Ladies in Read

Happy new year! (Throws confetti!!)

In my casual relationship during the work week with Twitter, I saw a few people mention reading primarily women authors in the new year. It soon led me to this post on Book Riot. Deciding to do something like this wouldn’t be such a change in pace for me — I find myself reading women almost exclusively for no reason except well those tend to be the books I pick up. Proof: 136 out of 152 book I read last year were by ladies. Even so, I realized I wanted to be more aware of this choice when it came to my reading and unofficially officially challenge myself to read more ladies across the genres — especially after last year (ha, two days ago!) brought books like Happiness for Beginners, Girl in the Mirror, and Maybe in Another Life into my universe when I needed the extra oomph to be my own advocate!

To be helpful for others who may want to embark on this women’s only challenge, I thought I would lend a few suggestions from my treasure trove of favorites and then offer up a few titles that are on my priority list for 2016. As always, here’s hoping you discover something new and fabulous!

♥

highly recommended

Finding Someplace by Denise Patrickmiddle grade

Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry: An oldie, but goodie. Anastasia is a writer and a dreamer, and I love how this old school book shows how much middle grade writing has changed over the years.

Jessica Darling’s IT List series by Megan McCafferty: Family, friends, and popularity come into play in the prequel to the beloved (at least to me) Jessica Darling series.

Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick: A young girl is caught in the middle of Hurricane Katrina and deals with the effects while discovering the true meaning of home.

young adult

Making PrettyVivian Apple by Katie Coyle by Corey Ann Haydu: Corey Ann never speaks down to her readers and writes with honesty about beauty, sisters, and mysteries of love in this NYC summer story. (Runner up: Life By Committee.)

Vivian Apple series by Katie Coyle: It’s the end of the world as Vivian and Harp know it… in this smart series filled with fierce friendship, family challenges, and a crazy religion sweeping the country, Coyle writes an engaging and chilling 2-book series.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert: Theo’s oldest friend returns four years after he’s been kidnapped, and the effects of their estrangement, her future in dance, and past memories bombard her in heartbreaking, and difficult ways.

Kissing Ted Callahan Amy Spalding: One of the rare YA books that comes jam-packed with laughs as a main character navigates a messy love life, kisses a bunch of boys, and is semi-competing with her over the top best friend in finding a relationship. (Runner up: The Reece Malcolm Project.)

What You Left Behind by Jessi Verdi: A young dad (in his senior year of high school) left to piece together his deceased girlfriend’s secrets through her diary.

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should FeelYoung Widows Club by Alex Coutts by Sara Farizan: A main character who is constantly feeling misunderstood by her peers (she’s Persian not Latina!) and dealing with feelings for the new girl in school.

Young Widows Club by Alexandra Coutts: A great look at an unconventional love story, its ending, and what happens after… before the main character has even graduated high school.

Hundred Oaks series by Miranda Kenneally: Looking for strong, nuanced female main characters? This series is sure to satisfy as the characters deal with money, the future, death, religion, friendships, and love of all kinds in a small town. A plus: every book feels like a family reunion (and they can be read out of order).

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Dollar: A main character reunited with the father and family her mother turned her against complete with a cast of a fabulous Greek family, a backdrop near the sea, and sexy love connection. All while dealing with a past that doesn’t want to be buried. (Runner up: The Devil You Know).

contemporary fiction

The Wonder SpotNight Blindness by Susan Strecker by Melissa Bank: A black sheep’s “quest for her identity” through 25 years of her life.

Night Blindness by Susan Strecker: Jensen is forced to go home again when her dad is diagnosed with a brain tumor. She’s also reunited with her ex, her own horrible secret, and the realization that she might not be quite so happy with many factors in her life.

The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard: Contemporary fiction with a flashback pinpointing when Kirsten’s brother s accused of murder and her family’s future is forever changed.

Steal the North by Heather Bergstrom: The Pacific Northwest is the backdrop in this novel about family secrets, religion, and young love.

The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase: For those who love binge watching HGTV, Austin, Texas, and second chance love stories.

