Don’t you dare tell me you’re not a reader

I’m coming to you this week as the host for an awesome group of people writing for #BookishBloggersUnite. If you haven’t checked out the rest of these lovelies, what are you waiting for?! From Texas to Australia, we’re talking some recent reads that have really had an impact on how we think, how we feel, or how we view ourselves.

It’s not a newsflash that I read a lot. Currently sitting at 95 books for the year actually (believe it or not I know several people who have blown past that already this year). I read them for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes I’m just bored and there’s nothing on tv that sounds better. Sometimes it’s just habit. Then there are those times where something grabs you by the heart and you forget that the story isn’t real. That’s not true though, is it? Fictional stories can be just as real as anything. Even before there was written word, there were stories that explained the universe. They explained the human condition and how we are who we are and where we came from. The impact of those stories are just as real as any true story you may ever hear. That connection is real. Do the people exist? No. Do they need to? No.  So, then why have stories always been used in this way? I don’t have the answer for that. What I do know, is that a story can connect directly to someone’s heart in a way that many people often can not.

Sure, there are silly stories that make us laugh, or complex stories that make us think, or kissing stories that make us glad someone’s getting their happily ever after. But sometimes? Sometimes there are stories that just melt your heart in places you didn’t know could liquefy. Sometimes there are stories that make you just want to call someone up and say “I see you”.  Sometimes those stories just feel like arms wrapped around your soul.  Maybe that sounds crazy to you, but if it does you just haven’t found the right stories yet. I think that’s the biggest part of why I am so determined to be a writer. and yet so terrified to actually do it. I want someone to read my words and feel like I see them. I want to put a smile on someone’s face and make them fall in love. I want to give them a reason to block out all the noise, even for just a few hours.

There have been a couple of books that have really made me think lately in that ‘sucker punch to the heart when I wasn’t looking’ kind of way. The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Image result for lost for words bookshop

I went into this book with the recommendation that it was “If Eleanor Oliphant worked in a bookshop and had tattoos, and was slightly less problematic” or something similar. It’s a story of Loveday, a bibliophile who has worked in a bookstore since she was 15. Her childhood is parceled out in small snips here and there as she is confronted with certain things in her life. An ex boyfriend is kind of, sort of stalking her. Books that should never have been around start showing up and forcing her to confront her past. A lost book introduces her to someone who she can’t quite figure out how to be with. He is patient, kind, and a poet. She is, she thinks, just too damaged. Her tattoos are first lines of books that meant something to her. They remind her of parts of her life that have shaped her into who she is. It’s not as big of a twist as Oliphant has and I think that’s a good thing. Even being able to predict how this was going to end didn’t lessen the impact when it was over. There are a few poems sprinkled throughout that help the characters express what they are feeling and it’s an incredibly effective device. It says something really powerful about communication and self trust. Before reading this book I have never considered getting a tattoo. They’re just not for me is all. When I was done with this story though, my brain immediately asked “which line would you get” and for me, that’s a mark of a great story. It pushes you to consider something about yourself. Even if it’s something as simple as getting a tattoo.

Image result for aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universe

I’m not even sure I can put into words how I felt about this book. I originally picked it up because the audiobook is narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. If there is anything that rivals my love of reading, it is my admiration for LMM (Don’t challenge me to a Hamilton lyric based conversation. Been there, won that my friend). I’d heard a few good things about this book, but I wasn’t prepared for it in any way. Honestly? This may be the most beautiful story I’ve ever read. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a tough read (trigger warnings for violence). Two teenagers in the 80s are learning how to grow up and figure out who they are. They’re best friends. One is gay. One is lost. All they really have for sure is each other. Once I turned it on though, I couldn’t bring myself to turn it off. I was cheering for them and refusing to look at how much time was left because I didn’t want it to end. And when it did, I just sat there. Silent. Exhausted. Heartbroken, but Happy. In love with the beauty of a story that needs to be told because there are so many people that will read it and say “I see me. That’s me” and I hope they feel seen. I hope they feel loved. And then I hope that they know I see them too.

So maybe these stories aren’t for you. Maybe you don’t want something that feels quite so heavy, quite so loaded. That doesn’t mean you’re just not a reader. Don’t you dare tell me you’re not a reader. In fact, that’s probably the worst thing you can say to me. I will search day and night until I find that book that you can’t put down. The one that sticks with you, niggling at the back of your brain. The one that wraps you like a warm blanket, or makes you smile like an ice cream cone in the middle of summer. Or even, the one that leaves you sobbing on the couch, hugging a book to your chest because what you needed most in the world at that moment was to just cry and let all that weariness flow away. Trust me, it’s out there.

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Last minute (book) shopping advice!

So many “Best of” lists are coming out now that we’re roughly halfway through December. This means I’m having a very hard time not letting my TBR pile get out of hand (I know, good luck with that). It’s getting harder to not just order new ones instead of waiting to see which ones make it under the tree. Speaking of, books make great gifts for anyone! Looking over all the books I’ve read this year, both backlist and new, I think there are a few that may help you finish out those last minute shopping needs.

