Reads

The Sleep Revolution

I’ve always known the name Arianna Huffington. To me, she was always synonymous with The Huffington Post. Earlier this year, I started listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I highly encourage it. Lots of episodes from this podcast have had a lasting effect on me, but none as much as the episode with Arianna Huffington. Why? Because she was talking about “thriving”. Not just at work, which is where we commonly place the term and associate it with success, she was talking about thriving as an entire person in every aspect of life.

So I went to Barnes and Noble and bought her book Thrive, which I am still to read. While there I saw another book by her titled The Sleep Revolution. Having insomnia since the age of 8, this intrigued me so I bought it, too.

This. Book. Is. Life. Changing.

Throughly researched and completely relatable, this book made me rethink the way I think about sleep and how I treat my body overall. We are very unforgiving to ourselves. If we are tired we feel lazy. If we are hungry we feel ashamed. We constantly are judging ourselves because we don’t look like some celebrity or social media influencers. Reading this, for the first time in a really long time, I thought “what if I be myself, and forgive myself?”

Now, I don’t know if that is exactly where Arianna wanted her readers to go but that’s where it took me. When I am tired, I forgive myself and take a nap or get some rest. When I am hungry, I eat and I enjoy a healthy variety of food. I know it seems really, really simple but just with adequate sleep and proper nutrition, I feel better and I was able to come off of my anxiety medication that I have been on for 13 years. Also, and this is a big newsflash, when you sleep better you have more energy throughout the day! Who knew?

You definitely have to read this book! I’m going to share some of my favorite passages from the book, as always, but these only scratch the surface of this entirely too large epidemic of exhaustion.

“It’s very much the way I experience sleep when I let go of my thoughts and my worries. Like dropping through a hole in everything that the world said was important…like discovering that nothing else mattered and all I needed was now…temporarily removed from the game…” -pg.25.

This passage gave me so much peace. Who doesn’t want that? Just to forget for a while, to not feel pressure, to escape. Sleep is the healthiest way to do that. Why has no one ever told me that before? Why aren’t more people saying this?

“Almost everything-all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important, remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” -pg. 220

“Being a slave to our job and our status in the world makes it much harder to put our day behind us and surrender to sleep.”-pg. 221

So true. How many nights have you been in bed struggling to sleep just thinking about your job or the status you have to maintain? Just put it on pause, it’s not who you are, it’s just what you do.

“First, banish all tech devices from your room at least 30 minutes before you turn out the lights…if you’ve been in bed struggling to sleep for 20 minutes, try switching to meditating or reading a book.” -pg. 222

This is something I’m still struggling with. I’m absolutely addicted to tech. However, I did stop watching Netflix and started listening to audio books or my Calm app to fall asleep. Baby steps.

“…nap as soon as you feel your energy flagging, and don’t overthink it. In the course of our overstuffed days, there aren’t many opportunities to nap. Take them when you can get them.” -pg. 227

“We are not defined by our jobs and our titles, and we are vastly more than our resumes.” -pg. 283

If you remember nothing else from this blog post, please remember that.

On that note, I’m going to go take a nap!

If you’ve read it, let me know what you think.

Follow me @books_and_a_brunette on Instagram for constant updates!

Sleep well,

Jen

Interview with Tanya Williams

Hey guys! If you have been following me on Instagram you know I was lucky enough to be an advanced reader of this wonderful novella!

The second book in the series is wonderfully written and an excellent follow up to Becoming Mrs. Smith.

I am lucky enough to have had some time to get the author, Tanya Williams, to answer some questions readers might have.

1 When did you know you wanted to be an author?

A) My first memory of writing a story was when I was about five years old. I was playing at the edge of an alfalfa field in rural Alberta and I was scrunched down low following the song of the grasshoppers. As I crawled along one grasshopper would stop before another one further ahead would begin. I wasn’t allowed to go past the edge of the low cut grass into the field so my view was limited to peering through the blades of tall grass and imagining what the life of a grasshopper might be like. Thus, my first story about the life of a grasshopper began and was only ever told to those oh so evasive grasshoppers.

