• Lists,  Recommendations,  Top Ten Tuesday,  Uncategorized,  Writing

    Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Writing

    Happy Tuesday! Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is a freebie so I’m going list my top ten books about writing, both fiction and nonfiction.

    In fictional books, I find that they make the plot and characters strong because the author is writing about a subject they know well. Many writers love to write about writing, and I enjoy those storylines.

    With nonfiction books, my favorites feel like I’m talking with a friend – or even better, being let in on someone’s best secrets.

    In no particular order here’s my top ten:

    1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – I have written here before about this book. Anne is a writer that reads like a friend – both in style and honesty about writing.
    2. A Ladder to The Sky by John Boyne – I finished reading this book earlier this month, and it quickly became one of my favorites of 2019. Thank goodness it’s fiction because it is a writer’s worse nightmare.
    3. The World According to Garp by John Irving – This novel is an old college favorite of mine that also happens to be one of the few books by John Irving that I liked – an unpopular opinion, probably so.
    4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – Yes, this book is depressing that was written by and tragic author in a semi-autobiographical manner. It’s also worth reading at least once; when you are not yourself depressed.
    5. Misery by Stephen King – The book was better than the movie. If you haven’t read this book or much by Stephen King, this is one I would put towards the top of the list of his books to read.
    6. Wired for Story by Lisa Cron – Based on brain science, this book brings out the science geek in me. It’s fascinating and worth a look if you want to approach your writing from a scientific point of view.
    7. Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose – This is another book written by a phenomenal writer that reads like a conversation with a friend. I recently reread this book and will return to it over and over.
    8. Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers by Joyce Carol Oates – This book is massive. It is a collection of short stories from a multitude of genres. It is well worth owning if short stories are your focus.
    9. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard – This book is newer to me and another one that is brutally honest about the craft of writing.
    10. To Show and To Tell by Phillip Lopate – Literary nonfiction was a tough genre for me to get a pulse on. I’m still not quite there, but this book was a fantastic starting point for me.

    Do you have any favorite books about writing? Thanks for stopping by!

  • Book Reviews

    The Gifted School: a book review


    The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger


    Set in a fictional, but an all too familiar affluent town of Crystal, Colorado, The Gifted School follows four families through the competitive admissions process for a new charter school for exceptionally gifted children.

    Rose, Samantha, Azra, and Lauren have been best friends since their kids were babies. Together they have supported each other through death, divorce, failures, and the challenges of raising children who may or may not be profoundly gifted. But when each family begins the arduous admissions process for this new school, their friendships will be put to the ultimate test.

    The dynamics of each family are slowly revealed, unraveled, and then put back together, skillfully told through multiple points of view.

    The Gifted School is packed with juicy drama, flawed characters, and precocious kids with obnoxious parents that were at times downright unlikeable. But as a parent myself, I found this book utterly believable as I have seen firsthand the lengths some parents will go to advance their child’s academic career, and the monsters created.

    The author did a fantastic job addressing issues of privilege, and while it was uncomfortable to read at times, he exposed the internal narrative prevalent in affluent communities. He also provided contrast with a fifth family – the housekeeper for two of the families – who also had a gifted son competing for a coveted spot in the new school.

    The inclusion of this storyline is what turned this from a juicy poolside book to an excellent book for me. I went into the book afraid that it would be yet another story of rich, badly behaving parents who never understood just how privileged they were. I appreciated that he tackled the issue instead of glossing over it for the sake of telling a story for the popular masses.

    The multiple points of view style worked well for this book and allowed for rich character development. But with that said, so much development revealed some terrible personality flaws. I didn’t mind that because again, I found it all sadly but completely believable given the recent college admissions scandal.

    My one small issue was that the unraveling of some characters was a bit drawn out and slowed the pace of the book a bit. It bogged me down a few times but only enough to cause me to skim some because…

    I get it – this guy is falling apart in every way possible.

    This book has something for everyone and if you are a parent of a school-aged kid, you will probably inhale this book as I did. If you enjoyed Big Little Lies, Miracle Creek, and multiple points of view plots, you should enjoy The Gifted School.

  • Lists,  Top Ten Tuesday,  Writing

    Top Ten Tuesday: Settings I Would Like to See

    Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Today I am listing the top ten settings I would like to see more of in books.

    1. The historic home of a significant past historical figure. Set in the modern-day.
    2. Thailand – I have read a few books set there and would love see more book settings that feature the culture, the beautiful surroundings, and the history.
    3. The theatre – whether it be a company, a physical location, or a particular show, I’m in. I’ve read two books recently that were set in theatres and loved both of them.
    4. A library – The Library Book was primarily set in the LA Central Library but was non-fiction. I would love to see a fictional book set in an existing public library.
    5. A current event – Think ripped from the headlines. The border crisis is the first to come to mind. While fictional, the awareness brought could be important if done well.
    6. A retirement village/assisted living – In my former life I worked primarily with retired folks. Oh, the stories they could tell me about their retirement homes.
    7. The airport – I could people-watch in an airport all day long. I may or may not make up stories about them too…
    8. A waiting room – This could be any kind of place people wait. This is another favorite place of mine to watch and make up stories about people.
    9. A teacher’s lounge – Think the secret lives of teachers.
    10. Time travel – I am a huge fan of time traveling fiction. I am always excited to see books set across an expanse of time navigated by a group of characters.

