Almost 5 years ago, Estelle & Magan met at a wedding — where M was the photographer and E was a bridesmaid for her best friend's big day. We talked about books for under five minutes, and a friendship was born.
Since then, we’ve shared our love of books, Zac Efron, and shopping on this blog, changed jobs, had babies, moved, visited DC and Disney World together, and constantly stayed connected -- despite the miles between us. RBR has been the our own version of a coffee date, our way to mark the time before we can hang out and gab in person again. Thanks for spending time with us. xoxo
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.
When 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. Sorryis 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.
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 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?
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
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.
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!
Twas the weekend after Thanksgiving and all through the apartment, not a creature was stirring not even my sleeping cat. Oh, pish posh. This is just a fancy way to say I’m diving into the holiday season by binge watching a ton of made for TV movies on Hallmark and Lifetime channels with cheesy dialogue, fake snow, great tunes, and lots of heart. (I cry at 75 percent of them.) I love just about everything about this time of year but oh gosh, dusting off the DVDs we only watch in December is like Christmas morning all on its own. So today I wanted to share the top 10 movies you MUST WATCH to make the most of your holiday season. (No Hallmark or Lifetime movies included; sorry about that.)
Sidenote: these are in no particular order. I could never, ever do it!
1. Serendipity (2001): Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack bump into each other in a crowded Bloomingdales during the holiday season and both want to buy the last pair of leather gloves. They end up spending one night hanging out and totally connect but they are both taken by other people. Kate’s character proposes they leave their “relationship” to chance and allow the fates to bring them back together. This has been one of my favorite movies since I first saw it in theaters after a shift at CVS. There’s ice skating, Frozen hot chocolate, and lots of tubas. (Seriously.) Such a romantical flick.
Holiday song pick: “Cool Yule” by Louis Armstrong.
2. White Christmas (1954): You may need your tissues handy for this one. An entertainment duo head to a Vermont Inn during the holidays and end up scheming to save the place for their former commanding officer. There’s romance, some misunderstanding, and some beautiful performances from Bing Crosby, Danny Kate, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen.
Holiday song pick: “Snow” by Irving Berlin.
3. Love Actually (2003): Does this movie need an introduction? Six couples around the holidays in various states of relationship: nonexistent, unrequited, complicated, very sad, exciting, and totally happy. I love the way these characters find themselves linked to one another, and how honest these storylines played out. Even though it’s a Christmas movie, not everyone gets their happy ending and year after year, I’m left to contemplate how it all goes down. It’s just excellent.
Holiday song pick: This soundtrack is ah-mazing but I’d say: “All Alone On Christmas” by Darlene Love.
4. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992): This was the first Muppet film released after the death of creator Jim Henson, and it’s directed by his son, Brian. As my husband likes to remind me, the film is so closely resembles the Dickens tale mixed in with some wacky Muppet humor and memorable songs. The Muppet Christmas Carol has become part of our Christmas Eve tradition and it never, ever gets old.
Holiday song pick: The whole album is classic, but I love “It Feels Like Christmas” by Paul Williams.
5. The Santa Clause (1994): If there’s a movie that really makes me believe in the magic of Christmas, it’s this one. A divorced dad and his son rediscover their relationship in the strangest and most wonderful of ways: dad accidentally become the new Santa Claus. A trip to North Pole, lots of doubts, and so much wonder to be discovered. I basically tear up every time I watch. Real talk: I also love The Santa Clause 2 but I pretend the third doesn’t exist.
Holiday song pick: “Away to the Window” orchestration by Michael Convertino.
Happy December 1! I can’t believe it’s the last month of 2015. It feels like just yesterday that we were picking our favorite books of 2014 and getting all excited about the new work we’d be going gaga over in 2015. But here we are and what a year it’s been. So much of December feels like a time of reflection and to tie up loose ends so I thought it was best to post today about the future of Rather Be Reading.
In November, Magan and I hit the 4-year mark with RBR. Four years. I can’t believe it. When M and I started this project all those years ago, we barely knew each other and now we have shared big birthdays, family trips, life milestones, and so many ups and downs together. With this blog, our friendship has become so strong, so important to both of us — despite our distance. When you meet people from far away (which inevitably happens in online communities), it’s so easy to break away from one another (I mean, that’s easy in other relationships) because it takes such effort to stay in touch, bridging time between visits. The blog has always been a way to for us to touch base, our version of coffee dates, the group we belong to, the common interest that brought us together. It’s safe to say 4 years ago, M and I were both searching for something more in our lives and that’s part of the reason why RBR was born. It’s fulfilled so much for each of us: a creative outlet, a platform to express ourselves and share our stories, and a connection to other authors and other smart people in ways we never imagined.
It’s inevitable that four years brings a lot of change too. Think about the four years between freshman and senior year of high school, and then of college. It’s so crazy to think about. Sometimes you don’t even feel like the same person. So many factors have pushed and pulled you in different directions and sometimes the reason why you did something changes, sometimes the way you feel about it changes too.
Truth be told: Magan and I made a video about our feelings on blogging when she visited New York in early October. I was supposed to put it up, but I just couldn’t. So much of what we discussed I’ve said above. How you can love something so fiercely and how that love can change. Sometimes you just want to embark on something different, and in other instances, you just don’t have the time you used to. Without speaking too much for M, I think it’s a mix of both. But most importantly, it’s about being a team. We love working together so, very much but the time just isn’t there like it used to be.
So what am I saying exactly? Well, December will be the last month of updates on RBR. It’s a sad announcement to make, but sometimes things just reach a natural end and that’s where we are right now. (Don’t worry; at the end of the month, I’ll make sure you know where you can reach us both!)
