Posted in About me, Books, Obsessions, The farmgirl life

Getting to know me – again

So back in 2003, I discovered MaryJanesFarm.  I stumbled upon the magazine at a Walmart in my hometown, bought it, and was hooked.  I still remember flipping through that issue, my heart in my throat over the gorgeous pictures and stories MaryJane shared in her magazine.

May 10, 2004 I joined the message boards on the website and began to talk to a lot of really great women.  Eventually, I got to meet MaryJane Butters herself when she went on a book tour and stopped at Franny’s amazing cabin in the hills of Kentucky.  This picture below, which I took about two years ago, shows how my obsession/collection had grown:

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERABack in 2009, though, I started to pull away from the crafty/organic person that I was and started writing a lot.  And the problem when you write fanfiction is that you get sucked into a fandom and it takes over your whole life, which is what happened to me.  I walked away from the fandom about a year ago but only recently found my way back to MaryJanesFarm.  I’ve still subscribed to the magazine all this time, of course, but I wasn’t the same person anymore.  And frankly, this new me, the “Vintage 2009” version of Rachel – I didn’t like her much.

So now I’m reconnecting with the crafty/organic woman who dreams of owning her own tiny farm.   Now, though, I have visions of my farm being surrounded by the evergreens of the Pacific Northwest because every trip to Seattle just confirms that it feels like home out there.  But yesterday, I logged back into the MaryJanesFarm message boards for the first time in forrrrever.  Imagine my surprise when I clicked on my profile and discovered that I had joined exactly nine years ago, to the day!

This weekend, I’m going through all my craft supplies and fabrics and yarns and threads.  It was so great to open up a tub and see it filled with beautiful prints!

photo (1)And imagine my surprise when I opened up a second tub and found all the folkart dolls I used to make.  How did I forget that I made these?  I used to sell them at craft fairs!  I still have tons of them and I need to do something with them – maybe I’ll give them away?

photoAnyway, I’m having fun reconnecting with the gal I once was.  With some time and effort, I hope to become her again. She wore skirts a lot and made quilts and went to church regularly.  (The only addition is that she now writes regularly, too.  She’s working on a novel, dangit!) She wasn’t a bad person to be.

Posted in 1940s stuff, Books

What I Just Finished Reading…

This morning, after pouring over my iPad Mini during every free moment these past several days, I finally finished The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust by Edith Hahn Beer.

682761This book?  Gripping.

Edith, an educated woman who lives in Vienna at the start of World War II, opts to go underground and live as an Aryan Christian rather than face her fate as an Austrian Jew.  Despite the personal heartbreak of being separated from her mother, who is still in Vienna until she is deported to the ghettos of Poland, and her sisters, who escape, Edith becomes a “U-boat” as she calls herself, sinking beneath the surface and reemerging as a young woman named Grete.  Along the way, we meet the Germans who helped her, Jewish friends who labored beside her as prisoners at the asparagus farm, and even a few members of the Nazi party who, despite the risk they themselves faced, helped hide Edith’s true identity.  She then marries Werner Vetter, a German with hidden disdain for Nazi authority, all while living in fear that, at any moment, her true identity will be revealed.

The book is both amazing and heart-wrenching as Edith finally realizes her mother’s ultimate fate, comes to term with both her assumed and real identities, and tries to begin life anew in a post-war Europe filled with rubble, despair, and starvation.

Definitely the first autobiography of its kind that I’ve read.  Definitely one anyone else interested in World War II and the Holocaust should read, as well!

 

Posted in Books, Reading

Cookie-cutter fiction

So the thing about me is that when I find a new author I like, I read everything I can from that author.  This happened to me recently because I borrowed a book from the library (ebook version, of course) by Diana Palmer.  Because I have a thing for cowboys, I really enjoyed the book.  So then I borrowed about seven more from her.  By the time I was into the fifth one, I was pretty sure I’d read this book before.  That’s when I realized that all her books follow the same formula.  Young virginal woman + older man + tortured attraction + unrealistic characters who profess love in gorgeous prose = every Diana Palmer book. Ever.

