Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Bookish Life

Sure. It's been a while.  But there's a good reason, I promise.

I felt like this blog was dictating what I was writing, reading, reviewing.  So much so, that it didn't even feel authentic anymore.  It felt like I had a to-be-read pile from authors, publishers, etc. so high, that I didn't even want to conquer it.  Even the titles that I wanted to read, I didn't read.  Mostly I felt that way because I felt like I had to, and all because they just showed up in my mailbox.  I hadn't solicited a book for years. I quit reading a genre I love because of the pressure and the weight associated with being a book blogger. I ended up in the place I started out in fifth grade.  I didn't even love to read anymore because it felt forced.

A couple of weeks ago, a local restaurant that I had recently discovered, and come to love, closed its doors.  They closed their doors because owning the restaurant was interfering with what their vision and purpose in their core product.  That's when I realized that was exactly how I'd come to feel about being open to receiving books for review.  Those ARCs have derailed my original purpose with this blog. They morphed into something that wasn't organic.  I felt like a puppet.  So, I quit reading other book blogs. I quit writing posts.  I strive to live a life full of integrity, so I stopped doing something I love because it had come to compromise that integrity.

But over the last five or six months, I've really missed blogging.  I've missed having a platform for my voice that wasn't based on social media with my small circle of friends.  I've missed expounding on what I thought with an audience of people who are pretty darn rad.

So, when I got a used book in the mail that I really want to read, I realized that was the direction I need to go.  For the first time in over a year, I'm holding a physical book in my hands that I can't wait to crack the cover on.  I've got my pencil out to write in the margins.  I've got a thirst for the words that lie inside.  And I'm thinking about all of the other books I have on my shelves that are being neglected because I had this giant to-be-read pile of guilt sitting in my office.

To hell with that pile!  I'm starting fresh.  I'm keeping the old archives, of course.  But, I'm moving forward with the original intent of this blog.  Titles that caught my eye, and titles that I've read.  Glimpses into my personal life, that can be, at times, quite bookish, and at times, I'll admit,  just plain weird.  As I say on Instagram, "Literature is not an exact science.  And neither in my life. Adventures in both from Mesa, Arizona."  Expect the same girl you see there on IG, open and honest, an Arizona localist who loves words and the outdoors, and is excited to start sharing her favorites again.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Freckled Pearl's Original Book Page Art | Bookish Things

I'm going to admit it.  When I first came across The Freckled Pearl at a local boutique, I was taken aback.  I thought, "She's desecrated the books!"  I even said something like that to her face.  Yeah,  I did.  I'm awkward like that.

Then I took a picture of some of her pages (with permission; above) and took them home with me.  I was confused.  I couldn't decide if I absolutely adored them or if I absolutely abhorred the thought of them.  After a few weeks (no joke), I landed on adore.

She has taken upcycling to an art form.  Quite literally.  Books that are falling apart get a one-of-a-kind hand-drawn and watercolored illustration, that relates to their pages.  They're beautiful.  And they're probably a perfect piece of art for that bookish person on your list.  Not to mention, you're shopping small, supporting an American artisan.

My Ariel page is already framed up and beautiful in her new home. I'm having a hard time not buying all. the. pages. and putting them everywhere!  But I'm so in love with my little pin-up Ariel and so in love with the fact that she isn't anywhere else in the world!  (Forgive the messy shelves - 'tis the season, you know?)

Head over to her shop at Big Cartel and see if she has anything left for that super-hard-to-buy-for bookish person on your list!  You can also check-out her work on Instagram

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum | Review

Jessie's whole life has fallen apart.  In the last two years, she's lost her mother, found out her dad has eloped with a woman she's never met, and then moved to California to be with her dad and his new wife.  Everything changes - she starts attending a prep school that she's not equipped to navigate, she gets lost in the nuances of her new world with no guidance from the adults in her life, and she watches the only parental relationship she had disintegrate into the ether.  The pieces haven't even all fallen for her to start picking up.

Enter Somebody Nobody, (SN for short), who first contacts her via email, the only way that this secret person can remain secret and contact her.  SN starts handing out advice to Jessie about how her new world works.  They forge a friendship as SN guides her through some of the ups and downs she encounters in her new life, but the nagging feeling that SN is just an elaborate set-up from some mean girl never escapes Jessie. It's a great mystery until the end.

Tell Me Three Things is a delightful departure from the current contemporary young adult climate.  Julie Buxbaum wowed me!  I couldn't put Jessie's story down.  And though I knew how I wanted it to go, I never knew exactly how it would happen until it did.  The story is never forced.  It flows well and pulls you into Jessie's world, making you care enough about her to care about the mystery that is SN.  It's funny. It's fun. It's heart-wrenching. It's got enough romance to satisfy without dominating.  It's well-written.  It's a 100% must for preorder right this second.  Tell Me Three Things at Amazon.

