Review: Memorial, Bryan Washington

A beautiful exploration of self, relationships, family, and place.

Memorial was a raw, honest look at the lives of Benson and Mike, two men who struggle to communicate their feelings. Neither man is happy, but neither seem to be capable of having that honest conversation with each other.

I found myself completely drawn to the characters and story, especially the relationship between Benson and Mike’s mother, Mitsuko. She was thrown into an impossible situation with her son’s boyfriend, whom she barely knew. Through food and close proximity, Mitsuko seemed to unlock a warmth in Benson.

I connected a bit less with Mike and his father, but their relationship and growth was equally beautiful.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Go read it, now!

Review: Home is Where You Are, Melissa Grace

When it comes to all things music and Nashville, I’m obviously biased. I accept and embrace this. I’m also super judgmental about how my city is portrayed in books.

Home is Where You Are captured the Nashville vibe perfectly. The love for Berry Hill (if you know, you know), and The Loving Pie Company, who did have the BEST Mac and cheese in Nashville, and all things music.

Melissa Grace nailed it.

And I adored Jax & Liv and all the Midnight in Dallas boys. Seriously, the most down to earth musicians.

If you’re looking for a perfect rom com with music and a COVID-free tour of Nashville, you need to pick up this book.

And of course I had to showcase my favorite Nashville artist, @cleverclogsart, in this photo.

Review: A Promised Land, Barack Obama

It took me two months, but I finished A Promised Land yesterday. The audiobook was phenomenal. Hearing his voice and eloquence was like the warm hug I didn’t know I needed.

The book is heavy on policy, which I love. My undergrad minor was in political science and I almost went for a masters in it (I went with a boring MBA instead). I’m a politics junkie.

One reason I love political memoirs so much is that you get an inside look into the thought process and reasoning behind decisions, legislation, and international dealings.

We do get a bit of his origin story and the insights into his campaign, but the bulk of the book deals with this first term in office.

This was a fantastic read and very insightful. He admits when he failed or didn’t do enough, something I think we’re missing right now.

I’m already looking forward to volume 2.

Finding Balance in Chaos … or Not

Holy mackerel, y’all. It’s been a freaking year.

What’s that? It’s only January 15?

Yes, I’m aware, but I swear each day since January first has been a month long.

We started the year with my son in virtual school, which is super fun with kindergartners (as I am sure many of you know) and my husband and I working from home. Last week, we added in a quarantined toddler.

Not to mention the domestic terrorist attack on our Capitol. Not that I was incredibly surprised by what happened, but it was surreal to watch it unfold.

I’m not quite sure I’ve ever been as stressed as I am now.

I can’t focus on writing or reading. My patience is thin and short. I have no motivation to work out, and all I want is coffee, cookies, and wine … and a nap or ten.

If I learned anything in 2020, it was that nothing is consistent anymore. There is no such thing as a routine or expected outcome.

One thing I haven’t learned yet is how to handle the consequences. My kids have both been in various stages of sleep regression since March. No one is getting enough sleep and we’re all stretched thing. We’re cranky and tired of each other.

And, I think, that’s okay. None of us know how to operate in a global pandemic. Or how to handle watching in insurrection unfold.

It’s important to admit that sometimes, we don’t have the answers. I know as adults and parents, we’re expected to know how to react in every situation, but some things you cannot plan for.

It’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to make mistakes.

As long as you know when it’s time to apologize or ask for help.

We’re all humans and we’re doing the best we can.

Looking to 2021

Do you set yearly goals? What’s your big, hairy, scary goal for 2021?

Aside from getting back to focusing on my health, I’m also putting a big emphasis on my creative health.

Mine? I’ve got one book set for release in June (SURPRISE 🎉) and am planning to possibly dip my toes back into the querying game. That one is TBD.

I also plan to get back into a consistent writing habit.

I’ll share my reading goals in a few days.

Review: Rebel, Laura Pavlov

Thank you to the author for the gifted copy.

Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE the fake lovers trope? It’s like that breath I didn’t know I was holding.

I think it’s because I love how one character always realizes it before the other and it becomes this sweet, tortured when will they finally see it? moments and I live for those.

Rebel did not disappoint in this. Monroe and Jack were so fun to watch … and hot. Very, very hot. I love a good slow-burn, steamy book.

Rebel is out 1/5 and is one of the potential picks for the January Indie Book Club!

NEW! Indie Author Book Club!

In addition to the 12 Days of Indie Giveaway on Instagram, I am so excited to announce a new Book Club initiative!

Indie Authors are the hidden gems of Bookstagram. There are so many amazing books by incredibly talented writers and storytellers. Unfortunately, they often get lost in the sea of Trade publishing releases.

The Indie Author Book Club kicks off in January and YOU, yes YOU, get to help select our first book!

We’ve got three amazing new releases from Laura Pavlov, Eve Kasey, and Kali Brixton to choose from.

Click here to vote!

After you vote, be sure to head over to Instagram to enter the 12 Days of Indie!

Where #Bookstagram Meets #AuthorsofInstagram

When you were a kid on vacation, did you ever beg your parents to stop the car at a state line so you could stand with one leg in each state?

It never really felt any different, but you still somehow felt as though you were straddling two worlds and suspending reality for a brief moment. Never mind that borders are a figment of our imagination that we’ve somehow turned into the basis for far too many wars … but that’s a completely different post for another day.

This is often how it feels to be an author and a Bookstagrammer. I live suspended between two worlds and the line between the two often blurs.

