Book Review: Goodnight June by Sarah Jio

sarah jioSynopsis:

The New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter imagines the inspiration for Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Songs) is an adored childhood classic, but its real origins are lost to history. In Goodnight June, Sarah Jio offers a suspenseful and heartfelt take on how the “great green room” might have come to be.

June Andersen is professionally successful, but her personal life is marred by unhappiness. Unexpectedly, she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby’s estate and determine the fate of Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store’s papers, June stumbles upon letters between her great-aunt and the late Margaret Wise Brown—and steps into the pages of American literature.

My Thoughts:

For the past few years, it has been such a pleasure to watch Sarah grow as a writer and this book definitely proves why she has become one of my favorite authors to read. Jio is flawless as she transitions between time periods to tell this story, this time with letters from the 1940s between the bookstore’s owner Ruby and the infamous author of so many beloved childrens books, most notably Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown. When Ruby passes, her niece June, inherits the bookstore along with its fantastic, storied past.

My son and I read Goodnight Moon constantly before bed, so needless to say, Jio had me hooked from the get go. I was so intrigued to get started and absolutely adored the fictional account of the inspiration behind Margaret Wise Brown’s most beloved story. By far, the back and forth letters between Brown and Ruby were my favorite part, but I also enjoyed watching June grow as a woman and find her own happiness. There were some parts of the story that I feel came together a little too neatly, but overall, it was a great story in a fantastic setting.

Goodnight June is a wonderfully heartfelt story about love, friendship, family, and life. I would highly recommend this book to anyone.

In the meantime, I will be anxiously awaiting the release of Jio’s latest, The Look of Love, due out in November.

 

 

I’ve been a little MIA….

Hello everyone,

Sorry for taking such a long absence from this blog but I have been spending my time and energy on other things, like my newest book (and the growing baby inside my belly). After taking a brief hiatus from writing for a few months, I am now back and writing more than ever. So, please stay with me these next few weeks while I hopefully finish the first draft of my new novel (fingers crossed) and welcome my baby girl into the world (5 more weeks and counting).

And until then, I hope you are working on whatever makes your heart flutter. I thought I lost my passion for writing but turns out, it was just buried underneath a pile of self doubt and worry. But, I’ve since dug it out and am so excited to share my latest project with you all.

Stay tuned….

a-writer-is-to-writeWishing you the best,

Sara

A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger by Lucy Robinson

book picDisclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Charley Lambert has worked hard at creating a perfect life. She has an aspirational flat, a job of international significance and a very good pair of legs, thanks to a rigorous health and fitness regime. Best of all, her boss has asked her out after seven years’ hard flirting and a covert fumble in a cleaning cupboard.

Then she breaks her leg in three places, watches her boss propose to someone else and – horror – is forced to hand over her job to her nasty deputy.

Charley, a certified workaholic, fears that she will go mad. 
Dangerously bored, she starts helping people who are talentless at internet dating. Then William arrives in her inbox and rocks her world. Helpless, she watches herself fall in love with him and discovers she’s not who she thought she was.

But can she turn her back on her old life – all for a total stranger?

My Thoughts:

This book is hysterical! The main character, Charley Lambert, leads on crazy, hectic life. At times, it almost seems like every minute of her life is accounted for and she barely has time to think, let alone anything else. But, that all changes when she breaks her leg and is forced to take some time away from work. During this time, she decides to start her own business, and she has the perfect niche idea in mind. Author Lucy Robinson does a really great job at creating a story that is realistic and enjoyable, and not too predictable, like Chick Lit often times is. The characters were genuine and honest and the story flows flawlessly, which is hard for a book that features so many comedic twists and turns. Be on the lookout for  John MacAllister. He is probably one of my favorite characters in the book and I really enjoyed watching him blossom. Overall, this book is quite enjoyable and I am so pleased with Lucy as an author. She is quite talented and I can’t wait to read more from her.

I highly recommend this book.

Can You Visualize Your Life As a Writer and Make It Happen? by Holly Robinson

A confession: I have never done meditation, yoga, hypnosis, walking on hot coals or any other practices aimed at unleashing mental powers. I get my best ideas for writing while walking the dog. One of my Buddhist friends refers to this as my “walking meditation,” but it’s really more of a “stop, sniff, and pee” thing.