It comes out this coming April, and a preorder would be an ah-mazing stocking stuffer for any YA fan on your list this season.  Just wrap up the receipt and give the gift of an amazing book and all of the anticipation and fun that goes with a preorder.  It's sure to satisfy even the most jaded of young adult readers!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Shackled by Tom Leveen | Review


Sixteen-year-old Pelly has a master plan. After years of therapy, medication, and even a stint in a mental hospital, she’s finally ready to re-enter the world of the living. Pelly has been suffering from severe panic attacks ever since her best friend, Tara, disappeared from a mall six years ago.

And her plan seems to be working, until an unkempt girl accompanied by an older man walks into the coffee shop where she works. Pelly thinks she’s seen a ghost, until the girl mouths “help me” on the way out, and Pelly knows she’s just seen Tara.

Too shocked to do anything, Pelly helplessly watches Tara slip away again as she steels herself against a renewed spiral of crippling anxiety. But rather than being overcome by anxiety, Pelly feels more energized than she has in years. Determined to track down enough evidence to force the police to reopen Tara’s file, Pelly’s master plan takes a turn for the dangerous.

Pelly decides she cannot be shackled by her past—and the anxiety, fear, and grief that comes with it—any longer if she wants to save Tara. But in seeking answers through whatever means necessary, she’ll come face-to-face with true evil. And not all the shackles are in her head…


Full disclosure?  I'm a hard core Tom Leveen fan.  Just about everything he writes, I. Just. Get.  It clicks.  I understand it.  But Shackled was different for me.  I didn't put it down and immediately scream, "Omigosh, SUCH an amazing read!"

That's not because it isn't impeccably written with true-to-life dialogue and characters I can relate to.  Nope, it has all that.  It was because of the content.  I needed time to process what I read.  I needed time to wrap my head around what my heart was feeling.  This book made me have the feels so much, you guys.  So much.  So this review is heavy on the emotional side, and lighter on the technical one.  I mean, it follows, right?

I was convinced I had it figured out from the first chapter.  I knew what was going to happen.  I knew what Pelly was going to experience.  I knew where her journey would take her.  I knew how it would all end up.  And for the most part, I was right.  But the thing I didn't count on was the total whammy she did on my heart.  I got attached to this girl.  This girl who I shouldn't feel this attached to over the course of two hundred pages.  Tom was able to make me feel proud, scared, terrified, sad, giggly happy, melancholy, angry, frustrated, and content all over the course of this skinny little book.  

Oh and just because it's a skinny little book, you shouldn't discount the amount of time needed to finish this one.  While it is a skinny little book, it's so jam-packed that I sometimes needed to put it down for a few minutes to process what was going on.  Not that it was difficult to read - duh, no, it's a Tom Leveen book - but that I needed to think about choices Pelly made and what motivated her to make them.  She and I?  We're very not the same.  We handle things so differently that I could have very easily written her off as a headcase and not enjoyed the book at all.  But, these connections take time.  And I'm really glad I invested it in Pelly because she taught me a few things.  

Overall, I think you'll enjoy Shackled.  It uplifted me and enriched me, and what more can you ask from a book?

PARENTS: If you're looking for a book to share with your teen, this would be a great one.  GREAT one.  It will help them with emotional intelligence, and will give you content for very meaningful conversations.  There is strong language and strong themes including sexual abuse, rape, kidnapping, violence, and cutting.  There is teen smoking.  Be prepared to discuss these things and their motivations.  I actually really can't wait to tackle this with my girl, but it'll be at least ten years until she's old enough.  As always, you know your child the best.  Go with your gut!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Being An Awesome Fan | How To

I came across an article on MTV that Maggie Steifvater shared with her fans on Facebook.  It's a discussion between Cassandra Clare and Maggie Steifvater, discussing and sometimes debating the pros and cons of being accessible to their fans/readers online, appropriate responses to fans based on the gender of the creator/author, social media quirks, and more.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the article that kind of highlight some of the things that maybe we, as sometimes fans, and sometimes readers, can be more awesome at in regards to the content creators we are interacting with.

