Life update

Dear friends,

I spent most of this week working on my book manuscript.

Why?  So many reasons.  Because I can write, because this stuff matters, because I have a contract, because the publisher keeps sending me reminders.  Mostly because I want my students to be able to connect theory with a well-lived life.

It’s a huge privilege to have something to say, and an outlet through which to say it.  That fact is not lost on me.

We WILL get this published for fall.  Yes.

Blessings,

Annette

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Book review: Tell Me Three Things

Dear friends,

Here’s a cute and fluffy Young-Adult story that will make you smile:

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Tell Me Three Things is the story of Jessie, a high school student.  Her mom has recently passed away, her dad has remarried, and she finds herself living in a new town under the roof of a stepmother she doesn’t understand, and a stepbrother she doesn’t like.  On top of all these life changes, she is trying to get used to a new school with its usual contingent of “mean girls.”

It’s tough being friendless, but one day Jessie receives a message online from someone calling himself “Somebody/Nobody” (thereafter referred to as “S/N.”)  S/N reveals himself to be a boy from her school, but wants to remain anonymous.  He says he’s writing because he knows she’s new and struggling to fit in, and he wanted to reach out and offer friendship and advice – if there’s anything Jessie wants to know about the social landscape at school, S/N would be happy to tell her.

At first Jessie is skeptical (could S/N be one of the “mean girls” playing a trick on her?), but her feelings of loneliness and isolation eventually drive her to respond.  In time, Jessie and S/N begin playing a game of “tell me three things” – you tell me three things about yourself, and I’ll tell you three things about me.  Sometimes these things are trivial (favorite foods or music), and sometimes they’re deeply personal.

Jessie spends most of the story trying to guess the identity of S/N, as there are a number of likely candidates.  Eventually they meet in person, so Jessie (and you, the reader) discover who he really is.

I figured out S/N’s identity pretty early, but it was still fun to see his relationship with Jessie unfold through their back-and-forth messages, and to see her try to solve the mystery.

Cute and fun, recommended for a light and enjoyable read.

Blessings,

Annette

Book review: One Day in December

Dear friends,

This book surprised me.  At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but in the end, I couldn’t put it down.

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The story begins with the incident pictured on the cover of the book.  One day in December, Laurie is riding a bus home from her London job.  She’s tired, and just wants to get home to the flat she shares with her old college roommate, Sarah, and open a bottle of wine.  Then something amazing happens.  She looks out the window, and sees a man waiting at a bus stop … their eyes meet … it’s love at first sight … but he doesn’t get on the bus, the bus moves on, and Laurie thinks she will never find him again.

She spends the next year looking for “bus boy” in restaurants, bars, on the street – London’s a big city, but surely she’ll run into him somewhere!  Eventually, she does, when he shows up at a house party as somebody else’s date.  He’s a nice guy, but Laurie falls into a spiral of confusion – does he remember her? is he in love with someone else?  Is she recalling a moment that didn’t really happen?

We follow a decade of Laurie’s life, as Jack (“bus boy”) enters her social circle, and their lives become intertwined.  They become close friends, but they’re never single at the same time, and Laurie’s memory of that first sight of Jack is always hanging in the air between them.

I was skeptical in the beginning because I don’t like the “love at first sight” trope, and it seemed like the story was going to be predictable – but it wasn’t.  Laurie’s romantic ideas about Jack come back down to earth once she gets to really know him.

The story vacillates between Laurie’s point of view and Jack’s (each is the narrator of alternating chapters), so the reader becomes familiar with each one’s thought processes.  The author writes men and women equally well, and I could really hear each character’s voice distinctively.

I don’t want to spoil the ending.  It’s what you think – and it’s not.  Jack and Laurie’s story ends up being very real, very complicated, and full of conflicting emotion.  Both characters grow a lot through their time together.

It’s a winner!  Highly recommended.

Happy reading!
Annette

Book review: The Bookseller

Dear friends,

I just finished this one on Kindle:

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I’m a little weird about mysteries … I get so far in, and then I want to know the answer!  I flip ahead to try to learn the secret.  What can I say, I’m one of those rare people who loves “spoilers,” but I’ll do my best not to spoil this one for you.

This book has been compared to the movie “Sliding Doors,” which I haven’t seen, but if you have, it might give you some idea what to expect.

The Bookseller is the story of Kitty (Katharyn), a woman who owns a bookstore with her best friend.  Kitty lives alone with her cat, Aslan (as a Narnia fan, I love the name), and enjoys her life as an independent, single woman.

Except she has another life.

At night, in her dreams, she enters another world where she is a wife and mother to three children, and her days are very different from everything she knows as a bookstore owner.  This life feels very foreign, and she slowly learns the details of this existence – how old the children are, how long she’s been married, and how she spends her days.  The dreams are vivid, but when she awakes, she’s back in her single-girl apartment.

The story alternates between these two “lives,” and as the “wife and mother” life becomes more vivid, the “single bookstore owner” life becomes less so.  Kitty becomes confused, and wonders if she is mentally ill, and whether one of these lives only exists in fantasy (and if so, which one).

