Book Review, Fiction, Random

2015: Favorite Reads

2015 - Favorite Reads graphicOne of the things that I love about this time of year (other than copious amounts of sugar cookies) is that this is when news outlets start assembling their “best of” lists. The best movies of 2015, the best songs from 2015, best books, best memes, etc. Since I’m firmly behind the eight ball when it comes to trends, I’m usually reading a book that was a smash hit five years ago and has already been adapted for the big screen (looking at you Gone Girl. Haven’t watched the movie though …). So I went through my Goodreads list for 2015 and picked out the books that impacted me during the year. This year’s goal was to read 30 books. It was something of a laughable goal, because if I really put my mind to it – I can slam a book down in a day. But I work full time. I’m a mom. And on the side, I – you know – like to write. So 30 was doable. I’ve already exceeded that goal by one. 🙂

Here’s what has stuck with me, long after I’ve turned the final chapter:

Shivaree – JD Horn Amazing – the first couple books on this list were actually published in 2015. This makes me feel relevant! But back to the book … I read Shivaree in one evening. Started in the afternoon, could not put it down, and went to bed shortly after midnight. And then proceeded to have some pretty haunting dreams. Shivaree is set in the south after the Korean War and is a paranormal, Southern Gothic horror. I almost didn’t make it past the first chapter but was glad that I stayed the course. Mr. Horn uses rich characterization of the setting, the historical context, and the people he’s created to drive a gripping narrative. Seriously – I need to read more of this man’s work.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert In my Goodreads review of Ms. Gilbert’s non-fiction on nurturing your creative life, I wrote that I felt like Ms. Gilbert had wrote this book for me. There were so many spots where I wished I was reading a physical copy of the book (checked out the book from my library for Kindle), so I could take a highlighter and mark pages to go back to and re-read again and again. I will be purchasing this book when it’s out in paperback. (Don’t get me wrong – I love hardcovers, but I’m a paperback kinda girl.)

Winter Garden –Kristen Hannah Oh man, this book got me in the feels. I liked the historical nature of Ms. Hannah’s book, but even though I was reading about fictional people, there were parts of this book that had me sobbing. That’s how invested I was in the characters. (Yes, books make me cry – don’t get me started about “Harry Potter” or “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” My nose is turning red just thinking about it.)

Crazy Old Coot / Old Coots Never Forget – Jerry Johnson If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you’ll know that I talk a lot about Jerry, my mentor from college. I talk about him a lot, but I probably don’t talk about him enough, because Jerry’s one of the first people who really made me believe in my ability to write and he’s been a good friend and one of my best and fiercest critics.  If you’re a fan of creative nonfiction, you need to read Jerry’s books.  (Here’s the link to his Amazon page.)  His essays run the gamut between capturing the atmosphere of curmudgeonly men in their hunting camps to elegies Jerry has written for lost friends.  There’s something for everyone in Jerry’s work – reading his blog is time well spent.

What the Night Knows – Dean Koontz There is a fabulous indie used and new bookstore in Red Wing, Minnesota called Fair Trade Books. They have a nifty policy that if you are a newcomer to the store, the owner or one of the employees will try to find a book from their used selection that they’ve specifically chosen for you based on what you’re interested in reading.  What the Night Knows was the book that was chosen for me and it was a good read.  Koontz is an author I had never read before, but Koontz wrote a convincing thriller that had a heavy supernatural tone throughout.  And I loved it.  He built a world that I was not able to shake for awhile after finishing his novel.

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As for next year, I think I’m going to be bold and try for 35 books. (Sorry … sarcasm.)  J.T. Ellison, one of my favorite authors, has a standalone novel coming out, as well as a prequel that features her Taylor Jackson character.  I’m looking forward to reading both of those.  I’m also going to start diving into some of the classics of my chosen genre – Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler.  I also have a goal to read every Sackett novel that Louis L’Amour ever wrote.  (When I was in college, I once spent a Christmas break reading a box of L’Amour books my dad had bought at an auction. I think I averaged two a day, figured out that L’Amour liked to plagiarize from himself and had one hell of a good time reading Westerns.  Then I passed them onto my grandpa.  Books can build bridges between generations … that was time well spent.)

What are you going to be reading in 2016?

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Fiction, Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Process, Random

Friday Fare: It’s on the Internet … must be true

Friday FareFriday Fare is a round up of my “best of” when it comes to Internet links that I’ve read this week. Enjoy!

There were a couple things I read that got elevated to “Post-It” status on my desk this week.  Sure, I had to unearth said Post-It from my desktop, but these items were important enough for me to remember and post for your reading enjoyment. 🙂

First is this post called Slow Berkshires from Alana Chernila at “Eating from the Ground Up.”  Ms. Chernila is known for her incredible recipes and their reflection of the “farm to table” movement and while this post is a departure from the typical fare of her blog, it is in line with the aesthetic of her recipes – local, organic, intentional.  The post is a reflection of the hike that Chernila and her husband took from one end of the Berkshires to the other.  And while I know that such a jaunt is a few years from my present life (hel-lo, mother of toddlers!), it is something that’s on my bucket list.

