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Archive for the ‘Books I Love’ Category

2017 Teen Book Con logoTechnically it’s for teens and not forty-five year old teachers, so I volunteered to be a chaperone for five of my favorite teen girls. I’m a genius. Admit it. I win.

Maggie

Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie is going to be there! I love Maggie! She’s my kind of weird, and her stories pull me in then drag me around by the heart for months after I’ve finished them.

 

David Levithan photo

David Levithan

And David! He introduced me to Dash & Lily, and A, and a bunch of other great characters born in his crazy writer/editor brain.

 

Maggie and David are the keynote speakers for the day, but they’ll be joined by 24 other amazing authors including one of my other favorites…Veronica Rossi. I can’t wait to meet her!

The Tattered Cover didn’t forget me completely. They’re hosting a YA Author Happy Hour for the over 21 crowd the night before Teen Book Con. I get to meet the same authors over a drink, get Maggie’s new book signed, and hopefully meet a few local OwlCrate future friends. If you’re in the Denver area and interested in this event, there are still some tickets available:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2017-ya-author-happy-hour-tickets-36874760401

Maybe I’ll see you there! 😉

 

 

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I don’t have a favorite author. I know, shocker. I have A LOT of authors I love, and Veronica Rossi is one of them.

Veronica Rossi

She’s not as well-known as authors whose books have already been adapted for the big screen, but I love her stories just the same. I do think they’d be great movies if handled right, and her bestselling trilogy has been optioned for film by Warner Bros. Sadly, there’s no news yet on if or when that will happen.

Veronica is the New York Times bestselling author of a post-apocalyptic trilogy: Under the Never Sky, Through the Ever Night, and Into the Still Blue. She’s also published two companion novellas, Roar and Liv, and Brooke.

From Amazon:

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive. A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption.

In alternating chapters told in Aria’s and Perry’s voices, Under the Never Sky subtly and powerfully captures the evolving relationship between these characters and sweeps readers away to a harsh but often beautiful world. Continuing with Through the Ever Night and concluding with Into the Still Blue, the Under the Never Sky trilogy has already been embraced by readers in twenty-six countries and been optioned for film by Warner Bros.

The first book in her next series is due out in February, 2016. I can’t wait! Here’s a preview:

Riders FINAL (1)

For eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake, nothing but death can keep him from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.

Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen–Conquest, Famine, and Death–are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.

They fail.

Now–bound, bloodied, and drugged–Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for–not to mention all of humankind–he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.

But will anyone believe him?

Check out Veronica’s other news on her site.

My friends have authors they love too. Check them out:

Don at https://donhillson.wordpress.com/

Beckie at http://free2b2much.blogspot.com/

Tracy at https://countyroadchronicles.wordpress.com/

 

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As reading is like breathing to me, there are so many great characters I could choose from the thousands of books I’ve read. I don’t really have one favorite, but I have one that comes close, and as her story has been on my mind lately, I chose her for today’s topic.

Éowyn.

These are movie photos of Miranda Otto who played the character in Peter Jackson’s epic masterpiece. I loved her in the film, but as all book nerds will agree, the book is always better, and Éowyn as a character is no exception. Yes, I think J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was and is genius. I was captivated from the moment I stepped foot in the Shire.

Orphaned young and raised alongside her brother Éomer in her uncle’s home – King Théoden of Rohan, Éowyn longs for more than a woman of that age is relegated to. The story finds her caring for her uncle, whose mind has been poisoned by his evil advisor – Sauron’s spy and a lecherous man who lusts after her. Her brother has been banished and she’s alone, trapped in a life she doesn’t want. A life of she fears. When opportunity to escape her perceived fate comes to her doorstep, she is more than willing, but is thwarted by the man she thinks she loves when he tells her it is her duty to lead her people in her uncle’s and brother’s absences. Nevertheless, she eventually makes her way into battle and to everyone’s amazement, defeats the Witch-king who had been the subject of a prophecy that said no man could kill him. When threatened with a fate worse than death, Éowyn responds:

“But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Eomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.”

“Then tottering, struggling up, with her last strength she drove her sword between crown and mantle, as the great shoulders bowed before her. The sword broke sparkling into many shards. The crown rolled away with a clang. Éowyn fell forward upon her fallen foe.”