The same can be said for Nicholas Sparks.  I know he’s wildly popular but his books wouldn’t be his books unless someone dies at the end, bringing everything full circle and leading to the main character(s) having profound realizations.

What is it with these authors?  Why do they publish the same book, over and over again?  Why does the reader never seem to mind and just keep buying them?  Is originality dead?  I mean, Colleen Hoover runs circles around Diana Palmer – yet Hoover had to self-publish at first!  As an aspiring author myself, I’m beginning to realize that there’s no rhyme or reason to getting published.  Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is proof of that.  That series should’ve ended about ten books ago, yet it just keeps going and going and going.  Stephanie’s car blows up + Grandma Mazur is funny + Lula makes fat jokes + Stephanie can’t decide between Joe or Ranger (the answer is ALWAYS Ranger, in case you were wondering) = every book in the stupid series.

The only thing I can surmise is that readers aren’t picky and that there’s no accounting for taste (or the lack thereof).  50 Shades of Grey is proof of this!

Posted in Reading, Writing

The POV debate

As I have stated in a previous entry, I’ve had a long-time ban on books written in first person POV (known as FPPOV for the rest of this entry).  That ban ended, though, upon giving in and reading Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless, because then I read Slammed and Point of Retreat.  This past weekend, I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which is another book written in FPPOV, and also another book that had a gutting, heart-wrenching effect on me.

So all this crying I’ve been doing over these books lately – all written in FPPOV, no less – have me thinking:  is FPPOV the new “thing” in popular fiction?  Because all of these books that have knocked me to my knees with emotion are best sellers, and they’re all written in first person.   Is that where it’s at now in the world of fiction?

I’m struggling to write my own book.  Each and every sentence feels like a monumental task because I’m still trying to find my characters’ voices.  The idea of just one voice, flowing so freely in “me” speak, is appealing.  But I’m a third person kind of girl.  I love third person.  I’ve embraced it my entire writing life.  Third person POV and the Oxford comma are my two favorite parts of the writing process.  Can I write my story, and tell it as authentically as I want to, if I’m only inside one character’s head and only sharing her voice?  One of the reasons I love writing romances is because I have two characters who are world apart at the beginning who have to find their way to a spot where their orbits intersect.  If I’m only sharing one voice and one character’s thoughts, I can’t do that.

So what’s the answer – is FPPOV the way to go now?  Do readers have a particular narrative that they prefer?  Am I using this debate as just an excuse to put off writing even more?  I need answers!

Posted in Books, Reading

Omigosh omigosh omigosh!!!!

One of my favorite authors of all time is LaVyrle Spencer.  Her novel Years is among my most-read books and it still makes me cry every time.  I just discovered that her novel Morning Glory was turned into a film in 1993 and it’s on Netflix!!!!  And it stars Christopher Reeve as Will Parker!!!  OMIGOSH OMIGOSH!!!!!!!!!

Posted in About me, Books, Reading

When a book leaves you shattered and moved and hopeful

I just finished reading this incredible book.

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Hopeless by Colleen Hoover.

This book is written in first-person.  One of my cardinal rules of reading is “never, ever read a book written in first person!”  The reviews for Hopeless, though, were so positive and glowing and full of fangirl key-smashing (both on Goodreads and Amazon) that I threw caution to the wind and click “Buy” anyway.  For once, I am absolutely relieved that I let go of my “no first person” rule because if I had, I would’ve missed out on this treasure of a book.

