Tag Archives: book list

Reading Challenges: A Year of Reading, and more!

books-552572_1280How many of you have a stack of books you’re planning to read? Someday, right? And how many of you add to that list every year? I’m with you! I needed to know what happened in the Lunar Chronicles too!

books-1841116_1280That’s why I love the reading challenge created by Estella’s Revenge called #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks. I joined up last year and read 38 out of 131 books. I think I started with double that amount on the shelves (and floor), but one of the books I read was The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I sold/gave away 125 books.

I’ve created my current bookshelf list for 2017, should you wish to peruse my shelves.

(And it’s safe to say I’ll be doing this reading challenge for years to come, because let’s face it, I will keep buying books. But now, I do read more that I currently own versus buying QUITE so many.)

***

51j4xd2ntcl-_sx355_bo1204203200_I’m also using the book A Year of Reading to diversify what I read this year. This guidebook separates each month with a theme and gives six different book ideas for that theme. I love its diversity in authors and in genre.

It’s inclusive of authors of color, something I was looking to include more of this year in my reading, and the genre options include fiction and nonfiction, but also more marginalized categories like graphic novels, poetry, and short story anthologies.

The themes range from serious to fun, with a mix of genre styles within them. January was all about happiness, so very timely for that new year, new you vibe.

This month, I completed The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman. 

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Kalman’s book is different than most books I’ve read because it is also an art book. The pages are her colorful paintings and photography of people, places, and things that catch her eye – whether passing by on the street or musing over a historical figure.

This is a book you could read in a day. But I chose not to. I wanted to savor it.

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On a surface level, it’s an easy book to read for reading’s sake. But I wanted to muse along with her. Sometimes I learned about a historical figure, or a family member of hers, or even the intricacy of a tassel on a chair. So what you really get out of Kalman’s book is that happiness is found in the little things. The day to day moments where we stop. And just look. Just listen.

What reading challenges are you doing this year, formal or otherwise?
What books have you read recently that made you think? 

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Final Book Reviews for the To Be Read Pile Challenge

2015tbrbuttonThe end of another year means that reading challenges are wrapping up all over. For the last three years I’ve participated in the TBR (To Be Read) Pile Challenge hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader. The goal is to read 12 books off your bookshelf that have been sitting there for more than a year.

Not a bad way to save money too! 

I’m proud to report I completed the challenge by finishing my book list.

My 2015 TBR Pile Challenge List:

  1. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)
  2. Persuasion by Jane Austen (1818)
  3. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1905)
  4. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1965)
  5. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (1969)
  6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling (1999)
  7. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (2012)
  8. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
  9. The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry (2011)
  10. The Secret History by Donna Tartt (2004)
  11. Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James (2013)
  12. Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher (2012)

My favorite read was probably In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I hadn’t read it before and his attention to detail really makes you feel like you’re in the room with the characters. Plus, it’s based on a true crime, a despicable crime, and yet the way he writes it, the reader is drawn to the story of the killers and what happens to them.

The final two books I have to report on are: 

ketchup_clouds_pitcher_novelKetchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

I loved this book. It’s the story of a teen girl who starts writing letters to a death row inmate. And in her letters, she confesses to a crime that she got away with.

I listened to this one on audiobook and highly recommend the audio version if you’re into them. While being a YA book, it deals with a lot of serious themes such as family dynamics, first love, finding oneself, and guilt.

What’s interesting about this book is we never actually meet the death row inmate. He’s a key character as Zoe, the teen girl, tells her story to him, revealing aspects of his own crime as she reads about it. We learn about him, but we never actually meet the inmate. I thought this book was exceptionally well written and very interesting.

29044The Secret History by Donna Tartt

On the literary end of things, Donna Tartt’s Secret History also deals with a murder.

The book opens with a group of college freshman narrator. We know a body was found beneath the snow, and that the narrator was somehow involved, but we don’t know how.

Then the book zooms back to his first days at college, making friends, scraping money together for bills, and how Richard, the narrator, gets involved with a select group of students in a greek language class.

The students in the greek class are nothing like Richard. They come from wealthy families with summer homes in Europe and wear expensive suits to class and dine at fancy restaurants multiple nights a week. But Richard does his best to fit in.

Everything has a cost. And that’s all I’ll tell you about this one.

*****

For those of you that are looking to join up with a reading challenge in 2016, I must sadly report that Adam is not continuing the TBR Pile Challenge, but will have other reading challenges available you can check out on his blog.

So I partnered with Adam and some of my favorite book bloggers to find another reading challenge that focused on the stacks that no longer fit on my bookshelf. Here’s what they recommended.