Yesterday, however, I stumbled onto something that made me realize I’ve been using creative visualization techniques all along.

What was that special “something?” Not a book of Buddhist philosophy or a Hindu guide to enlightenment. Nope, it was a New York Times magazine profile of Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City and six other novels that focus on beautiful women making gobs of money and having a lot of sex. (Truthfully, I’ve never read any of these novels, but I did indulge in watching the show with my daughters, if only to chortle over phrases like “I was emotionally slutty.”)

In her profile, Energizer Bunny Bushnell says:

…I always wanted to write novels. I think when I was 12, I started reading Evelyn Waugh, and I loved Evelyn Waugh so much, and I thought: This is how the world really is. If I could be Evelyn Waugh, then I would be happy.

Since then, Bushnell has been writing, usually six hours a day. And there’s the key: Every successfully published writer I know started out as an inspired reader and visualized the rest.

At some point in our lives, writers realize that books are written by real people, and we began putting our pens to paper or our fingers on the keyboard. To keep ourselves going, we visualize our books on shelves, our bylines in magazines, and yes, movie adaptations of our books. I even had one friend who cut out a photograph of herself and pasted it onto a rave book review in a newspaper, then pinned that review above her desk to help herself imagine writing a book that would end up being published and widely applauded.

My true visualizations of the writing life began when I was house sitting for a professor in graduate school. It was a boring summer, so I spent a lot of time sitting on the deck and pretending to read. Really what I was doing — and yes, I admit this is creepy — was spying on the neighbor across the street. She was a fairly well-known writer and I admired her books. Every morning, her husband would go to work, her children went off to camps or wherever, and that woman brought her laptop out to the deck with a mug of coffee. She sat there for hours, frowning and chewing on pens and typing.

And I do mean hours. Sometimes, that woman sat there all day long, until her husband came home again, kissed her, went into the house to change his clothes, and came back out with a couple of glasses of wine. Then they’d sit on the porch and talk, drinks in hand, and I could tell the woman was happy because she’d spent the day thinking and writing, and now her family was home.

I wanted that life. I just didn’t know how badly at the time.

Fast forward to the present. I had various jobs, traveled, got married, had children and got divorced. I got married again, had one more child, and here I am now, writing for a living. And, every day, as soon as my husband leaves for work and the house is empty of children, I’m at my laptop, writing stories, essays, articles and, now, finally, novels. At the end of the day, my husband and I have wine and talk with each other and the children.

I have reached my goal. I am that woman on the deck with books of my own on the shelves and a loving family. But did I do this deliberately, using visualization techniques? Is it really possible to imagine what you want and get it?

I have come to believe that it is. People use creative visualization techniques to accomplish everything from small goals, like losing weight, to larger life aims, like advancing their careers. Those who do so successfully seem to agree on these three key points, which I think are germane for those of us who aspire to be published writers:

1. Creative visualizations are like mental rehearsals. You must visualize things consistently and often to perfect the visualization. People who want to succeed in landing a job, for instance, might imagine the details of walking into the office, offering a confident handshake, and summing up the highlights of their prior work experience over and over again before they perfect those actions and actually do those things on job interviews. Likewise, my mental rehearsals as a writer have often included imagining that I reach the end of an essay or a novel, writing query letters to agents, and, eventually, am called for radio interviews and book signings.

2. The best visualizations include lots of details. For instance, if you want to use this technique to lose weight, you have to picture what number you want to see on the scale tomorrow, the day after that, and next week. You also must imagine what you’ll eat at each meal, right down to how many carrots will be on your plate. As a writer, my visualization techniques have also been specific: I picture myself sitting down at the computer with a thermos of tea, wearing my comfy slippers, and that helps me do it every single day. During a busy period of freelance ghost writing with tense deadlines, for instance, I imagine that one hour after dinner where I’ll work on my novel by visualizing myself in pajamas and deep into Chapter Three, a cup of mint tea at my elbow, with maybe a square of dark chocolate as a treat. I can smell the mint when I imagine this.

