• Writing

    The Book vs. The Author

    You read the blurb, you see a few reviews on Instagram or Goodreads, and you settle in to read your new book.

    But what happens when the talented individual behind the writing turns out to be a terrible human?

    A.J. Finn

    I recently had the opportunity to participate in an advanced screening of the trailer for The Woman in The Window by the infamous A.J. Finn.

    Included with this opportunity was a live Q&A with some of the actors. And they are heavy hitters – Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason-Leigh… you get the point. It should be an excellent adaptation of a great book.

    But there’s just one problem: the author has done terrible things. A.J. Finn appears to have lied about so many things in his personal life that he can’t even keep those straight. And I have no doubt that he has a serious mental illness, or two.

    His behavior is frequently blamed on his mental health. And while it’s another extreme, the violence so prevalent in our society is also blamed on mental illness.

    More on mental health in a moment because it shouldn’t be the scapegoat here.

    J.K. Rowling

    Unless you live under a rock, you are aware that Rowling has made multiple problematic and transphobic statements. When confronted, she doubled down.

    She made a conscious choice to take that stance. It cannot be blamed on mental health – she is simply an intolerant, transphobic, narrow-minded person.

    So what about the books?

    Do we look past the problematic authors in favor of the art? Or do we throw our Harry Potter books in the trash?

    For centuries reader have devoured books by authors without knowing much much about their backgrounds. There was even a time when a reader didn’t even know the gender of the author.

    The art prevailed.

    At least until a later time when truly problematic behaviors were unearthed.

    So what’s next?

    J.K. Rowling is making a conscious choice to be transphobic. She has been given opportunities to make things right – because really, there’s no room for hate – and she has chosen otherwise.

    Books in the trash.

    A.J. Finn has major personal issues, serious mental health issues, and a terrible reputation that is bypassed because of talent.

    Art prevails.

    I’m aware that there are other questions about his work but there’s too much to cover here. The New York Times has an excellent article that dissects every part of his story.

    Mental Health

    In America, we love to blame mental health on bad decisions, tragic events, and horrific behavior. But that’s all we do because it’s the easy target.

    Do we make mental healthcare accessible to everyone?

    Absolutely not.

    It’s a mechanism of sensationalism in both fiction and real life.

    So why would we want to tackle the issue head on?

    It runs the media, it sells books and tickets to movies, and quite honestly it’s a sick fascination.

    The book vs. the author

    If an author’s words and actions are harmful to a group of people – I’m out.

    If an author’s words and actions are harmful and self-destructive towards themselves, then you can bet that I will be advocating for access to mental healthcare.

    That makes far more sense instead of making it a sensational headline and a reason to blame bad behavior.

    Sorry to the media and the rubberneckers – focus your efforts on access to care instead of questioning if a book should be published or movie should be made.

    Let the art prevail and create access to mental health care for all.

  • Book Reviews,  mental health,  parenting,  Writing

    Love Her Well: a book review

    About: Love Her Well

    Paperback: 240 Pages

    Publisher: Thomas Nelson (August 18, 2020)

    Moms are eager for tips and wisdom to help them build strong relationships with their daughters, and Kari Kampakis’s Love Her Well gives them ten practical ways to do so, not by changing their daughters but by changing their own thoughts, actions, and mind-set.

    For many women, having a baby girl is a dream come true. Yet as girls grow up, the narrative of innocence and joy changes to gloom and doom as moms are told, “Just wait until she’s a teenager!” and handed a disheartening script that treats a teenage girl’s final years at home as solely a season to survive

    Author and blogger Kari Kampakis suggests it’s time to change the narrative and mind-set that lead moms to parent teen girls with a spirit of defeat, not strength. By improving the foundation, habits, and dynamics of the relationship, mothers can connect with their teen daughters and earn a voice in their lives that allows moms to offer guidance, love, wisdom, and emotional support.

    As a mom of four daughters (three of whom are teenagers), Kari has learned the hard way that as girls grow up, mothers must grow up too. In Love Her Well, Kari shares ten ways that moms can better connect with their daughters in a challenging season, including:

    • choosing their words and timing carefully,
    • listening and empathizing with her teen’s world,
    • seeing the good and loving her for who she is,
    • taking care of themselves and having a support system, and more.

    This book isn’t a guide to help mothers “fix” their daughters or make them behave. Rather, it’s about a mom’s journey, doing the heart work and legwork necessary to love a teenager while still being a strong, steady parent. Kari explores how every relationship consists of two imperfect sinners, and teenagers gain more respect for their parents when they admit (and learn from) their mistakes, apologize, listen, give grace, and try to understand their teens’ point of view. Yes, teenagers need rules and consequences, but without a connected relationship, parents may never gain a significant voice in their lives or be a safe place they long to return to.

    By admitting her personal failures and prideful mistakes that have hurt her relationships with her teenage daughters, Kari gives mothers hope and reminds them all things are possible through God. By leaning on him, mothers gain the wisdom, guidance, protection, and clarity they need to grow strong.