2016 Reading Challenges

In 2016, I’m joining forces with Andi from Estella’s Revenge for the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge and Maren from The Worn Bookmark for her #2016ReadMyBooks challenge.

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Both challenges focus on reading books you already own, but that can be actual paper copies as well as ebooks.

There is no set number you have to read, it’s up to you to decide what is manageable and what you want to achieve.

Andi and Maren are both setting goals of 100 or more! I am shooting for 24. That’s 2 books/month. So truly, go as big or as small as you want!

Another bonus, you don’t have to pick the book titles ahead. (This is helpful to me since my reading varies on my mood. I like that these challenges allow for flexibility.) I’ll be adding a page soon with my full library to list all my reading options. Feel free to share your recommendations with me in the comments too!

2016-read-my-books

If you have a blog, the hosts encourage you to write reviews of the books you read and share them with the hashtags above. You can also catch them on Instagram!

The first thing you have to do is count up how many unread books are on your bookshelf…and floors and desk and bedside table. 

I have a grand total of 161 unread books. 

And I asked for more for Christmas!

I’ll be kicking off the challenge with my gluttonous consumption of the Outlander series. I’m working on Voyager now.

So who’s with me?
Are you participating in reading challenges in 2016?
If you did any this year, how did they go? What was your favorite read? 

*****

P.S. Need help writing a book report? Check this out! 😉

 

P.P.S. In case you missed it, I guest blogged at Coach Daddy last week, hanging out with my pal, Eli Pacheco! I shared 3 books, 3 songs, and 3 quotes to inspire the world! Eli is always writing honest and inspiring blog posts. He just did a great one this weekend about gratitude. Stop by and hang out with us, it’s a fun group!

coach daddy

What I’ve Been Reading

The one good thing about colder weather is it’s the perfect excuse for curling up with a good book.

I’m an avid coffee shop attendee and I love seeing so many students bent over the tables with their books, and sure homework too. I love seeing people with their newspapers and novels and a big mocha next to them. November is also the start of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Thousands of writers from all over attempt to write 50,000 words in a month’s time.

How’s everyone doing on their reading challenges this year? Anyone participating in Roof Beam Reader’s To Be Read Pile Challenge or make one up of their own?

I’m 2 books away from completing my list, but feeling wary whether I’ll finish. I hope to read The Secret History by Donna Tartt and Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher yet this year.

I’ve had some interference with my book list, you see.

His name is Jamie Fraser. And he lives in the Outlander series.

Oh hello there. When did you come in?
Please stay awhile. In fact, let’s plan a trip to Scotland together. 

Where was I?

Oh yah, my TBR pile.

It’s growing. Look what I just scored from the library’s fall book sale!

holding up a dozen books

Having fun isn’t hard when you have a library card! 

I have been diligently trying to space out my series reading and catch up my TBR pile. Here are a few recommendations I have for whatever mood you may be in.

TBR Pile Challenge Update

For lovers of family dynamics ~ The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry 

A little bit paranormal, a lotta heart, The Kitchen Daughter tells the story of Ginny, a twentysomething with Aspberger’s Syndrome, but she doesn’t know that. She was always raised to believe she had “a personality” and nothing more.

The book opens at the funeral of her parents, and now Ginny and her sister are forced to learn how to communicate together in an unknown future. What’s more troubling for Ginny is the fact that she’s seeing ghosts. By cooking handwritten recipes of loved ones who’ve passed, Ginny can talk with them.

Written from Ginny’s perspective, The Kitchen Daughter is a unique glimpse inside someone’s head – a woman who is just as independent and caring as the rest of us, but shows it differently.

I loved the paranormal element the most in this book. I love how Ginny was able to take an experience like a conjuring and see it as a way to learn more about her family. And I liked the relationship between Ginny and her sister, which felt very real as each struggled to navigate what they thought was best for the other. This would be a great book for book clubs to read.

For fans of YA ~ Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This book was nothing like how I expected.

For starters, while published in 2013, it takes place in 1986. I wondered whether today’s teens would understand the magic of the mix tapes exchanged between these two. I loved it.

Eleanor and Park couldn’t be more different, or more the same. This book ended in a place I least expected, and I don’t want to give any spoilers, so you’ll just have to read it yourself.

At its core, this is a story of two misfits. Park gets by in school, but feels like the odd duck at home, unable to live up to his father’s strict requirements. Eleanor wears armor in her zany form of dress as a way to look tougher than she is. Behind her wild hair and colorful clothes, is someone hiding a painful secret.

Together, life feels a little bit easier. But it also gets more real.

These characters tugged at my heartstrings.

For fans of sci-fi ~ The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin

I picked this book out for my book club to read when we decided to each pick a different genre. As I read a lot I didn’t have a preference on what genre I was assigned. But I admittedly know little about science fiction beyond Kurt Vonnegut, who was a favorite in high school.