3. Your visualization must include positive thinking. By this, I mean that you must believe in yourself. This is tough to do as a writer, because our lives are rich with rejections. But it really will work. Again, let’s look at the example of dieting, since that’s the one so many of us are familiar with: On the days we tell ourselves we’ll always be fat, we feel bad about ourselves and are more likely to break our diets or skip the gym. We have to convince ourselves that we are worthy of the time and energy it takes to care for our bodies if we’re going to maintain those resolutions to be fit and eat better. Similarly, if we believe we’ll never finish a novel, guess what? We never will. To be a published writer, you must tell yourself each day, over and over again, that novels are written one page at a time, or even one sentence at a time. If you’re writing even a few sentences a day, you are a writer, and you will reach your goal.

What about you? Any visualization techniques you’d like to share?

Follow Holly Robinson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hollyrob1

LIFE AS A WRITER: the real story! By Lucy Robinson

Here is what people think it’s like to be a writer:
You wake up in your bohemian bedroom at midday, well-rested after a wild night dancing at a launch party thrown by one of your writer friends. You were plied with champagne and free books and you looked outlandishly amazing in a designer gown sent to you by a famous couturier. 
 
You breakfast on fresh fruit and mint tea and then spend an hour doing yoga and meditation. Perhaps you’ll pop into your local bookshop to sign some copies of your bestselling novel, and the sales assistant will be so excited to meet you that she will cry or simply pass out on the floor. (If this happens you will probably drive her to hospital in your sleek sports car, because that’s the sort of girl you are.)
 
In the afternoon you will sit on your spacious balcony, overlooking the sea, and you will write thousands of words. The inspiration will come to you like the waves crashing on to the shore below you – regular, powerful; immense. You will feel the creative juices flowing like golden nectar, and you will be so immersed in your work that you will forget to eat. That’s fine anyway, you need to be able to fit into your gown for tonight’s launch party. 
 
At the party you are photographed for the local media and people come up and tell you that your novels have changed their life. You will glow with fulfilment and joy, and will dance until three a.m. when your chauffeur comes to whisk you home. 
 
Here is what it is actually like to be a writer:
I wake up at 7am in a cold sweat because my novel is a complete mess and I seem to have completely forgotten what to do when this happens. I feel like a mouldy old banana skin after days holed up in front of my computer. I wonder what normal people have been up to and decide they’ve all probably been dancing at glamorous parties.
I eat a lot of carbs so that I can face the day ahead. I go to my local bookshop and note that they still aren’t stocking my book. I pretend that’s fine. The sales assistant thinks I am a tool and wishes I’d leave her alone.
In the afternoon I’ll put on twenty sweaters, and my dressing gown, and maybe a hat, and I’ll plug in the electric fan heater. I’ll shut the door and hope that I will be a bit warmer shortly. (An hour later: I am not warm.) I wait for the creative juices to start flowing but nothing happens. I go and eat some more carbs; that normally helps. I write a thousand words of absolute tosh and get on to twitter where all my writer friends seem to be writing about twelve thousand words per minute. I log off twitter and eat some more carbs.
I go to a launch party. It is my first in months and I am worried because I have forgotten how to have conversations with other human beings. I get there and realise that my dress has a hole in it and whenever people talk to me I get so excited that I start jabbering like an alien. People walk away in fear. I watch other authors do the same. Everyone is avoiding the authors. I don’t blame them. We all look mad.
I try to catch a nightbus home but realise I have no coins in my wallet. I text my boyfriend who is asleep. I get a cab and feel a bit guilty about the money. I eat some carbs and pass out.
It’s a glamorous job! But in spite of all the above – all of which most writers will recognise, I’d imagine – I wouldn’t swap it for anything in the world. The feeling of holding my own lovely book in my hand is indescribable and the privilege of being able to entertain people, to make them laugh out loud, or stay up until 2am reading my books, is like nothing on earth.

I’d better go and plug in the heater. It’s time to shut myself in my room to write. Wish me luck! And I hope you enjoy my book . .