    Review:

    Talk about a timely book.

    Yesterday was the first day of school and it was a start to Chaney’s junior year that I could have never imagined. Never did I think that two of her high school years would be impacted by COVID. On Monday we drove 3 hours round trip to get her driver’s permit. The DMV in Texas is by appointment only after shutting down due to COVID and when I first looked the earliest appointment in our area was in 2021. And to top it all off, her love – theatre – looks drastically different than anything I’ve ever seen.

    This is the current state we are all living in and on top of that, our family is still trying to balance freedom with well-being while realizing that the transition from a teen to an adult is already happening. And this transition, to me at least, feels even more abrupt because so much is out of our control.

    So what can I control? My actions, my thoughts, and my dialogue with my daughter. Easier said than done, I know. But Love Her Well made it a little easier by drawing my attention to certain aspects of my own personality and heart that could use some work.

    This book was an enjoyable read. However, it was not one that I flew through, despite loving every chapter. It’s an interactive book with Q&A at the end of each chapter which made my writing heart delight. I had years of thoughts and feelings bottled up and was able to unwind many of them chapter by chapter, page by page. This book is an experience.

    If you have a teen daughter, this book is a must. It covers everything from friends, to body image, to mental health – something I feel like a lot of these types of books miss. This one is going on the reference shelf because I have a feeling I might need it more than once during these next few years.

    Thanks to Thomas Nelson and TLC Book Tours for my gifted copy in exchange for my honest review.

    This book is available now from your favorite bookseller!

    Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

    About Kari Kampakis

    Kari Kampakis is a mom of four daughters who writes about everyday events and significant moments that reveal God’s movement in our lives. She loves girls and believes many world problems can be solved by music, dancing, and deep conversations with friends.

    Kari’s work has been featured on The Huffington Post, The TODAY Show, EWTN, Yahoo! News, The Eric Metaxas Show, Proverbs 31 Ministries, Ann Voskamp’s blog, Hands Free Mama, and other national outlets. Her two books for teen girls, 10 ULTIMATE TRUTHS GIRLS SHOULD KNOW and LIKED: WHOSE APPROVAL ARE YOU LIVING FOR?, have been used widely across the U.S. for small group studies.

    Connect with Kari

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

     

  • Book Reviews,  mental health,  Personal,  Writing

    Wednesday Words & More: Untamed

     

     My therapist’s memo. I wouldn’t burn this one…

     

    What if we had missed The Memo?

    Or if the first person who got it, looked at it and realized it was a terrible idea and burned the memo?

    I burned the memo that defined selflessness as the pinnacle of womanhood, but first I forgave myself for believing that lie for so long…Selfless women make for an efficient society but not a beautiful, true, or just one. When women lose themselves, the world loses its way. We do not need more selfless women. (p. 75)

    I did a short review of Untamed here but I have a lot more to say. Specifically around anxiety and Glennon’s thoughts on the subject.

    Real talk: my anxiety is often all-consuming. Some of it comes from the belief that I must be selfless and available at all times. The rest of it is that I have lots to worry about.

    Some of it is real. Some of it is imagined. Some of it is planned – it is my worst case so I plan. Not because I want it to happen but because several of my worst case scenarios are no longer scenarios. They happened, I survived, but I must be on guard so they do not happen again to my family members or myself.

    I put on a good face and I try and stay busy. I love to read and I love to write. But the second life begins to flirt with the almost worst case scenario, I am not OK. I don’t read. I don’t write. And if it’s bad enough it can take me time to recover. I have always felt bad about this downtime.

    Maybe I shouldn’t.

    One of my favorite words is selah.

    Selah is found in the Hebrew Bible seventy-four times. Scholars believe that when it appears in the text, it is a direction to the reader to stop reading and be still for a moment, because the previous idea is important enough to consider deeply. (p.136)

    What are my reflections?

    What can I learn from the almost?

    What boundaries need to be set?

    What do I need to do to take care of myself?

    I live with two people who take up a lot of space. I love them and love the space that they inhabit. But with those large spaces come a huge desire to control on my part. It comes from a place a love for sure but it isn’t healthy for anyone.

    My answer? Selah. Be still.

    If I ever got a tattoo, that’s what it would be. A constant reminder that the text, the email, the phone call – they all can wait. Because if I’m not healthy I’m not going to be any good for the person on the other end.

    This book came along at the perfect time for me but I hesitate to call this book self-help. It’s far closer to a memoir or a collection of short stories. Whatever it is, her openness around addiction, anxiety and mental health are worth their weight in gold.

    Untamed is a book I will continue to revisit because there is so much good information in this book. From white privilege, to racism, to raising confident kids, to creativity – it’s all there. No, I don’t agree with everything but I don’t believe it’s the job of the author to put something out there that everyone loves and agrees with.

    But that’s another post for another day.

     

     

     

     

  • Book Reviews,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Resistance Women: a book review

    About:

    • Paperback: 640 pages
    • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 4, 2020)

    One of BookBub’s best historical novels of the year and Oprah magazine’s buzziest books of the month.

