Join Us For A Chat With Lake Union Authors!

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

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Marybeth Whalen’s latest novel, The Things We Wish Were True, was published by Lake Union Publishing, a division of Amazon. Lake Union Publishing offers absorbing works of contemporary and historical fiction that make perfect book club picks. From lush sagas to laugh-out-loud fare, Lake Union Publishing has a story for every taste, season, and mood, from bestselling and debut authors alike.

And Tuesday, March 7th, over 30 amazing authors will be hanging out on Twitter under the #LakeUnionAuthor hashtag to chat with readers and other writers, and each one is offering up a giveaway!! (See the bottom of this post to find out how to enter the She Reads giveaway.)

Here’s what a few of the participating authors had to say about why they’re looking forward to this historic event:

I’ll be at the Twitter party late in the day, as I’m currently living in Singapore. I’m curious to hear what everyone is reading and enjoying, and to earwig conversations with my fellow Lake Union Authors. —  Jo Furniss, author of the forthcoming All The Little Children

There’s no better reward for authors than connecting with readers. Our twitter chat is a great chance to have some fun, meet new people, greet old friends and giveaway lots of books! — Patricia Sands, author of the Love in Provence series

“I’m a chatterbox so I can’t wait to join the other LU authors for a gabfest. I’ll be talking about my favorite subjects: food and books!” — Nicola Marsh, author of Saving Sara

Hearing from readers is one of the best parts of writing a novel! You’d think it would go the other way around, but talking to readers I often end up learning something new about my book; something I’d never thought about! (And I’ve thought about it a lot!!!) — Nancy Star, author of Sisters One, Two, Three

I love hearing from readers because it’s so often a story—a connection from real life—that I hear back in return for the story the book told. The writing life can be pretty isolated and lonely at times, and connecting with readers makes it feel like we’re sharing in the love of books and the exchange of the stories that change and challenge and stay with us for life. — Joy Jordan Lake, author of the forthcoming novel A Tangled Mercy

 

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Joining the party on March 7th is easy: log onto Twitter anytime between 4:30 and 9:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. In the Twitter search window, type #LakeUnionAuthors to see the entire chat. Ask questions, and follow the links to the giveaways being offered. You can also go to the Twitter page of your favorite author (for example, go to @SteenaHolmes for Steena Holmes’s Twitter page) and see her conversation. Many authors will continue chatting after the designated time slot. The times each will appear:

4:30 pm EST:
Nancy Star @NancyStarAuthor
Kay Bratt @KayBratt
Nicola Marsh @NicolaMarsh
Rochelle Weinstein @rochwein
Aimie K Runyan @aimiekrunyan
Camille Pagán @cnoepagan
J A Stone @jastoneauthor
Melissa DePino & Elizabeth Trostler @missydepino and @elizabethlaban
Soraya Nicholas @Soraya_Lane

5:15 pm EST:
Joy Jordan-Lake @joyjordanlake
Mary (M.K.) Tod @MKTodAuthor
Catherine Ryan Hyde @cryanhyde
Maddie Dawson @maddiedawson1

6:00 pm EST:
Steena Holmes @steenaholmes
Virginia Franken @virginiafranken
Barbara Taylor Sissel @barbarasissel
Patricia Sands @patricia_sands
Thelma Adams @thelmadams
Christine Nolfi @christinenolfi

6:45 pm EST:
Barbara Claypole White @bclaypolewhite
Dina Silver @DinaSilver
Elizabeth Blackwell @eblackwellbooks
Lisa Steinke @lizandlisa
Jo Furniss @Jo_Furniss
Heather Burch @HeatherBurch

7:00 pm EST
Kerry Lonsdale @kerrylonsdale
Suzanne Kelman @suzkelman
Marybeth Whalen @marybethwhalen @shereadsbookCLB

7:30 pm EST:
Camille Di Maio @camilledimaio
Grace Greene @Grace_Greene
Megan Chance @MeganSChance
Barbara Josselsohn @barbarajoss
Emily Carpenter @EmilyDCarpenter
Marilyn Simon Rothstein @NounsandVerbs1

8:15 pm EST:
Catherine McKenzie @cemckenzie1
Loretta Nyhan @LorettaNyhan
Patricia Perry Donovan @PatPDonovan
Kerry Anne King @kerry_anne_king
D.M. Pulley @DMPulleyAuthor

Leave a comment here to win a copy of both my novel, The Things We Wish Were True, and my She Reads partner, Ariel Lawhon’s novel Flight of Dreams. See you on Tuesday!

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What We (Were) Into: February 2017 Edition

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon | @MarybethWhalen and @ArielLawhon

February was a short month– but that doesn’t mean we didn’t pack it full of fun stuff. Milder temps and a month devoted to love mades for multiple chances to celebrate with family and friends.