Though I have written for my own entertainment from that day on, most of my stories remained in my head and were seldom shared with others. I began a book titled, Prairie Sky, after my son was born almost nineteen years ago. After sharing the story with a local author in a writing course, her exuberance for my writing did the opposite of what I am sure she intended. Instead of taking her praise and pushing on with the story, I let fear get in my way and a few months later, my book was packed away and I returned to writing stories in my head.

It wasn’t until many years later when my life needed a dramatic reboot that I began to consider writing as a career again. I wrote Breathe (an inspirational, photographic title) using my husband’s photographs and presented it to him as a birthday gift. I quietly shared the book with those around me, many of whom had no idea that I had a passion to write. Eventually I became more comfortable with the role of being an author and once I stepped onto the track of pursuing my writing dreams, I am happy to say I haven’t glanced back over my shoulder once. I definitely took the scenic route to living my dream of becoming an author but I learned so much during my fourteen year journey that I couldn’t trade in the experience as it brought me to where I am today.

2. Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?

A) I previously owned and operated a specialty triathlon retail store and though it was sad to say goodbye to the many wonderful people we met over our fourteen years in business, I was thrilled to be closing the store to focus on my own writing career. I have been writing full time for the past two years.

3. How do you balance work, family, and writing?

A) Balance is actually crucial to the success of my daily life. There are times when balance is thrown off due to an outside project or a deadline but in the end I always come back to center. For me, center is having time each day to meditate, make healthy food choices, exercise, and write. I spend the early morning hours focusing on exercise and meditation. I build healthy food choices into my weekly plan by sitting down once a week to plan meals and organize groceries (thank heaven for online grocery ordering). Then I spend about five hours a day writing or researching. I spend the afternoon hours, before I prepare dinner, focusing on book related marketing items and other business related tasks.

To be fair, there are those glorious weeks where my work in progress is with my editor. Those are the days when I am footloose and fancy free and am able to spend more time visiting with family and friends, traveling, or just hanging out in a forest or by the ocean. I am my own task master and I am seldom a procrastinator. I always have the ability to move my schedule around to ensure the things that are important to me are included in my daily life.

4. What advice would you give young girls about pursuing their dreams?

A) Believe in yourself first. Nobody else can believe in you unless you believe in yourself. You are exactly the right person to do what you are passionate about. If it burns within you, that dream needs to be explored. Understand that just being you means “you are enough” to do whatever it is you are passionate about and you will not only reach your goals, you will exceed them. Trust me when I tell you, there is no dream too big. You are worthy of them all, because you are you!

5. What do you wish someone told you before you got published?

A) The publishing process takes longer than you think. Writing may often feel like a solitary endeavor but as a writer you work with editors, cover designers, beta readers, advanced readers, marketers and more. They all have a hand in creating a successful release of a new title. Allowing them the time to do what they are best at is a crucial aspect of planning the publication of a book.

6. When can readers expect a follow up to this wonderful series?

A) Stealing Mr. Smith is available now for pre-order and is releasing on September 25, 2018. The final title in the series, A Man Called Smith, has an eta of Summer 2019.

7. Becoming Mrs. Smith and Stealing Mr. Smith are both intertwined so carefully with the use of date and historical details, how did you know this was how you wanted it to be?

A) Well, the truth is the story actually began with what will be the third and final book in the series. A Man Called Smith was well underway and was going to be a stand alone title when two female characters from the story decided to wake me up for weeks on end at around three o’clock in the morning, pleading their case for wanting a story all their own. When I decided to explore the potential of allowing both female characters to be the protagonist in their own story, that is when the intertwining began.

