17 June 2018

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer



My heart. This book. Here's how my life intersects with this story: Years ago, when I book blogged regularly, I luckily received an uncorrected proof of Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings from Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Group. I started reading it and fell immediately in love. It had the feel of Donna Tartt's A Secret History, which is one of my favorite stores.

The Interestings has a lull, a full story to be told of kids who meet at a summer camp in the '70s and then their naturally unfolded lives over a period of forty years, some in directions they hoped for and some resigned to what they never could  become. I stopped reading partway through, because of the detour in my own life with breast cancer, a double mastectomy, chemo, just when my son had turned seven-months-old. I was, well... distracted, of course. With that time now firmly in my rear view mirror (thank you, God), and because of our big move to Puerto Rico and packing up my studio office a few months ago, I came across this book and my bookmark still in place of where I left off. 

I read through this furiously and quickly and fell in love with the story all over again, and it was like I had never put it down. Read this, absorb it. Every page is magic.

Originally published on my Instagram.

About the Author (from her website)
Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times–bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of the young adult novel Belzhar. Wolitzer lives in New York City.
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11 June 2018

The Moon and More, by Sarah Dessen


I just finished The Moon and More and it was my first time reading young adult author Sarah Dessen (@sdessenand it won’t be my last, no doubt about that. Why have I waited so long to read her work? I will not make that mistake again.

Emaline is smart and ambitious, wanting more out of life in the last summer before she leaves the small touristy beach town she’s lived in her whole life for college and is feeling extremely guilty about it at the same time. She’s got a great family and a great boyfriend, but things take a different direction when her biological father comes to town to settle matters at a beach house, bringing her younger half-brother with him. She’s never had a relationship with either of them, except for disappointments from her absent father, especially recently when things seemed to round the bend whenever they discussed her education and college and her future. There’s also a filmmaker in town to put together a documentary on a local friend they never knew was an artist, and working on the film is an intern who makes things even more complicated for her after her boyfriend of three years lets her down. And throughout it all, there is a sense of an internal foundation Emaline has that anchors her, keeps her grounded through the pain of disappointments from what it seems like just about everyone.

Wise beyond her years but still young and sometimes naive, this is one of my favorite moments between Emaline and her mother that I think encapsulates life overall:
"But you’re right. You’re a big girl now. I can’t protect you anymore from everything. Especially yourself." She looked away, then back at me, taking a step forward. "But know this, Emaline. The mistakes you make now count. Not for everything, and not forever. But they do matter, and they shape you. If you take nothing else from what I’ve been through, at least remember this: make your choices well. Because you’ll always be accountable for them. That’s what being an adult is all about."
 FTC Disclosure: I checked this book out of the public library.

About the Author
Sarah Dessen is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen novels for teens, which have received numerous awards and rave reviews. Her books have been published in over thirty countries and have sold millions of copies worldwide. She is the recipient of the 2017 Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association for outstanding contribution to young adult literature for her novels: Keeping the Moon, Dreamland, This Lullaby, The Truth about Forever, Just Listen, Along for the Ride, and What Happened to Goodbye. Her newest novel, Once and for All, will be released in June 2017. An NC native, she currently lives in Chapel Hill with her family.

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07 May 2018


When once I proudly proclaimed I would never read a self-help or self-awareness book, or any type of non-fiction that would steer me in any one particular direction, I now cannot put them down. I always stayed away from self-help sections in the bookstores, and now, in my early forties after battling breast cancer, with a toddler who runs my day and life chapters changing each minute (most recently for some really amazing opportunities!), I am easily drawn towards any book that will help actualize my fears, anxieties, change behaviors, learn more, deal more, live better and live happier.