These are listed in no particular order with a brief description:

YA for any age

  • Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer – a tragic You’ve Got Mail YA about two high school teens that suffer loss and console each other through letters left at a graveside. This story is so tender and sweet, great for anyone who wants a book with ‘all the feels’.
  • The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden (and Romeo Catchers by Alys Arden) – Books 1 & 2 in this YA trilogy about coming back to New Orleans in a post ‘Katrina’ and discovering a vampire nest.
  • When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – super fun Contemp YA Romance about an Indian daughter who just wants to go to college and have a career and the very traditional Indian boy her parents have secretly arranged for her to marry. Their first introduction ends with a drink in his face because he is totally on board and thinks she is too, except SPOILER ALERT, she doesn’t know anything about it. Set at a Stanford tech camp the summer after HS graduation.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – speaking of all the feels, this YA story is about first love, surviving a truly horrible home life and can there be hope after all? I just wanted to hug this story when it was done.
  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber – (I’m not in agreement that this should technically be YA) described as “one part amusement park, one part Venice, and one part game show, painted in all the colors of a gothic circus”, this is a great fantasy story about an exclusive escape to a carnival where you know nothing is as it seems, but is it too real? Lots of intrigue and magical fun. (If you liked The Night Circus, you’ll like this one! If you haven’t read NC, add that to this list too!)

 

Fiction

  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman – this is a lovely story about a retiree who has recently lost his wife and decided that there isn’t any left for him in life, but life has other plans. (bonus: this is already a movie and Tom Hanks is doing an American remake of it)
  • The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan – sweet story about a librarian who decides to open a bookstore in a van after her library is closed, set in a beautiful Scotland
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – o.m.g. this is just so fantastic. You follow Eleanor through her life during good days, bad days and worst days. She is so unusual and awkward that you can’t help but stayed glued to her as she navigates a crush and loss and then you get slammed with a jaw dropping bomb.
  • The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan – for all fans of all things royal, this story reads like a look directly into what I imagine the courtship and marriage of Prince William and Duchess Catherine should have been. You’ll forget this story is totally fiction and that they’re not really your friends.
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – classic gothic thriller surrounding the de Winters at Manderlay and full of psychological suspense.

Non-fiction

  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah – Host of the Daily Show, Trevor was born in South Africa during apartheid when being biracial was actually a crime. His memoir is a fascinating look at growing up in apartheid and what it meant to be white or black and the consequences of having the ability to choose.
  • As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes – If they loved The Princess Bride (let’s be honest, any other view is inconceivable. You’re welcome) then they need this book. It’s such a celebration of the film full of funny anecdotes from all the actors and insights into the process that brought all of the beloved characters to life.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – nonfiction, this tells the story of the HeLa cell, the first immortalized cell line and one of the most important cell lines in medical research in a time before HIPAA and the question of where do you draw the line when it’s for the greater good? This is a fascinating look at how medical research has changed over time
  • No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay – my favorite poetry collection by a spoken word poet. Kay is just so fantastic and her views are fun, and potent, and worth the read over and over again.
  • Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson – (or anything by Erik Larson for that matter. Dead Wake is awesome too!) for the history buff about the Chicago’s World’s Fair and H.H. Holmes

 

Just for you bonus : Delphi Effect and Delphi Resistance by Rysa Walker – YA scifi about a secret government program that induces paranormal powers in kids. The main character picks up hitchhiking ghosts in her mind and they’re on the run from those who want to cover up the program’s existence. This one is free on Kindle Unlimited with narration for those of you having to travel

 

#NationalPoetryDay love from strong women!

It’s apparently National Poetry Day y’all! I’ve been known to pen a few of my own (scroll to the end if you don’t believe me), but there are a few collections out there you should be checking out for all the feels and inspiration!

  1. “No Matter the Wreckage” by Sarah Kay is my all time favorite poetry collection. I saw her perform live a few years ago with a friend and absolutely fell in love with her words. Amazing. Two of my favorites are an ode to having a daughter titled “B” and one about her brother titled “Brother”. I had an artist friend draw up “Brother” for my actual brother and had it framed for Christmas that year. It was just too perfect. Don’t believe me how awesome she is? Check out her Ted Talk and your ears will thank you later or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @kaysarahsera
  2.  “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur is another great collection by a female poet full of life, heartache, and beauty. (I’ve preordered her new one due out in a few weeks!) Her poems are succinct and hard hitting, coupled with her illustrations. Image result for milk and honey poems
  3. Last but not least, Salt. by nayyirah waheed. Another great female poet killing it about self worth, love, and strength. I’m sensing a theme here. Best of all, you can download it for FREE on Kindle Unlimited right now. I had to reorder this because my copy grew legs and walked itself into my brother’s luggage.

 

“remember,
you were a writer
before
you ever
put
pen to paper.
just because you were not writing
externally.
does not mean you were not writing
internally.”
― Nayyirah Waheed

“If someone does not want me it is not the end of the world. But if I do not want me, the world is nothing but endings.”
― Nayyirah Waheed

I’ll close us out with a few lines of my own while I was waiting a kid drop off today. Go read! Be inspired!

“waiting”
There is beauty in the waiting…
For a bus.
For a call.
For a breath.
The promise the end could bring…
An adventure.
An escape.
A start.
Hope or pain, we keep reaching;
Grasping for straws or sliding doors.
Will this be the one that changes it all?
Exhale.
Step up.
Pick up.
Inhale.
Begin again.