Having the backstory of all the characters in mind, was what enabled me to connect the stories yet keep them separate as well. I wanted a reader to be able to start the story with any of the three titles and still grow their understanding of all individuals involved. I use a spreadsheet of dates, ages, characters, significant events etc that help guide the story. Whenever I come up with or discover a new addition to the story, I have to go back through the spreadsheet and verify the character’s ages, locations, and more to ensure the fluidity of their lives exist.

8. Stealing Mr. Smith was a lot more sexual than its predecessor, there is also a lot more drinking. As a reader, I appreciated the new edginess! What inspired that?

A) In a word, Bernice. Bernice’s character is essentially the polar opposite of Violet’s. She is edgy. She is determined. She is a survivalist. Everything about Bernice is what fueled her actions in the story. She is unapologetic and demands to be heard. Setting the stage with Bernice’s character was crucial for A Man Called Smith. I wanted readers to give Bernice the benefit of the doubt as the story unfolds, while at the same time have a growing disdain for her.

9. Readers of the first book were devastated when Violet dies. Were you worried about replacing her with Bernice?

A) Absolutely! I took two very big risks in writing this as a series. First, having Violet die was a risk in that readers fell in love with her character. Even though I knew her fatal outcome, it was a gut wrenching scene to write and I sobbed my way through it as I wrote. Second, having Bernice replace Violet, I worried I might lose readers who loved Violet so thoroughly. The characters however, dictate how the story plays out. I did everything I could to give readers a reason to empathize with Bernice for as long as possible. I wanted readers to understand where Bernice came from and what she had to endure long before John enters the story again. I purposely distanced John’s entry into the story to allow a reader to connect with Bernice’s experience first. The words that ruled the creation of Bernice’s story were, “everyone is the hero of their own story”. Even if I do not like the way a character behaves, they are permitted to be the hero in their own story.

10. I adore how Bernice goes from wanting the most extravagant life, to wanting whatever John can offer her. When you began writing, was this where you intended Bernice to grow as a character?

A) In a rough way of thinking, yes, I knew Bernice would go from desiring everything to settling for something less than extravagant. I wasn’t clear on how she was going to navigate that particular path until I was well into the writing of the relationship with John. Bernice has a way of shifting her objectives to soothe her own ego and thus in the end, I don’t actually think she thinks she has settled for less by choosing John, at least not at this moment anyway. Her desire for the better things in life though are not entirely out of the story just yet….A Man Called Smith just might bring in a few reminders of how Bernice believes she does in fact deserve more.

11. Children’s Home is a real place and I love that you included a donation link after the book. What prompted you to introduce that exact one and how would you like your readers to be involved?

A) Thank you for asking this question. Children’s Home has a unique and interesting history. When I stumbled upon the information, I fell in love with their humble beginnings and my admiration for the organization grew as I researched and connected with the current administrators at the Sioux Falls location. Their website has been updated since I began my research but I originally watched every video they offered online of current and past residents talking about how Children’s Home changed their lives. I reached out to them and began a dialogue of historical questions and insights. I had a vision of what Children’s Home looked like in my imagination and when I received an old photograph of the granite block building, it was an almost perfect match with what was in my mind’s eye.

The orphanage and foster care system has changed dramatically over the years. Today, one of the important elements of Children’s Home is to support families experiencing challenging times. They do this through counselling, education, home relocation, and more. One of the stories that stuck with me was of a young woman who had been removed from an unhealthy home life as a girl. She spoke about her fond memories at Children’s Home and then went on to say that one of her greatest achievements in life is being a mother to her two young children and knowing that the pattern of abuse stopped with her. That story alone was enough for me to shed a spotlight on an organization that works daily in the support and comfort of those who are often unable to speak up for themselves.

Children’s Home relies heavily on donations to operate. Donations of household goods, clothing, books, toys, as well as financial donations are all welcomed. In addition to their year round donation collection, author Tom Roberts writes a Christmas story with proceeds being donated to Children’s Home. You can find the details at the Children’s Home website. Since I already know that readers love books, I thought supporting Children’s Home through the purchase of Tom Roberts’ children’s stories was a natural fit.