Stay tuned because I will be posting my review of Lucy’s latest book, A PASSIONATE LOVE AFFAIR WITH A TOTAL STRANGER on Wednesday.

Book Review: A Questionable Friendship by Samantha March

indexDisclaimer: I received a copy of A Questionable Friendship by Samantha March in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: Brynne Ropert and Portland Dolish have been best friends since being paired as roommates in college. Seven years later they are now twenty-five, married, and living in Maine–– but the two women couldn’t be more different. Brynne finds fulfillment in her life as a wife, mother and owner of a small café and bookshop, but is struggling to expand her family. Portland is still coping with her mother’s death during her childhood, and her marriage is unraveling before her eyes. Portland envies her friend’s seemingly stable and easy life while Brynne doesn’t understand the growing distance between them and cannot begin to guess what secret Portland is hiding about her husband and crumbling marriage. While one woman feels shut out, the other enters into a web of lies to protect herself.

A Questionable Friendship explores what really makes someone a true friend, a support system, a sister. How much trust goes into a friendship and when is being a friend not enough? Brynne and Portland’s story will attempt to answer those questions, and show that happily ever after isn’t in the cards for everyone.

My Thoughts: When I first heard Samantha was writing a new book, I was so excited to read it. I’ve been a fan of her and her writing for quite sometime and was thrilled to be a part of her tour and finally get a chance to read her latest. The first thing I noticed was that this book is very different than anything she has written before, but it is still an excellent, engrossing read that was difficult to put down. Playing to her strengths as an author, this book has excellent, honest dialogue that I really enjoyed, as well as a very clever plot…one that will keep you on your toes, eager for more. I enjoyed both of the main characters and thought they were both developed very well. Overall, this story is really well written and I know it will be one that I come back to time and time again when I think about my own friendships and relationships. Definitely a must read!

And, an added bonus? There is a giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2

One Year Ago Today…

One year ago today, I was anxiously awaiting the release of my debut novel, LOVE IN TRANSLATION. Emotions were very high to say the least but I remember being so excited to finally release my little baby into the world. In the months that followed, I quickly learned that there is a lot that goes into having a successful  novel, and only a small portion of it is actually writing a great novel. There have been ups and downs, but as I sit here and write this, I could not be more grateful for the experiences and the knowledge learned this past year.

And to celebrate the one year anniversary of the release of LOVE IN TRANSLATION, it will be on sale through Sunday evening. So, if you love love, and want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a good book, feel free to scoop up your copy.

LOVE IN TRANSLATION on Amazon.com

Book Review: Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman

12345I am so excited to review Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman!

Book Summary:

Lexi Burke has always been a stickler for following rules and procedures. As a human resources manager for a leading Gulf Coast chemical company, it’s her job to make sure everyone else falls in line, too. But after losing out on a big promotion–-because her boss sees her as too much of a yes-woman––Lexi adopts a new policy of following her heart instead of the fine print. And her heart knows what it wants: Jason Beaumont, a workplace crush who is off limits based on her previous protocol. While navigating a new romance and interoffice politics, Lexi must find the confidence to stand on her own or face a lifetime of following someone else’s orders. Who says nice girls have to finish last?

My Thoughts:

I have been a fan of Laura Chapman for quite sometime and frequent her fabulous blog, Change the Word, numerous times throughout the week. So, when I found out she was publishing her debut novel, I scooped it up quickly and sat down to devour what I was sure would not disappoint. And,  I was very satisfied to say the least. Her main character, Lexi Burke, is a strong willed woman in a very male-dominated profession. There are a lot of workplace politics but that is to be expected given the surroundings … but I think it also adds to the charm of the overall novel and where we really get to see Lexi’s character shine in the beginning. She then goes through quite a transformation and I found this whole experience to be very realistic and truthfully, where Laura’s writing style really sparkled. There is so much candid honesty and wit that I found it all to be so enjoyable. And then there is the romance with hot Jason Beaumont. He is sweet and kind and teaches Lexi how to Texas two-step (which honestly, is probably my favorite scene of the whole book — but I’m a Texan, a sucker for a good romance, and I love a good two-step!). There are a few bumps here and there, but this is definitely one of the best written romances I’ve read in a while just because it is so honest and so real.

