February 6

Let’s Celebrate Superbowl Weekend!

February 6, 2016

From nj.com
From nj.com

If you love football as much as I do, then this is one of the best weekends of the year! I love nothing more than hanging with friends and watching the Superbowl! Whether you are a football fan or not, I know you are a reading fan if you are here! For those of you who want to take part in the big weekend (whether or not you watch the big game or not), here are a list of reading suggestions to get your football fix. I have not read all of these books, but they do come highly recommended:

For Those Of You Who Won’t Be Watching The Game (Fiction Reads With A Little Football Thrown In):

Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer – I love Palmer and I highly enjoyed this gem that takes place in a small Texas town that loves its football.

First & Then byEmma Mills – This looks like the perfect YA read for this weekend with a main character who loves hanging out at football games.

Some Classic Football Reads You’ve Heard Of:

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis – You’ve all heard of this classic that is also an award-winning movie that you could watch as well!

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger – If you were a fan of the TV show, now is the best time to check out the novel!

Some Memoirs of Iconic Football Players To Inspire You:

Never Die Easy by Walter Payton and Don Yaeger – One of the greatest football heroes of all time, and a Chicago Bear to boot!

I Beat The Odds by Michael Oher and Don Yaeger – The memoir from the man behind The Blind Side. On a side note, I realized as I was typing this that both of these memoirs were cowritten by the same man!

What football books would you recommend? Will you be watching the big game tomorrow?

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July 26

Burn, Rewrite, or Reread?

July 26, 2015

Last week, I came across this Burn, Rewrite, or Reread Tag on Nicole’s blog Feed Your Fiction Addiction. It looked like fun so I decided to give it a whirl. I had my friend Meghan select 9 books (split into 3 groups of 3 books) randomly from my Goodreads “Read” list. She did not know what I was going to do with them, so it is very much a random list. For each group of 3 books, I need to decide which one to burn, which one to rewrite, and which one to reread. Sounds easy, right? For books that I’ve read since I’ve started this blog, it was easier to make some decisions, but for some books, it has been awhile, and my memory is not always the best. Here goes….

 

This one wasn’t the worst one to get started with…..I was pretty clear on which book would fit each category!

BURN:  Bossypants by Tina Fey. I know I am in the minority on this one, but I didn’t LOVE this memoir. I enjoyed it, and there are definitely laughs to be had, but I wouldn’t miss this book if it were gone.

REWRITE: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I read this one a few years back, and I can’t quite recall all of the details. BUT…..in general, I would like to rewrite the endings of Liane Moriarty novels, because she often wraps things up in too tidy of a package for my liking. I don’t always believe in the possibility of what she writes.

REREAD:  All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, then this should come as no shock to you. This book is one of my all time favorite reads, and I cannot recommend it enough to others. I haven’t yet reread it, but I’m sure I will at some point.

This one was much trickier, because I really enjoyed Beautiful Ruins and I’ll Meet You There.

BURN:  A Nantucket Christmas by Nancy Thayer. I wasn’t a big fan of this one when I read it during this most recent holiday season. I hated the portrayal of all of the female characters, and I think there are far better holiday reads out there.

REWRITE:  Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. I so loved the characters and setting of this one! However, some of the characters and plot could have been streamlined a bit (but I did highly enjoy it as written).

REREAD:  I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios. I highly enjoyed so many aspects of this debut novel that I read at the beginning of the year. The setting, the characters, the development of relationships, the portrayal of PTSD, a book in a rural setting with characters of a low socioeconomic status……I thought Demetrios did such an excellent job with this one, and I’d hate for anything to be changed.

This one was by far the most difficult, because I did like all three books. I guess it’s good that I had a little bit of warm up with the first two rounds!

BURN:  Torch by Cheryl Strayed. This almost pained me to put in the Burn section, because I absolutely adore Cheryl Strayed and her writing. This was my least favorite book of hers, plus I figured the title kind of went with burning (which kind of made it cool rather than painful to make a Burn choice).

REWRITE:  The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson. I really enjoyed this book, and it’s hard to say I’d want to rewrite it, but this is what I’m left with :) . It is a heartbreaking book at many points, and some have commented that it was predictable so maybe I’d add a little more suspense with a rewrite.

REREAD:  Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. I loved this book, and I learned so much about this aspect of our country’s history that I never knew existed. I wouldn’t want to change a word of it and ruin the experience I had while reading it!

