Aug 30, 2013

I just want to do things

When was the last time I just wrote a blog post from the heart?   Too damn long, I say.

So, to catch up...all of that getting settled in Germany stuff aside, I'm diving into this writing career business head on.  I'm eating up any article I can get my hands on, scouting freelance gigs, preparing for graduation in April.  It's exciting, but it's also a little...bleh.

The days fly by and sometimes I hardly get anything done.  If I get one article query done in seven days, I consider that a success...meanwhile, it can take MONTHS to hear back.  So, now what?  I'm barely squeezing in time to work with the kids and errands and housework and weekends and sometimes it feels like I'm stuck in this valley of impossibility surrounded by mountains I have to climb, getting nowhere on any of them.

And all I really want is to do things.  I want to accomplish something.  Everyday I think...I need to blog more.  I need to write more.  I need to read more.  I need to play with Jude more.  I need to do more and all that comes is less of everything because I am just so damned overwhelmed.

And to top it off...how isolating is the writer's life?  Throw in being over here and it almost feels as if I'm shouting into an abyss and no one can hear me.  And all I have to do is stop trying and it will be like I was never here at all.

It's very much that "is everyone hanging out without me?" feeling.

*Emo whine sesh over*


Aug 29, 2013

My Top 7 School-Assigned Books {the.book.chat}

To be completely honest, I never much liked being told what to read.  For someone who loves literature class, I was always very critical of any book assigned by my teachers or professors.  It's what made me such a natural book reviewer, I guess.  I always have a dialogue going on in my head while I'm reading.

Even though I can be harsh on the books I'm assigned, there have been a few that really got under my skin.  Books that I actually enjoyed reading that didn't feel like work.

Here are my top 5.

#7. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan


I actually read this book as an adult for my Adolescent Lit class (I was a Middle School Ed major).  If this book isn't offered to middle schoolers, it should be.  It had me so hooked.  The story revolves around a young Mexican immigrant during the Great Depression.  The writing is phenomenal and the story was beautiful.  If you have a 12-15 year old daughter, put this book in her hand.


#6. Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee


This one was for my Post-Colonial Lit class, which is still one of my favorite Lit classes ever.  Who knew there was such mind-blowing lit on this topic?  And South African native, Coetzee, tops the list.  This book, while totally bizarre and unpredictable, haunted me.  I still think about it to this day.  I've been meaning to read more Coetzee, and I have a couple on my shelf waiting for my stubborn ass to pick them up.





#5. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver



Ethics in Literature class here.  This was an easy book to love.  The topic revolves around colonialism, religion, motherhood, childhood, coming-of-age, death, and just so much more.  This book prompted me to write a very passionate, angry essay about assimilation and just, yeah.  I love seeing this book on the shelves at the book store.  This is one I'm glad the teachers made me read.


#4. Maus by Art Spiegelman


Wow.  I read Maus, a graphic novel about the holocaust where the Jews are portrayed as mice and the Nazis as cats, in one night and at about two o'clock in the morning, tears running down my face, I just sat and wondered what just happened to me.  If you haven't come across this graphic novel yet, it's written by the son of two Holocaust survivors.  It's raw, haunting and so, so, so powerful.  So, so so powerful.

#3. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf



Here's a book I probably wouldn't have ever picked up without someone holding a grade over my head for it.  But I'm so glad I did.  What a great book for my young impressionable mind.  I remember being a little surprised by how easy this book was to read.  It's worth picking up if you see it.


#2. The Handmaid's Tale


Women's lit class for this one...no surprise there, right?  I had people in my class who were straight up angry with this book.  A couple people protested reading it and one girl was brought to tears during our discussion.  I think if I had picked this book up for enjoyment, I would not have been happy with it, but because I read it for a greater purpose, I read it through a different lens.  It's supposed to make you sick with hatred, but you're also supposed to learn and grow from that, and I'm grateful for that opportunity.


#1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte



I had tried to read this book so many times before.  I always wanted to love it, but I struggled with it a lot.  Finally, in Women's Lit again, I broke the barrier and began to love this book.  I have a distinct memory of ditching another class and holing myself up in the library to read this book.  It finally gave me the confidence to read more classics.  Later that year, I finally read all of Pride and Prejudice from cover to cover just for fun.  

I still liked Jane Eyre more.













What about you?  What are some of your favorite books assigned in school?  Share anything on the topic and link up below!

