• Book Reviews,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Evvie Drake Starts Over: a book review

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    The tag on her chamomile teabag said, There is no trouble that a good cup of tea can’t solve. It sounded like what a gentleman on Downton Abbey would say right before his wife got an impacted tooth and elegantly perished in bed.

    Evvie Drake Starts Over – a book by Linda Holmes in which a large quantity of tea is consumed and is paired well with witty and sharp writing.

    Evvie’s husband and high school sweetheart, Tim, is a successfull and well-liked doctor in their Maine community. The book opens with Evvie packing up her car to leave him for a fresh start when she gets the call.

    Her husband has been killed and while it isn’t the fresh start she planned, Evvie is forced to start over in the town she grew up, surrounded by memories of her husband who unbeknownst to most others, wasn’t so nice to her.

    Evvie’s best friend Andy and Saturday morning standing bruch date is a single father after his wife left him and his two young girls.

    Andy has arguably done a better job of moving on while Evvie is gripped with guilt over her secret almost-decision. She spends many nights on the floor of her guest apartment room overwhelmed by anxiety and confused grief.

    So when Andy’s friend Dean, a professional baseball player needs a fresh start after forgetting how to pitch, Andy suggests that Dean rent Evvie’s spare room.

    On the surface this book sounded fairly predictable and quite honestly, outside my typical read. But referring back to the quote at the beginning of this review, you will get a sense of the author’s quick wit and fresh approach to writing about starting over and the grief and anxiety that accompanies life changes.

    I saw myself in the characters. I know a lot about loss, failure, starting over, anxiety, grief, guilt, and shame that almost keeps you from second chances. And like Evvie, I was even married to someone named Tim who wasn’t nice to me and nearly destroyed me – a side effect of what goes on behind closed doors.

    This book made me laugh, tear up, and root hard for the characters find their ways. The writing was poingant and never overly saccharine – the biggest reason I usually avoid these books. And the added sports element, written accurately, rounded this book out and made it a 5 ✂️ book for me.

    The characters were well developed and the other element the author did particularly well was in capturing the Maine coast with more than just words. You could taste, smell, and hear the coastal town in her writing.

    If you enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Things You Save in a Fire, or How Not to Die Alone you should enjoy Evvie Drake Starts Over.

  • 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!

  • 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,  Writing

    Trust Exercise: a book review

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️.5/5

    met·a·fic·tion
    /ˈmedəˌfikSH(ə)n/
    noun
    noun: metafiction; plural noun: metafictions; noun: meta-fiction; plural noun: meta-fictions
    1. fiction in which the author self-consciously alludes to the artificiality or literariness of a work by parodying or departing from novelistic conventions (especially naturalism) and traditional narrative techniques.
    2. “the followers of Borges had retreated into airless metafiction”

    I am a huge fan of metafiction and stream of conscious writing interspersed throughout a novel. Kurt Vonnegut is one of the masters of this writing technique and Susan Choi, the author of this book, is well on her way with Trust Exercise.

    Why start with a definition of metafiction? Because after reading many reviews it was clear that the readers didn’t have the patience to watch it unfold or wanted a conventional novel format.

    But if a reader goes into this with open eyes, I believe your experience will be quite different than when reading the tired, multi-POV format of a plot where each chapter is named for the character speaking at that particular moment.

    The story begins in the 1980’s at a highly competitive school for the arts. This setting drew me in immediately as a child of the 80’s and a current theatre parent of a high school daughter in a very competitive program.

    I saw her and her friends in the characters. I saw bits of her directors in the teachers in the book – but only glimmers as her directors are tough at times but never inappropriate in using their power and authority as teachers.

    That was not the case in this book and the reoccurring theme was the power that adults held over impressionable young teens and the abuse of that power.

    This was also my reasoning for the 4.5 ✂️‘s rating because there was an ick factor reading and watching the students do what the felt they needed to do to get ahead.

    Sarah, David, and their fellow classmates are under the instruction of their charismatic director, Mr. Kingsley. He pushes every boundary, every envelope, and the students arrive at their individual breaking points during the first third of the book.

    It isn’t until the second 1/3 that the curtain is pulled back and the reader learns that what happened isn’t completely true yet not completely false either.

    Without providing spoilers, here is where the reader has to stick with it as the metafictional elements are revealed and secrets begin to come to light. This is also where the stream of consciousness style of writing begins. You may find yourself flipping back a few pages to confirm what you just read but it was worth it for me.

    The final 1/3 shifts once again and the true secrets are revealed – the driving force behind each fictional account.

    While this was a challenging read, I enjoyed it immensely. The plot twists and the technique to execute the shifts were unorthodox and surprising. There were a few times where I found myself wondering where the book was going but I’m glad I stuck with it to the end.

    Who would enjoy this book? Kurt Vonnegut fans for sure. But also Virginia Woolf readers and in current times, readers who enjoy Helen Oyeyemi and her unique stream of consciousness writing style.

    It’s clear to me why the author, Susan Choi, has won multiple awards for her writing as well as being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. This will not be my last Susan Choi novel.

  • Book Reviews,  Writing

    Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – a book review

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    Have you ever read a book and felt like you were reading a letter from a friend? Or listened to an audiobook and it seemed like a long conversation with a friend who moved away?

    That is what a book by Anne Lamott feels like. A letter from an old friend.

    I had been living under a rock because it took Amazon suggesting this book, after loading other books in my cart, for me to figure out who Anne was. Sure, I had seen some of her quotes floating around the interwebs but I didn’t realize she wrote books – really good books.

    November is probably my toughest month depression-wise. Everything is dying around me and even though fall comes every single year, it takes it’s bite out of me before winter comes. Couple that with some some other stressful situations completely out of my control and you get this super-fun November 2018.

    I try a lot of different things to feel better, most of them healthy, and I’m thankful that I started this blog a few months ago because writing for it has been one of the things to keep me afloat this month.

    I wrote last week about NaNoWriMo and that is going well so there’s another bright spot in the Month of Dead Leaves. In my preparation for it, I bought a few books on writing because let’s face it – I’m a numbers person with a degree in economics & finance. I sure sound super fun and interesting.

    Anne has very unique writing voice which is what made it feel conversational for me.

    Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and your shitty first draft. … Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California). – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

    Girl, I know. About the the perfectionism and people from California (like my husband).

    See what I mean?

    This book was about the writing process but wove in life, hard lessons, family, friends, and even religion. I appreciated her take on writing because it felt like a manual on writing for people who have a million things going on besides waking up, making coffee, and sitting down for the day to write: see yesterday’s post as exhibit 562.

    Her methods of observing life and capturing those moments have become a part of my daily thoughts and it’s made these tough weeks a little more fun and interesting.

    The last chapter was my favorite and I had my husband pausing a football game so I could read to him. He really loved it. No really, he did.

    The basics were this: avoid libel by changing details in your writing with the last detail being a tiny appendage. No one is coming forward claiming it was written about them if they have to admit to that last little part.

    I enjoyed this book immensely and I have since read another one of her books, Stitches, which I’ll review soon. Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone who is interested in writing and would enjoy a perspective from an author who doesn’t take herself too seriously.

    And that tiny appendage part? Since I read it to him, my husband and I have laughed multiple times about that and who I could write about.

    See, I told you that he loved it.

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