    From the New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, an enthralling historical saga that recreates the danger, romance, and sacrifice of an era and brings to life one courageous, passionate American—Mildred Fish Harnack—and her circle of women friends who waged a clandestine battle against Hitler in Nazi Berlin.

    Purchase Links

    HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Synopsis:

    After Wisconsin graduate student Mildred Fish marries brilliant German economist Arvid Harnack, she accompanies him to his German homeland, where a promising future awaits. In the thriving intellectual culture of 1930s Berlin, the newlyweds create a rich new life filled with love, friendships, and rewarding work—but the rise of a malevolent new political faction inexorably changes their fate.

    As Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party wield violence and lies to seize power, Mildred, Arvid, and their friends resolve to resist. Mildred gathers intelligence for her American contacts, including Martha Dodd, the vivacious and very modern daughter of the US ambassador. Her German friends, aspiring author Greta Kuckoff and literature student Sara Weitz, risk their lives to collect information from journalists, military officers, and officials within the highest levels of the Nazi regime.

    For years, Mildred’s network stealthily fights to bring down the Third Reich from within. But when Nazi radio operatives detect an errant Russian signal, the Harnack resistance cell is exposed, with fatal consequences.

    Inspired by actual events, Resistance Women is an enthralling, unforgettable story of ordinary people determined to resist the rise of evil, sacrificing their own lives and liberty to fight injustice and defend the oppressed.

    Review:

    Just when I thought that WWII historical fiction had been exhausted, a book like this comes along.Going into this book knowing that it was based on actual events and people kept me on the edge of my seat.

    Expertly researched, the author did a wonderful job highlighting the importance of not just military operations but also the resistance efforts of everyday civilians. The attention to detail and descriptions of 1930’s & 40’s Berlin captured my attention and the heroic actions of the characters – 3 real life people and 1 composite person – held my attention.

    This is a long book but never felt like it to me. Granted, I love thick books but I never felt that there were parts unnecessary to the plot. My one drawback, it takes awhile to get a good grasp of all the characters and their roles. But once you do, the book flies by. This is one I would recommend taking a few notes on as you go.

    Lastly, please don’t close this book until you read the Author’s Note – it is what made this book a five star read for me. Jennifer Chiaverini went above and beyond in her research and it should not go unnoticed.

    If you enjoyed The Alice Network, you will love Resistance Women.

    About the author:

    Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed historical novels and the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin.

    Find out more about Jennifer at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow Books for a copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

  • Writing

    28 Day Challenge

    𝐷𝑒𝑎𝑟 𝑅𝑒𝑎𝑑𝑒𝑟,

    𝐻𝑜𝑤 𝑑𝑖𝑑 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑓𝑒𝑒𝑙 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑠𝑡 𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑠𝑎𝑤 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑡𝑖𝑡𝑙𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑏𝑜𝑜𝑘? 𝑊𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑝𝑟𝑖𝑠𝑒𝑑? 𝑈𝑛𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑡𝑎𝑏𝑙𝑒? 𝑀𝑎𝑦𝑏𝑒 𝑎𝑙𝑙 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑣𝑒. 𝐼 𝑤𝑎𝑛𝑡 𝑡𝑜 𝑏𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑛 𝑏𝑦 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑎𝑙𝑙 𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑠𝑒 𝑓𝑒𝑒𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑚𝑜𝑟𝑒 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑝𝑙𝑒𝑡𝑒𝑙𝑦 𝑛𝑜𝑟𝑚𝑎𝑙. 𝑇ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑖𝑠 𝑎 𝑠𝑖𝑚𝑝𝑙𝑒 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑤𝑎𝑟𝑑 𝑏𝑜𝑜𝑘, 𝑏𝑢𝑡 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑎𝑛 𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑦 𝑜𝑛𝑒. 𝑊𝑒𝑙𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑘.

    -𝐋𝐚𝐲𝐥𝐚 𝐅. 𝐒𝐚𝐚𝐝

    𝐒𝐲𝐧𝐨𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬: Based on the viral Instagram challenge that captivated participants worldwide, 𝑴𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝑾𝒉𝒊𝒕𝒆 𝑺𝒖𝒑𝒓𝒆𝒎𝒂𝒄𝒚 takes readers on a 28-day journey of how to dismantle the privilege within themselves so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.

    ✂️

    Equal parts excited, nervous, and intrigued summed up my feelings when I opened up the envelope from Booksparks containing this book. But I’m thrilled that it’s part of their winter reading challenge lineup because I believe we all have blindspots and I’m ready and willing to look for and examine my own.

    This is 28 day challenge includes writing prompts, readings, and lots of self-reflection. I write so I’m going to blog about my experience and include some of the my answers to the writing prompts in those posts. It should be interesting.

    This won’t be an every day post but I will share my full 28 days over a period of time.

    If you plan on reading this book and would like to discuss as we go, let me know here or via email.

    Thank you to Booksparks, Sourcebooks and Layla F. Saad for a gifted copy of this book.

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