Link up

Please head over and say Hello to our co-hosts this week!  Megan of Semi-Charmed Kind of Life is hosting an awesome Instagram party for Banned Books Week that you guys have to check out.  And Allie of Call Me Sassafras recently started a blog series called Love Your Brain that celebrates loving ourselves for what we are capable of, and not what we look like.  Everyone is just amazing.  *group hug*

To join in...
1. Please follow the host and co-hosts
2. Visit a few other book chat links and show some support.
3. Link back here in your post.  Or use the button provided.
4. Old posts are always welcome if you have blogged on the topic before.


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Next week's topic: Books that tackle tough topics & controversial issues


Aug 22, 2013

What is Chick Lit? {the.book.chat}

Prepare yourself for a jumble of mismatched thoughts on a genre I don't know much about...

I've been hearing this term, Chick Lit, being thrown around quite a bit lately.  I don't necessarily know where the line is drawn or what qualifies as "chick" lit.  Does it have to be about a woman?  Does there have to be romance?  Does it have to be light-hearted and/or funny?  It does seem those are some of the main qualifiers, doesn't it?  To be honest, if there was  chick lit shelf at the bookstore, I would most likely walk right past it.  I don't know why, and it's not meant to be judgmental, it's just never been much of my thing.  I just never thought that because I am a "chick" means that I should be reading Chick Lit.

So, when I chose this topic, I didn't think much about what I would write about.  Allow me to do a little thinking out loud.  

Here are a couple interesting thoughts I've come across recently on this topic:

- In a recent interview with author Jojo Moyes, a reader asked about this cover of her novel, Me Before You.  They pointed out that the cover made the book look more like Chick Lit and didn't seem to fit the story.  I wholeheartedly agree.  Moyes' response was that in the UK, women's fiction is presented like chick lit, which she admitted was a bit frustrating to her and other writers.  The issue here being that MBY is MUCH more serious and thought-provoking than typical Chick Lit and what this cover would lead readers to believe.  Interesting, is it not?  Does the genre chick-lit really exclude heavy story material?

-In my recent writing class we learned (I wish I could remember the source) that publishers are/were more likely to publish work written by a man because it's more universal.  i.e. A man is more likely to buy a book written by a man and not a woman, and a woman is likely to buy from either a man or woman.  Interesting, is it not?  Doesn't seem quite fair, but that sounds like a large can of worms I'm not sure I want to open.

So, yeah. I don't know what this has to do with chick lit, but I found it interesting and I wanted to share.  I guess I just find the whole "women's lit" idea strange because it's not like there is a "men's literature". However, I like the idea of books about women written by women.  I just don't like the idea that they have to fit a certain bill or not be taken seriously.  Is Chick Lit a writing style, story style or does it really apply to an audience or market?  Do you think preconceived notions of certain genres hurt the books in the genre?

 I can honestly say I've only read a couple books that would be considered Chick Lit.  One was a Sarah Dessen book.  It wasn't my cup of tea, but I appreciated the message it sent.  The girl was brave and smart and wasn't overly obsessed with the boy, even though there was a boy.  To be totally honest, I thought it was the kind of book boys should read.  To see the struggles and perspective of a typical teenage girl.  But sadly, women's lit is sort of locked down, isn't it?

Or maybe it's not.  I've just been watching too much Orange is the New Black, maybe.

What do you think?  Do you like Chick Lit?  What are your thoughts on the genre and do you have any favorites?  Can you recommend some?

Link up

Please visit our co-host, Rachael Turns Pages.  I know she enjoys a few writers in this genre, so I'm anxious to see what she can recommend for us.


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To join in...
1. Please follow the host and co-host
2. Visit a few other book chat links and show some support.
3. Link back here in your post.  Or use the button provided.
4. Old posts are always welcome if you have blogged on the topic before.





Next week: School-Assigned Reading


Aug 19, 2013

Book Review: The Girl You Left Behind


The Girl You Left Behind
by Jojo Moyes

Release date: August 20, 2013
Published by: Penguin Group Viking / Pamela Dorman Books
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Where do I start with this book?  Okay, let's start with Jojo Moyes.  There is something in the way she tells a story that grabs you.  No gimmicks, fancy tricks or corny cliffhangers.  She just tells the story, not a letter or punctuation wasted or out of place.  I find her writing so easy to read without being easy reading, if you catch the difference there.  She's an artist.

I know I should share a synopsis here, but I don't think I could do it justice.  Besides, I didn't read the synopsis before picking it up and I found it to be a more wholesome experience because of it.  All you need to know is that it's a story about the strength of love and the passionate spirit.