What Marybeth Was Into

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Bookish events: A gathering of published authors in my area for a happy hour that turned into dinner. Appearing with several author friends at the very library I grew up going to. (A full circle moment for sure.) Lunch with author friends at a local winery. Visiting with a book club that served brownie batter dip with lots of fun things to dip into it!

Reading novels I couldn’t put down. I read THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE ON EARTH, NUTSHELL, and THE MARRIAGE LIE (among other things, but these were the stand-outs)– and flew through all of them.

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Valentine’s Day: flowers from my husband, our traditional “red” meal (spaghetti and cherry soda) with something chocolate for dessert, and the annual daddy/daughter dance.

A girls’ weekend with my cousin, who also served as the legal advisor for my newest novel. It’s possible I asked her way too many questions about her work as an assistant district attorney while we were together. We ate delicious food, sipped wine, talked a blue streak, and watched Oscar nominated movies. And speaking of the Oscars– and my widely-proclaimed love of La La Land– let’s just not talk about what happened, k?

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Planning a new novel. This is my favorite part, when the story is still fresh and new and hasn’t given me any problems yet. I haven’t written myself into any corners, forgotten what I named the main character’s sister’s best friend, or discovered I have more things to research. Instead it’s all possibility and promise.

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Planning in general. I’m loving these Frixion erasable pens and my duck egg blue personal size Filofax. My love for planners is as strong is my love for story. And that’s saying quite a lot.

What Ariel Was Into

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To be completely honest, I didn’t do anything in February except finish my novel. That’s it. No fun. No adventures or trips or get-together’s with friends. I wrote. Edited. Revised. Polished. As you know, I had pneumonia in January so it was easy enough to decide that exercise was non-essential and bad for my health. But I also decided that cleaning the house and doing laundry was optional. Grocery shopping happened on a minimal basis and only when we were down to powdered milk and ramen noodles. My husband brought home pizza a lot. We also ate out more than usual. I didn’t get much sleep. You don’t even want to know about the decline in my personal grooming habits.

But I am happy to report that I sent the finished manuscript for I WAS ANASTASIA to my editor on Friday. It was a really tricky project and required every ounce of skill (and then some) that I possess in the areas of research and writing. It’s another historical mystery with multiple narrators and a unique structure. Now that it’s done (and din’t kill me), I can finally share a bit about the book. Here’s the semi-official description:

Ariel Lawhon has set her sights on one of history’s most beguiling mysteries: Did Anastasia Romanov survive the Russian Revolution, or was Anna Anderson, the woman who notoriously claimed her identity, an impostor?

Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water or even acknowledge her rescuers, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious young woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess.

As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre at Ekaterinburg, old enemies and new threats are awakened. The question of who this woman is and what actually happened to Anastasia creates a saga that spans fifty years and three continents. This thrilling page-turner is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.

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The view from my office at sunset. Because I spent so much time at my desk last month, this is the sight that greeted me every day around 5:30. I would often stand in the bay window that looks out on our back yard and stare at this sight. And then, once the colors melted into darkness, I got back to work.

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The One Book You Should Read This Winter

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon | @MarybethWhalen and @ArielLawhon

Technically we’re recommending two books today. So please forgive us the title of this post. But it was inspired by a conversation Ariel and I had recently about reading in general and book recommendations specifically. We wondered what we would say if someone told us they only had time to read one book this winter. What would we tell them to read? It’s an interesting question and it forced us to think about the books that have truly captured our imaginations recently. So we’re answering it here and we hope it inspires you to both read these novels and to share your own recommendation. We’ll be out and about on social media today using the hashtag #onebookwinter and we’d love you to join us!

Marybeth:

I’m a sucker for a good page turner. Give me a murder, a small town, and some folks keeping secrets and I’m hooked. So that’s why my #onebookwinter is EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE by Mindy Mejia. A novel about the investigation and aftermath of the murder of a beautiful teenager in a small town, this book is about far more than who done it.

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**Email readers can view the video here.

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Everything you want me to beFull of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to her death.

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

Ariel:

In the spring of 2016 I found myself in a miserable reading drought. I started book after book only to abandon them a few pages in. Nothing seemed to click. It happens from time to time and it’s always discouraging but I have learned to wait and pay attention and the right book will come at the right time. So when TWO IF BY SEA by Jacquelyn Mitchard showed up on my doorstep I just knew it was the one. I could feel it from the first page. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never read one her novels before. She’s one of those authors that I have missed along the way but I am now besotted with her and will go back and find everything she’s ever written. I actually dreamed about the characters in TWO IF BY SEA when I wasn’t reading. I counted down the hours until I could pick it up again. I loved it. Just utterly loved it. And when I was finished I wrote her to say how much the book meant to me. (This is something I’ve started doing since my near-miss with Pat Conroy). Ten months have passed and I still think about this book on a regular basis. That, I think, is the gift of reading. And it’s why I’m recommending this novel today.

