I read because I must. It's like breathing to me. And I love talking about books. But I'm also an Arsenal fan, a wine drinker, a music lover and weirdly obsessed with pop culture. I mostly blog about books, but sometimes about things I'm thinking or doing. When I'm not on the blog, I'm scoping deals for a professional services company, hanging out with friends, or seeing some live theater.

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My Not So Perfect Life

Posted on 19 Feb 2018 In: Reading

I’ve taken a little time away from the blog, but I’ve been reading. And I’m back now to fill you in.

Around the Holidays, I was looking for some lighter books. A couple of chick-lit authors and readers I like gave me some recommendations. Sophie Kinsella was one. I was hesitant. The “Shopaholic” books were not for me. But because her name kept coming up, I decided to try her again. And that’s how I arrived at
My Not So Perfect Life.

I am happy to say that I really enjoyed this one. It’s chick lit, and one that grabbed me and kept me turning pages.

From the publisher’s summary:

Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she’s desperate to make her dad proud.

Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.

This was a well-timed read for me. I wanted something that interested me but that wasn’t dark.  And this was not dark in any way.  I found myself laughing in certain parts, and actually rooting for pretty much every character, as I learned more about them.  I liked that there were layers to the characters and the story.  And it’s the first book I can recall reading that has sparked its own Instagram movement.

No one likes a Debbie or David Downer.  We tend to show on social media what makes our lives look exciting or interesting.  But there’s a freedom in posting what’s real- and that’s a fun part of this book. If that is the only thing taken away from reading this book, then that alone makes it worth the read. #mynotsoperfectlife.

While the Shopaholic books weren’t for me, this one has made me take a second look at Sophie Kinsella, and I’ll be reading more from her.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Posted on 12 Dec 2017 In: Reading

Here’s the thing. I think Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck should be required reading for 98% of the population. The other two percent get it, I think. A lot of it is common sense, but some of the book turns our current thinking on its head.

Manson uses my second favorite F word a lot in this book, so if that offends you get over it and read it anyway.

Really, Subtle Art reminds us that we get only so many trips around the sun. So we need to think carefully about where to expend our energies. If we give a fuck about everything, then we can’t really give a fuck about anything, after all.

I’m not overly keen on self help books, but this one has actually changed how I react to a number of situations.  If I picture myself having a finite number of fucks to give for the rest of my life, then I have to carefully consider how I spend them.  I mean, I don’t want to use them all up by 2020 because I may need to really care about something in 2035.  But it does mean that I don’t have to give credence to the inane, unsubstantiated ramblings of some idiot on Facebook.  It also means I can let  go of the driver moving at a ridiculously slow pace whilst attempting to merge onto I-75 when all the traffic around is going 80.

It means that there are some people going all in for, and others that aren’t. It means that life is worth living, fully and authentically, and if we focus on the minutiae, we can’t do that.

Short review, I know, but seriously. If you read no other book in the next year, read this one.  It’s that important and impactful.

Author Interview: Meredith Schorr

Posted on 7 Dec 2017 In: Reading

It’s been a while since I’ve interviewed Meredith Schorr, and with the release of her seventh book, The Boyfriend Swap, I thought it would be fun to have another conversation.  Meredith, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. And to everyone else,  Happy Reading!

TBF: You just released your 7th book. Have you changed how you approach writing from your first to most recent?
MS: Absolutely. For my first couple of books, I started with only very basic information about my characters: name, age, appearance, general personality. Now, I do more in-depth character studies on my main characters before I write the first page. I know what they were like in high school, their relationship with their friends and family, relationship history, what extra-curricular activities they did in high school, their favorite season, their greatest accomplishments, biggest fears, strengths and weaknesses. It helps me keep their actions/reactions consistent. I also outline more than I used to. I doubt I will ever outline an entire book from start to finish before I start writing, unless I switch genres where it is necessary (mystery, suspense), but I like to plot out a few scenes at a time to ensure the story has a constant direction and to keep pacing in mind. I often stray from the outline, but at least I don’t stare at a blank page for too long. I’ve found that my novels have been tighter since I’ve been doing this.

TBF: Do you have a favorite character from your books?

MS:That is a difficult question since I consider all my characters my “babies” and I love them all equally. My favorite character is usually the one I’m writing at the time. If forced to choose a favorite, I’d probably pick Kim Long from the Blogger Girl series, mostly because I know her so well having written four books with her at the helm, including one from when she was fifteen years old. She’s grown up so much since the first book and I’m proud of all she’s accomplished.

TBF: What sparked your idea for The Boyfriend Swap?
MS:It all comes back to Kim Long again! In the first version of Novelista Girl, there is a scene where a literary agent is asking Kim what else she’s working on. Kim says she’s writing a romantic comedy about two women who swap boyfriends for the holidays and discover they might be dating the wrong person. It was just a throw-away line of dialogue that I didn’t think much about until several people read the book and said it was a brilliant idea for a chick lit novel. I decided to write it myself. I ended up deleting it from the revised version of Novelista Girl (re-edited for publication by Henery Press), but all the credit for the idea goes to Kim!

TBF: What do you say to people who denigrate Chick Lit as “fluff” or “not real books”?
MS: Honestly, I try not to concern myself with what people say about the genre in general and focus, instead, on what readers expect from my books. I work hard to create realistic characters with strong growth and development. Most of my fans appreciate that my books are light and humorous, but also smart. I’m trying to build my brand based on the traits I bring to each of my books and hope that readers will see beyond whatever label people want to call them—chick lit, romantic comedy, humorous women’s fiction—and read them because they were written by me. Fingers crossed!