This is the second novel of hers that I have read and I sing from the mountaintops once again, her CHARACTERS.  There is nothing amazingly different about her characters.  They are not scrupulously unique or interesting, but the way she writes them, I believe them. I believe them so much, I care about them.  They are not perfect and it's their blunders, mistakes and straight-up foolishness that irritate me to no end, but I still believe them.  Some characters do stupid things in novels, and I get angry at the author for it.  Moyes' characters do the most infuriating things and I get mad at them for it.  There is a major difference there, and it's what makes characters worth reading.

This plot is a lot thicker and more action-packed than Me Before You.  But when Moyes is writing, as I said in my Me Before You review, the plot is not what carries you through, it's the characters.
The story is split into two parts that intersect through time.  I admit, I enjoyed the first part most and was a little disappointed when the story shifted away from that character.  However, the story comes back around and everything was worth the wait.  It's a rather interesting turn of events that I did not see coming.  At moments, I thought I just could not bear the intensity of what she put her characters through, but I feel like a changed person after reading it.  Big fat sigh.

On a personal level, I felt so connected to the character Sophie.  She was one of the most complex and beautiful female characters I have read in a long time.  What happens during Sophie's time is not perfect.  There were moments I could barely stand it.  Then, there were tears, so many tears.

Read this book.  If you love history, and even if you don't.  If you love art, and even if you don't.  If you love love, and even if you don't.  You will.


Aug 15, 2013

Why I Don't Read Memoirs {the.book.chat.}

This must be the first week I will publicly bash the book chat genre we are supposed to be celebrating, but I just have to be honest here.  And really, it's not bashing.  It's really more like my mini-memoir account of the memoir-reading struggles I have suffered from my entire life.

I've put some serious thought into our topic this week, and I've come up with a list of reasons I just cannot read memoirs.  Maybe you are like me and can relate, but if you are not like me, then maybe this will provide some insight to those of us with memoir-intolerance disorder. 

Reason #1

Are you still talking about yourself?  This question inevitably crosses my mind at some point in my memoir reading.  I know how delusional it is, trust me.  It doesn't matter how interesting or important the story they are telling is, it never fails that I grow old of hearing them talk about themselves.  
I guess when you boil it down, I tend to care more for fictional characters than real people.  Empathy for the win. 

Reason #2

People do amazing things.  People have been known to cut off their own arm in the name of survival.  Women cross giant deserts alone just days after a heroine binge and grow emotionally from it.  [Insert a million other epically amazing feats completed by human wonders of awesomeness]  
**eye roll** Yeah, sure, okay.

Reason #3

Hey kids, remember this guy?  Remember when Oprah was all liar-liar-pants-on-fire and he admitted to just fudging a bunch of that crazy emotional stuff in his book about addiction and all of us were GD devastated?  Yeah, well I read that book and I cried like a GD baby when "a certain person did something" and I guess I should have felt better that she didn't really do that....or exist at all.  So, now I'm ruined.  Fool me once...
Cut to this book about how the Cups of Tea guy is a big liar too.  Pants on fire!

Reason #4

Please stop whining.  I'm not proud to admit that, people, but it's true.  I can't listen to people complain about their lives.  I just can't.  Look, now I'm whining about it.

Reason #5

No one sparkles or rides on broomsticks and while people are pretty incredible at times, I still choose to hang out with the wizards and fancy vampires. 

But in all seriousness, I guess I just haven't really found a memoir I've loved.  I refuse to believe I'm just too skeptical to enjoy anyone's story.  I know there has to be one out there I can enjoy.

So now it's in your hands.  Help this poor soul.  Tell me what memoirs are worth reading, please!

Link up

The co-host this week is Daire of Doing it the Open Way.  You can follow her via Twitter or Bloglovin.  She blogs about life and books and art and goals.  She's pretty awesome.

To join in...
1. Please follow the host and co-host
2. Visit a few other book chat links and show some support.
3. Link back here in your post.  Or use the button provided.
4. Old posts are always welcome if you have blogged on the topic before.


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Next week: Favorite Chick-lit



Aug 12, 2013

Book Review: The River of No Return




The River of No Return
by Bee Ridgway

Published by Dutton Adult
Release date: April 23, 2012
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



The River of No Return is a complex story set in two different time periods with a cacophony of characters.  It all starts when a soldier, Nick, finds himself thrust forward in time two hundred years and part of a time-traveling alliance who recruit him to return to 1815 to...in short...save the world.  There, his path crosses with gentle and naive Julia, who knows more than Nick is willing to believe.