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume: A journey through the years of two unlikely childhood best friends.

non-fiction

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett (a memoir): A tale of friendship between two college friends and their journeys into writing.

What Remains by Carole Radziwill (a memoir): Before she was a housewife of NYC, Carole fell in love and married a prince, and was best friends with JFK Jr’s wife. This book tells the story of her husband’s cancer and losing her best friends in a plane crash. (Tissues in hand, people!)

♥

on my reading list

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow PlaceNegroland: a Memoir by Margo Jefferson by Julie Berry: This book was gifted to me last Christmas by Hannah of So Obsessed With Blog who called the book “tale of murder and mayhem is ultimately an ode to friendship and fun”.

Something Real by Heather Demetrios: A child who grew up on TV on a reality show trying to live a normal life until a TV reunion of the show is announced.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers: (YA; St. Martin’s Press; 2015): A girl from “the wrong side” of town” and the sheriff’s son/golden boy in a book about truth and sexual violence.

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu: (YA, Roaring Brook Press, 2014): Another highly recommended novel about four high school students about slut-shaming, bullying, and death.

The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez (YA, Simon Pulse, 2012): Two sisters, and secrets.

Why Can’t I Be You by Allie Larkin (Fiction, Plume, 2013 ): “A portrait of friendship and identity”.

The Disenchantments by Nina LeCour (YA, Dutton,2012): A road trip, a band, and some unrequited love.

NegrolandBig Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert by Margo Jefferson (Memoir, Pantheon, 2015): Full disclosure that Margo Jefferson is one of my favorite college professors but I’m so looking forward to diving into her latest book about growing up in Chicago amongst “the colored elite” — as she calls it.

Wendy and the Lost Boys: The Uncommon Life of Wendy Wasserstein by Julie Salamon (Biography, Penguin Press, 2011): A look at the gone too soon playwright of The Heidi Chronicles.

Big Magic: Creative Life Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (Non-fiction, Riverhead Books, 2015): I’ve been enjoying the Big Magic podcast, and I’m looking forward to the book that started it all to give me a little push in a creative direction.

♥

Whew! I’m ready to get started. I’d love to hear your books by awesome ladies recs (especially non-fic since I’m lacking in that department)!

Psst. Turns out all the books that most impacted me in 2015 were by females so you may want to stop by and read that too!

The Mini and the Silly | #SoRatherBeYoung

#SoRatherBeYoung Header

Rediscovering old books is by far one of my favorite things EVER, and I’ve been so glad to do so this year with #SoRatherBeYoung. At the same time, I’ve loved learning more about my friend, Hannah, and what books made her a reader when she was an adorable kid. This round of picks have been interesting. I loved all of Louis Sachar’s books when I was a bookworm in elementary school and I was praying, praying that this title would stand the test of time. On the other hand, Hannah’s pick for me was something I had never, ever heard of so it was nice to read a new, old book. (Hey, does this count as a classic?)

Without further day, here we go…

Wayside School Gets a Stranger Summary Tweet - #SoRatherBeYoung

Joint pick: Wayside Schools Gets a Little Stranger by Louis Sachar | first published in 1995

More Than You Know: The author had a degree in Economics and started the Wayside School series after graduation. How interesting is that?!

Memories Are Made of This: I haven’t picked up this series since elementary school but it’s funny how muscle memory works. I started to remember little projects we did with each silly chapter of this book. This title continues to be fun, and I can only hope kids are still reading it in school.

Second Time Around: I’m basically going to repeat myself here. This book can be downright ridiculous but I can also see how the book teaches about language, misunderstanding, and how it’s so important not to take yourself seriously all the time. A fun ride.

You Can Take My Word for It, Baby: Like I said above, I hope kids, parents, teachers, and cool babysitters are still reading this book. It’s just a blast. (Plus there is a Santa chapter, and I just realized this is the grown-up version of Miss Nelson is Missing — am I right?)