I struggled with this book, as did my entire book club. I recommend researching the author and the book first as the history and symbolism built into the book made it more interesting to read.

And warning, it doesn’t get really good til about 100 pages in. So you have to stick with it.

This story takes place on the planet, Winter, where the people have no gender. Once a month, they enter a transition period called kemmer where they can take on male or female form and partner with another person. They have no choice in which gender they take, and could fluctuate from each one each time they enter a kemmer period.

The book has a lot of feminism between the lines. In a world where there is no gender, and all the people are on equal ground, there is no war. Two ideas which LeGuin played with in many of her works.

And what’s fascinating is that it’s written from an outsider’s perspective, Ai Genly, who is sent to Winter as an ambassador, in hopes of convincing their people to join the Ekumen – AKA what we know as the United Nations. The story follows Genly’s mishaps in communication and tactics because he doesn’t understand the people he is speaking with. Isn’t that very fitting for where we are in the world today? We all rush to identify and place people in social constructs we know and understand, without really understanding them at all.

If you can stick with it through the unusual names and long backstory, this is an interesting read. Certainly a thought provoking one.

*****

What books have you recently read and enjoyed?
What books do you hope to finish before year’s end? 

The To Be Read Pile’s Final Review: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Did you participate in a book challenge this year?  There are so many fun ones it’s hard to choose, but I completed my first year with the To Be Read Pile Challenge.  It’s a contest to complete 12 books that have been sitting on your shelf for over a year.  The prize for all those who complete their 12 books is a chance for a $50 gift card to Amazon or Book Depository.  Pretty awesome, right?

To learn more about the To Be Read Pile Challenge click the 2013 link above and sign up for next year’s contest!

Part of the qualifier for the contest is to write up a review of each of the 12 books you read.  It can be as elaborate or simple as you like.  Check out my 2012 book list and past reviews at any of these links:

My TBR Pile Challenge Books: 

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  3. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
  4. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  5. Blessings by Anna Quindlen
  6. The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  7. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  8. The Lace Reader by Bromonia Barry
  9. The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
  10. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  11. The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund
  12. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters, Jane Austen

I have yet to do my final review of the last book, so I present…

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

(goodreads.com)

Geek Love is the story of the Binewski family, a bunch of circus freaks taking their act on the road.

That, and they actually create their act.  Al and Lil Binewski willingly subject themselves to various mixtures of drugs in hopes of birthing the most wonderful freaks and geeks for their family show!  There’s Arturo, the aqua boy.  Iphy and Elly the siamese twins.  Oly, the dwarf hunchback.  And their newest member, Chick, who’s the most special of all.

The story actually jumps around a bit between the family’s early years on the road and where they ended up down the line.

The shining glory of the story is in its bizarre, twisted writing.  It’s strange phrasing of words reminds me of my first encounter with A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

Sample the Writing:

Here’s a sample, one of my favorite descriptive paragraphs wherein the father is telling the children about his wife’s glory days in the ring as…the woman who bites heads off of chickens!

She fluttered around like a dainty bird, and when she caught those ugly squawking hens you couldn’t believe she’d actually do anything.  When she went right ahead and geeked ’em that whole larruping crowd went bonzo wild.  There never was such a snap and twist of the wrist, such a vampire flick of the jaws over a neck or such a champagne approach to the blood.  She’d shake her star-white hair and the bitten-off chicken head would skew off into the corner while she dug her rosy little fingernails in and lifted the flopping, jittering carcass like a golden goblet, and sipped!  Absolutely sipped at the wriggling guts!  She was magnificent, a princess, a Cleopatra, an elfin queen!  That was your mama in the geek pit.

It’s quite entrancing really.  I loved the writing.  But, the story did wane a bit for me.  I would’ve been perfectly content reading more stories about them on the road together as youngsters.  As the story unfolded to their later years, and the subsequent demise of the Binewski circle I began to hate many of these characters.

I do think this book would make for a fascinating movie.  And if I were a make up artist/creature creator I’d so want in on the production! Visually, I love the book.

I am a big Goodreads fan and check out other reader reviews on there often.  It seemed most readers were really divided.  Cumulatively, Geek Love holds a solid 4.0 rating out of 5 stars, which is pretty dang high.  But reader response was quite split between full on love and then other 2.0 ratings like myself where it was a lot of I really liked it, but… statements.

Don’t take my word for it, read it yourself!  It’s certainly an interesting premise!  

And 2013 is almost here!  Sign up for the To Be Read Pile Challenge at Roof Beam Reader.  See you there! 