Follow Tanya on Instagram @tanya_williams_author and be sure to grab your copy of Stealing Mr. Smith on sale September 25th!

Keep reading!

Jen

Roquiel and the Phoenixi

A few months ago the sweet and talented Tiffany Skylark sent me a copy of her book Roquiel and the Phoenix. I had several other books to read in front of it but I was so excited to get to it!

Everyone who follows me knows I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan and love fantasy. When I got to the book I could not put it down! There are some slight spoilers here!

Roquiel is as relatable as he is love able. I could relate wholly to his lack of enthusiasm in his work but also for his compassion toward it. He feeds the fish in the elf village he lives in. When he is selected to replace the life stone of the dying Phoenix so that earth will survive, it’s a bigger challenge than he has ever taken on.

I would say it will be the biggest challenge he will take on but since the next saga will be released in 2019 (yay!) I would say Roquiel’s first journey is just the start!

While reading this book I realized it was the best fantasy novel I had read in a long time. So I asked the author some questions. It’s always easy to know a book and very hard to know the author. Tiffany is so nice! (She’s also very smart, people!) She was open to questions and gave incredible answers that made me really think.

1. What inspired your book?

The basis came from the elves in The Lord of the Rings. I’ve always thought that they were so elegant, intelligent and had the right idea about living in the trees and being close to nature. I felt like elves were underrepresented and so I wanted my main characters to be these intuitive, strong beings with extra senses. After the main characters were set, I wanted to work in some ideas and topics that are important to me like not seeing your differences as weaknesses, how travelling can expand your horizons and get you out of your shell, developing spiritual abilities, the power of meditation and working with energy.

I’ve learned that in order to understand and appreciate the good things in life, you also have to see and experience darkness. But in the end, my message is one of hope. I want people to come away from my books inspired, confident in themselves and looking forward to the future.

2. When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I can’t give you an exact age or moment that I knew, I’ve just always loved to write. When I was younger I would write short stories and poems all the time. More than once as a kid, I had people refuse to believe that I had written the work that I was showing them. I didn’t take this as a negative thing though, I knew it just meant that I was a good writer.

3. You went to college to study Spanish and are very accomplished in your field, what inspired this?

The high school that I attended began offering Spanish classes when you were a freshman. I signed up for Spanish 1 and I remember going and picking up my books for class that summer and I studied the Spanish textbook constantly. I fell in love with the language, the food, the culture and I wanted to become fluent for several reasons. I took Spanish all four years in high school. In Spanish 3 there were only two students and I was all alone when I took Spanish 4 as a senior but I stuck with it.

At that point, I hadn’t travelled much, but I knew that I wanted to and if I knew Spanish, I could travel around Spanish-speaking countries with ease. I was fortunate enough to study both in Spain and Mexico in college. I’ve also spent a lot of time traveling in Colombia, Peru and Honduras.

I also was inspired by the migrant farm workers in my area who struggled with the communication barrier and I wanted to be able to bridge that gap for them.

4. Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?

I have a six year old son, so that in itself is a big job. Apart from that I’m also an interpreter/translator. Like I mentioned above, I became fluent in Spanish and wanted to put that to use in my community. I started out as a medical interpreter and later moved into courtroom interpreting and document translation as well.

5. Balancing work, life and writing what steps do you take to do so?

It is difficult and by no means do I have it perfected, but for me, it helps to write a daily task list. I strive to get everything done on my list, even if I don’t feel like doing it that day. I try to carve out time every day for self care (meditating, exercising and of course, eating ice cream). I’m also mindful of spending quality time with my family where I put everything else aside (including my phone) and focus on them.