All in all, this book had it all and I am so excited to see where Laura goes next on her publishing journey. Hard Hats and Doormats is a truly great book that really displays Laura’s prowess as a writer with tight, witty dialogue and really detailed, visual writing — truly a great book for everyone!

 

Laura Chapman and Her Path To Writing

I would like to welcome the fabulous Laura Chapman to the site today, where she will discuss her path to writing and how exactly she got to where she is today.

When I was 23, I packed up my car and moved to Houston. At the time, it was the hardest, bravest thing I’d ever done. One year later, I packed up a U-Haul and drove it – with my car chained to the back and my cats in their carriers on the passenger seat – back to Nebraska. That was even harder.

12345

[Blogger’s Note: The former safety publication writer feels compelled to mention that I was not actually operating the vehicle when this picture was taken. Carry on.]

This time, instead of feeling brave, I felt like a failure. I’d made gamble after gamble, but none panned out. So I was headed home to regroup while I figured out my next move. After driving through the night, I pulled up in front of my new apartment in Lincoln. Despite my disappointment at having to come home sooner than planned, I had a brief spurt of pride. I’d driven a U-Haul 1,000 miles by myself. And I’d arrived in one piece, without even a dent in my car or a broken glass.

It was small consolation, but at that moment – when I needed to prove I wasn’t a complete loser – I instead felt like a total badass. It gave me hope. Maybe I would be okay.

My adventure in writing and publishing Hard Hats and Doormats began a few months later. And the experience was a lot like my move to and from Houston. Sometimes it was hard. Sometimes I had to be brave. And often, I felt like a failure.

Still reeling from the disappointment that was my life, in Fall 2010 I signed up for National Novel Writing Month at 9 p.m. on Nov. 1. For years I’d talked about writing a novel, and I’d even started a couple back in college. This time was going to be different. Hard Hats and Doormats was a story that had been weighing heavily on my mind since before my move to Houston, and it seemed like the best novel to tackle that month.

Making that decision saved my life. Maybe not literally, but it saved me from giving up on my dreams or hope. It gave me a purpose and a mission at a time when I was at my all-time low and heading even lower. That November, I stopped drinking as a coping mechanism, because I found that unlike Hemingway and Fitzgerald, I couldn’t write drunk. Eventually, it was something I stopped doing for myself.

Instead of sitting and dwelling about what I didn’t have and where I wasn’t, I kept my mind focused on where my story was going and what needed to come next. Even on days when the words wouldn’t come, I didn’t give up. I’d set a goal, and I was going to reach it.

The first time I cried that month – and crying had become a regular pastime for me – was when I surpassed 50,000 words on Nov. 30. I’d done it. The novel wasn’t finished and had a long ways to go, but I’d reached my word goal. I’d met my goal. I’d proved I could do something.

1234

A couple of months later when I typed “The End” on my first draft, I cried again. Like I had when I drove the U-Haul back into town, I felt like I was a big deal. I’d written a written. That meant something. Reaching this milestone now seemed like the greatest feat I’d accomplished – even more impressive than driving a huge truck halfway across the country.

My writing and publishing journey had barely begun at that point. The journey was more arduous than I ever imagined it would be. I kind of figured you finished writing a book, and then you found an agent who sold it to someone who would publish it. But it’s not that simple.

I still had a few more drafts of the novel to write. I still had dozens of queries for agents and publishers to send out. I still had lots of rejection and disappointment. But through it all, I could remember where I’d started. Then I remembered how far I’d come. Hearing a “no” or “we’re not interested” didn’t seem so bad. Having to rewrite a scene was tough, but it wasn’t any harder than writing it in the first place. Constantly putting my story and my heart out on the line for rejection or approval was now the bravest thing I’d done.

Now that I’ve reached the destination for this novel – finding a home with Marching Ink – I can look back at the journey, the good and bad, and appreciate it for bring me here. I might never have had the courage to write my full novel if I hadn’t needed to prove something to myself and the world. Those highs and the lows of our past are necessary to make us appreciate our present and keep us moving toward the future.