Announcing the 2013 TBR Pile Challenge and other ROW News

(amazon.com)

Hey ROW80 friends!  I hope all of you enjoyed your Thanksgiving!  Mine was short but sweet since my parents came up for the holiday and spent it with my honey’s family.  Everyone hit it off splendidly and I was happy to have a bit of home before starting my midnight shift for Black Friday.  I did an 11 hour shift that day and worked through the weekend, which equaled about 7 days in a row.  Today was my first day off, and I admit it, I didn’t write on my novel.  I had a Downton Abbey marathon.  It felt good to be a bum for a day.  Real good.

But…exciting things are happening!

ROWmodel Awards are back!

ROWmodel of the week goes to Jessica Fritsche and her post, Know When To Fold Em.  After struggling with her WIP finding hole after hole, she set it aside to go back to a different project and is a busy writer bee using this new project for her NaNo novel.  She cracked out 4,000 words in one day and sounds like she’ll keep going strong!  Go Jessica, we’re all rooting for you!

Honorary ROWmodel of the week also goes to Myndi Shafer for Making It Happen:  Work How You Can, When You Can.  You’ll never guess where Myndi sometimes goes to get her writing done.  This girl’s got gumption; and she’s using it to make her dreams come true!

The 2013 TBR Pile Challenge has kicked off!

So exciting!!!!  Adam at Roof Beam Reader has launched the 2013 To Be Read Pile Challenge!  Haven’t participated before?  You must!  I love it!  The challenge, should you choose to accept it, involves picking 10 books (plus 2 alternates) off your bookshelf that have been sitting there for at least a year.  Books with a publication date of 12/31/11 or before all qualify.  You have the course of 2013 to read your 10 books and link back a review of the book along the way.  Complete the challenge and you could win a $50 Amazon gift card!  I’m working on my book list now!

What titles would be on your list?

A Reggae CD Giveaway!

Looking for some new jams?  I’m hosting a music giveaway with Wisconsin Reggae band, TUGG, for a FREE copy of their full cd, Come Sunrise.  All you need to do to enter is comment or tweet one of the interview posts I did with the lead singer, Andrew Hughes.  Part 1 is about the changing music industry and Part 2 is about social media and the music business.  Chime in!  We’d love to hear your voice!

Last, but not least, The Redhots are back!

Tune in this Friday for another FIERY edition of The Redhots!  Marcia Richards and I are back introducing you to two REDHOT ladies you’ll want to know on Twitter!  Want a hint for who it’ll be?

  • The first is going to tell you how to feng shui your house!
  • And the other is the founder of the largest book club in the world!

Two Redheads.  Two Opinions.  Keeping it REDHOT.

Share with me, my pretties!  How was your holiday?  How is ROW80 going?  What books are on your TBR list?  Could you use a new reggae cd?  And who do you think our Twitter guests will be?

What Do You Do When the Book Doesn’t Live Up to its Hype?

We’re in the final two months of the To Be Read Pile Challenge, a year long contest where many of us are trying to read through 12 months of books that have been lingering on our bookshelves too long.  Over the course of this year, I’ve already acquired the titles for 2013’s list!  Haven’t you? 

The rules of the contest allow us to have two alternatives, in case one of the titles doesn’t keep our interest, we can can “opt out” so to speak and pick a different book.  Here’s my list for 2012.

My TBR Pile Challenge Books: 

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  3. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
  4. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  5. Blessings by Anna Quindlen
  6. The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  7. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  8. The Lace Reader by Bromonia Barry
  9. The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
  10. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  11. The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund
  12. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters, Jane Austen

Recently, I finished reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave.  Little Bee is a book with a 3.63 rating out of 5 on Goodreads.  And yet this book received so much praise upon its release!  So many of my friends have read it and loved it!  I was left feeling a little underwhelmed.  Here’s the review I left on Goodreads:

Little Bee is an exceptionally well written book with great characters. I bought this book while on vacation after the sales clerk told me she couldn’t tell me what the book was about; I was just supposed to read it.

She said it all very excited. You read the book. You love it. And you tell your friends to read it. But…you tell them nothing of the story.

It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I think I get why this book is being marketed as such. To discuss the story, would dilute the story. The magic of this book is that it forces you to think about a wealth of issues that you weren’t expecting it to. And a really good reader will place themselves in the book either as a character or right alongside them. And so I asked myself, what would I do in this situation…?

I can’t say anything bad about the book, it is a good one. And yet, I don’t know if I’m haunted by the story or left wanting to know more. And that’s the sign of a good book isn’t it? I enjoyed Little Bee. I’m glad I read it. It didn’t make me as excited as that sales clerk though. *shrug*

I kept reading the reviews from everyone, and there were a lot of interesting theories.  Some believed the book was outstanding, and that the detriment to its rank came from the over-abundance of praise, spoiling the book for its readers and not letting its worth stand on its own.  I also learned that there had been a title change from the European release to its American one!