6. What advice would you give young girls about pursuing their dreams?

I think the best advice that I have heard on this topic came from Kathy Lee Gifford. I was watching her on The Today Show once and she said, “Find something you love and figure out a way to get paid for it.”

Those words stayed with me and I think about them often. Sometimes we take a job just to pay the bills and I totally get that, I’ve done it many times. But I think that life is too short to spend all of your time this way. Following your passion, being your true, authentic self and showing the world what you have to offer is how things change for the better.

7. What advice do you wish someone had told you before you got published?

I’ve heard a lot of authors talk about branding yourself lately. Creating a logo, a color scheme, a font and other things, that when people look at it, they immediately think of you and your books. I didn’t really think about this aspect of building your platform as an author before I published, but now that I have, I’m working on all of the things that they mentioned in order to have a more cohesive look to the material that I put out and to become more recognizable.

8. Your book is very detailed, I especially love when you described Ava’s wood chest and how it was passed down to her. How do you draw such vivid details out of your imagination?

My mom has this chest in her room that her dad made for her when she was a teenager. She keeps her wedding dress, some photo albums and blankets in it. When I was small, I would open it and spend a lot of time looking at her ‘treasures’. That was the inspiration for the chest in Ava’s room. I like the idea of heirlooms being passed down in families, especially ones that contain sentimental items.

9. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I love that you made Roquiel to have it as well. It makes his story relatable and humanistic in a fantasy novel. Was that your intention?

Yes, definitely. I too, deal with anxiety issues, including panic attacks and so I wanted a protagonist who had the same problem. But I also wanted to show how Roquiel is able to push himself outside of his comfort zone, accomplish great things and slowly but surely, become a leader, despite his anxiety.

10. I’m so eager to know what happens next! When does your next book come out?

I recently attended a book signing in Frankenmuth, Michigan called Once Upon A Book. Before going there, my goal was to publish one novel per year. While at the event, I talked with fellow authors, many who had DOZENS of books under their belt. I was sitting next to author CC Dragon and she told me that she can write an entire novella in 1-2 weeks. Being around all of these amazing people inspired me to push myself a lot harder and to up my daily written word  count. That being said, I’m now aiming to have book 2 out by the end of this year and book 3 done by May 2019!

So excited for her newest addition to the saga!

For more on Tiffany check out her website at www.tiffanyskylark.com

If you’ve read Roquiel and the Phoenix let me know what you thought! Remember to follow me on Instagram @books_and_a_brunette for constant updates!

Keep dreaming,

Jen

Diana in Her Own Words

With someone as reverend and well known as Princess Diana, you think you know everything there is to know. I thought I did. The truth is, we all know he story, none of us know the emotion behind it.

About a month ago, I watched a documentary on Princess Diana which was based on this book. In it there were recordings of Diana talking about her life in a way I could not imagined. Speaking about witnessing her father slap her mother, her mothering crying, her meeting and marriage to the Prince, her eating disorder, depression and her dreams was so completely human I wanted to know the whole story. So I bought the book.

I’ve always enjoyed biographies because I loved knowing the backstory and history behind those who have made an impact. This one is my favorite.

I’m going to share a couple of the passages that really stuck out to me.

“I don’t like the glamorous occasions anymore – I feel uncomfortable with them. I would much rather be doing something with sick people.” Diana quotes from page 117.

To me this is the essence of human nature. How much are we helping each other? This quote to me is her showing her unrivaled compassion.

She has been condemned by many throughout the years as being unfitted for her role or ungracious of her position. She was in fact neither, she simply wanted to do more humanitarian work.

Diana struggled through an eating disorder as the direct result of confinement, not being herself and living up to the expectations of others.

“The cultural code of the stiff upper lip was not for her boys. She had been teaching them that it’s not ‘sissy’ to show their feelings to others.” -Page 308

I loved this. She was a leader in this behavior. As a society we teach boys not to feel or show feeling. If they do, they are not masculine and we insult them with words typically used to reference girls. Which is also sexist but that’s for another time. I applaud Diana’s leadership in telling her sons that while they are boys, they are, more importantly, human.