What do you think of the choices I made? Would you do anything differently? Let me know if you want to do this tag, and I’ll select some books for you at random!

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March 15

Who Doesn’t Love John Hughes?

March 15, 2015

This week I was unexpectedly offered a ticket to the For The Record production of Dear John Hughes at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago. When I received the offer via text message from a friend of mine, I was thinking, “You had me at John Hughes.” Oh how I loved the teen cult movies that Hughes produced during my angst ridden teen years! Who didn’t want Jake Ryan to be their boyfriend?

So….even though it was St. Patty’s Day weekend (a weekend that I love to celebrate), I made the trek last night down to the city. I am so glad that I did!

First of all, I absolutely love the Broadway Playhouse Theater. It is a much smaller theater venue that draws far more interactive shows than other theaters. There are no crazy long waits to get a drink at the bar or to visit the restrooms. It doesn’t have all of the beautiful historical architecture of the classics like the Cadillac Palace or the Oriental Theater, but I still love to go there.

As for the show, if you loved John Hughes movies, then you will have fun! It’s not that this is some unique concept, but you relive so many classic lines and songs from movies like Pretty in Pink, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club. If you have a great crowd, then you will find yourself suddenly singing and shouting out movie lines as well!

The set and costumes are pretty basic….again this is all about reliving those magical movie moments that you know so well. The set essentially consisted of some risers and lighted backdrops – nothing elaborate at all. I do feel like a little more could have been done with the costumes to draw you into the 80’s spirit, but they in no means detracted from the show.

I thought the cast did a great job – they appreciated audience participation, and they were able to roll with whatever was thrown at them. They moved throughout the theater during the show, engaging the crowd, and making the experience even more fun. Patrick Mulvey (of Billy Elliott on Broadway fame) did an excellent job at moving the audience through the show and building lots of enthusiasm from the audience.

If you still have a soft spot in your heart for Molly Ringwald or dream of spending a Saturday in detention, then this is the show for you! You will have a fun time, and if you are like me, you will be longing for an 80’s movie marathon soon!

Has anyone else seen this gem? What other theater productions would you recommend right now?

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December 22

Book Review – The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

December 22, 2014

From Goodreads.com:
From the beloved, bestselling author of The Dovekeepers, a mesmerizing new novel about the electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.Coney Island: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show that amazes and stimulates the crowds. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man photographing moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.

The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as an apprentice tailor. When Eddie captures with his camera the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance.

New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Hoffman at her most spellbinding.

I used to love Alice Hoffman, and I would eagerly await her new releases. Then, I read a book of hers that I didn’t particularly enjoy (and it’s been so long that I don’t even remember which book it was), and she fell off of my radar. I was browsing the new releases at my library recently when I came across her newest book The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Hoffman is now back on my radar, and I need to go back and read some of the books I’ve missed.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things is such a unique story with wonderfully unique characters. I would be so curious to know where the idea for this novel came from! Hoffman does an excellent job of developing the characters, and creating strong feelings towards the characters for the reader. Whether she wants you to love or hate a character, you will based on the feelings she evokes with her writing. Hoffman develops several strong characters that will stay with you long after you have finished reading the story.

I also adored the setting – Coney Island early in the 20th Century. I knew very little about life in New York City and Coney Island during that time. You will learn more about the lives of immigrants to our country as well as the changes that were occurring in NYC. I also had never heard of the Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and Hoffman does an excellent job of incorporating significant parts of history throughout the novel.

I really enjoyed the characters and setting of this book, and I hope you do to! Let me know what you think if you have read it!

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November 25

Top Ten Tuesday – My Winter TBR List

November 25, 2014

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and The Bookish is all about the books I plan to read this winter. I have some new releases on my radar, but there are also a few that I need to go WAY back and catch up! Many of the books on my list are based on recommendations from some of the awesome blogs that I am following! Thanks to those bloggers!

1. Last Train to Babylon – Charlee Fam. Highly recommended by Rather Be Reading as a great book club selection. This time I will read the book before making my recommendation to my book club, however, since my last suggestion wasn’t my best (see my review on Where’d You Go, Bernadette?). It sounds like the book may be uncomfortable, but isn’t that what makes for great discussion?

2. Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson. This work of nonfiction is getting quite a bit of chatter, and I loved the review by Shannon over at River City ReadingI am highly intrigued with any stories from juvenile detention centers, and this sounds right up my alley. 