Which title grabs your attention more:  Little Bee or The Other Hand?

I did finish reading Little Bee, and I liked it.  But it’s not going on my “Titles of the Year” list.  And after completing Little Bee, I’m down to just one more title on my TBR Pile.  It’s looming there…

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn.  I began reading this one in the summer, was loving it immensely, and it sort of fizzled halfway through.

So, fellow readers, my dilemna:

Should I finish reading Geek Love and hope it picks back up?  Or, do I move on to one of my alternative titles?  

What do you do when a book doesn’t live up to its hype?

Oooh, and please suggest a title for my 2013 TBR Pile Challenge!  If you leave one for me, I’ll give you one back!  The only rule is it has to be at least a year old, so  published in 2011 or before.  Thanks, readers!

I’ve Been Totally Missing Out on This Hogwarts Thing!

(artwork courtesy Mrs. Inman on Flickr Images)

Some weeks you just wish for a mulligan.

I had hoped by this week I’d be reporting in fabulous word counts thanks to Fast Draft and a holiday week where I was determined to hang with #teamsprinty all afternoon!

Would you even believe me if I told you about the week I had?  First day off I go and give myself food poisoning by eating a.) bad tomatoes and/or b.) bad cheese that was in my fridge since before I left for vacation.  Yah, the smart thing would have been to toss that, but we still haven’t gone grocery shopping.  I’m sort of making periodic mini trips and eating a lot of tacos right now…  #headdesk

So on my second day off, you’d think I’d take it easy.  I went to the coffee shop and started working on my WIP.  I did, I wrote a few paragraphs, and then I got hungry.  And I ordered a sandwhich with creamy cheese on it.  Stupid, stupid, stupid!  I immediately felt sick again!

Then it was back to work where I’ve put in extra hours regularly for the last 2 weeks.  But saturday was a new record.  We were Christmas-like busy and had an epic number of life events/sick calls.  It was crazy – peoples parents were admitted to hospitals, others daughters were delivering a baby, someone scratched their cornea, others played phone tag about coming in, and some just didn’t show.  To say I managed a skeleton crew is an understatement!  I worked two hours myself in fine jewelry and then a half hour in juniors, and before I left closed half the department store’s registers to where I was starting to count cross-eyed!

I turned right around to return to work on Sunday and Monday leading new hire training, which I love doing, but was exhausted from all the talking and running around.

So when Tuesday rolled around, I didn’t work on writing.  I didn’t wake up early or exercise.  I slept in.  I read Harry Potter, which has been my wonderful, magical escape each night before bed!  I ate another taco and feasted on dark chocolate while watching reruns of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.  It felt wonderful.

But I’m still motivated by you ROWers to make changes.  Elizabeth Anne Mitchell in particular gave me a good boot with her ROW update last week to make small changes for a bigger impact.  I’m taking her advice this week and setting aside a half hour each day to write.

It’s much easier to fix a page with words on it than a blank one!

A plus side is that I visited a lot of blogs this week!  I loved reading the innovative and inspiring posts you’ve all written.  Below are my recent faves about writing, new book launches you should know about, and my favorite fun reads!

And Don’t Forget:  I’m hosting a book giveaway of 3 e-book copies of Timothy McKinney’s The Power of Happiness.  You can still enter to win by leaving a comment here before Sunday, September 16th at 5pm.  

Posts on Writing:

One of my favorite posts EVER by the amazing and hilarious Jenny Hansen is 3Writer’s Commandments and Avoiding the Dreaded ‘S’ Word.  Hear first hand how Jenny learned to never quit, write her story her way, and finish what she started.  Sounds like useful advice right?  So, READ IT!  She also brings you fantastic links to NYTBS authors’ stories and gives props to the peeps that helped her along her journey.  Love this post.  Love that woman!

Did you all get to read fellow ROWer, Julie Glover’s, post about writing this week?  I’m Awesome!  I’m Awful!  Epiphanies While Editing and ROW80.  We have so ALL BEEN THERE!

I swear I’ve said this before, but if you’re NOT following August McLaughlin’s blog, you’re ridiculous!  She is a favorite blogger of mine and has some of the most well written, introspective, thought provoking posts out there on real stuff!  Check out her recent post, Carving Out Alone Time:  10 Tips for Creative Artists.

Jody Hedlund asked the question What to Do When People Don’t Get Your Story?  Experiencing first hand and sharing a friend’s tale, Hedlund gives you the best of both critique acceptance and staying professional.