The Borrowers Summary Tweet - #SoRatherBeYoung

Hannah’s pick for me: The Borrowers by Mary Norton | First published in 1952

Do You Know Why? “I wish I had an exciting reason for choosing The Borrowers for Estelle, but I don’t! When I asked her what she was in the mood for, she mentioned wanting something fun. A lot of what I read as a kid was on the more serious side (maybe because it was a ton of historical fiction), so this book was one of the first that came to mind! I remember almost nothing about the plot, but I know I was obsessed with the idea of tiny people secretly living in my home.” — Hannah

Can’t You Just See Yourself: I love that this was one of those picks that I had never, ever heard of. I know Hannah still hasn’t read this one in awhile, so I’m curious for her to revisit it soon too. When she first told me about it, I thought the borrowers were mice, not humans!

I Give You My Word: This is a story that would benefit from beautiful illustrations. If you are able to find that version, I could see myself reading it with younger kids. I do think I’d prefer to read Stuart Little or something similar first though.

Before the Music Ends: I wonder if I had some nostalgic pull toward this one I’d feel differently. The ending felt a little confusing (which made me feel so silly) and again, I don’t think the version I borrowed from the library gave me the best experience. It’s a cute story, but wasn’t a total winner for me.

♦

Thanks for checking out #SoRatherBeYoung today! I hope when you are hanging around
during the holidays and awaiting a new year, you’ll be inspired to pick up your old standbys
from “the good old days”.

Happy almost Christmas! (And almost 2016 — if you can believe it!)

And be sure to stop by Hannah’s to hear her talk about my reading assignment for her. (ONE OF MY FAVORITES).

We DID It! | Dive Into Diversity Farewell

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

I’m typing this by the light of my Christmas tree, while listening to the Peanut gang serenade me and I still can’t believe we’ve already reached the final post for the Dive Into Diversity challenge. This will officially be the first and last challenge I host on Rather Be Reading blog, and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner-in-crime during the whole process. It was so nice to be both laid-back and creative in everything we were writing. If you took part in this challenge in any capacity or read through these posts, I hope you’ve become a little bit more aware of the characters you are reading about and who has been writing them. Maybe you just added a brand new book to your reading list. Either way, it’s been a pleasure to share these posts with you.

For the final hoorah, Rebecca and I interviewed each other! Here are her awesome answers to my burning questions…

Estelle: Let’s start from the beginning. You were nice enough to approach us about co-hosting the challenge with you. Why was hosting this important to you? What’s been the best part?

Rebecca: I was very inspired by the kickstarter for We Need Diverse Books. I loved what the movement was about and what they wanted to achieve. To be honest, diversity in books wasn’t something I’d thought about much before, but after that, I wanted more of it and I wanted to see change. It wasn’t long after I got the idea to hold the challenge and the rest is history. Hosting a challenge hasn’t been the easiest, but it’s been rewarding. I think the best part of it has been learning, along with everyone else. Becoming more aware and listening and having people take it all in with you.

Estelle: I’m going to copy your second question to me! What was your favorite post you put together for this project?

Rebecca: Wow – looking back, there are quite a few I’m proud of. Taking the Good With the Bad because I put so much effort and love into writing it. It was my first ever post for the challenge and I wanted to get it right.

I also LOVED the How Diverse Are Your Shelves? Experiments – so much fun to put together!

Estelle: Personally, I felt a lot of frustration with this challenge sometimes because I wondered what we were really doing to reach people outside of the super blogger sphere. Do you agree? What do you think is the best way for the general reader to become aware of the campaign?

Rebecca: I totally get your frustration. I also feel this way about OzYA and trying to reach people outside of the blogging community. Super tricky. I think the best way to reach the general reader is bookshops and libraries. Local bookish places who have the ability and means to hold events, create displays and start conversations. We might not have reached the masses, but I believe we created diverse conversations in the book community and I’m happy with that.

Estelle: Who are some bloggers, authors, or websites that you go-to for great articles on diversity and where the future of publishing should go?

Rebecca: There are some great people on Twitter talking about diversity: Malinda Lo (@malindalo) and Dahlia Adler (@MissDahlElama) are two authors of many I see talking a lot about diversity in my feed frequently. Other sites to follow for diverse recs, reviews and great articles:

Estelle: What’s your biggest takeaway from the challenge and the diversity campaign in 2015?