After her divorce from Prince Charles, she starts clearing all of the negativity out of her life. She came from a family where her parents divorced and her father got sole custody. Diana did not care for her stepmother. Her maternal grandmother (a lady-in-waiting to the Queen) testified against Diana’s mother (her own daughter) in the custody battle and Diana almost never forgave her. After the divorce, she starts having conversations with those who hurt her about why they took those actions. I think this was a huge part of her healing process and she eventually did forgive and move on. This was a tremendously brave move.

“To heal other people you have to suffer yourself.” Mother Teresa to Princess Diana , Page 362.

“I want to walk into a room, be it a hospital for sick children or a hospice for the dying, and feel that I am needed. I want to do, not just to be.” Quoted from Diana on Page 363

It shows how she was adding so much value to herself and her life at the brink of her unfortunate passing.

“I’ve learned much over the last years. From now on I am going to own myself and be true to myself. I no longer want to live around someone else’s idea of what and who I should be. I am going to be me.” Diana quoted from Page 377.

So much power in that statement!

She was becoming herself. She selected charities important to her to work for. She auctioned off her clothes she wore as a royal for charity since she no longer needed them. She devoted time to her children. She was honing in on who she really was and what was important to her.

“…she was flying solo and was aware that it would be a tricky ride. ‘I will make mistakes’, she said, ‘but that will not stop me from doing what I think is right’.” From Page 379

“In her life, Diana was a complex web of contradictions; fearless yet frail, unloved but adored, needy but generous, self-obsessed yet selfless, inspirational yet despairing, demanding of advice but disliking criticism, honest yet disingenuous, intuitive yet unworldly, supremely sophisticated yet constantly uncertain, and manipulative but naive…she was endlessly fascinating and will remain eternally enigmatic…this is why if Diana had lived for ever, the media would have never understood or appreciated her.” From Page 417.

This is a perfect assessment of Diana. Her life and the way she lived it.

“Her importance now lies not just in what she did during her lifetime but in the meaning of her life, the inspiration she gave to others, particularly women, to search for their own truth.” Page 418.

This was exactly how I was feeling about Diana but couldn’t quite put it to words!

She really was the People’s Princess ❤️

Have you read this? Let me know what you thought in the comments below! If you haven’t read it, I do highly encourage it!

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @books_and_a_brunette for constant updates!

Love,

Jen

The Untold Story

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis is regarded as one of the most influential women of all time. Her sense of polished and modern fashion, her timeless beauty, her strength and her wisdom have been admired for years. There was a lot more to Jackie and this book covers it.

I adored this book! I, like everyone, have always admired Jackie Kennedy Onassis. When I purchased this book I expected a behind the scenes look at her political life but it covers so much more than that.

Jackie was a debutante and a journalist before she became a Kennedy. She was accomplished in her own right. While a Kennedy, as First Lady, she was catapulted to fame by her taste in clothing and her mannerisms. After the unfortunate death of her husband, her strength that she displayed to the nation guided them. Behind closed doors, literally, Jackie battled crippling depression and anxiety for years.

Barbara Leaming does an incredible job honoring Jackie in her book. She takes the legend and shows her extraordinary humanity making Jackie feel like a friend.

If you are a fan of Jackie, this is a must read!

If you read it, let me know what you thought!

Follow me on Instagram @books_and_a_brunette for consistent updates!

-Jen

The wonderful historical fiction of Camille Di Maio

If you’ve been following my Instagram feed lately, you know I’ve been book crushing on the works of Camille Di Maio. I have a very good reason for that! Her books are beautifully written and researched in great detail. There is so much historical and architectural accuracy it is very easy to believe these stories actually happened.

A solid bonus is Camille herself is so sweet and down to earth and makes every effort to connect with her readers.