Looking for inspiration on the upcoming ROW week?  Rachel Funk Heller blogged about our fear of failure and our fear of success.  She’s making some changes in her life, and inspired me to do the same.  Gr8ful4: Mediocrity, Fear, and Why I’m Giving Up Sugar.

New Book Releases You Have to Check Out:

As it is now Football Season, what better way to get in the mood with a little YA mystery set on a football field?  Tiffany A. White just self published her first novel, Football Sweetheart, and it’s soooo in my queue to read this fall!

Aimee Freeman is looking forward to the start of her senior year.  She knows her best friend Ella has been keeping secrets from her all summer long, but with football season right around the corner, the student trainer decides not to worry about it—they’ll have plenty of time to catch up on the field.

Then Ella goes missing, and Aimee realizes those secrets might be the key to finding her.  As the case unfolds, Aimee discovers more than one person may have wanted to harm Ella.  Was it Ella’s current boyfriend, a social outcast the entire city seems intent on blaming for her disappearance?  Or her ex-boyfriend, the beloved star quarterback who has harassed Ella since their breakup?  The list of potential suspects continues to grow after Aimee reads Ella’s journal, but she must first break her best friend’s secret code to reveal their identities.

Unbeknownst to Aimee, her investigation has not gone unnoticed.  Ella’s abductor is watching and waiting.  Will he decide Aimee needs to be silenced—making her the next target?

Next up is Myndi Shafer’s paranormal YA, Shrilugh.  She’s offering a free copy to anyone who gets the Shrilugh tree tattooed on their body!  Hey, I thought about it…

(goodreads.com)

Nothing can explain to Aydan Fulbert how she survived the savage attack in the woods.  Why her left eye, instead of being blinded by the injuries she’d sustained, had simply turned a shocking shade of silver.  And nothing can explain the fact that she can hear the Stranger speaking in her mind – or that she can answer him back without using her mouth.

Nothing can explain it – unless he’s telling the truth.

Nothing can explain the things the Stranger knows about her – things that she, until just a few hours ago, hadn’t known herself: that she’d healed faster from her injuries than was humanly possible.  That the cruel family she’d been raised by isn’t biologically hers.  That her stepfather is now hell-bent on bringing her to his own form of justice for a crime she didn’t commit.

Nothing can explain it – unless he’s telling the truth.

Nothing can explain why she so easily agreed to go with the Stranger.  Why she didn’t find the notion of another world ludicrous and impossible.  Why she didn’t cut and run the minute he explained where he wanted to take her.

Nothing can explain it – unless she believes he’s telling the truth.

Aydan knows she’s being intentionally naive.  She knows her decision to follow the Stranger is at best, reckless.  At worst, deadly.

…unless he’s telling the truth.

And if you’re craving even more witchy goodness, do seek out Fabio Bueno’s Wicked Sense.  The paranormal romance that just might get famed by the Redhots!  What say you, Fabio?  Be our Valentine?

(fabiobueno.com)

Witches inhabit our world, organized in covens and hiding behind a shroud of secrecy—the Veil.

Skye’s London coven sends her to Seattle’s Greenwood High to find the Singularity, an unusually gifted witch who may break the Veil and trigger a dangerous new era of witch-hunting. Things get complicated when Skye meets a charming new classmate, Drake. Skye’s job becomes even trickier when she clashes with Jane, an intimidating rival witch.

Drake falls for the mysterious Skye, but odd accidents, potion mix-ups, and the occasional brush with death kind of get in the way of romance. Once he discovers Skye is a witch, he goes to war for her, even though his only weapons are a nice set of abs and a sharp sense of humor.

Fighting off wicked Jane and the other dark forces hell-bent on seizing the Singularity’s immense power, Skye and Drake will risk everything to save the covens.

Going on a date has never been harder.

Just for Fun:

What was your first kiss like?  Myndi Shafer tells the tale of her awkward adolescence in First Kiss, and it’s a good one!  Elements of jealousy, secrets, saliva, and shame all make their way in!

Fans of Ellie Ann Soderstrom’s Tall Tale Tuesdays will love this gorgeous photo blog she shared on What I Did Last Summer.

Adam at Roof Beam Reader is hosting an LGBT Readathon in honor of LGBT Awareness Month!  The Literary Others:  An LGBT Reading Event This event is hosted with only positive, and accepting participants please!  He’s put together an awesome list of book ideas both written by LGBT authors and books with their characters or themes LGBT related.  Thanks Adam!

My lovely literature friend, Jillian, at A Room of One’s Own, turned me onto the Harry Potter Readathon and is loving the series too.  She had a fun conversation with a coworker over the question What is Your Favorite Book?  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

The Power of Happiness: A Book Review

With advice on happiness from Aristotle to Drew Barrymore, Thich Nhat Hanh to Jimmy Hendrix, Gretchen Rubin to Abraham Lincoln, the author of The Power of Happiness has you covered.