3. The Outcasts – Kathleen Kent. This author comes HIGHLY recommended by Books in the Burbs. Since this book is the first one she recommended to read, I have added it to my list.

4. Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson. This moved to the top of my list following its recent win as a National Book Winner. It might take me awhile on the wait list at the library to get my hands on it!

5. Let’s Get Lost – Adi Alsaid. This book has been on my radar (and I have a beautifully autographed copy) since the Anderson’s Young Adult Literature Conference in September. It was getting RAVE reviews by so many of the conference attendees. It’s also nominated in the Book Shimmy Awards.

6. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane – Katherine Howe. Another gem that has been on my list since the Anderson’s Young Adult Literature Conference (also an autographed copy in hand). I had the pleasure of sitting next to Howe at the conference, and I am so intrigued with novels set during the Salem Witch Trials.

7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling. As I confessed last week, I have not yet read the Harry Potter series, and it is a priority to get that started!

8. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis. Another series that I am embarrassed to admit I have not read. Also at the top of my list (and in mind for my winter break).

9. The Meaning of Life – Viktor Frankl. This book is supposedly moving and inspirational. I hear it is a must read if you want to remain focused on the things that really matter in life.

10. The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd. I have LOVED everything I have ever read by Sue Monk Kidd, and I cannot believe I haven’t gotten to this one yet! I have not yet heard a negative review, and I’m confident I will love it! I need to get on this one ASAP!

What books are you looking forward to hunkering down with this winter? What would you recommend I add to my list?

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November 9

Books Make a House a Home

November 9, 2015

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a house warming party for some friends of mine. It was a well attended event, and it took me awhile to circulate among the crowd in the various rooms.When I finally made it to the living room area, I was immediately drawn to the book shelf that flanked one side of the room. At the time, I made note of the fact that I am compelled to look at people’s bookshelves whenever I pass them. Within minutes of gazing through the titles, I was joined by a fellow party-goer, and this stranger and I began a conversation about books and what we like to read.

I came to th20141109_145626e following realizations: 1) Books really do bring people together. Even though this stranger and I had very different tastes in reading, we learned more about one another and made a connection for future encounters we will most likely have. 2) Books make a house truly feel like a home. I feel that books warm up a room, make a statement about who you are and what you are like, and make a focal point that people gravitate towards.

As I thought about the books in my own home, I realized that they are a focal point as well. Whenever someone comes to visit, they peruse the books on the shelves in my den. I am happy to talk books with guests, and I often lend out books to people who show an interest in something. Since my boyfriend moved in last summer, I have had to put books in storage to make room for some of his books. I’ve also resorted to making piles on the piano as I am running out of room with the purchase of new books. I’m not sure what our books would say about us at this point, because our selection really is all over the spectrum. Hopefully, we will be moving to a new place with more space so that we both can get some books back out of storage. 

Where do you keep your books and what does it look like? What do your books say about you and your home? I would love to hear about the bookish things going on in your home!

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November 6

Book Review – Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka

November 6, 2014

From Goodreads.com:

How did Jon Scieszka get so funny, anyway? Growing up as one of six brothers was a good start, but that was just the beginning. Throw in Catholic school, lots of comic books, lazy summers at the lake with time to kill, babysitting misadventures, TV shows, jokes told at family dinner, and the result is Knucklehead. Part memoir, part scrapbook, this hilarious trip down memory lane provides a unique glimpse into the formation of a creative mind and a free spirit.

This book is a perfect first biography for a reluctant elementary reader. It’s funny with short chapters and lots of pictures. Best of all (for those kids out there reading it), it has some good potty humor. For us adults, it gives a window into what Scieszka’s life was like growing up, and how that led to the author he has become today. Scieszka utilizes short stories that provide a detailed snapshot of what he experienced throughout his childhood. An extremely quick read with lots of humor – perfect if you need a light break from heavy reading.

What have you read by Jon Scieszka? What books do you recommend when someone is looking for a “lighter” read?

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October 26

Random Musings After Two Weeks of Blogging

October 26, 2014

So now that my blog has officially been up and running for two weeks, I decided to take a moment to reflect on this journey. This is where the word random is going to come into play, because my observations run the gamut :).

1.  Setting up the blog was more difficult than I expected, both in terms of time and technical skills.

2.  There are still formatting issues that are making me crazy! I tend to be a little perfectionistic when it comes to visual details and organization.