The other three things I jotted down are a little more random … one of them is down below in “Listening,” while the other two are food related.  1) If you have an abundance of cucumbers right now from your garden or CSA, make these pickles.  Now.  2) I’m kind of obsessed by the concept of turning zucchini into noodles.  It seems like a travesty, but it sounds like a tasty one to try …

BUT THIS IS NOT A COOKING BLOG.  Now to the articles that enriched me as a reader and writer this week …

I grew up in the Midwest and I was reared on the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.  (Do not get my mom started about the side trips I begged to go on during our bi-annual trip to South Dakota where I would seek out random LIW-related sites.)  So this literary mystery about whether or not Pa Ingalls brought a heaping helping of vigilante justice to some serial killers was interesting (even if unlikely).  Side note – I still need to read “Pioneer Girl.”

Here’s another bandwagon I’m late for:  Ann Rule.  Turns out that one of my FB author friends was real-life friends with the late author so upon Ms. Rule’s death, I found myself reading a lot about this amazing ex-journalist, turned author.  And while it seems that everyone and their mother has a Ted Bundy story in the Midwest, I need to get my hands on “The Stranger Beside Me.”

Finally – Facebook, it’s ability to stalk me via whatever “feels” I’m having and its targeted ad suggestions should squick me out, but I tune out ads as handily as I ignore whining children.  However, I’ve noted that FB thinks I should take James Patterson’s “Master Class” for writers that is offered online.  Luckily, another writer did that for me.  Joyce Maynard’s piece is light on the snark and her conclusion is surprising …

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Here are the other mediums that have been inspiring me:

Listening to: One of my coworkers texted me an article the other day about the television debut of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.  I’m in love.  Jimmy Fallon said that their music is pure barroom soul and he’s not too far off the mark.  NPR is currently streaming their upcoming album.  I have a sense that this album is going to find it’s way into my home soon.  And hopefully, my children won’t start running around singing “S.O.B.”

Reading:  Just finished “Winter Garden” by Kristin Hannah.  I’m still processing this one … it was an incredible read and it’s the kind of book that an aspiring writer can learn a lot from …

Fiction Update:

Wine and song ... er, outlining
Wine and song … er, outlining

This was the scene at Casa de My Kitchen Table the other night … I unearthed the folders that had the notes for my “resort story” and I started to page through them.  I was surprised to see how much I had written (I apparently went on a jag with this project in October 2012 through February 2013 … my eldest son would have been three months through eight months old during that time … no wonder I barely remember anything!) and even more thrilled to discover it wasn’t total shit!  Woo for some postpartum progress!

Happy Friday, friends!

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random

Friday Fare: It’s on the Internet … must be true

Friday FareFriday Fare is my “best of” when it comes to Internet links that I’ve read this week.  And it’s been so long since I’ve written one of these, I had to look back to see the format!  Uff da.

Without further ado – these are the articles that caught my attention and maybe made me a smarter person this week:

Forbes ran an article about what is considered to be “on time,” “late,” etc.  I hate to admit this, but I’ve become terrible about making appointments on time.  I could blame my children because readying for an outing, loading two toddlers in a car, and refraining from drinking is probably the closest thing I’ll come to competing in a triathlon in my life, but this is something I need to be better about.

Lee Lofland, the mastermind/force behind the Writers’ Police Academy, published these “6 Police Apps for Writers.”  I’m upgrading to a better phone in October, I think some of these are going to find their way on my phone …

And this has nothing to do with writing, but a lot to do with who I am as a person … one of my all-time favorite movies is “Real Genius.”  And it turns 30 this year.  Kids and writing have cut back on my movie watching bandwidth, but “Real Genius” is a movie that I could watch over and over again.  It’s eminently quotable and it has Val Kilmer in it.

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Speaking of movies, I’m making time to take one in this weekend – Ricki and the Flash.  I’m not one of those people who fawn over every film that Meryl Streep makes (and honestly, I have never seen the older films that put her on the map), but some of my favorite movies from recent years feature her: “Julie and Julia” (dragged my hubby to that one, he didn’t complain) and “Mamma Mia!”  Plus Kevin Kline is in it … this can’t be a bad thing (“In and Out” is also one of my favorite movies.)

Otherwise, this is what has been inspiring me lately:

Listening to:  I’ve been on an Old Crow Medicine Show kick recently.  I went to see them in concert in May and it is in one of my top five shows.  Here are a couple of YouTube concerts that give a glimpse of how talented these guys are.

Reading:  Sheyna Galyan gave me an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of her latest book “Strength to Stand” (will be released on Sept. 1.).  And damn … it was a good read.  I’ll be posting a review on my Goodreads feed soon.  I’m also reading “Winter Garden” by Kristin Hannah.

Fiction Update: Right now, I’m filling the well back up and reading good books, getting ready to beta read a friend’s novel, and mentally weighing what project I want to start outlining next!

Happy Friday, friends!