    Have you read any books set in these locations? I’d love to hear about them and add them to my To Be Read list!

    Thanks to That Artsy Reader Girl for hosting Top Ten Tuesday and thanks for stopping by.

  • Book Reviews

    The Last Book Party: a book review

    I ran my hands along the spines… I pulled out a mystery with a bright red cover and opened it, hearing the slight crack in the binding. I took a deep breath and smelled the paper, which, despite being printed just weeks ago, had the same inky, musty scent of the picture books I’d loved as a child.

    Karen Dukess – The Last Book Party

    If you can smell that same smell just by reading that quote, you are probably going to enjoy The Last Book Party.

    It’s the summer of 1987. Eve Rosen is an aspiring writer and a floundering 25-year-old working as an assistant for a publisher in New York. She has grown up vacationing in Cape Cod – Truro to be exact – and is keenly aware of the social circles in this town.

    There is the elite circle of writers, artists, and socialites and then there are families like her own who are more modest in their income but are constantly striving to make it into that elusive inner circle.

    One evening she is invited to a party at the summer home of Henry Grey, a long-time writer for The New Yorker. Eve works for the publisher that Henry has submitted his memoir to and as a result, they regularly correspond.

    At the party, in passing, Henry offers Eve a job as essentially his research assistant. But as summer comes to a close, she returns to the city and her job with the publisher Hodder, Strike.

    But after being passed over for a promotion, Eve takes Henry up on his offer; looking for a change and even inspiration to finally begin writing.

    The characters in this book are both flawed and intriguing.

    Jeremy Grand is a young author and a phenom on the brink of publishing his first novel with Eve’s former employer. He is both arrogant and charming.

    Henry and his wife Tillie, a famous poet in her own right, are not all that they appear to be in public and Eve quickly discovers this when she begins working in Henry’s home.

    And Eve’s parents – ever aware of the class-like system in Cape Cod, raise Eve in the shadow of her mathematical genius of an older brother. They are not subtle about their wishes for her to find a husband and show little interest in her writing aspirations.

    I almost always enjoy books about writers, the writing and publishing process, and the flawed individuals behind their work. This book has no shortage of these things. And Henry as a writer for my favorite magazine?

    Yes, please!

    There is a thread of romance, a thread of struggling creatives, a thread of commentary on social classes, and of course a thread of writing and the frustrations that come with that process.

    At times I didn’t see how these threads were going to weave together but they did at Henry and Tillie’s Book Party. This party was invitation only where the guests came dressed as book characters – which was fun for me as a lover of literature – and wow, did those threads connect and unravel all at the same time.

    This book was such a pleasant surprise to me! It is on the short side but packed with complex relationships and multiple storylines. I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy books about writing and the authors that create the stories for us to read. It is well written and reads like a book written by a friend.

    I finished it in less than 24 hours and it’s one of my favorite books of the summer!


  • Uncategorized

    A Ladder to The Sky – a book review


    Welcome to a writer’s worst nightmare.

    Maurice Swift is handsome, charismatic, ambitious and lacks the talent needed to become a successful writer on his own merits.

    As a young man, Maurice becomes the obsession of author Erich Ackermann. Maurice needs Erich to help his career along and Erich has other intentions. As they develop some semblance of a relationship Erich confesses to Maurice a terrible act he committed in concert with the Nazis resulting in the deaths of four people.

    Maurice in turn takes this story and packages it as the novel, Two Germans, and his career takes off while simultaneously destroying Ackermann’s career and essentially his life.

    After the success of his first novel, his sophomore book has less than stellar results and Maurice marries an up and coming author who narrates the second part of the book addressing Maurice as “you” – an interesting twist in narration.

    One calculating move after another leads the reader to realize that Maurice may not be who he appears to be. My jaw dropped multiple times as I went back to make sure I understood what had just happened.

    John Boyne is an incredibly talented writer – The Heart’s Invisible Furies is in my own top five books. I downloaded this audiobook expecting a good book but this was another phenomenal book – different from Furies but with some shared similarities.

    In both books references to real authors are made. In Furies the main character is always reading James Joyce or another Irish literature giant. Boyne takes it a step further in Ladder with Gore Vidal appearing as a guest star in the book.

    An exchange between the two men served as the shift from young aspiring author to a more sinister Maurice.

    There is also a nod to Maude Avery – a reference Furies readers will appreciate.

    These literary details gave this book a solid footing when at times you felt as if you were reading the impossible.

    I personally love books about writers writing, the publishing process, and literary criticism and this book was simply phenomenal, even for someone who doesn’t find that process to be all that interesting.

    At the heart, it is a character study and one can only imagine how Boyne went about developing such dark yet interesting characters that will keep a reader engaged despite how despicable a character is behaving.

    Mark this one down as one of my top books of 2019 – even if it’s only July.

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