me. I ugly cried multiple times.
    • 2016  The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – This should be required reading. I read this book earlier this year and it is powerful.
    • 2017  Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate – One of the first audiobooks I listened to. The story, the characters, and the shifting timeline were all so well done.
    • 2018  Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens & There There by Tommy Orange – these tied for me. Crawdads was my favorite book of 2018 and There There is currently in the running for my favorite book of 2019. I couldn’t pick just one here!

    Are any of your favorites on this list?

  • Lists,  mental health,  Top Ten Tuesday,  Writing

    Top Ten Tuesday: Mental Health Awareness

    May is Mental Health Awareness month – a cause near and dear to my heart. So for Top Ten Tuesday, I have a list of ten books that highlight mental health, the need for it, or one that takes steps forward in removing the stigmas of mental illness and/or asking for professional help.

    1. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – This book highlights grief, loss, the stigmas of suicide and tackles all of it in an unconventional wellness retreat setting. While I definitely do not recommend a wellness retreat with a crazy director, the messages were not lost in the story.
    2. There There by Tommy Orange – One of my favorite books this year, this book highlights addiction, mental health, suicide, and the overwhelming need for better mental healthcare in the Native American community. It’s a must-read.
    3. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan – This is a beautifully written young adult book that addresses severe depression, the aftermath of suicide, grieving, and healing. I have read this book twice.
    4. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh – The definitive guide on how not to pick a psychiatrist. This is not a book to read while actively dealing with depression. But on the other side, it is one of the more accurate depictions of what it’s really like to struggle with severe depression and loss.
    5. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel – This book takes on the stigmas of having a transgender child and highlights the importance of family and community support. This story can make you a better person.
    6. Stitches by Anne Lamott – Anne is one of my favorite writers. I read this book during an enormous season of change in my life. She addresses change, loss, and grief with both humor and candor. It’s a short book and I recommend it often to those in the midst of change.
    7. Normal People by Sally Rooney – I finished this book in a few sittings earlier this month. It tackles abuse, loss, suicide, depression, and asking for help through therapy and medication. I found this story to be very raw, honest, and helpful in addressing the stigmas around asking for help and what can happen when help is not received.
    8. Dry. by Augusten Burroughs – One of my favorite memoirs. Too often I feel that addiction is left out of the mental health discussion. There is an overwhelming need for understanding and education around what addiction is and how to support a loved one dealing with addiction.
    9. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal – While this book will raise some eyebrows when reading it in public, it highlights the need for community, loss, grief, and the power of telling your story.
    10. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – Despite the public uproar over throwing away your house, this book and method really did change our lives. I have become a big believer in less physical clutter = less mental clutter.
  • Book Reviews

    Blog Tour: The Scent Keeper

    Welcome to the blog tour of The Scent Keeper!