3.  In order to make my blog a success, I need to make myself more vulnerable than I am accustomed to as I promote the blog both in person and on social media. I love when people who have been following along bring it up to me, but I struggle to bring it up randomly in conversation with those who have not yet heard about it. I am excited and want to share, but I do have that fear of rejection lingering in the back of my mind.

4.  On that note, it is interesting to see who is following along and who is passing right on by. It isn’t necessarily who I would have expected in either group.

5.  Patience is a virtue. I am not able to amass hundreds of book reviews in a short amount of time like some of the popular bookish blogs I am following. I am really focusing on the journey and what I am learning, and trying to put the outcomes to the side for now.

6.  I am hoping at some point to connect in more detail with some of the bloggers I am following. I would love some tips on how they built their audiences, how they generate discussion, how they manage to obtain all their pre-release and advanced copy books. Some of the blogs I am following are just amazing, and I would love to learn more from these people.

7.  I love that I am flexing my writing muscle while doing this (it feels good to be doing that again), but it is not quite getting me working on those revisions any more than I was before (and I was hoping the blog would provide some inspiration on that front).

8.  All in all, this has been an awesome experience so far, and I am so glad I started the journey!

I would LOVE to hear any advice you may have on blogging, writing, making yourself vulnerable, etc. I truly am looking to gain more discussion here, and I genuinely want to hear your opinions on things!

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October 25

Book Review – Tighter by Adele Griffin

October 25, 2014

From Goodreads.com:
When 17-year-old Jamie arrives on the idyllic New England island of Little Bly to work as a summer au pair, she is stunned to learn of the horror that precedes her. Seeking the truth surrounding a young couple’s tragic deaths, Jamie discovers that she herself looks shockingly like the dead girl—and that she has a disturbing ability to sense the two ghosts. Why is Jamie’s connection to the couple so intense? What really happened last summer at Little Bly? As the secrets of the house wrap tighter and tighter around her, Jamie must navigate the increasingly blurred divide between the worlds of the living and the dead.

I enjoyed this book from start to finish. There’s a little bit of everything to appeal to a large audience – part suspense, part ghost story, part teen romance. The reader cannot help but to be drawn in to the plot as Jamie becomes engrossed in discovering the truth behind the events of the previous summer on the island. The story keeps you on the edge of your seat with unexpected twists along the way.

Griffin does a great job of developing the character of Jamie, and I was drawn into the dynamics between Jamie, her charge for the summer Isa, and Isa’s brother Milo. The relationship between Jamie and local resident Sebastian is also one that sparks interest – I was rooting for them to succeed as a couple throughout the book.

I think this is a perfect read for the month of October. It is a quick read, and I am sure you will love it. This was the first time I have read anything by Griffin, but I know I will be going back for more soon.

Have you read any books by Adele Griffin? Which of her books would you recommend next?

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October 9

Welcome!

blog welcome picOctober 9, 2014

Welcome to Reading, Writing, and Random Musings! I am here to share personal book reviews, my encounters with authors, details on my journey as a writer, and miscellaneous other tidbits as they seem appropriate. My goal is not to bog you down with another blog, but to either entertain you or make your life easier by sharing my triumphs and struggles in the literary world. As I have researched other blogs in preparation for writing this one, I have realized that brevity is key! I will share in as short and concise a manner as possible!

I have always been an enthusiastic reader, even as a child. It is a way for me to unwind from the everyday craziness of life, and something I look forward to every night before I go to bed. I read a wide variety of literature across many genres. I’ve found that the book I think I would like the least, ends up being a favorite (Hello, Hunger Games!).

Just over a year ago, I started to write my first novel. I was done thinking about the “what if’s” and ready to act! I finished my first draft in about a year’s time, and I am currently working on revisions (which is a somewhat overwhelming process for me, and I am currently somewhat stalled on it at this point, but more on that in another post).

I’m as surprised as some of you by my decision to start a blog. Why now? As I continue to pursue writing, I find it inspiring and motivating to connect with people with similar interests. It helps to hear the stories of others, their challenges and what they did to overcome them. I hope that by sharing, I can help others in a similar situation, and I’m hoping that somewhere along the way, someone will offer some advice to move me forward.

I would love to know what you would like to hear more about. Feel free to comment below and indicate your interests and desires for future posts. I look forward to this journey with all of you!

 

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