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**Email readers can view the video here.

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean, an epic story of courage and devotion that spans three continents and the entire map of the human heart.

TwoIfBySeaJust hours after his wife and her entire family perish in the Christmas Eve tsunami in Brisbane, American expat and former police officer Frank Mercy goes out to join his volunteer rescue unit and pulls a little boy from a submerged car, saving the child’s life with only seconds to spare. In that moment, Frank’s own life is transformed. Not quite knowing why, Frank sidesteps the law, when, instead of turning Ian over to the Red Cross, he takes the boy home to the Midwestern farm where he grew up. Not long into their journey, Frank begins to believe that Ian has an extraordinary, impossible telepathic gift; but his only wish is to protect the deeply frightened child. As Frank struggles to start over, training horses as his father and grandfather did before him, he meets Claudia, a champion equestrian and someone with whom he can share his life—and his fears for Ian. Both of them know that it will be impossible to keep Ian’s gift a secret forever. Already, ominous coincidences have put Frank’s police instincts on high alert, as strangers trespass the quiet life at the family farm.

The fight to keep Ian safe from a sinister group who want him back takes readers from the ravaged shores of Brisbane to the middle of America to a quaint English village. Even as Frank and Claudia dare to hope for new love, it becomes clear that they can never let Ian go, no matter what the cost. A suspenseful novel on a grand scale, Two If by Sea is about the best and worst in people, and the possibility of heroism and even magic in ordinary life.

If you could only recommend one book this winter what would it be?

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What’s Saving Our Lives This Winter

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon | @MarybethWhalen and @ArielLawhon

The winter can be a long, hard season. Cold weather, inclement conditions and lots of time indoors can start to get to us. So when Anne Bogel asked people to share what’s saving their lives during this season, we thought it was a grand idea! So today we’re sharing, linking up over at Anne’s blog, and looking forward to hearing from others. Let us know in the comments what’s saving your life right now!

Marybeth:

Planner videos: I admit I may have a problem with watching these too much. I’m seeking help, looking into counseling, and considering a 12 step program. But in the meantime, I’ve been watching all the planner girls on You Tube who’ve shared their 2017 set-ups, and helped me set up my planner system for this year in turn. I learn from them and am inspired by them. If you’re like me and love planners, go to YouTube and search “Planner Set Up” or “Planner flip throughs” and you will come up with more videos than any one person has time to watch. #sorrynotsorry

Elliptical: Our treadmill died this past summer so we found a used elliptical and put it in my office, right by my desk. This means that I can’t pretend I don’t see it. It also means even on the worst weather days this winter, I get my workout on. I always feel better after and am infinitely glad I have this piece of equipment at my disposal.

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Russian Tea: I mix this up, put it in a Mason jar, and it is my evening drink of choice– a little substitute treat during that time I typically pour a glass of wine or want a bowl of ice cream. It’s the perfect blend of warmth and taste, if you like the taste of orange and spice. If you’d prefer a low/no calorie version, you can find it here. (I’m making it as soon as I run out of what I have!)

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The La La Land Soundtrack: It’s pretty much on repeat play around our house. The other night my daughter and I both had “Here’s to the ones who dream,” stuck in our heads and could not stop singing/humming it. No matter how much the winter doldrums get to me, they can always be lifted with a few songs from this soundtrack!

Community Bible Study: I went back to the local chapter of this international organization after a long, long absence and these Thursday morning get-togethers, with what has turned out to be a fabulous group of women, have been a weekly boost. Real community with other women is irreplaceable. And once a month we have delicious food, which isn’t too shabby either.

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Ariel:

Levoflaxacin: I woke up on January 10th feeling perfectly fine. And I did all the normal things that morning. I walked the kids to the bus stop and chatted with the other parents for a good fifteen to twenty minutes after the bus pulled away. (We do this every day. Can’t explain why, but the corner outside my house is a little block party every weekday morning. I love it!) I tidied the house and checked email and took a shower. And then, about the time that I was rinsing the conditioner from my hair, my back started to ache. By the time I sat down at my desk thirty minutes later it was like I was being swallowed by a wave. Fever and chills and total body aches. Within an hour I was immobile on the couch, which is exactly where my kids and husband found me when they came home later that day. I didn’t get out of bed for ten days. I had the flu last year and, upon visiting my doctor, was told there was nothing they could do for me. That I had to wait it out, and I might not feel better for three weeks. So even though I felt hideous and the timing was awful (I’m on deadline right now) I decided to rest and take care of myself and pray for the best. A week later the alarming side effects started showing up (I’ll spare you the details). I called my husband on the morning of the 17th and did something I’ve never done in the sixteen years we’ve been married: I told him to leave work and take me to the doctor. As it turns out, I didn’t have the flu. I had pneumonia. Really, really bad pneumonia that went untreated for seven days because I’m an idiot and thought I could diagnose myself. Moral of the story: if you have a fever for longer than three days get yourself to the doctor. I am contrary and stupid and over-confident in the health of my immune system and you don’t want to be like me. In the end I was prescribed an antibiotic called levoflaxacin. I’ve come to think of it as turpentine for the lungs and I started feeling better immediately.

