Tag: reading

It’s Book Pub Day! New Releases: September 29, 2020

Hi! It’s Pub Day, here again! There are some INTRIGUING new books being released into the world today, everybody. Shall we take a look?   Fiction The Bell in the Lake: A Novel, by Lars Mytting   Just Like You: A Novel, by Nick Hornby 

It’s Pub Day! New Books to Read! September 22, 2020 Releases

Hi! Tuesday is Publication Day in Book World. It’s the most exciting day for an author: new books are released by their publishers, we get to read them, and all are happy. Because I know many of you like to read as much as I 

Just Five Questions with Leah DeCesare

I’m delighted to introduce you to Leah DeCesare. She’s the award-winning author of Forks, Knives, and Spoons and the nonfiction parenting series Naked Parenting, based on her work as a doula, early parenting educator, and mom of three. Her articles on parenting have been featured in The Huffington Post, Eligible Magazine, Simply Woman, the International Doula, and The Key, among others. I’ve gotten to know her this year, and can tell you that she is warm, outgoing (and positively has the best smile ever), as well as takes the time to write kind, handwritten notes, which is something that I keep thinking I’d like to do, especially now that I see how great it is to get them from people like Leah.

In 2008, Leah cofounded the nonprofit Doulas of Rhode Island, and in 2013 she spearheaded the Campaign for Hope to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness in Uganda.

In a past life, Leah worked in public relations and event planning. She now writes, teaches, and volunteers in Rhode Island, where she lives with her family and talking cockatiel.

Before we start, let’s learn a bit about her debut novel, Forks, Knives, and Spoons, which won both the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal for New Adult fiction and the 2017 IAN Book of the Year Award for Outstanding Women’s Fiction.

For readers who love Adriana Trigiani, Jennifer Weiner and Liane Moriarty, Forks, Knives, and Spoons is a light-hearted, thought-provoking coming of age story that takes readers on a nostalgic journey back to the 1980s and 1990s. Romantic, witty and warm.

There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That is the final lesson that Amy York’s father sends her off to college with, never suspecting just how far his daughter will take it. Clinging to the Utensil Classification System as her guide, Amy tries to convince her skeptical roommate, Veronica Warren, of its usefulness as they navigate the heartbreaks and soul mates of college and beyond.

Beginning in 1988, their freshman year at Syracuse University, Amy and Veronica meet an assortment of guys―from slotted spoons and shrimp forks to butter knives and sporks―all while trying to learn if the UCS holds true. On the quest to find their perfect steak knives, they learn to believe in themselves―and not to settle in love or life.

Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.

But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?

To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.

Congratulations on celebrating the first birthday of your book baby, Leah! I’m excited for this round of Just Five Questions with you.

When faced with setbacks or rejection with your writing, what was something that made you push through?

Setbacks and rejections come in many forms from mean reviews to bunches of “nos” from agents, editors, press, etc. — rejection is part of this gig. I’m an optimist by nature so when I got my first agent rejection my response was to proudly say, “I’m now officially an author! I’ve been rejected!” Of course, after many of those I had way less cheery reactions, but I’m not one to wallow or pity myself, instead, I feel a feeling then get back to work because this is what I want to be doing. I’m not a patient person and I know that this is a slow business. I continually have to remind myself that it doesn’t go at the pace I’d like and that being a writer is hard but it’s what I’ve chosen and what I love so I keep on doing it, keep putting my butt back in the chair and plodding through despite what comes at me.

That’s great advice that most writers need to hear. What methods do you use to balance the quiet life a writer needs to work with the necessary business of being a person with friends, family, and social responsibilities?

This is one of the hardest parts, isn’t it? That elusive balance. I can’t say I’m really great at it but I’m happy. Every day is different from the others and I’m awful at declining an invitation to have breakfast or lunch out with a friend, but somehow, I get the work done.

A few things I do: I try to tidy up before I get to work, it helps me ease into the day and I feel better in a clean space. I also try to push all of my emails and social media to the end of the day, or I’ll fit it in when I’m waiting to pick up a kid or sitting at a doctor’s office. I need fresh locations so I often move around to different rooms in the house for a few days at a time, and I love when I have the chance to go away for three or four days alone with some Trader Joe’s frozen food, a bag of salad, my writing stuff and “permission” to do nothing but write.

I love that tip of pushing the emails and social media to the end of the day. What is your morning routine? 

Since I read this series of blogs, I knew this question was coming and I feel a little guilty saying I don’t have a great morning routine. I’ve read books and blogs and expert advice about the importance of a morning routine yet it’s not my strength. Most days, I do a little yoga in bed before even getting up then I listen to whatever audiobook I’m “reading” while I get ready or fold some laundry before heading downstairs. My husband and I both work from home so most mornings we eat breakfast together which is such a treat to me. After breakfast, I either head out to play tennis or I tidy up and get started at my computer. I guess there’s a tiny bit of a routine in there despite my inconsistent schedule. 🙂

Oh, you know inconsistency has a home here with me! What’s your favorite form of exercise? (And on the flip side, what’s your favorite way to be lazy?)

