A Stack of Books is a Thing of Beauty

A Stack of Books is a Thing of Beauty

I love a big stack of books. It means I have plenty of reading to do. But thanks to the popularity of Bookstagramming, a stack of books has become a thing of beauty – an aesthetic. You can find book challenges such as the #ombrestack, #bumblebeestack, #stackblackandwhite, and many more.

Books have long graced people’s homes on their shelves and coffee tables. Classic books with gold inlay swirled upon their covers were used as decorations, making one appear well-read. The old family Bible may have been displayed with its grand illuminated letters, (dusting required occasionally).

I’m not usually one that likes piles of things around the house – clean freak here. That being said, a pile or stack of books is beautiful. I love full bookshelves, books on nightstands, books in the bathroom, in fact, there is a book in every room of my house.

I struggle getting rid of my books after I have read them. Will I read them again? Maybe. But I like having them around. Does that make me a book hoarder? That’s a whole different blog post for another time. Ok, back to the subject at hand. Another thing I love about this book stack challenge phenomena is that it gives a big tip of the hat to book cover design. When I was going through my books for my #stackblackandwhite challenge, it made me stop and give thought as to why the designer, publisher, and author chose this color for the cover. As a writer, I want to have an appreciation for the book and the writing process as a whole. I found I get more out of the story, as well.

I’d love to hear and see how you display your books. Have they become part of the decor of your home? Do you have stacks and piles of books surrounding you? And have you found you like to pile them in certain themes and color schemes?

Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

The Library of Lost Things

 

 

The Library of Lost Things

By Laura Taylor Namey

4 / 5 ⭐

Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

I adored this story. For those of us who “get lost in books and stories,” Darcy Wells is a very relatable character. The voice of Darcy rings true to that of a lifelong bookworm, but also one of a girl with big secrets. So where does she find her solace and refuge? Books.

Darcy loves books, she brilliantly devours the words, and she even works at a bookstore. Books are where she can run through the story freely, no pretenses, no lies. In the real world, Darcy has to hide, pretend, and lie. For years she has been hiding what is right behind her front door. Darcy’s mother is a hoarder. There are only goat tunnels from one room to another through stacks, piles, and tubs of stuff. Very few people are aware of “The Hoard” except Darcy’s grandma and Darcy’s best friend Marisol.

But the status quo is about to be shaken. There is a new building manager and the lease is coming due. Darcy is turning eighteen soon and her wealthy grandma, who has been supporting her, is threatening to cut off her allowance. Then a copy of Peter Pan with notes and poems scribbled in it mysteriously finds its way into Darcy’s hands. The notes seem to become a guiding force in Darcy’s life. Best of all, into her life walks Asher, a boy who just may be her Prince Charming.

Ultimately, this is a love story. Not just young love, but also Darcy’s struggle of dealing with her mom’s mental health issue, “The Hoard”, and loving her mom through it. Darcy has to come to a self-realization that she too has been hiding behind things, as well as, building her own walls. With the help of her wonderful friend (everyone should have a Marisol) and Asher, Darcy discovers that she needs to write her own story.

 

Thank you to @Netgalley and @Inkyardpress for this ARC for review.

Publish Date: 10/8/19

 

Is an MFA for me?

I’ve been contemplating going for my MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Creative Writing. I’ve done the research and the opinions vary greatly whether the benefits out way the costs.

Some of my favorite authors don’t possess an MFA. So why do I feel the need for more education to pursue my writing career? This is a question I’ve been toying with for some time, it’s actually becoming quite a distraction.

Pros vs Cons

Pros:

  • Education is always valuable.
  • Advanced degrees are respected.
  • Certain professions require advanced degrees.
  • An advanced degree may boost my self-confidence as a writer.
  • The MFA program may be a great networking opportunity.

Cons:

  • Money. Will I see returns on my investment for this degree?
  • Time. I could be using classroom time to continue writing my own novel.
  • Will it truly make me a better writer?  I can study great works of literature and poetry, but if that’s not my chosen genre will it change/improve the type of writer I am?

 

I read a lot of books on writing, again looking for that magic formula. (I think we know who stole it⚡️). In my quest, I recently picked up Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. She has a section called “schooling” in this lovely book, where she discusses the necessity, shall we say, of an advanced degree. Gilbert herself has a Bachelor’s degree, from there she felt it best to find her voice out among writers. She goes on to point out that “Twelve North American writers have won the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1901: Not one of them had an MFA.”

When I worked in the professional world, few people asked me about my education or degree. Now when people ask me what I do and I say I’m a writer and book blogger, they ask 1). are you published and 2). do you have your MFA. I’m working on getting published, but I’m not sure the advanced degree is going to get me there any faster.

Can you teach someone to write better?