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My husband: See above. Someone had to run carpool and cook dinner and do the laundry and, of course, go to work. My husband brought me Gatorade and tissue and ensured that I was at least trying to eat. He made sure the kids brushed their teeth and wore deodorant and put on clean underwear every day (they’re all big kids and you wouldn’t think they’d need the reminder but I am convinced that the young, male mind is filled with nothing but white noise with occasional flashes of panic, so yes, they need the reminder, daily). Anyway, he saved my life in a thousand tiny ways and I understand why the words “in sickness and in health” are so common in wedding vows.

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Random things: almost being finished with my new novel, my house shoes, these d’anjou pear and watercress candles I discovered at Publix, good kitty litter (We got a cat! Her name is Hazel! She poops in the house! We didn’t plan very well for that up front!), the handmade quilt my grandmother gave me twenty years ago.

So, we’re dying to know, what’s saving YOUR life right now?

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What We’re Into: January 2017 Edition

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon | @MarybethWhalen and @ArielLawhon

It’s that time again– time to reveal what we’ve been obsessed with this first month of 2017. As always it’s random and personal and a little off beat. But we are too, so this list shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Marybeth:

Chapstick Total Hydration in the color Merlot— This has been the perfect daily wear for my lips. It combines the combination of a color I like to wear and the moisturizer that I tend to need in the dry winter months.

This video made by one of my favorite planner You Tubers— she shares some great tips for packing a travel bag, and I love her choice of reading material for the plane!

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La La Land– I loved this movie so much, have seen it twice in theaters, and am tickled with all the Oscar nominations it received. I wrote about my thoughts regarding the message of the movie on She Reads– you can read it here!

Post it notes– these aren’t anything new of course, but this month I’ve placed some in strategic locations around my house, along with a pen, for recording things I think of right where I am. So many times I think of something, intend to keep it in my head till I can get somewhere to write it down but poof! It’s gone before I do so. People who visit our home might wonder why I have a pack of post its in the water holder of my elliptical or in my makeup drawer, but I know it’s to capture thoughts when they come to me. Maybe now I’ll be more productive.

And speaking of productive, if you’re trying to do better in that department in this new year, this new podcast, Productivity  Paradox is one I just subscribed to.

Ariel:

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Photo credit: Native Union

Native Union Night Cable. My husband got this for me for Christmas. And by “got it for me” I mean that I get to use it occasionally. It’s a charging cable with a weighted knot so your phone doesn’t slide off your nightstand. And (bonus!) the cord is 10 feet long so you can plug it in anywhere and don’t have to use little T-Rex arms just to turn off your alarm in the morning. I’m all about the little things that make life easier and this definitely qualifies.

Calphalon Omelet Pan. One of my big goals for this year is to eat breakfast every day. That shouldn’t even rank as a goal, I know, but somewhere along the way I started hating breakfast. Probably about the same time that I started over-consuming coffee. And since it’s really bad for your health to skip breakfast (and to drink too much coffee loaded with sugar and cream), I’m trying to get back on track. And I’m trying to make it high protein and the easiest way to do that is to eat eggs. Alas, I HATE eggs. Unless they are scrambled, deviled, or in an omelet. Therefore, I bought my husband an omelet pan for Christmas so he can make me breakfast every day. See what I did there?

Tamed Jalapeños. They’re like the perfect love child between a jalapeño and a banana pepper and I’ve been putting them on everything lately. Deviled eggs (don’t knock it till you try it). Nachos. Salads. Omelets. You name it. I love jalapeños but I don’t love how the heat takes over what you’re eating and prevents you from actually tasting your meal. So these are the perfect solution. They have a little bit of heat with just the right amount of vinegar and a lot of taste. BOOM! The garnish of my dreams.