On negativity in social media: 

"I get told all the time by fans that they hate me — but they mean it as a compliment. I suppose it can be argued that both of these constructs come from a good place, a place of affection. But as someone who loves words, I see a culture shift to a place where being enthusiastic and positive is no longer cool." --Maggie Steifvater

On interacting with fans and readers going forward:

"I think that women authors in particular are asked to be nice online. Always nice, always nurturing, never aggressive. It seems like this should spare them the slings and arrows of online misfortune. But in reality, it just takes away our weapons. I looked around at authors like Chuck Wendig and John Scalzi and I thought — they get to say what they want. When something’s bullsh-t, they’re allowed to call bullsh-t. That. That’s what I’m going to do. If you hate me, you can hate me because I called it as I saw it, not because of some imagined slight. I’m going to stand up for what I believe in." --Maggie Steifvater

On cruel fans:

"I mean we, Maggie and I, are women whose fans are often young girls and women, and they’ve grown up in this world that tells them that successful women are monsters, and that any woman who acknowledges her hard work or success is to be deplored and dehumanized. You often see people talking about female writers and creators saying, “She thinks she’s so great,” “She thinks she’s a Queen!,” “She thinks people should bow down to her,” etc; there’s usually no evidence of that beyond the fact that they’re successful and not self-loathing. I wish that wasn’t a problem for women — I wish these young girls were growing up in a world where it was okay for them to think they were so great." --Cassandra Clare

"She is generally seen as a creator, and I am seen as an author. Those things seem like they should be the same, but I think someone who self-identifies as a fan is far more likely to press physical boundaries than someone who self-identifies as a reader." --Maggie Steifvater

On how to be an awesome fan:

"Engaging passionately and critically with my work, buying the books legally, regarding me as an individual, not making assumptions about my motivations or my politics, buying me an F12 Ferrari in charcoal with black wheels. You said awesome, not just great." --Maggie Steifvater

"Obviously my books mean an enormous amount to me and are so close to my heart, so when I see people loving them, living inside them, it means the world to me. I think being an awesome fan also means being kind to other fans, and kind to yourself. Know that loving a book doesn’t make you a nerd or a geek, it makes you special and amazing." --Cassandra Clare

I'm hoping that's enough to inspire you to head over and read the whole article in all its insightful glory, but just in case, here are the things I gleaned from it as guidelines on how to be an awesome fan:

Treat others the way you want to be treated.  

Oh, wait.  It's as simple as that?  Yep.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Jamieson Brothers Novels by Angie Stanton | Review

If you're old like me, and remember Hanson in high school?  No?  Oh c'mon.  Admit it.  The Jamieson brothers - Garrett, Peter, and Adam - make me think of the Hanson brothers - what were their names again? Oh, right.  Lost in the everspace.

Rock And A Hard Place

The first book in the series follows the middle brother, Peter, who is the songwriter and lead singer of the group.  The boys' mom tries to make touring and traveling a family affair to keep the boys grounded and to keep them bonded as a family (which is a delightful touch), so they all ride together in a bus.  Peter lucks into love, loses it, and spends the rest of the novel trying to find the girl he loves again.

What I liked about this story, and what drove me to want to pick up the next book in the series, was the innocence.  The teens were so innocent, even though they hadn't been sheltered from reality, they had such high expectations of humanity, even after hardship, and that kept the story grounded.  I loved that it wasn't a typical love story and that its heroine, Libby,  was someone you can be proud of, someone you can point out as a conqueror of her situation, and that made me happy.


The second book picks up with the youngest brother, Adam.  He's determined to spend his week-long break, unheard of in his world of successful music-making, at a photography arts camp as a regular teenager.  So, he heads off, shaving his head to try to fool his fans.  He, too, finds love, just not as easily as Peter did.

The thing I realized at the end of this one is that these books, unlike many summer-romance trilogies, aren't overtly formulaic.  While Peter & Libby's story was pretty squeaky clean, Adam & Marti's deals with heavier teen issues such as unprotected sex and the possibility of teen pregnancy, underage drinking, and rebelliousness you rarely see in the baby of the brood.

The difference in the two was so striking, it led me to the third, even though Garrett was probably my most hated character throughout the first two books and I knew he'd take the main stage on this one.

Under The Spotlight

Garrett is really a douche of an older brother.  This book picks up after the band hits some major issues, and Garrett loses his way a little.  It's the story of him trying out a new profession, and chasing a girl who wants more than anything to make her own way in the world, without her mother finding out, and teaching him some much needed life lessons along the way.

Character crossover between the three novels is very well-done.  And it seems more plausible than convenient.  Under the Spotlight sheds light on previously unexplained behavior and brings a great close to the three-book series.  Really, it does.

So, if you're looking for a trilogy that's already out, that you can binge at the beach, poolside, or under a massive forest canopy, put this one on the list.  It'll keep you guessing, keep you interested with its unique characters, and most of all, keep you entertained, page-flipping as fast as your little eyes can bear.

Angie Stanton also wrote the recently reviewed Royally Lost, so if you want another to add to your vacay queue, it's a safe bet.