Y’all know I don’t do spoilers, but there will be a few hints at what happens in each book. So, if you plan on reading these books, finish them first then come back and we can talk about them!

The Memory of Us

This was the first book I read by Camille Di Maio and I was enchanted from the start. Mainly because I am a sucker for high society fiction and history.

The Memory of Us follows Julianne Westcott, a girl who has the world at her feet. Without giving too much away, there is a forbidden love interest. When Julianne suffers an unspeakable injury, she turns her world upside down thinking she’s saving the people she loves. In the end she sees the heartbreak she has caused.

There was so much I loved about this book. Of course the plot is perfection but the accuracy of the background was spot on. Camille did a wonderful job, even documenting the King and Queen and the birth of Prince Charles. Not a lot of authors pay as close attention to detail and that is really what sets Camille apart.

I went from reading a couple chapters a day to one hundred pages at a time. I would soon find out that all of Camille’s works have this effect on me.

My favorite characters from the book were Kyle McCarthy (who stayed loyal to his vocation until the end), and Mrs. Bailey. Mrs. Bailey, for me, was the brightest spot during the darkest times of the book. The injury and the reunion. While the reunion was beautiful, it showed how much life Julianne missed because of her decision.

Discussion question: If you’ve read the book, did you like Julianne Westcott or Helen Bailey more and why?

Before the Rain Falls

I could tell half way through the book Camille had given this book so much of herself. Again, she paid amazing attention to detail. I honestly started this book kind of expecting the same thing I got out of The Memory of Us. I could not have been more wrong in my expectations. I don’t know where Camille gets her inspiration but this book astounded me.

When I finished this book, I posted it to my Instagram story and Camille replied saying “It took a lot out of me to write this and it’s very dear to me.” As it well should be!

Sometimes really strange coincidences happen when you read and I totally love it when that happens. If you remember my post on Eat, Pray, Love I barely even talked about the book, but about a strange coincidence that happened while I read it. This book also holds something magical that happened but you will have to wait until the end of my review to find out what it is.

The main character, Della, is in prison for murdering her sister. Della’s life was one heartbreak after another. Her mother abandoned the family, he father died, she killed her sister, she was convicted of murder hours after her wedding, she was raped, her daughter died and the list goes on and on. The story comes around full circle much as The Memory of Us did. Towards the end I was releasing audible gasps as I read!

There were two times this book absolutely broke my heart. The first time was when Della was raped. I had to put my book down for a while. The injustice of it all and realizing that what these women who were in prison were subject to during this time period (1940’s) was a little more than I was prepared to handle. The second time was the prison rodeo and again, the treatment of the prisoners.

The heartbreak from the The Memory of Us and Before the Rain Falls builds that connection to characters. My favorite character was Cristina. I loved her because she reminded me of my own grandmother.

The book is set in Texas and though I live in South Carolina, I could easily relate to the humid, hot days that Camille describes. Another fun fact about me, Mexican food is my favorite food and Camille had my mouth watering with her spot on descriptions of traditional Mexican eats! 🤤 I also have been craving a milkshake from Lonhill Drug, I don’t care if it takes Mr. Salazar twenty minutes to prepare it!

I breezed through the last fifty pages when I got home from work one day. I usually take my book and sit on my patio. Just as I closed the book, raindrops started falling and I could hear the thunder start to roll.

Discussion question: How do you think Della mentally willed herself to cope with all of her losses and heartbreaks?

The Way of Beauty

I started reading The Way of Beauty on May 11th- my birthday. This book hit really close to home with me. I related to Alice so much.

Vera is Alice’s mother and she tries to raise her best friends son as her own to get him away from a terrible family situation. My own mother took in children all the time from bad family situations. Some of them stayed with us for years. I was the only one that she was fully able to adopt but I listened for years to her heartbreak at losing the others.