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Perfect Books For The Teen Boy Who Doesn’t Like Fiction

Today’s post by Ariel Lawhon | @ArielLawhon

We joke that our oldest son is President of the Nerd Club. The child loves nothing more than a random fact followed by a hypothetical question. What he does not love, however, is a plot. Or characters. Or setting. Oh, he’ll read a novel occasionally, and he’s even become deeply absorbed in a few. But the longer I observer him, the more I realize that he is, primarily, a non-fiction guy. And (despite feeling a lingering sense of failure given my profession) this is okay. Like all people everywhere, my son is allowed to enjoy the kind of books he enjoys. Maybe it’s a season. Maybe it’s set in stone. Who knows. But what matters to me right now is that he reads. So, if you happen to know a kid like mine, here are four books he (or she) might love.

**Update: Said teenage boy just peered over my shoulder and proclaimed, “Hey! I like fiction. Why do you think I read the Maze Runner books?” Apparently he just likes specific kinds of novels and wants to read them on his own terms without any sort of commentary from his mother. Knowing him he’ll go on a three year fiction bender now just to prove me wrong. Whatever. These books are still cool and my kid loves them and yours might too. Happy reading!

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What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

My son, the King Of Hypothetical Questions returns to this book almost daily, regaling me with what he’s learned and pondering about absurdities not covered within these pages.

what IfAbout the book:

From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd, hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask.

Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following.

Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?

In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, complemented by signature xkcd comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion.

The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with updated and expanded versions of the most popular answers from the xkcd website. What If? will be required reading for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical.

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Atlas Obscura: An Explorers Guise to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton

There is no random bit of  information, no obscure fact, no piece of historical minutia that goes unappreciated by my son. And this masterpiece of a tome pushes all his buttons.

Atlas ObscuraAbout the book:

It’s time to get off the beaten path. Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust, Atlas Obscura celebrates over 700 of the strangest and most curious places in the world.

Talk about a bucket list: here are natural wonders—the dazzling glowworm caves in New Zealand, or a baobob tree in South Africa that’s so large it has a pub inside where 15 people can drink comfortably. Architectural marvels, including the M.C. Escher-like stepwells in India. Mind-boggling events, like the Baby Jumping Festival in Spain, where men dressed as devils literally vault over rows of squirming infants. Not to mention the Great Stalacpipe Organ in Virginia, Turkmenistan’s 40-year hole of fire called the Gates of Hell, a graveyard for decommissioned ships on the coast of Bangladesh, eccentric bone museums in Italy, or a weather-forecasting invention that was powered by leeches, still on display in Devon, England.

Created by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton, ATLAS OBSCURA revels in the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the hidden and the mysterious. Every page expands our sense of how strange and marvelous the world really is. And with its compelling descriptions, hundreds of photographs, surprising charts, maps for every region of the world, it is a book to enter anywhere, and will be as appealing to the armchair traveler as the die-hard adventurer.

Anyone can be a tourist. ATLAS OBSCURA is for the explorer.

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Minecraft: the Complete Handbook Collection by Stephanie Milton, Paul Soares, Jr., Jordan Maron, and Nick Farwell

Listen, I don’t get the appeal of Minecraft. I have tried to understand it, tried to play it, tried to care that it is a thing that exists in the world and I just don’t. My son, however, speaks the language fluently. And since I care deeply about him, I have learned to be grateful for these books. We try desperately to limit the screen time in our house, but I have been assured, one more than one occasion, that the engineers of tomorrow are playing Minecraft today. I’m not sure that I totally believe them, but I can’t deny my son builds some pretty cool stuff in this game. And he reads every Minecraft book he can get his hands on. So, for now at least, I’ll call that a win.

Side note: our kids are no longer allowed to watch YouTube videos of people playing Minecraft. We let them do this a few times and quickly learned that it is no bueno.

MinecraftAbout the books:

Revised edition with the most up to date stats, info, and sixteen pages of brand-new material!

Updated versions of Minecraft’s four bestselling handbooks are available in a stunning, gold-foiled boxed set! This ultimate collection includes the Essential Handbook, Redstone Handbook, Combat Handbook, and Construction Handbook. Each book now includes sixteen-addtional pages with brand-new content! Minecraft–the indie sandbox video game that took the world by storm–has been hailed as one of the greatest phenomena amongst gamers and educators for both its simplicity and its brilliance. Allowing players to build, explore, create, collaborate, and even survive, Minecraft has created a brave new world of gameplay. Each handbook contains helpful tips and information from the creators themselves, all of which will prove vital to your survival and creativity as you learn to mine, craft, and build in a world that you control.

Note: I honestly don’t understand a word in that description. My son is quite literally reading a manual. But he does so with the same devotion and patience that I read Tolkien when I was his age so it can’t be all bad.

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2017 World Almanac and Facts

Go figure. Such small print. Such random information. So much weather. This was one of a couple books I tossed in his stocking on a whim and I can’t count the number of times I’ve wandered through his bedroom (it’s attached to our bonus room) to find him reading this thing. On purpose and for fun.