We are so appreciative of your comments, your thoughts, your imaginations, and your friendship for the past few years. Thank you so much for listening to our stories, sharing your own, and also bringing so many beautiful, memorable books in our lives.
Here’s to a wonderful December full of kindness, thoughtfulness, and concluding this chapter on a high note.
If your mailbox is anything like mine, it’s been stuffed to the gills with holiday gift guide, catalogs, and coupons. I never have a ton of shopping to do but I am obsessed with all the fun jolly stuff that comes out this time of year. In the spirit of Cyber Monday (maybe my favorite day to shop), I thought I’d share a few memorable items from my holiday guide snooping.
No matter what winter holiday you are celebrating, I hope your shopping remains thoughtful, stress-free, and, of course, fun!
1) Gap logo pom-pom beanie ($24.95): There are a few other hats in this collection with other sayings but this one was my favorite. (Probably because it matches my jacket best.)
2) Patchwork Slipper Sock ($19.95): You cannot go wrong with slipper socks. The person you are gifting is going to be so, so thankful. They are heaven.
3) Loft Owl Sock Set ($19.95): Loft has some of my favorite socks already but their collection has gotten (much to my delight) quirkier. (This year they even have some reindeer ones.)
5) Julep Break the Ice Lipstick Trio ($24.00): Julep mini lipsticks are probably my favorite add-on they’ve had. I still have the first collection I got almost 2 years ago, and I’m tempted to grab this one too. They are perfect to throw in your purse or travel with.
Welcome to the 11th month of the Dive into Diversity challenge! Rebecca and I can hardly believe we are just about done, but here we are. In the last sparkly original post, I’m piggybacking off some feelings I’ve had lately — how the general public who doesn’t spend a lot of time hanging out in the online book community or reading Publishers Weekly is finding out about the We Need Diverse Books campaign. Of course, I immediately think of librarians who work tirelessly to stock their libraries with books their community wants to read, recommend titles when asked, and make everyone feels welcome.
So I asked a few librarians to answer some questions on their jobs and how the diversity campaign has essentially affected how they do their job. Did they feel like the people who aren’t invested in these book/publishing bubbles were knew what was going on? What about the future? I hope you enjoy their insights and give you a little taste into DIVERSITY IN THE REAL WORLD.
Eden has been a young adult librarian in Kentucky for 3 years. @edenjeangrey
(Diverse) books and authors have you been recommending this year: Mostly books about mental illness, like Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman and My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga.
On how to connect the campaign with patrons: I feel that customizing and tailoring your individual approach to diversity in library collections and services is crucial – just promoting diversity in general isn’t going to accomplish as much. Take time to determine what diversity means for our community, your service area, and your patrons, and work according to their identities and needs.
Bookish has been a librarian for 8 years. She has previously worked in college admissions and as a middle school teacher. @bookish & her blog.
On what’s changed since the WNDB campaign became “mainstream”: When I first got into librarianship, if I brought up the need for diversity in YA or kidlit, I’d get uncomfortable silences on listservs and in conversations. Only a few brave souls would answer. There was a deafening silence from the rest. Now that the WNDB campaign is more “mainstream,” many more people are willing to at least listen to the need for diversity.
(Diverse) books and authors you’ve been recommending: Grace Lin, Zetta Elliott, Jacqueline Woodson, Neesha Meminger, Yuyi Morales, Uma Krishnaswami, Mitali Perkins, Janine Macbeth, Misako Rocks, books published by Lee & Low press, Corduroy, the list goes on and on and on!
Patrons and their quest for change: Young parents of color…are keenly aware that they didn’t get to see themselves accurately and genuinely reflected in books as they were growing up, but that they want their kids to have this important connection to literature, in a visceral way. This generation of parents of color are already clamoring for books that represent their lives, their realities, so that they can share these with their children.
On what needs to happen next: …this push for diversity is mistaken as needing to be fulfilled by getting already well-known mainstream white writers to write diverse characters into their books. Don’t get me wrong; this trend is definitely a step in the right direction, for the most part. But what would be WAY more heartening is to see publishers taking chances on a LARGE number of first-time writers of color, to allow the diverse stories to be told through diverse authorial voices.
Pamela lives in Wisconsin and has been a Youth Services Librarian since 2013. @PamelaJean0 & her blog.
Since WNDB how her book ordering has changed: Instead of ordering, say, 4 copies of a book by a popular author, I have diversified my collections by purchasing only 1 copy of a popular book and then using the remaining funds to buy new books that showcase diversity.
(Diverse) books and authors you’ve been recommending: Dumplin‘ by Julie Murphy; George by Alex Gino; Princeless by Jeremy Whitley; Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn; Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, always and forever. <3
How the word can spread even more: Merchandising. Teens love free stuff, especially if it’s LEGALLY free (ha!). The acronym itself would be intriguing if teens didn’t know what it was. And if we can turn it into an identifying rallying cry, like DFTBA? (Editor’s not: I had to look this up. Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.) Then that’s it. Maybe vlogging, snap chatting — whatever social media the teens are on, we need to be there too.
Librarians are some of my favorite people in the UNIVERSE and I’m so glad to spotlight some of them today and hear about their experiences. There are so many layers to this campaign, and I wish I could have featured even more people because I love to be nosey and see how all of this is rolling in the real world. That being said, if you are a librarian, who has tips, tricks, and thoughts to share about the WNDB campaign — please feel free to do so below. Can’t wait to hear from you! Happy Tuesday, and happy almost Thanksgiving!