For example, anytime a publisher sends an email with the words “I have the perfect book for you,” it takes a great amount of restraint to not go … “OMG! Me too!” (Yes, I know this is not how publishing works, and I would NEVER do this … but it gives me a good giggle every time.)

There are times, however, that the divide between #authorlife and #readerlife becomes as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon.

Like, when I have a new book coming out, and I have to switch into marketing mode and I worry about annoying or alienating my followers who don’t read my genre or care that I wrote a book. Or, when a Bookstagram friend reads my book and doesn’t love it. Or, when someone I’m hesitant to share my book with asks for an ARC or a free book. This one is always a strange place to be, and I have to toe the line. The last thing I want to do is hurt someone’s feelings.

Or, when someone shares a negative or nasty review. I follow my hashtags for my author name and my books. As a marketer by trade, I understand how social media works and know that to stay relevant, I need to be active and engaged. Sometimes, this means I find reviews not meant for me. (For the record, reviews are for readers not for authors. If you think an author is looking at reviews for editorial feedback so they can change their writing style or voice, you’re targeting the wrong audience.)

Another time when being an author and a Bookstagrammer collide in a less than pleasant situation? When my views/opinions as an author contradict whatever controversy is trending in the Bookstagram community. This is usually because a big name author has done or said something taboo that gets the Bookstagram community riled up.

Do I stay out of it? Do I share my author insight? Do I let it stew and stew until my eye starts twitching?

If you know me, you know I’m pretty quick to share my opinion. Whether it’s politics, the pandemic, BSB vs. NSYNC, or whatever, I’m an open book. But every single time I do speak up, I worry that I’m going to trigger the ire of the community and potentially alienate the small reader base I have.

More often than not, I try to be open and honest. Those that follow and know me have come to expect it. So far, this has been the approach I’ve taken—even if it costs me followers. At the end of the day, if someone doesn’t like me as a person, they probably won’t like my book (and that’s okay, not every book is for every reader).

I do find myself asking a lot of questions before I share. How open should I be? Should I share when a negative review left me in the fetal position, crying on the floor? Do I only share positive reviews? Does anyone care?

The one I struggle with the most? Do I, as an author, belong on Bookstagram? Is there a point where my position as an author trumps my status as a reader?

Because it’s hard for me to deny that being an author changes the way I see books. I know what goes into creating characters and stories. I know how exhausting it is and how emotionally draining creating can be. I don’t let little things like typos or grammatical errors change the way I feel about a book. I refuse to make personal attacks on authors or books. And, I don’t share books that I don’t enjoy because I don’t want to write a review that could hurt someone.

As a creator and writer, I’m sensitive to the mental and emotional toll writing a book takes on someone. Maybe too sensitive.

Earlier this week, I had someone tell me (in essence, not verbatim) that taking Instagram photos and writing captions is the same as writing a book. While, yes, I agree that there is creativity and effort behind both of those things, neither come close to the process of writing a book.

Every single character I write and story I tell is a piece of me. Sometimes, I share these pieces with the world. Other times, I keep them close to the vest because letting go of them is too painful. This is why negative reviews hurt. This is why I remind people that authors are human beings. Yes, readers are too, but I can tell you the experience is vastly different.

Both experiences are valid. Both are human.

As a reader, my job is to get lost in a story. As a writer, my job is to create that story that people get lost in. Can I be both? Can I be both a reader and a writer and live in those two worlds? More often than not, the answer is yes. I don’t compare my books to the books I read. I try to avoid nitpicking books to see how I’d do it differently—those aren’t my characters or stories to manipulate.

This brings me back to the question that I still cannot answer. Do I belong on Bookstagram?

After Everything is Available on Audio!

Have you heard the news?! After Everything is now available as an audiobook!!

It’s currently available through Audible, but I’m told it should make its way down to iTunes and Amazon within the next few days.

I’ve always wanted to do an audiobook for my books, but as an indie author the cost of entry is astronomical (a few too many zeros for my non-existent budget). A little known fact about Audible is that as an arm of Amazon, they offer a service that allows for revenue share with the narrator, which means there is minimal up-front cost. Of course that also means if my books don’t sell, no one makes money.

I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again. While Amazon isn’t great for the Big 5 (soon to be 4) publishers or indie bookstores, it is phenomenal for independent authors. Many of us depend on it.

So, while I know some of you will be disappointed the audiobook isn’t on, know that it’s not because I don’t support indie bookstores (I do!), it’s that until I win the lottery or marry Chris Evans, I can’t afford to play in the arena. Yet.

Pick Up Your Copy Here!

Winter Street Series, Elin Hilderbrand

I did it! I finished the whole series, and I LOVED it. I’m going to attempt to review these without spoilers.

I adored the Quinn family. I first met Margaret in the final book of the Paradise series and was immediately drawn to her. I’d already had the Winter Street books on my shelf (I spent all year hunting for the full set).

Margaret and Jennifer were my favorites, but the others grew on me as I read through the series. Mitzi & Ava were the two biggest surprises for me. I loved the way they grew and changed over the series.

The last book gutted me. I can’t dive into why without giving a lot away, but there was a crucial storyline that hit very close to home for me.

As always, Elin Hilderbrand did not disappoint. She’s the queen of complicated plots, relationships, and families.

Editing to Add: I’m aware of the recent issue with this author and reviewers. While I do not agree with what she did, I am leaving my review here (which was conveniently posted the day before Bookstagram blew up with the controversy).