AlmanacAbout the book:

Get thousands of facts at your fingertips with this essential resource.

The World Almanac® and Book of Facts is America’s top-selling reference book of all time, with more than 82 million copies sold. Since 1868, this compendium of information has been the authoritative source for all your entertainment, reference, and learning needs. The 2017 edition of The World Almanac® reviews the events of 2016 and will be your go-to source for questions on any topic in the upcoming year. Praised as a “treasure trove of political, economic, scientific and educational statistics and information” by The Wall Street Journal, The World Almanac® and Book of Facts will answer all of your trivia needs—from history and sports to geography, pop culture, and much more.
Features include:

2016—Top 10 News Topics: The editors ofThe World Almanac® list the top stories that held the world’s attention in 2016.

2016—Year in Sports: Hundreds of pages of trivia and statistics that are essential for any sports fan, featuring complete coverage of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the 2016 World Series, and much more.

2016—Year in Pictures: Striking full-color images from around the world in 2016, covering news, entertainment, science, and sports.

2016—Offbeat News Stories: The World Almanac® editors found some of the strangest news stories of the year.

World Almanac ® Editors’ Picks: Time Capsule: The World Almanac® lists the items that most came to symbolize the year 2016, from news and sports to pop culture.

2016 Election Results: The World Almanac® provides a comprehensive look at the entire 2016 election process, from the roller coaster of the early primaries to state and county presidential voting results and coverage of House, Senate, and gubernatorial races.

The World at a Glance: This annual feature of The World Almanac® provides a quick look at the surprising stats and curious facts that define the changing world.

World Almanac ® Editors’ Picks: The Best Teams That Never Won It All: In light of Golden State’s unprecedented regular season success and eventual downfall in the NBA Finals, The World Almanac® takes a look back into sports history for the best teams that fell just short of championship glory.

Statistical Spotlight: A brand-new feature highlights statistics relevant to the biggest stories of the year. These data provide context to give readers a fresh perspective on important issues.

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Like I said, Nerd Club. But this personality quirk has become one of my absolute favorite things about him. He’s really bright and curious and he wants to understand the world around him. Also, bonus, he’s becoming a person who is really fun to talk with. And funny. Funny men are a good thing. I married one and I’m determined to raise four more.

So, on that note, I’ll leave you with this anecdote. Many years ago my now-teenage son had to write a book report on Misty of Chincoteague, the Newbery Honor book by Marguerite Henry. When asked to score the book between 1 and 10, he gave it a 3. His answer as to why he rated it the way he did made me laugh and has stuck with me ever since, “This book had lots of horses,” he said. “But what I really wanted was explosions.”

I’ve been trying to find books loaded with explosions for him ever since.

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Why I’m Not Doing A Reading Challenge in 2017, Or Possibly Ever Again

Today’s post by Ariel Lawhon | @ArielLawhon

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I read twenty-five books in 2016. Twelve fiction and thirteen non-fiction (most of them Romanov biographies, several of them in excess of 500 pages). But, according to Goodreads and the blogosphere and various websites I “failed” at reading last year. If you were to pay attention to all the reading challenges and lists, I didn’t read “enough.” Or widely. Or with enough intention. I am, apparently a lightweight.

And I have to wonder when reading–this thing that has been one of the great loves of my life–became a competition. I wonder when speed reading two or three hundred books in a year became a badge of honor. When quantity took precedence over quality. When numbers started mattering more than joy.

I’ll be honest with you: I don’t like the pressure that comes with these reading challenges that crop up every year about this time. I hate feeling like no matter how much I read, or how much I enjoy a book, I’m not doing enough. Reading enough. That I’ve left something (or someone!) on the table. That I am missing something vital.

Yes, I believe in reading widely, with intention, and outside of my comfort zone. I want to read the classics and the new hot literary thriller. I want to find new authors that have important things to say. I want to be exposed to new voices and new cultures and new stories. I want all of this. And I pursue it the best I can. But the truth is that I simply can’t keep up. There are too many amazing books being published every single day. I am overwhelmed.

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Was late reading this novel but came to it with my eyes open, knowing how it would end before I even started. I wanted to understand what all the buzz was about. And I do. I get it now. Though, if I’m being honest, I loved the sequel more. I think that Lou’s life in the aftermath of her relationship with Will was far more interesting, and easily some of Moyes’ best writing.

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Read it and weep. Literally. I dare you to pick up this book and not be gutted. One of the most moving books I read in 2016.

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Utterly gobsmacked by this one. It has set the standard for all literary thrillers going forward. I wish I could read it again for the first time. But, regardless, I’ll be reading everything else Pavone has written. Just…brilliant.