I found the book to be a page-turner because I longed for the answer to those questions!

It’s a quick read, and I think you’d enjoy it.

Blessings,

Annette

Book Review: The Best Kind of People

Dear friends:

This book has received a lot of mixed reviews online, and I can understand why, as I have mixed feelings about it myself:

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The Best Kind of People is a family drama (a genre I usually like, which is why I picked it up).  The story surrounds the Woodburys, a wealthy family living in an elite suburb of Connecticut.  The father, George, teaches at the local private prep school, where the daughter, Sophie, is a student.  Sophie has an older brother, Andrew, who is a lawyer in New York.  The mother, Joan, is an emergency room nurse.  The ancestors of this family founded the town, so they are well-known and socially prominent.  They seem to have it all, until one night …

(While this may seem spoiler-y, it happens in the first chapter, and is what the rest of the book is about) …

The police arrive to arrest the father, George, on charges of inappropriate behavior with some of the girls at the school where he teaches (and Sophie attends).  George denies everything, and no one wants to believe he is capable of such things.  For the rest of the book, we are engaged with his wife’s struggle to make sense of the situation (all signs point to his guilt), his daughter being stigmatized at school, and his son trying to sort out the legal angles of the case.

We don’t really get George’s point of view on all this.  The other family members occasionally visit him in prison while he is awaiting trial, and he maintains his innocence, but the reader doesn’t have a deep window into George’s character.  We spend the most time with the daughter, Sadie, and her boyfriend Jimmy – who have a lot of sex and smoke a lot of pot for young teenagers.  Maybe I’m a prude, but I found those plot elements overblown and a bit tiresome.

The further I got into the book, the more of a page-turner it became, primarily because I wanted to see if George would end up being guilty or not (I’ll leave that to you to discover).  But overall, I didn’t find these family members very likeable, and thought that the wife, Joan, was rather gullible at times.

I gave it 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.  Wasn’t great, wasn’t terrible.

Happy reading, as always!

Annette

 

Book reviews – The Wedding Date, and The Proposal

Hello friends,

If you’re looking for something light and fluffy that will give you a few hours of escapism, these companion novels might do the trick:

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In The Wedding Date, we follow the story of Alexa and Drew, who meet in the elevator at a fancy hotel.  When the elevator gets stuck, they end up sitting on the floor and exchanging stories.  Seems that Drew is at this hotel because he’s going to a wedding the next night, and his date has bailed on him at the last minute.  What to do?

Yes, it’s a bit formulaic and predictable … they live in different cities and try having a long-distance relationship, insecurities and misunderstandings ensue … but it’s kind of cute if you keep in mind that it’s a light romance.

The Proposal is a companion novel (I wouldn’t call it a sequel, but there’s some character overlap).  We meet Nikole at a baseball game, where her date proposes to her on the Jumbo-Tron.  When she refuses, he leaves her standing there with a whole stadium full of people staring at her.  Carlos, who is sitting a few rows over, comes to her rescue and helps her exit the stadium.

A relationship follows, but neither is sure how to define it – are we friends with benefits?  In love?  Just prolonging a chance meeting?  Carlos’s best friend just happens to be Drew from the other book, and we meet Drew and Alexa again in this story.

These books were just ok to me.  In both relationships, each wondered what the other felt, and there was a lot of push-pull and coming together-coming apart related to rather simple misunderstandings.  The back-and-forth of it all was a bit tiring.

In both books, the relationships are cross-racial, and I was pleased that the author dealt with that by having family and friends of the couple express opinions about it.  I thought that was realistic.

In the end, I’d say they were cute stories and fun to read, but not something I’d re-read.  I believe there’s a third novel coming out soon, another companion book to these stories.

Happy reading!

Winnie and the Professor

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Book review: The Astonishing Color of After

Dear friends,

This book is a journey into imagination and emotion.  I’m going to give “trigger warnings” for depression, suicide, and mental illness.  If you have raw feelings about those issues, you may wish to skip this one.  Aside from that, it’s a magical tale about processing loss and moving on.

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The main character and narrator, a high school student named Leigh, is an artist who sees color in all of life’s experiences.  An act of kindness may have a lavender hue, or desire might be bright orange.  When we meet Leigh, much of the color has gone out of her life, as she is working to process the loss of her mother, become closer to her distant father, and grapple with her romantic feelings for her best friend.

To resolve these problems, Leigh must revisit her mother’s past, and discover the people and experiences that shaped her family (and by extension, herself).  Leigh is accompanied on her journey by a red bird, and imagines that it might be her mother in another form.  Or is she just seeing things that aren’t there?

While this is classified as a “young adult” or “teen” novel, the deep dive into grief and recovery resonated with me.  While the story is told from the point of view of a high school girl, her emotions and thoughts would be relatable to just about everyone.  The writing is lovely, and I enjoyed the use of color as metaphor for different states of feeling.

It’s on the long-ish side, but an absorbing read.  Recommended.

Winnie and the Professor

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