Rebecca: It was a pretty laid-back challenge, but it was more work and stress that I initially thought it would be. But it’s not to say I didn’t enjoy hosting it. Diversity is now a common, talkative subject in the book community and there’s definitely been change since a year ago. But there’s still a way to go in terms of publishing and the future of the book industry. Like I said above, there’s talk and change happening in the book/publishing community, but I feel like it hasn’t yet reached the outer community, which I feel will really help things along. So here’s hoping the message continue to spread and we start to see more change the coming year.

As for how the challenge affected me as a reader, it’s impacted my reading over the year with half of what I read a diverse title. But the fact I’m most happy and pleased about and generally makes me smile wide is the fact that my favourite books of the year are all diverse. Not because they’re diverse, but because they are all freaking amazing books in their own right. Heartfelt, special, thoughtful, impacting. I talked about my favourites last week, which you can check out here.

♥

Don’t forget to check out my chat with Rebecca @ Reading Wishes. Another big thanks to her for asking Magan and I to join her reading challenge party, and all of those who contributed to posts or wrote your own. xoxo

Here’s to a fabulous end of the year, and a new one filled with compassion, new reading adventures, and more representation for all.

Holiday Mix is Here; Happiness and Cheer

[dropcap]I'[/dropcap]m sitting in my living room with a new addition — our Christmas tree, of course. It took a little longer to find “the perfect tree” this year (the guys who are working in our neighborhood were insistent we waited for their next delivery) but here we are, listening to Christmas carols on my iPod, playing video games (James), and napping (Pepper). It seems like the perfect time to unveil one of my favorite blogging traditions: the annual mix because oh my god if I could, I would listen to cheery, jazzy wintery tracks all year long. (Isn’t it ironic that I’d rather listen to songs about snow than actually have it be snowing? Ha.)

To be honest, most years I’m so looking forward to the new albums released in October before the season is officially upon us. But this year, not so much. I’ve downloaded a few tracks here and there (I highly recommend Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas” with Andra Day) but it seems this year is destined to be one where I enjoy old favorites. Not a bad thing at all. So I hope whether you’re at work today, decorating this weekend, or online shopping and wrapping presents, you’ll give my latest a listen. (James and I gave it a listen two nights ago, and it’s a good one; I swear.)

⇒ It’s that time of year (RBR 2015)

Have a super weekend, and remember to enjoy! (Oh, and don’t forget to share your favorite tunes below. I might be missing one in my collection!)

More fa la la fun holiday mixes: 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014

Yes, Virginia, It Snows in the Desert | Vicki Lewis Thompson

Naughty or Nice Harlequin Books Kismet Book Tour Vicki Lewis Thompson

A big Rather Be Reading welcome to romance writer, Vicki Lewis Thompson, who shares a unique moment that kicked off to her 2015 for the Naughty & Nice blog tour.

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen you live in the desert, the only snow you expect to see during the Christmas holidays comes from a spray can. It snows in Tucson every few years, but having it land when Christmas lights are wound around the cactus in the front yard takes a small miracle. That miracle happened on the eve of 2015.

For my family, New Year’s Eve means staying home, building a fire even if it’s not that cold, eating all kinds of finger food and playing board games. Sorry is a big favorite because we’d rather not think too hard. So at about 10:30p.m., with a hot game of Sorry in progress, we noticed the rain looked funny. It wasn’t so much falling as floating. Desert dwellers need time to adjust to the reality of snow.

Because we didn’t want to get our hopes up, we figured on a light dusting that would melt the minute it reached the ground. But the temperature dropped and soon the patio tables were covered. The lights draped on the cactus in the front of the house were reflected in the fallen snow and turned the yard into a magical world. I realize those of you living in the snowbelt don’t consider the white stuff particularly magical, so go ahead and roll your eyes. Out here we still think it’s pretty.