So here is the reading challenge I have given myself for 2017: read without a plan and without pressure. I will read for the love of story. I will read because a novel sounds compelling. I will read narrative non-fiction and memoir because there are people who have lived extraordinary lives and done extraordinary things and I want to know their stories. I will read because I have previously enjoyed an author and there’s a high likelihood I’ll like their next book. I will read to learn something new. I will read with intent–the intent to enjoy, to be challenged, to be delighted, and amazed by the work of another author. I will read authors that are unlike me, from places I’ve never been. I will read because I want to, not because I have to.

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I gulped down this YA thriller in less than a day. Not at all my typical kind of read but I know the author and she has a twisty brain so I guessed the book wouldn’t disappoint. It didn’t. Highly recommended. And, you’re in luck, the sequel releases soon.

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I’m pretty sure I’ve read every biography about the Romanovs written in the last thirty years. This one, however, is a masterpiece. And a doorstop. It is 600+ pages and covers the Romanov dynasty from beginning to end and is filled with enough drama and detail to inspire fifty novels.

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My friend JT Ellison wrote this novel and it’s dark and gritty and twisty while somehow being hopeful and redemptive as well. There’s so much here you’ll never see coming.

One of my favorite things about my particular job is that I have to maintain an ongoing education. I must research. I must dig through libraries and archives and used bookstores for little-known tomes about my subject matter. Because I am a writer I have had to educate myself about Jazz-era New York City, World War II zeppelins, and, now, the Russian revolution–none of them subjects I would have signed up for until I was inspired by some bit of history. I’ve read out-of-print biographies, newspapers, blueprints, memoirs, schematics, court transcripts, coffee table books, and thousands of pages of biographical information. While working on a new book I learn everything I can about my subject. And then my brain melts and the last thing I want is more information. I want a story. And that is typically the point in the process when I seek out a novel that has absolutely nothing in common with what I’m writing (I devoured two YA fantasy novels this month, and they were so good).

What I’m saying here, I suppose, is that it’s okay to read whatever you want for whatever reason motivates you and to not keep track along the way. There are no rules. Your reading counts when it’s for work and when it’s for pleasure. Novels count. Biographies count. Medical journals count. So does that Minecraft manual you’re reading so you can understand this strange new language your kid has started to speak. It’s all good. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

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My first Pat Conroy novel and now a book that will forever stay on my “keeper shelf.” I still can’t really talk about how this book made me feel. It’s one of the ones that changed me and those books are few and far between.

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Lindsay Faye could write circles around me any day. She’s brilliant and clever and impossibly entertaining.

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This novel single-handedly ended my reading drought in 2016. I loved it completely. Thought about the characters–dreamed about them, actually–when I wasn’t reading. It meant so much to me, in fact, that I wrote the author when I finished.

If reading challenges are your jam, then by all means have it. Tick off those boxes to your heart’s content. Of all people, I understand the need to have accountability and a plan. No judgement here. But I probably won’t be doing them again. I’m going to take the free-spirited approach for my own sanity. I’m going to let books find me. I’m going to pluck them randomly out of the library sale pile and off the “blind date with a book” shelf at my local bookstore. I’m going to look at the pile of unsolicited books that have shown up at my house and pick the one that–on the surface–interests me least. I am going to make room in my reading life to be surprised.

And yes, you could argue that all of this is its own sort of challenge in a way. But it doesn’t feel that way to me. It feels like freedom.

I’ve already read three novels this year so my guess is my numbers will be higher than 2016 (to be expected since I’m almost finished writing my new novel) but if I don’t, then I refuse to feel like I’ve failed. I might not even count this year.

What about you? How do you feel about reading challenges? Are you doing one this year? Am I just the contrarian in the group?

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The Message of La La Land

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

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It should be said that I was never a skeptic. Perhaps because I had watched Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone together in Crazy Stupid Love and already knew the onscreen chemistry they would share. Perhaps because there was something shimmering and magical even in the trailer that was out months and months ago, something that made me say to myself, “I want to write a novel that makes people feel the way that trailer just made me feel.” Just the trailer. So when the movie released I was certain to see it, soon, and several times.

I didn’t have to be convinced, and yet I was still surprised by La La Land. From the vast opening number with people dancing and singing for miles, to that last look, I was captivated. But more than that I was moved by what–to me– was the message of the movie. I expected the singing, the dancing, the chemistry, the colors. I just didn’t expect the message woven into the story. Because typically musicals are for fun, not thinking. And yet, this movie has left me thinking for weeks.

What was the message? Well, I don’t want to say too much for those of you who may not’ve seen it. So I will just say this: If you have a dream (“Here’s to the ones who dream”), you should go out and do something daring. You should take a risk. You should be different, swim against the tide. You may not succeed in the way you initially envision success. But in the risk you will find success you didn’t see coming.