The River of No Return is what I lovingly refer to as a "settle in" novel, meaning, it's a bit epic.  It's not instant gratification, but it is rewarding.  It's a love story weaved into a time travel tale wrapped in an adventure blockbuster and draped in historical fiction.  You can't expect or try to tackle this puppy in one night, but it can be good friend to return to on dark and stormy nights.

What I loved about The River of No Return

Before you pass this up as a gift for grandma, you would be surprised to know...it's sexy.  The kissing. Oh the kissing.  Turns out Julia's not so sweet and naive after all.

There was nothing predictable about this novel.  The twists and turns in this long and winding road had my head spinning, but not in a "jump the shark" kind of way.

If I endeavor to read a book of this size, I have to trust the author.  I have to know that she is at least twelve times smarter than me, or I don't buy one penny's worth.  This was such a smart novel.  Not just in her historical references, but in the thick plot diversions and complex workings of the Guild.


All in all...

It's a great book.  It's a great winter read, I think.  Something to sit by the fire with, wrapped in a Snuggie.

If you like historical fiction or time travel or romance or action, then you would love this little gem.


Aug 11, 2013

Jude's 3rd Birthday

Today, my baby turns 3.  My how time flies.


He has been especially obsessed with Toy Story lately so we started the morning off right by having his presents set up and ready for opening surrounded by balloons in the living room.  Now, we will spend the day together, playing and watching movies, then meet some friends at the park for cupcakes and fun.

I can't believe this boy is getting so big.  I just want to keep him forever.

Favorites

Toy Story
Curious George
Llama Llama books
Lego guys
Pizza
Blankey
Mommy

Dislikes

Most foods that are not pizza
Strangers who talk to him
Gymnastics class

Milestones

Potty trained!
Big boy bed


Dear Jude,
You have grown so much this year.  We have all loved watching your personality grow.  You are funny and goofy, sometimes moody and sometimes cuddly.  You bring us so much joy and laughter.  I adore your "old soul" and hearing your stories.  We love you like crazy, kiddo!
Happy Birthday!
-Mom

Aug 8, 2013

the.book.chat is back. Let's catch up.



I'm so glad to be back to chatting with all of you.  I desperately missed the blog while I was away, and I missed Thursdays the most.

Before we get into the chat, let's take care of some business.  If you haven't received the Book Chat newsletter and would like to, please let me know.  It's nothing fancy, just a gentle reminder of the BC topics to come so that you planners know what's up.  
Also, I have the co-hosts spots filled up for August, but I'm totally open to having more than one co-host.  The more the merrier, right?  
And, I'm up for topic ideas for September.  We're down to recycling old topics, which frankly, is fine because we have a whole new cast of linker uppers anyway.

So, enough with that nonsense.  Let's get down to the chattin'!

Today, because we've been apart for so long now, let's catch up.  Tell me all about your summer of reading.  If you're like me, your reading habits turn to dust during the summertime.  I have my kids to entertain all day long, 24/shoot me/7, so it doesn't leave much time for reading.  If I'm reading on my balcony and Jude catches me, he will crawl on my lap and weave himself between my kindle and my face so that I have to look at him.  Who does this kid think he is?  (but adorable, amiright?)

This summer hasn't been too bad.  I have finished a few great reads.  

I discovered a new favorite author, Jojo Moyes.  You might have seen my review of Me Before You yesterday and next week I'll have a new one by her.  


I finally read all of The Sorcerer's Stone from front to back.  That took far too long, but I'm glad I just did it.  I'm on the second and feeling slightly stuck.  Not because it's not good, but it takes some discipline on my part to power through a story I feel like I already know.  Even the most clever parts of the book aren't a surprise to me anymore, and it mostly just makes me mad at myself for not reading these when they would have been surprising, ie. fifteen years ago.  Oh, who else was shocked that Harry Potter was 33?!  I don't feel so old anymore, so HP for the win. 


I finally read Shadow and Bone and while that was a great YA read, I can't help but feel like YA just isn't blowing me away anymore.  Tisk tisk, YA.  I'm not even feeling inspired enough to review them.  Blah.  Maybe it's me?



Because an old blogger can't learn new tricks...I'm reading another YA right now.  So far...it's pretty decent.  But again...it needs to blow me away.