I love Éowyn! She calls herself a “wild shieldmaiden of the north.” I can relate to that. The White Lady of Rohan. Lady of the shield-arm. Daughter of the House of Eorl. She had many names, but of course I connected with the shield references the most. She is fierce, loyal, and determined, yet in the books as she recovers from her battle wounds, she has a change of heart about her “fate” and she softens, saying she’ll become a healer. That resonates with me too.

See which characters resonated with my friends:

Don at https://donhillson.wordpress.com/

Beckie at http://free2b2much.blogspot.com/

Tracy at https://countyroadchronicles.wordpress.com/

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For Christmas in 2013, Karen gave me a copy of Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. She had already read most of it and was sure I’d love it, and she was right! I’ve been reading it and incorporating it into my life ever since.

Vulnerability-Quote-2-Brene-Brown

Brene Brown is a research professor and storyteller who studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, worthiness, and shame. She’s written three #1 New York Times Bestsellers, her 2010 TEDx talk “The Power of Vulnerability” is one of the five most viewed Ted talks in the world. She inspires millions of readers like me through her websites, interviews, and public appearances. I post her quotes on Facebook a lot.

From The Gifts of Imperfection:

“People may call what happens at mid-life “a crisis,” but it’s not. It’s an unraveling – a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re supposed to live.”

As I’ve been working my way through the book for the second time, reading all of my underlined passages again, I am painfully aware of the places I’ve been digging deep, being brave, and making difficult choices that are making me a more wholehearted person. The word “No” isn’t as scary as it used to be, and I’ve increased the frequency of its use. Friends, it is SO much better than saying “yes” and being pissed off later because I knew I should have said no in the first place. I’m doing hard heart work, and the results are beautiful!

Some other lessons I’ve learned:

  • Our stories aren’t meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege and we should ask ourselves who has earned the right to hear them. (p. 47)
  • Incongruent living is exhausting. (p. 28)
  • Cultivating self-love and self-acceptance is not optional. (p. 28)
  • Practicing courage, compassion, and connection in our daily lives is how we cultivate worthiness. (p.7)
  • Courage is contagious. (p.54)
  • Here’s what is truly at the heart of wholeheartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is. (p.24)

I own the other two books and will read them soon. Check out Brene Brown. She’s one of my courage-boosters and currently on my list of Top Ten Most Inspiring People.

These people inspire me too:

Don at https://donhillson.wordpress.com/

Beckie at http://free2b2much.blogspot.com/

Tracy at https://countyroadchronicles.wordpress.com/

 

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Donald MillerThis is Donald Miller. Several years ago a friend asked, “Hey! Have you read Blue Like Jazz  yet?” They lent me their copy and I stayed up late (as I often do) finishing it in one sitting. It was deeply moving, and if you haven’t read it or any of his books, I recommend them all. My favorite is Searching For God Knows What. There were several times I paused to pull the book to my chest and whisper the word “yes” into the night. I found another kindred spirit in Don Miller!

I had the privilege of attending his Storyline Conference in Nashville in 2013. I was there alone, for about two seconds until I met Jennifer. I adopted the philosophy a long time ago that everyone I meet is a potential friend, so Jennifer, who was also attending alone, became my conference buddy. It was great to have someone to process with everyday. We were both inspired by amazing speakers like Bob Goff, Shauna Niequist, and Joshua DuBois. I sat in on a breakout session with Christian recording artist, Brandon Heath as he played a sweet song for us that wasn’t on any of his albums and graciously answered everyone’s questions about life in the spotlight and living out your faith. Don’s main sessions had me scribbling hot pink notes all over my binder. At the end of the day I said goodbye to Jennifer and went back to my beautiful condo across from the Grand Ole Opry – a timeshare gift from a generous couple in my life – and wrestled with everything I was learning. Over the course of four days, I mapped out the beginning of my new life plan, then flew home to share my conference stories with anyone who would listen.

But back to Don. As I was thinking through the weekend and going over my notes, my thoughts kept returning to him. He has a team of people who help him pull off these conferences. He has a contact list full of movers and shakers he calls friends. He has several books under his belt. He started a ministry aimed at helping the fatherless. He’s done a long list of worthy things that have earned him the admiration of thousands of people, but that’s not what stands out for me. Don himself stands out because he realized life wasn’t about him and when he embraced that, he found the happiness that had been eluding him. Like solving a puzzle he’d been working on for years, Don found his passion then found a way to use it to help me find mine.