Snow in the desert Vicky Lewis Thompson

It continued off and on until we went to bed sometime after midnight. We expected it to be gone by morning because that’s what snow does in the desert. It melts. But no! My favorite walking path was not exactly snow-packed, but enough had accumulated to justify boots. Boots! Although our mountains become snow-covered at least once every winter, we hardly ever see snow-covered prickly pear cactus on the valley floor. When a prickly pear gets snowed on it always looks startled, maybe even slightly offended.

Snow in the desert Vicki Lewis Thompson

Snow on the first day of the year seemed like a sign that 2015 would be fun and unusual, and so it has been! It’s no coincidence that Cowboy Under the Mistletoe, my November Harlequin Blaze novel, includes a blizzard. How do you feel about snow? Love, hate or somewhere in between?

♦

Find Vicki Lewis Thompson: website / Twitter / Facebook

Her latest, Cowboy Under the Mistletoe: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N

A cowboy’s scars can last a lifetime. Ty Slater’s cheerfulness is a carefully constructed armor. After losing his parents in a tragic accident, he was fostered at Thunder Mountain Ranch. Although he’s learned how to survive, he hides a broken heart. He knows love leads to loss, so he’s vowed never to fall in love…

Unfortunately, Ty’s attraction to Whitney Yates is nothing short of a maelstrom, a desire that threatens his resolve. When she’s stranded at Thunder Mountain for Christmas, Ty realizes he’d better find Whitney’s flaw, and fast—because his lust is too damn close to love. This red-hot cowboy is ready to bolt…unless Whitney shows him that some rides are definitely worth the risk.

♦

And don’t forget to enter this giveaway for your chance to win a jolly bundle from Harlequin, including:

  • 1 print copy of The Harder You Fall by Gena Showalter, White Wedding Christmas by Andrea Laurence, A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe by Vicki Lewis Thompson, Wrapped in Red by Nana Malone and Sherelle Green

  • 1 eBook copy of A Copper Ridge Christmas by Maisey Yates and Under the Spotlight by Kate Willoughby

  • 100,000 Harlequin MyRewards points

  • 2 Harlequin Classics limited edition notebooks

  • 1 Brenda Jackson Westmoreland limited edition notebook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy holiday reading! ♥

Lord Help the Sisters | Pub Date

Pub Date Header

Ohmigosh. It is FRIDAY.

Why is it that the week after a holiday weekend feels like it goes on for months and months? Maybe it’s all the holiday anticipation. Or still not being over daylight savings? (Tell me this gets worse when you get older.) Anyway, pizza, and Star Wars: The Empire Strike Back are on my agenda for tonight. What am I forgetting? Oh, right. Beer. And this month’s pub date theme: siblings.

Let’s talk sisters. I am one. A built-in friend, but also one of your most complicated relationships. This topic comes at perfect time because I just finished Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. It’s a book that unpacks the overwhelming grief June is feeling after her favorite relative, her uncle, dies from AIDs in the 80s. That much I knew going in, but I had no idea how much it would explore the relationship between June and her sister, Greta. Close in age, they used to be best friends but have gradually grown apart. Jealousy. Misunderstanding. And rediscovering a connection June and Greta have only begun to understand. Have your tissues ready because wow wow wow. Brunt nailed the messy and wonderful moments of sisterhood.

(If you need to get more in the mood, listen to “Sisters” from White Christmas.)

This leads me to the drink: Two Roads Brewing Co. Route of All Evil Black Ale. There’s a lot of dark moments to this novel, and that matches perfectly with the chocolate, molasses, and mocha that make up this brew. On the bright side: It’s one of my favorite winter ales (especially after the disappointing and very week Redhook Winter Ale) and perfect for a cozy night spent reading, watching a movie, or staring at your holiday lights.

Pub Date, Books about Sisters

As you can see, I couldn’t help myself and picked a few other memorable sister reads from 2015 for you to try out. I enjoyed each of these for so many different reasons… definitely give them a look!

A Million Miles Away | To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before | Between Us and the Moon |
Making Pretty | Rules for Stealing Stars

Most importantly, enjoy your weekend. Relax, destress, and recharge! xoxo

Pub Date: Brittany @ Book Addict’s Guide | Andi @ ABC’s | Maggie @ Just a Couple More