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!

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!!!!!!!!!

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!

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.)

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!

 

Books · Reading

One angst-whore’s dream book…

Hi, my name is Rachel, and I’m an angst-whore.

I love a good angsty romance.  Novels filled with unrequited love/star-crossed lovers/lovers kept apart by circumstance are probably among my list of very favorite things.  Thanks to one of my favorite authors tweeting about a book she loved yesterday, I discovered Within Reach by Sarah Mayberry.

Oh my God….

–I need a minute–

*grasps for composure*

Okay, this book made me bawl for more than halfway through it.  It’s about a man (Michael) trying to recover after the untimely death of his young wife, Billie, and Billie’s best friend (Angie), who is grappling with both the loss of her friend and a newfound attraction to Michael. And then “stuff” happens and it gets more and more complicated.  And then the tears start and continue for page after page and I– GAHHH!!!  I just can’t…

Seriously, if you love angst and romance and smut and happy endings, go read this book!

Books · Reading

The next two books I’m reading –

Both of these were just added to my Kindle Paperwhite!

The Dirty Life

(from Amazon.com) Single, thirtysomething, working as a writer in New York City, Kristin Kimball was living life as an adventure. But she was beginning to feel a sense of longing for a family and for home. When she interviewed a dynamic young farmer, her world changed. Kristin knew nothing about growing vegetables, let alone raising pigs and cattle and driving horses. But on an impulse, smitten, if not yet in love, she shed her city self and moved to five hundred acres near Lake Champlain to start a new farm with him. The Dirty Life is the captivating chronicle of their first year on Essex Farm, from the cold North Country winter through the following harvest season—complete with their wedding in the loft of the barn.

Kimball and her husband had a plan: to grow everything needed to feed a community. It was an ambitious idea, a bit romantic, and it worked. Every Friday evening, all year round, a hundred people travel to Essex Farm to pick up their weekly share of the “whole diet”—beef, pork, chicken, milk, eggs, maple syrup, grains, flours, dried beans, herbs, fruits, and forty different vegetables—produced by the farm. The work is done by draft horses instead of tractors, and the fertility comes from compost. Kimball’s vivid descriptions of landscape, food, cooking—and marriage—are irresistible.

Rurally Screwed(from Amazon.com)   Jessie Knadler was a New York City girl, through and through. An editor for a splashy women’s magazine, she splurged on Miu Miu, partied hard, lived for Kundalini yoga, and dated a man-boy whose complexion was creamier than her own. Circling the drain both personally and professionally, Jessie definitely wouldn’t have described herself as “happy”; more like caustically content. Then one day, she was assigned a story about an annual rodeo in the badlands of Eastern Montana.

There, she met a twenty-five-year-old bull rider named Jake. He voted Republican and read Truck Trader. He listened to Garth Brooks. He owned guns. And Jessie suddenly found herself blindsided by something with which she was painfully unfamiliar: a genuinely lovable disposition. In fact, Jake radiated such optimism and old-school gentlemanliness that Jessie impulsively ditched Manhattan for an authentic existence, and an authentic man. Almost overnight, she was canning and sewing, making jerky, chopping firewood, and raising chickens. And all the while one question was ringing in the back of her head: “What the !#*$ have I done with my life?”

A hilarious true-life love story, Rurally Screwed reveals what happens to a woman who gives up everything she’s ever known and wanted-job security, money, her professional network, access to decent Thai food-to live off the grid with her one true love (and dogs and horses and chickens), and asks, is it worth it? The answer comes amid war, Bible clubs, and moonshine.

I’m absolutely fascinated with these types of stories, and I’m hoping they’ll both be better than Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman: From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – A Love Story.  Her memoir just didn’t feel authentic to me at all and after I read it, I found myself turned off by her completely.  I received a recommendation for Rurally Screwed from a friend I know from the fanfiction world and, considering how amazing of a writer she is, I trust her to not lead me astray!

Books

Revisiting “The Bridges of Madison County”

200px-BridgesOfMadisonCountyThe first time I read The Bridges of Madison County, I was probably no older than twelve.  My mom had a copy of the book and I remember her going on and on and on about how wonderful it was.  Already a voracious reader of books with subject matter that was far too advanced for my age group, I snagged it so I could see what all the hype was about.  Once I was finished, my initial reaction was “Ewwwww.”  A book about an old lady cheating with an even older dude that lived like a hippy?  No thank you.  Gross.  Give me my Harlequin books back.

For years now, whenever I’ve heard anything about this book, or the subsequent movie that was made, a little sliver of revulsion ran through me due to remembering my experience with it when I was younger.  This weekend, though, I decided to give it another shot.  After all, I can’t go my whole life with an opinion on something that I formed when I was twelve, right?

So I borrowed it from the library via Kindle (since I don’t read actual books anymore.)

Read it.

And I cried.

Bawled, actually.  Sobbed like a moron.

Now, I’ll admit that the dialogue, especially Robert’s big speech right before he leaves Francesca for the last time, is absolutely ridiculous.  It’s over-the-top, downright soap opera-style melodrama.  But the part where Francesca learns that Robert had his ashes scattered at “their” bridge, just a few miles from her home?  Oh God, I couldn’t contain the tears.  And at the end, where Michael and Carolyn are learning about their mother’s grand love affair with Robert and are heartsick at what she gave up for them?  Lawdy, the tears.

It’s obvious that I should never have read this book at such a young age.  It’s not a surprise that my reaction was a simple “gross” because there’s no way I could have grasped the subject matter when I first read it.  But as a grown woman in her thirties wo knows what marriage is and can be like and has endured the ups and downs? I totally get it.  I understand why Francesca did what she did, and why she couldn’t go with Robert at the end.  Yes, it tore me up, but I supported her decision, even though I knew it meant that she spent the rest of her life with a cloud of “what ifs” hanging over her.

So anyway, when someone mentions this book to me now, I no longer screw up my face in disgust and shake my head.  In fact, I’m sure that I’ll get a little bit misty-eyed.  Just goes to show that sometimes in life, we have to revisit what we think we know about something because we might be surprised with what we find!