Best of 2018

Hi, everyone. It’s good to be back on my blog to highlight the books I enjoyed most in 2018. Leif Enger, the author of one of my favorite novels, Peace Like A River, published a new book this year titled Virgil Wander. Much like his previous novels, Virgil Wander explores life in the Upper Midwest with a mix of insight and wonder that I have grown to love in his stories. He brings a large cast of characters to this story, which was something new for Enger. His previous novels have felt a bit more intimate, with fewer characters. This book was worth the ten year wait since his last book.

virgil

 

I read Dark Matter by Blake Crouch on the recommendation of my friend, Hannah, who has a YouTube channel called From Beginning To Bookend that you should definitely check out. Dark Matter is a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Hannah describes it as a cyberpunk techno-thriller. Even if that description doesn’t sound like the kind of story you usually read, you should still give this book a chance. It will appeal to almost every reader of fiction. Everyone I know of who read it after I talked about it, finished it quickly just like I did. One word of advice- don’t read the synopsis on the back. Just start on the first page and enjoy the ride.

dark matter

 

One of my favorite genres over the past several years has been Southern fiction. One of the best examples of this kind of story that is read this year is Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. I picked this book up as a souveneir of my first time to visit Asheville, NC, last summer. Allen combines the North Carolina setting with elements of magic realism reminiscent of Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic into a story that just makes you feel good, like a pot of hot chicken noodle soup on a cold night.

garden spells

 

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is a middle grade book written from the perspective of Red, a 200+ year old oak tree inhabited by all kinds of animals. On the first day of May, several people who live near the tree write down a wish and tie it to one of Red’s branches. One little girl in particular, enjoys visiting Red. But others in the neighborhood don’t like her habit of coming around. Wishtree is a kid-friendly story about tolerance that I thoroughly enjoyed.

wishtree

 

Elmet by Fiona Mozley is the story of a poor family fighting a wealthy landowner to save their home. The lyrical writing along with a rural setting make it easy to mistake it for Southern fiction. But the setting is actually northern England. Family, love, loyalty, and justice are a few themes taken on in this wonderful debut.

elmet

 

Melmoth by Sarah Perry, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, and Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens are three of the books I plan to read in 2019. It will be interesting to find out if they appear on this list in a year’s time. Meanwhile, what were some of your favorite books that you read in 2018? Did you read any of my picks? If so, what did you think of them? As always, thanks for reading.

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Stars

They lie on their backs, shoulder to shoulder,
staring up at the stars. Wondering, is she the one?
Is he? But the most important thing is this moment;
the cool of the grass, the warmth of each other.
The universe hears their question. Attention and
patience will bring the reply. Until then,
with hopeful smiles on their faces,
they wish on each falling star.

Standing now, hand in hand. The Milky Way
stretching across the sky, looks brighter
than ever. Are we really made of stars?
These two people feel that to be true.
The night sky fills them with reverence,
wonderment, and love. They turn toward
each other. And the stars in each other’s
eyes give them the answer they seek.

stars.jpg

The Lover/ The Fighter

To be a lover; a gentleman
Like one in a Fitzgerald tragedy
Chasing amor ideal
Striving to master his domestic domain
To live the good life; to eat, drink, and be merry
Three piece suits and a classical music score
Filling his mind with the best of literature

To be a fighter; an adventurer
Like one in a Hemingway tale
Drunk on spirits and constant action
No time to waste sitting, thinking
Searching for the next grand chapter to his story
To dare, and attempt the daring
To feel the rush of adrenaline once more

Two masculine polarities, each with its own merits
With qualities worth aspiring to
But somewhere in the middle, I believe
Is where life’s magic lies

red

Artwork by my friend, Tosha Michelle, and used by permisson.

20 Random Questions With Author, Raelee May Carpenter

My friend and La Literati cohost, Tosha, has posted interviews with guests we have had on our podcast to her blog. You can find her blog here. It seemed like fun, so I invited our recent guest, the writer Raelee May Carpenter, to answer 20 random questions from me. I hope you enjoy reading, and check out Raelee’s books if you haven’t already.

 

1. What three items do you always have with you?

A pencil or pen with sticky notes. My iPod. And lip balm, because I am an addict.

2. If you were going to write an article about yourself, what would the headline be?

“Grace In the Gutter”

3. If you were a drink, what would you be? Why?

Irish Breakfast Tea, bold yet surprisingly comforting. But with fresh cream and local honey, because I ain’t low cal.

4. What childhood fear do you still have as an adult?

Spiders. Seriously. Not even Charlotte could save me from that.

5. If you could choose just one thing to change about the world, what would it be?

Everyone would quit devaluing people based on stupid things like poverty, lack of education, nationality, developmental disabilities, etc. It would solve so many other problems if we truly believed all were created equal.

6. What’s your favorite poem?

It’s a hard choice, but “The Death of the Hired Man” by Robert Frost immediately comes to mind. It’s such a good picture of grace, and I love the line, “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

So either that or Psalm 46. It’s so descriptive and inspiring, my favorite Psalm, definitely. It got under my skin in a big way when a certain politician misquoted it in a huge televised speech a while back. I’m still trying to let that go. If I’m ever famous enough to meet said politician, I’ll probably make a little mural of my favorite Psalm—with the right words, frame it, and present it to him as a gift.