Timothy McKinney published The Power of Happiness this past July, and I can only imagine the amount of research he put into this compilation that explores multiple elements of happiness, and our unending pursuit to find it.  Check out the amazon synopsis:

In his new book, The Power of Happiness, Timothy McKinney shows readers how to be happy from the inside out. Happiness is about more than just a positive attitude or a good mood. Happiness comes from a deep sense of well-being that allows a person to be happy regardless of external circumstances. The Power of Happiness gives deep insights into what happiness is and how to reduce worry, stress, and frustration. By learning how to have different responses and reactions to the situations faced every day, readers are able to be happier with the life they have now!

By the end of this book, readers will have discovered:

• What happiness really is
• How you can know if you’re happy (hint: it’s not a feeling)
• What the benefits are to being happy
• What the individual differences of happiness are
• What foods you should eat to be happier
• Whether or not money can make you happy (the answer might surprise you)
• Ten myths about happiness
• How to develop your OWN happiness

After exploring what happiness is, McKinney goes on to discuss how to overcome unhappiness. Readers with a negative attitude will learn what to do to turn their thoughts around. The last part of the book contains ten “hows” of happiness—ten keys to creating a happier life. Readers who want to learn how to be happy no matter what circumstances they face are sure to love The Power of Happiness.

Many of you know that I started blogging and writing again after reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project a few years ago.  I have a love/hate relationship with Rubin’s book because while I valued her advice and story, it all seemed so easy, too easy.  Where McKinney’s book differs is that it has the same research and study involved of how we can identify and test happiness, but the second half of the book (my favorite) is actual practices for the “HOW” of happiness.  There are pages and pages of scenarios, list making, and activities to challenge the way you think and react to situations.  It allows an ongoing learning process for its readers.

So all of you are probably scrolling through my post right now searching frantically for the quick tips to happiness that I gleaned from McKinney’s work.  Well, there’s too many to name!  All the expected tips such as diet, exercise, sleep, work engagement, love, service, safety, money all make an appearance.  But much of the research about how these factors affect you may surprise you.

One of the big takeaways I read is that happiness requires relationships.  I don’t mean couple specific, I mean people in general.  Relationships are an integral part of our self esteem, our affirmations of work and talents, and our ability to give.  Service to others and kind word exchanges with others are crucial to how happy we feel.  And this can come in many forms:  surprising your neighbor with fresh baked cookies, volunteering at a food pantry, telling a coworker you appreciate them, being a cheerleader on Twitter for your tweeps, hugging your spouse/parent/child, etc.  All of those can be affirmations to our spirit, our ability to quantify happiness.

Attention Writers:

You know what was the most interesting to me, both as a writer and as someone who is disgustingly self aware (this is both a positive and negative trait because it means I’m my own worst enemy)?  McKinney studies happiness, but he also has a chapter that dives into feelings behind unhappiness.  The exercises in this book could be used as awesome tools for character sketches.  It makes you think about how people act, or could react, to situations.  What skills in their being help them cope, what is their natural disposition, what words identify them and what words do they wish identified them?

Besides helping you create characters, this book could be read over time and used for further journaling activities.  It’s very well laid out, and all the exercises are helpful; you could really delve into the philosophy behind each of the chapter’s steps.  Plus, every chapter starts with a quote on happiness by a plethora of famous individuals and sometimes an inspiring quote is all you need to be inspired.

Overall, I highly recommend McKinney’s book.  The second half full of exercises is well worth the read.  I don’t think the author writes with band-aid fix-its to finding happiness.  He gives you the research behind it and then provides multiple tools to try, with scenarios as examples and exercises to practice.  It’s one of those books a reader can return to a year later and still find something new, something more that they can learn about themselves.  Actually, I think that’d be really interesting since one of the chapters graphs the spikes in happiness over generations and ages.  Wouldn’t it be a fascinating thing to watch and track how your happiness gage changes from decade to decade?

Don’t you want to read this book now?  Well, you can!  Timothy McKinney has graciously offered to giveaway 3 e-book copies!  Share a comment below and let us know what your thoughts are about our ongoing pursuit for happiness.  How has your perception of how happy you are changed over time?  All those who comment will be entered to win one of the copies of The Power of Happiness.

Comments must be made by Sunday, September 16th at 5pm.

And tune in again on Friday when Timothy joins me to answer the age old question:  Can money buy you happiness?