I'm still powering through for this summer reading challenge.  I'm way behind and have no chance of finishing in time, but I still love to participate.  I mean, it got me to finally read HP, so what's not to love? 


So, there's my reading update for the summer.  What about you?  What have you been reading?  Are you participating in any summer reading challenges?

Link up

To join in...
1. Please follow the host via Bloglovin, RSS or Twitter
2. Visit a few other book chat links and show some support.
3. Link back here in your post.  Or use the button provided.
4. Old posts are always welcome if you have blogged on the topic before.

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Next week's topic: Memoirs & Autobiographies

Aug 7, 2013

July/August Recap 2013

If you've been following along, or trying to, then you know that I have been without reliable internet since we moved to Germany in April.  We've had very limited, slow internet which meant no pictures, downloads, videos or excessive blog reading.
But no more.

We finally have real internet!

I am so excited, I can't even put it into words right now.  I'm thrilled to be back in the blogging scene.  Thank the social media Gods for Twitter where I have stay connected with most of you.  I have great plans for the blog this fall, I hope you're ready for this.

First of all, what do you think about the new digs?  Looks amazing, right?!  What great timing to have my return to blogging coincide with my newest design from the lovely and talented Fran of Free Borboleta Designs.  I'm in love with this design.  I feel so LEGIT.  Thank you, Fran!  You are a gem.

You may have noticed a little change in name.  Yes, I've decided that Sweet Green Tangerine has run it's course.  It was a cute name while it lasted, but I've outgrown it.  However, I could never turn my back on the blog that changed my life, so I decided to stick with the name that encompasses me entirely.  As for handles, URL's and email addresses, those will all remain the same for a while.

Okay, so it's time to catch up!


What I Read...

New on my Shelf


Release date: July 12, 2013

Favorite songs: Satellite Call, Casseopia

The Book Chat

  • August 8 - Let's catch up! What are you reading?  
  • August 15 - Memoirs and Autobiographies
  • August 22 - Chick Lit
  • August 29 - School Reading (memories, favorites, etc.)
There is a new Book Chat newsletter going out to keep everyone ahead of the game.  If you would like to subscribe, please click here.

Book Releases

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
Release date: August 20, 2013

In 1916 French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything - her family, reputation and life - in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie's portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting's dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened...

In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most - whatever the cost.


The Returned by Jason Mott
Release date: August 27, 2013

Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That's what all the Returned were.

Harold and Lucille Hargrave's lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they've settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time ... Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people's loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it's a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he's their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

Album Release


The Civil Wars 
Release date: August 6th
















Aug 6, 2013

Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes


Me Before You

by Jojo Moyes

Published by Viking Adult
Release Date: December 31, 2012
Source: Audible
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


This book will here forth be known as the book that saved us all.  While we collectively fall into the depths of action-packed plot overdose and agenda-infused propaganda, along comes a book whose plot is propelled by the strings of its deep-seated character development and captivating discourse.

Me Before You is not a complicated story.  Will, a proud man in the depths of self-loathing and hopelessness, confined to a wheelchair and at the mercy of others, employs and befriends a spirited young woman, Louisa, set on changing his dismal perspective and proving to him the value of a life well-lived.  No, it is not a complicated story, but what Jojo Moyes tackles here, is rooted in complications and contradictions, yet she handles it with grace and subtle believability.

Told through a tone spliced with humor and humanity, Moyes brings character development to a new level.  No longer are flat characters being fabricated by writers to be seen as only they intend them to be seen, but they are independent creatures at the disposal of the on-lookers and voyeurs, otherwise known as readers.  We don't read about Lou and Will; we meet them, get to know them, feel angry at them, resent them, love them.  

Moyes weaves the story around the characters rather than weave the characters into the story.  The strong character development is what makes the plot work it's magic.  It is quite a clever manipulation, really.  Without sincere empathy, the agenda would taint the reader's emotional reaction.  We don't cry over the pain of a man, we cry for the pain of Will.   With each turning page, she pulls us in, mercilessly, subjecting us to an attachment that works by her own agenda.  For the purpose of this story, it is a brilliant technique.

Jojo Moyes is a gem in her ability to transcribe relatable characters in a context that is relevant.  There is topic being denied by a social conscious at play here that [she has convinced me] needs to be addressed.  Moyes says it quite clearly in these 369 pages; the issue of assisted suicide is not easily understood nor easily determined but easily overlooked.