It's been an interesting and absolutely challenging four years. I used to blog all the time and had a decent readership. I was excited about the books I would select to read, finish in a week or less, and then spend time putting together quality content for a thorough review. I then had a baby, was diagnosed with breast cancer when he was seven months old, went through a double mastectomy, chemo, and radiation, and two reconstructions, and while I still (obviously) take medicine every day, I'm thankfully rounding the corner to having it further and further away in my rear view mirror. I have grown more in my faith, learned a lot about patience (that's mostly because of hello, a toddler and all...!), and generally just really begun to appreciate life and living. Now. Now when I'm at the age I am now, I finally think I appreciate more things and recognize more than I ever have before on the toxic things I need to let go off, and the positive aspects I need to make more regular actions in my life.

The Power of Habit (listen to an audio sample by clicking here - the narrator was awesome, by the way) was eye-opening. Find the trigger, or the cue that makes you delve into your habit, and change that cue, and then give yourself a reward for that change. Do it, make yourself do it - even if it means tying your running shoes on first thing in the morning when you really don't want to run. Change the cue to change the routine. 

The last few chapters unexpectedly went down a different route a bit with extremely detailed examples of social habits and crowd influence, which while I found interesting, didn't relate to what I thought the general idea of the book was intending to focus on, which was how habit can be debilitating or positively life-changing, and how the smallest change in the pattern of your behavior can change any of your habits. It's an excellent overview, a fascinating peek into the whys and hows of what we do and how we do it, and I highly recommend it overall. It certainly changed my perspective on what I want to do with the rest of my life, what I want to instill in my son, and how I want to behave for my own personal growth and health. I want to enjoy this life and not be held back by any old habits that walk me down the path of fear and anxiety. I'm done with that, folks.

FINAL PHOTO SMALL
FTC Disclosure: I downloaded this audiobook through my membership on Audible.com

About the Author
Charles Duhigg worked at the New York Times, won a Pulitzer Prize, studied at Yale and Harvard, and is the author of a multitude of articles and books, including The Power of Habit and Smart Faster Better.

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26 February 2018

The Diabolic and The Empress, by S.J. Kincaid


It's been a while since I read science-fiction, or teen fiction, and now I think I'm properly hooked. With both of these incredibly fun and thrilling rides, I may have decided to stay on the young adult or teen fiction roller coaster of fun for just a little while longer.

The Diabolic is a brilliantly designed story of a young woman who is genetically engineered to be a protector, to fully embody all areas of defense, strength, intelligence, and cunning, in order to protect the one she's assigned to. But when Nemesis has to take the place of the one she's to protect, quite a different path is created for everyone as Nemesis suddenly begins to conflict with the feelings of her duty to protect Sidonia, and her newfound feelings that were not programmed in her.

I really got caught up in this story and enjoyed every second of it. Each page was a complete ride from start to finish, and I was intrigued by this character, Nemesis, who seemed robotic in fight-protect scenes, but felt an internal battle when her own emotions began to creep up on her. I would have wished for more of that developed, more moments when maybe she could have fallen down that rabbit hole for just a second to be fully encased in feelings that were not full love, or full hatred, or full protection, but were ambivalent, or fully geared towards a friendship more than what was programmed. Regardless, that's just me. I loved the story overall!

The Empress is the sequel to The Diabolic, and I must admit that
while I am a little over trilogies, I sort of felt sad that this one was just over when I turned that last page. I wanted even more of Nemesis' addicting new world and thrilling chapters, her new fight she would have to carry on against the one she once truly loved. I wanted more, and I will without a doubt beg for a third installment so I can get my ample fill of this futuristic science-fiction world so filled with religious hypocrisy and zero religious and scientific balance. This was a very well-thought out and written story and Nemesis truly became an interesting character with each page - her struggle between being a cold and emotionless person to one confused with the occasional feeling and sense of new duty was enticing and interesting. I yearn for one more in the series. Does anyone know if there are more?

FTC Disclosure: I checked both books out from my local library in Jacksonville, Florida.

About the Author 
S. J. Kincaid was born in Alabama, grew up in California, and attended high school in New Hampshire. She interned for a politician in Washington, DC, and received degrees from universities in Illinois and Ohio, but it was while living beside a haunted graveyard in Edinburgh, Scotland, that she realized she wanted to be a writer. Several years, several manuscripts, and several jobs later, Ms. Kincaid now lives in California.

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