Timothy McKinney lives in Redondo Beach, California with his wife Cindy and their two children, Heather and Robbie. He went to the University of Southern California, where he received degrees in Business and Psychology. Since 1997, Tim has been a corporate trainer who conducts workshops on subjects related to happiness and workplace effectiveness. He is a passionate vegetarian who enjoys SCUBA Diving in the Kelp Forests of Catalina Island.

ROWdate: Writing, Reading, and the Redhots – Oh My!

It’s officially September, which in my line of work, means it’s Christmas.  I’ve been feeling all nostalgic already for summer.  I know I did accomplish a lot, but I still didn’t get to the full list.  Every summer, I make a commitment to get to the beach and read at least three times.  You know why?  It never happens.  How many times did I get to the beach this summer?  Once.  And I left after only an hour because there were a lot of bees around and the sand was piping hot.

Maybe the beach is overrated.  I like the idea of the beach.  But there’s probably a reason why all of the vacations that Joe and I take are to cities.  We’ve gone to Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Boston, MA, Toronto, Ontario, and this year our road trip.  You don’t see us planning vacations to resorts or taking scuba lessons.  While those sound found, I’m not sure I could handle a whole week of beach life.  I just don’t operate that slow.  You know, island time.

I blame my family.  Look at them.

Ok, I probably coordinated that…  We were in the Tetons, I was feeling epic.

Ok, so ROW80, I’m off of work today and it’s time to Fast Draft!  Since I also have to take my car into the shop, I’m hitting another summer to do and biking to the coffee shop to get my writing done.  See you tweeps at #teamsprinty and #FastDraft today!

Other news, The Redhots kicked off this past friday to a huge success!  Did you miss out?  I won’t hold it against you, just go rectify the situation right now!  It’s not too late to get the cutest redheaded version of Siskel and Ebert tear down and pump back up again the sexy series that’s sweeping the nation:  Fifty Shades of Grey.  So visit Marcia and I and tell us what you think:  50 Shades of Hot?  or 50 Shades of Not?

If you’re up for a readathon, there are several great ones going on.  Great New Books just announced the September book review of Hemingway’s Girl and will be voting soon for the next several months.  We’d love your input on what the hottest books this season include – what do you want to read with us?

Then Jenna at Lost Generation Reader is hosting a Harry Potter Readathon from Sept. 1st – December 15th.  I’ve actually never read any Harry Potter books, so I’m signing up for the first book, just to say that yes I have read Harry Potter.

I finished reading A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain this week and LOVED it!  Never would I have thought that foods like haggis and cobra heart and sheep’s balls would sound delicious.  But reading this book confirmed, once again, that my dream job would be traveling around as Tony’s quirky redheaded counterpart – no real experience, but an eager and gullible partnership could work well.  I also have the travel bug again.  Vietnam and Portugal are placing high at the moment.  Next year…

How is your summer winding down?  Are you looking forward to fall and getting more writing done?  What’s on your autumn reading list?

ROWdate: Where Did All My Summer Go?

I don’t know where this week slipped away to!  I suppose I’ll attack my goals this week like some people recommend ripping off band-aids.  Just do it!

Writing: 

No progress on the WIP.  The only writing I got done was some journaling on my trip (before I forgot it all), three handwritten letters for fun – something I used to do all the time, and preparation of a few blog posts ahead.

What I Did Accomplish:

-Again, I’m announcing the super fun new project that Marcia Richards and I are conspiring on.  It’s called The Redhots, and it consists of two redheads (us) sharing our opinions on everything we think is HOT or NOT!  Tune in this Friday for the first ever episode where Marcia and I discuss the 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy.  Trust me, you won’t want to miss this!

-Also, I joined up with five other fabulous writers for an online book club called Great New Books, which is really getting an awesome response from readers so far, so thank you!  Our final days of the August book club pick, The River Witch, is happening now.  Tune in for September’s read, and please share your recommendations with us as well!

-Something else to look forward to:  More Author Interviews!  I’ve been busy reading and preparing interviews and blogs for two writers currently, so soon to be on the way – Michael Perry and Timothy McKinney.

Reading – In the last week, I completed The Devil Colony by DFW Writers Conference Keynote Speaker and NYTBS Author, James Rollins!  Loved this one as it takes place around Salt Lake City, Utah and Yellowstone!  Just started A Cook’s Tour by Travel Channel host Anthony Bourdain!

-Writing Plan:  Just today the fabulously funny and intelligent Nigel Blackwell suggested another round of Fast DraftWhile I cannot commit to the full two weeks (being that I work in retail and we’re already planning for Christmas!), I will commit to Fast Drafting practices on the days that I have off to boost the non-existing word count of the present.  Thank you Nigel for the kick in the pants!

That’s what I’m up to!  How about you?  Did the week slip away from you too?  Did you make great progress?  What upcoming events or projects are you excited about?

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