Format wise, sure. Grammar, punctuation, tense, let’s not even go there, I suck, I admit it. But that is why there are proofreaders and copy editors. I’m talking about creativity and insight. Can you learn creativity in a classroom? Can the halls of academia stifle one’s creativity? These are the questions that keep me from my writing, ironic isn’t it?

Am I writing this to talk myself out of an MFA? Maybe? What I’d really love is a writing partner, someone to bounce ideas and rough drafts around with. I’ve tried writing groups, and I can see their purpose, but I feel they need to be genre-specific. I write mainly Adult Fiction, Women’s Fiction, even some Children’s Books. Someone who reads a lot of fiction has examples to compare to when they critique my work and give me feedback. They know what some of the standards are in the publishing world because they’ve purchased it and read it.

Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

Yet another great book I found, (another omen maybe?), is the diyMFA by Gabriela Pereira. The forward is written by author Jacquelyn Mitchard. She has an MFA, but reflects on her career and states that obtaining the MFA was for academic purposes, she wanted to teach writing. So, maybe self-study is enough. Sure I won’t have the degree to hang on the wall or put on a resume, but as a writer does it matter?

 

Writing, as with all art forms, is so personal.

There is a piece of you that goes into your art. I don’t want my writing to become too academic, too polished even. I love writing that is raw and heartfelt, with dialogue that feels natural, not contrived. I’m striving for that, so maybe I just keep plugging away day after day, reading and writing. And when someone asks what I do, I can honestly say, I’m a writer.

 

Read:

diyMFA by Gabriela Pereira, Writer’s Digest Books © 2016

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Riverhead Books ©2015

 

The Justice Project

 

 

The Justice Project

By Michael Betcherman

3.5 / 5 ⭐

 

Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

 

This is one of those unique YA books in that it isn’t centered around angsty love relationships. It discusses the topics of the death penalty, as well as, wrongful conviction and incarceration of the innocent. The book presents the story like an unsolved mystery, and the pieces need to be put together to help free a man who may be innocent. What I really enjoyed was that the story showed how people can have differing opinions on issues, but they can still come together and hear each other out – even be friends.

 

Matt Barnes is the star quarterback who led the Snowden Falcons to the State Championship. He has a scholarship to USC. But a freak snowboarding accident changes everything. Not only will he not play football ever again, he now walks with a gangly limp – permanently. Feeling down and without a purpose, Matt looks for summer work but stumbles upon an internship with The Justice Project, an organization that is set up to help defend those who were wrongly convicted of crimes. Turns out Sonya Livingstone, a girl from Matt’s high school who seems to have it out for football players like Matt, is the other intern.

 

Matt and Sonya quickly form a team when they hear of an inmate, Ray Richardson, who has been convicted of killing his own parents 21 years ago. They feel that he is innocent, but The Justice Project can’t take his case unless there’s new evidence. Matt and Sonya decide to investigate on their own. Following leads and chasing clues, Matt and Sonya find they are becoming real friends. Reopening Ray’s case could cost Matt everything, but Matt finally feels like he has a purpose again.

Thank you to @netgalley and @orcabook for this ARC for review. 

░P░u░b░l░i░s░h░ ░D░a░t░e░ ░1░0░/░1░/░1░9░

Where the Crawdads Sing

 

Where The Crawdads Sing

By Delia Owens

 5 / 5 🌟

Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

I am so glad I did not read much about this amazing book before I read it. In fact, I went into the pages not even aware a murder took place. It was glorious! As I was reading this story, I was so drawn in by the lonely life of Kya, the “Marsh Girl,” and how misunderstood she was. And I hope I’m not overstepping any literary lines here, but at times I even felt 𝕋𝕠 𝕂𝕚𝕝𝕝 𝕒 𝕄𝕠𝕔𝕜𝕚𝕟𝕘𝕓𝕚𝕣𝕕 vibes. 

 

Delia Owens takes us to the coastal marshlands of North Carolina beginning in 1952. Here we meet Kya Clark and her family living in a shack deep in the marsh. One by one her family leaves her until at age ten, Kya is on her own. The townspeople call her the “Marsh Girl” or “swamp trash.” Only Jumpin’, the black owner of the gas and bait store and his wife, befriend Kya.

 

As Kya grows into a natural beauty, she catches the eye of two local boys, each with very different intentions. But the marsh is all Kya has ever known, she lives it, breathes it, and studies it. Although she’s been alone most of her life, part of her yearns for love. Yet Kya must guard her heart, for everyone she has ever cared for leaves and never comes back. 

 

Jump to 1969, Chase Andrews, a handsome local favorite, is found dead. The townspeople go directly to accusing Kya. They don’t really know Kya; they are basing their assumptions on prejudices and rumors.