As a writer, I’ve played it safe and I’ve taken risks. And the risks have paid off far more than the playing it safe. Sure, the risks were scarier, bolder, more vulnerable. Sure, some have blown up in my face. But some have changed everything and that, as Robert Frost said, has made all the difference.

If you’ve seen the movie, this will make sense. (Or, I hope it does.) And if you haven’t seen the movie, I hope that the message of La La Land will intrigue you. Because my bet is, you have a dream. (Or, I hope you do.) And dreams, like anything, have to be fed to survive. This movie feeds dreams.

So I hope you’ll go see it. I hope you’ll get past whatever misgivings you may have about musicals, you won’t listen to the people who say they don’t like the ending (it was, after all, the ending the story demanded), and you’ll go get lost in the movie. And along the way, you’ll be inspired by the message. Inspired to go dream your own dreams and take your own risks. And occasionally, because this life demands it, break out into song.

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Flight Of Dreams: Now Available In Paperback

Today’s post by Ariel Lawhon | @ArielLawhon

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Sometimes I forget that my books are born twice. Once, in hardcover, and then, typically, a year later, in paperback. So I’m sitting here today, at my desk, looking at the new cover for FLIGHT OF DREAMS and I’m struggling to explain how I feel. Humbled, is the best word I can find, but that doesn’t seem completely accurate. I am also amazed. And grateful. And a bit weepy for some reason.

I never really know what to say on days like this. You’ve heard all my stories; how I came up with the idea, how I met a man on book tour who had actually been inside the Hindenburg, and why I chose to write about this particular tragedy. So I will simply say, thank you.

Thank you for reading the book and writing to me afterward. Thank you for sharing your stories and your memories about this event. Thank you for telling your friends about it. Thank you for showing up in bookstores all across the country. Thank you for listening to the audiobook (didn’t John Lee do an amazing job?) and asking over and over and over if it will be turned into a film (it won’t). Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

Of all the authors in all the world, I am the most fortunate.

And if you’ve not yet met Emilie, Gertrud, Max, Werner, and The American, it would be my honor to introduce you. FLIGHT OF DREAMS is out in paperback today and ready to meet a whole new group of readers.

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“At every page a guilty secret bobs up; at every page Lawhon keeps us guessing. Who will bring down the Hindenburg? And how?”
— New York Times Book Review

On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.

Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.

Brilliantly exploring one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century, Flight of Dreams is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing till the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after.

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My Top Books of 2016

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Annnnd, we’re back! Though I have to say I don’t feel like we ever went away. For me, the word “break” was a misnomer over this particular Christmas holiday. Between trips and get-togethers and ill-timed deadlines and illness, the last month has been a whirlwind. In that way, I think my whole family was happy to get back into more of a routine with school starting again and a new year to dive into.

However you celebrated– whether you feel rested or not– we are glad you’re back with us, and we hope you’ll keep coming back this year, as we’ve got some fun things planned!

I wanted to share a rundown of my favorite books from this year. Listed in no certain order, except the last one, which was my favorite of this year!

All of Us and Everything by Bridget Asher– quirky, unexpected, sweet

The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes– inspiring, informative, funny

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley– gripping, tense, well written– couldn’t put it down

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney– characters who stayed with me long after the story was over, gorgeous writing

It’s Ok To Laugh by Nora Mcinnerney Purmort– cried my way through it, even with all the crying, still glad I read it

Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand– it’s not summer without her stories and this one didn’t disappoint

Faithful by Alice Hoffman– reactivated my love of this author and had me going back to read her older stuff

The Girls by Emma Cline– dark, gorgeous, disturbing

Boys in the Trees by Carly Simon– loved, loved, loved it on audio, read by the author, as it should be

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty– anything by our #ReadSavannah keynote author gets my vote

And #1…

Not Dead Yet by Phil Collins– Maybe it’s just because I’m a child of the 80’s and a huge fan, but this one moved me, surprised me, and had me thinking about it anytime I wasn’t listening to it. And yes, I said listening. I think that the audio version of this book is the only way to experience it. Because Phil himself reads it, so you hear it exactly how he meant it to be rendered on the page. I was more than a little sad that it was over. And I’m jealous of any of you who haven’t had the pleasure.

Later in the week Ariel will share her favorite books of 2016 too (Except there won’t be as many because she’s a slow-poke and braindead and on deadline…says Ariel herself, who edits this blog and all the posts and loves to have the final word…Hi guys, glad to be back!).

2016 was a wonderful reading year– and 2017 is shaping up to be another one! Keep checking back with for more great books you’re not going to want to miss. And we apologize if your TBR stack starts looking like this! #sorrynotsorry

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