It starts off innocuous at first.  We meed Sky Davis, the narrator, who has been raised by a hippy-dippy mother whose aversion to technology and public education are both so severe that Sky was practically raised Amish.  However, Sky is about to start her senior year at a real, public high school while her best friend Six, who has a less-than-stellar reputation that has rubbed off undeservedly on Sky, goes of to Italy as an exchange student.  It’s obvious to the reader from the very beginning that Sky is “damaged” somehow, but it’s not clear why until much later.  As soon as Sky starts school, she meets Dean Holder.  He’s a “bad boy” with a reputation of his own and the word “hopeless” tattooed on his forearm.  He has a temper, a wealth of secrets, a past that is both fuzzy and frightening.  He also has heart-stopping dimples and a helluva physique (that made me feel guilty for lusting after him since he’s only 18) and his very presence makes Sky react to him in a way she never has to anyone else.

I’m not going to give the plot away because then you wouldn’t need to read this book, so all I will say is that Sky and Dean’s connection causes truths to be shared, secrets to be stirred up, and hard facts to be realized.  I will say that this book is far, far more than just a simple romance story.  It’s light-years beyond just being about two teenagers falling in love.  Trust me, this is no ridiculous, teenaged angst like Twilight. (Don’t get me wrong, Dean Holder sparkles, but not in an Edward Cullen kind of way.)

This book moved me.  Inspired me.  Gutted me.  I read the entire thing, from cover to cover (well, from 1% to 99% on my Kindle, anyway), in the span of about eight hours.  And then I flailed about it on Tumblr and Twitter.  And then I gifted three copies of it so that others can read this book.  It’s the kind of story that sticks with me long after I’ve finished.  Only a book or two a year ever do that to me and this one is definitely going to stay around.  In my head.  In my heart.

Read it.  You have to read it.  Here, here’s the link to it: go buy it right now.  And if you’ve read it, please leave me a comment to tell me how very much in “live” you are with Dean Holder, too!

Posted in Books, Reading

What I just finished reading…

For the last eight days or so, I have been tearing through the ACRO series of books by Sydney Croft.  The six books – Riding the Storm, Unleashing the Storm, Seducing the Storm, Taming the Fire, Tempting the Fire, Taken by Fire – are all about characters that have super-human powers. They work for the Agency of Covert Rare Operations (ACRO) and they’re basically badass superhero spies that save the world while battling the rival, evil agency Itor.  Add to this awesomeness some seriously hot smut (this is erotic fiction, y’all) and great romance, and this series was a total winner.

Each book is about a separate couple but two couples have their stories told in tidbits over the six books.  It’s one of these couples, Creed and Annika, that was my absolute favorite of the whole series.  They’re the only couple that reduced me to tears at one point due to their serious angst.  Creed is a ghost hunter with a spirit attached to him named Kat (and he’s covered in tattoos that he was born with completely from head to toe on his right side) and Annika can electrify her body and fry crispy anything and everything that touches her. Their relationship, for me, was the heart and soul of the book and it’s a reason that if anyone tackles this series, they have to read all six books just so that they can see how Creed and Annika end up.

Seriously, though, the books are fantastic.  Full of adventure, people with super powers, and hardcore smut – read these books now!!!!  (All of the books can be found here.)

Posted in Books, Reading

What I’m reading right now….

For full disclosure, I’ve been a fan of MaryJane Butters for well over a decade.  Each issue of her organic lifestyle magazine feels more like a piece of art in my hand than an actual magazine.  I keep each issue and love to flip back through them so that I can be re-inspired by the stories and tempted by the delicious recipes.  I subscribe to her “farmgirl” precepts, regardless of where I might be living at the time.

This is her latest book:

glam

In true MaryJane fashion, it is fantastic.  Gorgeous photography.  Practical advice.  It tugs at the heartstrings.  I’ve wanted a vintage camper for a very long time (and even owned one for a while, until we realized it was too damaged to be able to practically restore) and this book makes it seem possible. Not only is it full of delicious recipes, there are adorable craft projects scattered throughout.  And the restoration tips for vintage campers are so helpful to a total novice like me.  Thanks to this book, I can honestly say that 1958 Airstream Bubble will be mine eventually!