I love tennis! It varies (see above answer) but I play about two-three times a week and five days a week in the summer. I protect my time on the court and I’m always a little sad when our matches are over. Since college, way before it was popular, I’ve practiced yoga. I remember the spark of joy I felt at my first class, how I left lighter, centered, and ready to tackle anything — I was hooked!

As for being lazy, I consider downtime as taking care of myself and I do things that nourish me and make me happy. Often being productive is how I feel best and most relaxed but I also read a ton, it’s been a constant pleasure my whole life, and rarely a day goes by that I haven’t read at least a little bit. (Find me on GoodReads to see what I’m reading). I’m also a fantastic napper. The kids laugh at me because I call an afternoon rest my “horizontal time,” but there’s nothing like a quick snooze to perk me up and keep me going until my way-too-late bedtime!

Do you have any go-to methods for eating well? (And on the flip side: what are your food vices?)

My best method is my husband. A couple of years ago, after cooking for the family for 16+ years, I admitted to myself and my husband that I really don’t enjoy cooking so Nick (aka my steak knife!) said he’d do it. Now the joke is that my kids pretty much have no memory that I ever cooked but I’ll take that in exchange for no longer being the chef. We value family dinners and even with three teenagers (one’s off at college now) we’ve prioritized eating together and make it happen almost every night of the week.

It may sound odd but being active and exercising actually makes me eat better, after being healthy in a physical way, I don’t want to put junky stuff into my body. I feel best when I’m eating nutritious foods and that’s the majority of our meals, but I believe in guilt-free and pleasurable living so I also savor my treats. I keep a little stash of chocolates in my desk for those moments when I just want something sweet (currently, I have a pilfered bunch of Reese’s Easter eggs) and my favorite indulgence is ice cream. Whenever I have it, I have a huge heaping bowl, but we don’t have dessert most nights simply because it was never the norm and we kind of just don’t think of it.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Leah! 

 

Thank you to Leah DeCesare for stopping by leahferguson.net! Forks, Knives and Spoons can be purchased through Amazon (it’s currently just $1.12 on Kindle!), Barnes and Noble or Indiebound (and as always, if you can take a moment to leave a review on a book you’ve read and enjoyed, it is very much appreciated!).

Leah Reads Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

Leah Reads Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

A Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

“Beautifully written and incredibly funny, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is about the importance of friendship and human connection. I fell in love with Eleanor, an eccentric and regimented loner whose life beautifully unfolds after a chance encounter with a stranger; I think you will fall in love, too!” —Reese Witherspoon

This wacky, charming novel. . . draws you in with humor, then turns out to contain both a suspenseful subplot and a sweet romance. . . Hilarious and moving.People

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. 

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. 

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .
 
The only way to survive is to open your heart. 

Just Five Questions with Kathleen Barber

Let’s meet Kathleen Barber, author of the psychological thriller Are You Sleeping: she was raised in Galesburg, Illinois. She graduated from the University of Illinois and Northwestern University School of Law, and previously practiced bankruptcy law at large firms in Chicago and New York. When she’s not writing, Kathleen 

But It’s So Much Warmer Right Here

If you could have checked my Facebook feed this weekend, I’m sure it looked a lot like yours, if you’re an East Coaster, too: snow. Lots and lots of pictures of snow: rulers stuck into patio-table-topped drifts, kids with huge smiles sledding down hills, dogs sunbathing on top of the shrubs in the front yard. We got 37 inches where I live. I know this only because I checked it out online. I don’t go outside in the snow. Nope. I stay inside. I make hot chocolate, and bake cookies, and catch up on the laundry. I take a couple of fuzzy iPhone pics out of obligation from the open front door, wave at my children–“Are you coming OUTSIDE, Mommy?” Nope, nope, poor children, I am not–and quickly shut it again against the cold. I like the white stuff as it’s falling–probably because it means I don’t have to go outside in it juuuuust yet, and also because it’s an excuse to make a cocktail and go back to my book and pet the cat who just curled up on my lap.

1.26.16. Snow Day. WidgetI’ve easily–sadly, yes, but oh-too-easily–slid into the gender role cycle of the husband who goes outside to shovel while I, like a good ’50s housewife, cook dinner or darn a sock or something. (I think David would much rather I put down the apron and join him outside, but then I make him a Manhattan and he doesn’t say a word, which probably doesn’t help in my feminism. On a different note, I’m starting to understand why states in the north midwest have such lax liquor laws). I will gladly volunteer to hang up the dripping snowsuits and wipe off the dog and dole out words of encouragement (“Good job, Dave! You’re really making a dent in that three feet!”), but I will not, cannot, bring myself to go outside in it if I don’t have to. I realize this makes me sound like a terrible person, but it’s not like I can hide it. It’s not like any of my neighbors saw me outside this weekend going for an icy run and ooh-ing over my dope snow-angel-making skills.