TBF: eReader or physical book?

MS: eReader

TBF: Who is your author crush?
MS: OMG, I have so many of them. I have go-to authors in my genre whose books I will read when I need a swift kick in the butt to up my game: Kristan Higgins, Jill Mansell, Rainbow Rowell, and Sophie Kinsella, and Jennifer Crusie is a new addition.

TBF: If you could choose only one to watch, would it be Love, Actually or The Holiday?

MS: I love them both, but I think Love, Actually. I especially adore the Colin Firth storyline.

TBF: Pick one of your books and tell me who you would cast if it were turned into a film?
MS: Blogger Girl: Kim (Isla Fisher or Anna Kendrick); Nicholas (I change this one often, but my current pick is David Alpay); Bridget (Blake Lively), Jonathan (Adam Brody); Hannah (Odette Annable)

TBF: I read your post about Hallmark Channel Movies. I like the Good Witch series from Hallmark. Have you watched it?
MS: I have not. I stick mostly to the romantic comedy movies or the Hallmark Hall of Fame films. I don’t typically watch the mysteries either. But if you really enjoy The Good Witch, I might give it a shot!

TBF: Has writing in this genre – romantic fiction – changed how you approach dating?
MS: Not really, although it has provided me with ridiculously high expectations! Why can’t I meet a gorgeous widower under fifty, who also happens to be sensitive, funny and intelligent with a child desperate for another mother figure???

TBF: What are you working on now?
MS: I’m on final edits of my next novel, which comes out on April 24, 2018. It is called Bridal Girl and is the third book in my Blogger Girl romantic comedy series. My main character is planning her wedding and trying to acclimate to her new role as a published author. She’s not doing very well at either…
I’ve also started the first installment in what I hope will be a three-book romantic comedy series, each featuring a different main character. I don’t want to go into much detail since the book is not yet in contract and is less than 4000 words so far, but it deals with estranged high-school sweethearts forced together through work.

Killers of the Flower Moon

Posted on 27 Nov 2017 In: Reading

If you put one non-fiction book on your reading list, David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI should be it.

Just about 100 years ago, the Osage in Oklahoma began dying mysteriously. When the numbers became too high to ignore, when the corruption of the local government proved that solving the crimes would be a long shot, a young and ambitious J. Edgar Hoover set out to change the face of the FBI and solve these heinous murders.

All the elements of a good crime thriller are here, but this is history, not the imaginings of a novelist.

Grann’s narrative is straightforward, yet compelling.  He treats the victims and their families with respect. At the same time he exposes the duplicitous killers with facts and still with a certain dignity.  The best thing Grann does, though, like any good reporter, is to continue to follow the story.  It all appears to be wrapped up, but there are loose ends to be tied, and Grann seeks to do that.

I was angry many times reading this book- the blatant racism towards the Osage. White people can be terrible, and in some ways we have not come very far in the century since these murders.  It is clear in Grann’s conversation with descendants of the victims that these murders still impact the Osage today.

The glimpse into the early days of J. Edgar Hoover was interesting. We know lots of the legend- the seeds of the person he would become were sown early.

And the FBI agents who did their level best to solve these murders- specifically Tom White.  These are the kind of people we need in law enforcement because he treated people as people first.

I know a few people who said they could not really get into the book, but I enjoyed it.  It exposes a part of history I had never heard of.  It reminds us that we still are not doing right by the Native Americans we so egregiously “displaced” and it shows how people are easily corrupted for a love of money.  The more things change, the more they stay the same indeed.

Put this one on your holiday wish list!

American Fire

Posted on 15 Nov 2017 In: Reading

A few months ago, my friend Kenneth suggested I check out Book of the Month and I chose American Fire as one of my selections.

On the surface, American Fire is an exploration of who set nearly eighty fires in Accomack Country, Virginia in 2012 and 2013. But it is so much more than that, too. It’s an examination of rural America. Accomack used to be one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. Now, like so many other rural counties, it is more desolate as fortunes have shifted.

But there’s even more to the story, and that is the story of the arsonists, Charlie Smith and his girlfriend, Tonya Bundick.

American Fire is somewhat slow paced,  and didn’t have me turning pages at a frenetic pace, but it did keep me interested.  The sheer number of organizations involved in not only fighting the fires, but also trying to find the arsonist(s), is mind boggling.  We get insight into the approach of  the law enforcement agencies, the profiles they put together. The nearly overwhelming exhaustion of multiple volunteer fire departments fighting fires night after night. The home grown arson-finders.

And then, what is possibly the most interesting part. The motivations of Smith and Bundrick. How did they go from madly in love to setting 86 fires? And once you’re in an interrogation room, how far does that love go?

Monica Hesse began following this story for the Washington Post, and what she saw there sparked an interest in her that became American Fire. The writing is straightforward and clear.  She  includes first hand accounts where possible.  Without being dramatic, you feel the frustration of the first responders.

I don’t remember hearing about this case when it happened, although as I’ve done some googling, it was written up in the Washington Post, among other places.  I found the book to be fascinating, although as I said, a bit slow paced.  Still, this is one I recommend if for nothing more than its glimpse into the human psyche.