    About the Book:
    Erica Bauermeister, the national bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients, presents a moving and evocative coming-of-age novel about childhood stories, families lost and found, and how a fragrance conjures memories capable of shaping the course of our lives. 
    Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them.  As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.
    Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home.
    Buy Links:
    Excerpt:
    I don’t remember arriving on the island myself; I was too young. I only remember living there. I remember the paths that wandered through those watchful trees, the odor of the dirt beneath our feet, as dark and complicated as fairy tales. I remember our one-room cabin, the big chair by the woodstove, and our collection of stories and science books. I remember the smell of wood smoke and pine pitch in my father’s beard as he read to me at night, and the ghostly aroma of the runaway’s pipe tobacco, an olfactory reminder that had sunk into the walls and never quite disappeared. I remember the way the rain seemed to talk to the roof as I fell asleep, and how the fire would snap and tell it to be quiet.
    The Scent Keeper – Bauermeister
    Review:
    4/5
    As someone who has always tied memories to scents, I was immediately captured by the descriptive writing of this book.
    Broken into three parts, this coming of age story wove scent into the plotline but it didn’t overpower the characters – a concern of mine when I started the book.
    I thoroughly enjoyed the magical elements of part one. It was easy to imagine living on the island as a girl and I appreciated the way that Emmeline’s father did his best to make her childhood rich and imaginative, even on a remote island.
    Part two began the coming of age story as Emmeline is thrust into the real world. With such strong writing, I got a Where the Crawdads Sing vibe – which I loved as that was one of my favorite books last year.
    Part three was the only part I struggled a bit with but I’ll let the individual readers decide that for themselves. The end felt somewhat rushed but because the writing was so well done and the strong character development, I didn’t have an issue drawing my own conclusions.
    All in all, I was pleasantly surprised with where this book took me. Putting scents into words is not an easy thing to do and that alone makes this book a unique experience. Even as I opened the package containing this book, I swear there was a scent other than a new book scent. Probably just my imagination but if not, then well played by the publisher and their marketing group.
    I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read this book and participate in this blog tour!
    If you enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing, The Hazel Wood, or The Rules of MagicThe Scent Keeper is definitely a book worth adding to your To-Be-Read list.
    About the Author:
    Erica Bauermeister is the author of the bestselling novel The School of Essential Ingredients, Joy for Beginners, and The Lost Art of Mixing. She is also the co-author of the non-fiction works, 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide and Let’s Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. She has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington, and has taught there and at Antioch University. She is a founding member of the Seattle7Writers and currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington.
  • Book Reviews

    Saturday’s Child: a book review

    Monday’s child is fair of face,
    Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
    Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
    Thursday’s child has far to go,
    Friday’s child is loving and giving,
    Saturday’s child must work for a living,
    But the child that’s born on the Sabbath day,
    Is fair and wise and good and gay.

    Author: Unknown

    Saturday’s Child by Deborah Burns

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    In this beautifully written memoir, the author paints a vivid picture of her mother Dorothy and a supporting cast of family members who frequently took center stage in raising Deborah.

    Dorothy was glamorous, beautiful, and captured the attention of family, friends and strangers alike. But unfortunately, she was not your typical mother and relinquished most of the day to day motherly tasks to Deborah’s aunts, Lily and Lena.

    Deborah’s father, from a large Italian family, married Dorothy who, unbeknownst to him, was significantly younger. He had big dreams and was an aspiring songwriter but with a far from conventional spouse or marriage, he spent a lot of time moving from one deal to the next.

    Deborah spent much of her time with her mother seeking her approval and love that always seemed just out of reach. This struggle was a big piece of her memoir and Deborah did a wonderful job of untangling years of family history, secrets, and truths in a seamless telling that spanned multiple generations.

    Full disclosure: I do not read a lot of memoirs. For me, often there isn’t a good rhythm and I end up feeling like I am voyeuristically reading someone’s journal. 

    That was not the case here. Burns was able to tell her story in such a way that it read like a well-written novel with fascinating characters. She successfully captured each person’s personality through her eyes first as a child, then as a teen, adult, and finally as a mother herself.

    Some characters, like her aunts, I grew to love. I developed a soft spot for her father. Her mother – my feelings were mixed as a complicated mother/daughter relationship unfolded.

    My other issue with memoirs: most of the family members are portrayed in a terrible light. And that’s not to say that there aren’t terrible family members in families because we all have them in our lives.

    But Deborah found a way in both the book and in her own life to honor her mother but still use her painful experiences to succeed in her career, her marriage, and as a mother.

    I finished this book with a deep admiration for Deborah and for me, that is a sign of an excellent memoir.

    This well-written book will make you laugh, cry, and even gasp with surprise – there’s a ransom demand at one point. Seriously.

    I read it in a few sittings and enjoyed every moment. And now the Audible version has been released! It is narrated by Deborah and listening to the sample makes me want to download it and listen again. There is something so powerful hearing an author read the words they wrote.

    So to celebrate, being the huge fan of audiobooks myself, I’m giving away a free Audible download of Saturday’s Child over on Instagram. Click here to enter! This giveaway closes on May 5th at 11:59 pm CST.

     

     

     

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