 

The writing in this book is so beautiful. Not only in the way Ms. Owens describes the flora and fauna of the marsh, but also the raw humanity and isolation of Kya. Kya is a survivor; she does whatever she needs to do.

 

“𝐿𝑜𝓃𝑒𝓁𝒾𝓃𝑒𝓈𝓈 𝒽𝒶𝓈 𝒶 𝒸𝑜𝓂𝓅𝒶𝓈𝓈 𝑜𝒻 𝒾𝓉𝓈 𝑜𝓌𝓃.”

The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle

 Jeannette Walls

A Memoir

3 / 5 ✰

 

I’m going to preface this by saying I don’t read a huge amount of nonfiction. Yet, hearing so much about this book on Instagram, I was intrigued about this woman’s life and the memoir she had written. 

 

Jeanette Walls grew up in the desert towns of the Southwest. Her parents were smart, creative people, but they lived by a code all their own. They lived like wanderers, moving from place to place. Her father was always looking for the next big thing, or maybe running from the things he did to try and bring in money. 

 

The family then moved to a coal mining town in West Virginia, but life continued on a downward spiral. Although Jeanette’s mother had a college education and tried to hold teaching positions, neither parent could bring in a steady paycheck. Jeanette and her siblings had to find a way to fend for themselves in life. They learned how to scrounge for food, and eventually would get odd jobs as they got older. 

 

As soon as they could, her older sister, and then Jeanette, escaped to New York hoping to make a better life for themselves. Their other siblings would follow soon after. What is hard to wrap one’s mind around is the fact that the parents, who still chose the homeless lifestyle, followed their children, who were all doing fairly well for themselves now. 

 

Jeanette’s dad always spoke of building a “glass castle” one day for his family. And maybe he had all the best intentions. But he drank and gambled his opportunities and all the money away. I won’t try and analyze why her mother would want to live like that, especially watching her own children struggle the way they did; I have my thoughts though. I can’t help but be in awe of how Jeanette and her siblings cared for one another and made their own way in life.

Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

 

 

 

 

If you enjoy memoirs, Jeanette Walls is a great storyteller. Some of her stories are funny, some are sad, but all feel conversational as if she’s just retelling you a memory over coffee. 

To the Moon and Back

 

 

To the Moon and Back

By Karen Kingsbury

3 / 5 ⭐

Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

Karen Kingsbury is a prolific author, but I have to admit this is the first book of hers I’ve read. Picked as our August summer read by my library book club, I can now see what makes her so popular.

 

To the Moon and Back is #3 in the Baxter Family Series, and there were times I was a little lost regarding who was who in the family. (There is a family tree in the front of the book which does help). Overall though, I feel the story can be read as a stand-alone and enjoyed. 

 

The story centers around the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Brady Bradshaw was only five at the time of the bombing. It killed his mother and left him with scars, both physically and emotionally. He comes to the Memorial every anniversary to remember and honor his mother. The year he was seventeen is the year he saw her, Jenna, a girl his age who had lost both her parents in the bombing that day in April. They spend the day together at the memorial, and for the first time they both realize that someone else truly understands their pain. But then they go their separate ways and lose touch – not knowing each other’s last names.

 

Years later, Ashley Baxter, is visiting the Memorial with her family and she notices a young man that has such hurt and anguish on his face (Brady). Ashley feels as though God is telling her to help this man in some way. When no one is looking, she removes the note that he has placed in the memorial fence.

 

ᴅᴇᴀʀ ᴊᴇɴɴᴀ, ʟɪᴋᴇ ɪ ᴅᴏ ᴇᴠᴇʀʏ ʏᴇᴀʀ, ɪ ᴡʀᴏᴛᴇ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀ ʟᴇᴛᴛᴇʀ. ɪɴ ᴄᴀꜱᴇ ʏᴏᴜ ᴄᴏᴍᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜᴇ ᴍᴇᴍᴏʀɪᴀʟ ᴛᴏᴅᴀʏ. ɪɴ ᴄᴀꜱᴇ ʏᴏᴜ ᴡᴀɴᴛ ᴛᴏ ꜰɪɴᴅ ᴍᴇ ᴀꜱ ᴍᴜᴄʜ ᴀꜱ ɪ ᴡᴀɴᴛ ᴛᴏ ꜰɪɴᴅ ʏᴏᴜ…

 

Brady has been waiting more than a decade to find Jenna again. Can Ashley help reunite these two? Should she even be involved? And what if Jenna wants nothing to do with Brady after all these years?

 

This book was super sweet, and sad as well, but the story leaves you feeling good and inspired. Kingsbury has a lot of great information in there about the Oklahoma City Memorial. I have been there and it is tremendously moving; I’d recommend visiting it sometime.