7. Does darkness soothe you or frighten you?

It depends. I love sunshine during the day, but when I’m trying to sleep, I need dark. What I don’t like is gray, like the sky can’t make up its mind. That’s just frustrating.

8. If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write your national anthem?

Adam Levine, because if my country’s gonna have an anthem, I want it to be a Hit. Mad royalties and all that.
Seriously, though, am I allowed to go back in time? I’d really want Fanny Crosby to write it. She was awesome. “Blessed Assurance” is my anthem. If I have to pick someone who’s alive today, I don’t know…maybe Stevie Wonder?

9. If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would play you? What would the title be?

Geez, I don’t know. I love Taraji Henson, but I’m so pathetically white. How’s Keira Knightley’s American accent? Maybe Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway, or Ellie Kemper, who plays Kimmy Schmidt. Haha, how’s that for variety?
The title would be “ImPossible.”

10. Clowns- creepy or cool?

Creepy. So, so creepy. I think It ruined clowns for my entire generation. Thank you, Stephen King.

11. If you made a documentary, what would it be about?

Modern Day Abolition work

12. What’s your favorite song?

Today, I’ll say Britt Nicole’s “Still That Girl,” because hazel eyes notwithstanding, I am that girl.

13. Your favorite country to visit?

Hard choice. I have a list of places that I haven’t been yet, but Ireland is a wonderful place that I have been, and I’d like to go back someday. There are still a lot of places here in the US that I want to see or go back to.

14. Does pressure motivate you?

I have ADHD, so I have this constant drive in my brain and my limbs that makes it hard for me to relax. I tend to get a lot done on my normal setting, and added pressure is more of a distraction than anything else.

15. Does love dry up your creative juices, or make them flow faster?

Faster. Definitely.

16. Do you hear voices?

I can hear my character’s voices. That’s why I’m so good at writing dialogue. So good, in fact, I can make you hear them, too. 

17. Are you the paranoid type or calm, cool, and collected?

I’m not paranoid, but I do have ADHD, so I don’t think anyone would describe me as “calm.” Haha.

18. Narnia or Middle Earth?

Oh, I don’t know. Narnia is the fantasy of my childhood, but Middle Earth has so much adventure! I’d also really, really love to have a TARDIS. So many ‘verses, so little time!

Unless you do have a TARDIS… 😉

19. Are you more like fire or earth?

Fire. Yeah. LOL

20. What makes you, you?

Oh, I think you’d have to ask God that. I am His, as He made me, and I’m still trying to figure it all out.

Raelee May Carpenter is the author of “The Lincoln High Project”, “Kings & Shepherds”, and the upcoming novel, “Liberation Song”. You can find information on her and her books at raeleemaycarpenter.com

433ee46dde37c2e7781684d920dbe580

Confessions of a Reformed Southern Belle- a review

Confessions of a Reformed Southern Belle: A Poet’s Collection of Love, Loss, and Renewal is the first book of poems published by Tosha Michelle. In its pages, readers will find an unique voice; a voice that cries out for universal good in the form of justice, understanding, and love. Her love of books, writing, and creativity in general, come through in vivid display as well.

Join her as she explores the trio of themes from the subtitle: love, loss, and renewal. Fall under the trance of her melodic wordplay, just as I did years ago. Yes, hers is a familiar voice to me as I am fortunate to call her my friend. And I am excited for others who will be introduced to her talent by this book. A word of caution though- be careful of that narcissistic, rock star cat of hers.

 

confessions

Read more of Tosha Michelle’s writing here

Buy her book in paper and digital formats here

Writing

This post is a spinoff of my post about reading. I love to write just as much as I love to read. It is one of my favorite means of communication. I get excited when I see words that I have written in print. I’m sure this is one reason for deciding to finally start a blog of my own. Since I am not a student anymore, I don’t have anyone telling me to write. So it’s up to me to practice and try to improve (or at least maintain the status quo).

My first memory of enjoying the activity of writing was when I was eleven years old. I was in sixth grade and the curriculum called for an emphasis on creative writing. In order to progress to the seventh grade, my classmates and I had to do well on a writing test at the end of the school year. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.

I didn’t have much prior experience with writing so I was very unsure of how I was going to do. With every assignment I received more positive feedback, which led me to work harder and see just how well I could do. At the same time, I was discovering a fun, new means of communication as well as a new hobby. And my essay ended up as one of my teacher’s favorites.

In middle and high school creative writing was replaced more by term papers and research papers. But I still enjoyed it as a means of expressing myself. My experience as a college undergraduate served to encourage my love of writing even more. The Sociology department sponsored a journal in which the chair of the department picked what she considered the best student writing over a two or three year period. These essays were published in a professionally done journal that I still take pleasure in looking at even now. I was fortunate to have three of my essays published in the two years I attended Mercer University.

I set my dreams of being a published writer aside for a bit while I worked at a bookstore and then studied for my Masters degree. But something brought it back to the front of my mind. That something was a test by Longridge Writer’s Group. This is the equivalent of a school course of study on writing. I decided not to enter since I was already in graduate school at the time. But the group touted a test that you took to determine whether you were a good enough writer to enter the program.

They accepted me, which was another means of positive reinforcement about my writing. Since then, I have actively pursued a teaching career, while keeping the writing in the back of my mind. I hope I can somehow combine the two careers, academics and writing, in the future. Maybe as a college professor. I thank those of you who have stuck with me through this long-winded ramble of a post. As always, thanks for reading.