Angelo is Alice’s father and he lost his leg in the war. My father lost his leg to diabetes and I could vividly see the struggles Angelo would have as I am familiar to them. Alice’s grandfather lives with them and has suffered from the bends most of his life due to helping build the underground train system of New York. My father worked in a factory most of his life and suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. As I read about the fear and forgetting of Alice’s grandfather, I again thought of my own father.

Alice is torn between two lovers. She finally decides who she wants to be with although the decision was sort of made for her. With one lover she has passion and with one she has purpose. I was on the winners side the entire time but I knew he was right for her only because of my past experiences. So once again, I could relate to her.

The book being set around the suffragette movement and the rights of women while incorporating Nazis in America provides lots of room for twists you just did not see coming. There is a startling comparison between people and architecture here, in which Camille has again done an amazing job in describing.

As I started this post, I was going to tell you what the book defines as the way of beauty, but I think I’ll let you explore it for yourself!

Discussion question: Do you think Alice chose the right man? Why or why not?

Follow this link to go buy all of these wonderful books by Camille Di Miao!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_10?k=camille+di+maio+books&sprefix=camille+di&crid=34QL0N33MJYN2

Also, be sure to follow her on Instagram @cammiledimiao_author

Thanks for reading,

Jen

Savannah, ooh na na

I know I don’t write much on myself. Mostly, I use my blogs about books, but I wanted to share this wonderful trip with you all.

Back in March, my husband lost his job and in job searching, he took a unexpected employment opportunity. I’m not going to say where but I will say that so far this job has been very good to him and his first week was training in Savannah, GA.

I’ve always wanted to go to Savannah. I’ve always heard the most wonderful things about it. The things you hear and the pictures you see will never be able to do it justice. Regardless, I’m going to say things and I’m going to show you pictures😂.

Day 1.

We started our first day off together with a wonderful brunch at B. Matthews Eatery. To be honest, I don’t remember what my husband had but I had the most magnificent shrimp and grits ever. Topped with perfectly cooked greens. 😋 I’ve never had them that way before. We shared a pitcher of mimosa and there was a mimosa left in the pitcher when we paid our tab. The waitress asked if I wanted a to go cup for what was left. Um…yes!

Savannah is open container downtown.

We walked from the restaurant to the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low. She founded the Girl Scouts and as a former Girl Scout I’ve always wanted to visit. I didn’t get to go in because we had our fur baby with us but it was wonderful all the same!

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was my most favorite thing I got to see in Savannah. The architecture, the art, the glory, the aesthetic .You know how sometimes you miss taking a picture of something?

We ate at the legendary Leopolds Ice cream shop which did not disappoint. They had ice cream for our fur baby and Thomas and I split a Banana Split that was divine.

The owner is a movie producer and has autographed pictures everywhere.

I got this picture of James Woods. Totally missed out on taking one of the marvelous Morgan Freeman 🤦🏻‍♀️.

Across the road from there was this library, pun intended.

This picture was taking in Forsyth Park. If you go to Savannah and don’t go here, your doing it wrong.

Day 2

We had a fabulous lunch at the Greek restaurant on the river.

We walked the length of the river today being that I had to leave by 3 pm. The trip was short lived but well worth it.

We saw a wonderful monument to the men of Savannah who gave their life for our country during World War Two. Another picture I missed. The outside of the monument is a globe split down the middle. But as with most everything, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Everywhere you go in Downtown Savannah is wonderful. There are always little surprises you don’t expect to see.

I got to see a shipping container ship up close. My mind was blown at how large and how much work must go into managing shops of this capacity. This one was actually sailing by us and in size looks like a building. I promise that is a body of water behind me!

Everyone in Savannah loved Lulu! Always bringing her water, ice cream and treats. Approximately 80 people, strangers, took pictures of her or with her. She got so much love but she’s a Daddy’s girl y’all! He will always be her favorite ❤️.

If you’ve been to Savannah, tell me where I should go next time!

❤️

Jen