1.26.16. Snow Day. blizzard playI lived on my own for years and years before I got married. I’ve shoveled feet of snow off the roof of my car. I’ve laced up the snow boots and cleared paths and walks. I’ve done all that, and will do it all again. My mom, widowed for almost eight years now and fiercely determined to remain independent–I am so proud of her–was out there trying to snowblow her own long driveway until the machine broke and a neighbor volunteered to dig her out. There is something about doing it yourself that makes you feel like you can conquer almost anything. But when you don’t have to–when there’s somebody else who’s taller and stronger and can do the same work in half the amount of time and doesn’t say a word when you volunteer to make the hot chocolate and put away the laundry, well. One who hates the cold quietly backs inside the door with a grateful heart and shuts it before anyone else notices.1.26.16. Snow Day. David 1On the flip side, I’ve learned to make a perfectly layered dark ‘n’ stormy, baked mini cherry cheesecakes when the cookies ran out, and am digging back into the writing that’s been taunting me for weeks.

1.26.16. Snow Day. dark n stormyI have not exercised, but am reading books like crazy (finished Allie Larkin’s Why Can’t I be Youam totally into reading The Hobbit with the kids after years of telling David I’d never give it a chance, and am halfway through Amy Poehler’s Yes Please before I move onto Elisabeth Egan’s A Window Opens. Check that: I LOVE THE SNOW).

1.26.16. Snow Day. AT ATWe’ve seen The Return of the Jedi and Chef, and totally forgot about The X-Files until last night (X-FILES!!), which hurts my 90’s-girl heart just a little bit. I’ve taught the kids that buttered popcorn topped with chocolate chips is the best movie snack in the world (I should probably revisit that not-exercising thing?).

1.26.16. Snow Day. hot chocolateI still have not finished potty-training the kid, and have listened to hours of Kidz Bop 30 against my will, and missed out on parties and plans and family visits. I have organized some drawers and emptied old storage boxes and have not online shopped at all, because even though there’s this one bird-themed ottoman online that would look so stinking cute in my office, I can never bring myself to hit “purchase.” I’ve had The Specials playing almost nonstop, because ska makes me think of summer (’90s girl!) and my Fitbit broke so it can’t tell me how few steps I’ve taken, and I actually might be starting to lose my mind after all.1.26.16. Snow Day. RileyFor some reason, my children have fought hardly at all, though the notice just came in that school’s cancelled tomorrow, too, so that could change on a dime.1.26.16. Snow Day. petsThey say the best thing for mind-losing is Vitamin D (or something like that). Vitamin D, as we all know, is provided by sunlight, which is pouring in copious amounts all over the neighborhood. Which means I might have to go outside in the stuff after all to do some of that exercise thing or play with my poor mother-deprived children or give the dog a walk, since right now she’s staring outside like she’s been locked in a cage for days with weeks-old Brussels sprouts for food. You guys. I think it’s time to put down the darning needles and go join the world again.

1.26.16. Snow Day. Riley 2Wish me luck.

Hot Chocolate Mix (from Smitten Kitchen, easily doubled)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tsp. cornstarch
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Directions:

Throw all ingredients into a food processor and blend until powdery. Heat milk on a stovetop over medium heat or in the microwave (about a minute and 45 seconds on High for 1 cup). Add 3 Tbs. of hot chocolate mix to the milk and whisk until dissolved. Serve topped with way too many mini-marshmallows or whipped cream. 

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes (also easily doubled)

makes 8

Ingredients:

  • 8 vanilla wafers or crisp chocolate cookies
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened,
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 8 maraschino cherries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners, and place one cookie in the bottom of each. Blend cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla extract together in a stand mixer or mixing bowl. Distribute cream cheese filling evenly among the 8 cups. Place a cherry into the middle of each (optional: drizzle a little of the cherry juice onto the tops, too). Bake for 15 minutes and cool completely.

Dark ‘n’ Stormy 

Ingredients:

  • ginger beer
  • dark rum 
  • lime wedge (plus another for garnish, optional)

Directions:

Add ice to a highball glass, then fill the glass 3/4 full with ginger beer. Top with a shot of dark rum. Squeeze the juice from a wedge of lime into the top of the glass. Sip in front of a fire on a cold day and dream of summer.

Easy Manhattan (the way I make it, which is not scientific at all)

Ingredients:

  • bourbon, such as Maker’s Mark
  • sweet vermouth
  • bitters
  • maraschino cherry, plus juice

Directions:

In a cup with a lid, add ice. Add 3 glugs of bourbon and one of sweet vermouth. Shake 1-2 dashes of bitters into the mixture. Place the lid on the cup and shake vigorously. Strain into a highball glass. Add the cherry and a teaspoon of cherry juice. Serve. 

Who You Calling a Nerd?

I keep trying to read books with Quinn. Sometimes she listens, rubbing her fingers over the characters on the pages–especially if those pages have built-in mirrors that allow her to grin at her too-adorable, two-toothed self–but mostly, to my English teacher’s chagrin, when we sit