262161-Blue+like+jazz+quotes++++Isn’t that one of our first wake-up calls as we mature? That we are not the center of the universe? It’s not always about us? I admire Don Miller because he’s teachable, he learns, grows, and does better, and he lends courage to others to do better. His whole Storyline franchise is about helping other people tell a better story with their lives. It’s about all of us and the stories we tell ourselves, and the stories we tell others. He had the courage to stumble through the process first.

One of my favorite lessons I’ve learned from him can be found in this post on the Storyline blog: 4 Words That Changed My Career.

I have a psychologist friend who, after hearing me speak at a conference, pulled me aside. At the conference, I talked about how I’d written 1/4 of a novel and thrown it away because it wasn’t good enough. He said, “Don, I think I know your problem. You’re being too careful. When you first started as a writer, readers loved your work because you said what you felt; you took huge risks. Now, you’re always so careful. We miss the Don who wasn’t careful.”

I am too careful.

I admire Don for going first and giving me a tool box to build a better life. Because of him, I’m learning to tell a better story. I’m learning to be less careful and take more risks. I’m growing in my ability to be my fierce self without the fear of being too much and not enough. His courage gave me courage so I could give you courage. Pass it on! ♥

I had a difficult time choosing who to write about today. With the flip of a coin, Don beat out Brene Brown. No worries, I’ll write about her before this challenge is over. 😉

Go ahead. Flip a coin to see which challenger to visit next:

Don at donhillson.wordpress.com

Beckie at free2b2much.blogspot.com

Tracy at countyroadchronicles.wordpress.com

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It’s happening AGAIN. I’m finding myself fuming and pouting because I am picking up my family’s crap AGAIN. We have too much stuff AGAIN. I spent most of 2011 working through and posting about my decluttering challenge. Click on the links to read how I did it:

It’s only been four years since I learned (and taught) about decluttering and minimalism. It’s only been one year since we decluttered to move to our current home. It’s not like I’ve forgotten how to do it, so maybe I needed new inspiration to do it again. Don’t we all need that now and then?

Enter my friend, Penelope Hoyt.

She’s written several books on the topic as well as homemaking, homeschooling, organizing and prepping. I started with her book, The Simple Minimalist, and I’m still working my way through her stuff. She has lots of great tips including defining minimalism for yourself (Hint: It looks a little different for each person) and pursuing a simple, peaceful lifestyle free from emotional and mentally draining clutter. She encouraged me by reminding me WHY I want to live simply – so I have more time, energy, and resources to live life with the people I love.

Sadly, she lives too far away to grab a cup of Chai and pick her brain, so I spent last week reading several of her books. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read most of them for free, but her prices are amazing even without KU. Here’s a partial list of the books I read:

Minimalism Made Easy: What It Really Takes to Live with Less It was a nice surprise when I discovered I already had this on my Kindle before we even met. 😉

Going Green: 25 Recipes to Save Your House and Your Life

Natural Living

Downsizing Made Easy: How to Simplify Your House for a Quicker Sale

101 Things to Teach Your Kids This Year

Her Minimalist Hacks series was great too. I decided to stop reading for now and start minimizing! When I thanked her for inspiring me, she responded by giving me a few tips. The most important one is this: Buy big black trash bags. You are more likely to get rid of things when you’re not staring at them, possibly having second thoughts.

I read and got inspired again. I formed a plan. I talked to my family and they all jumped on board the crazy purging train I’m conducting. Woot! Woot! This is Nowell Purging Week, and today was Day 1. Benny posted this on Facebook today:

purge

Hey! I needed a staging area.This is what happens when you have kids hauling everything up and down stairs. They dump it wherever. Hmmm…seems to me that’s what got us into this mess. Bringing too much stuff into our home contributed as well, I suppose. It’s okay. We’re punching the reset button.

Here’s my basic plan of attack:

Monday: Pete’s room and our bookshelves. DONE and DONE!

  • 7 boxes of homeschooling curriculum (not mine, I was storing them)
  • 7 boxes of books – mostly mine
  • 3 bags of stuffed animals, clothes, and shoes (plus a few GIANT stuffed animals)
  • 2 bags of misc. toys and stuff
  • 1 big bag of trash

Tuesday: Max’s room. Dear God, please help me control my tongue and attitude, and have someone bring me Chai.

Wednesday: After I get home from work – The bathrooms and hall closets.

Thursday: Zoe’s room and the living room/dining room. She’s been cleaning, so it will be easier than riding herd on helping the boys.

Friday: The kitchen and the laundry room.

Saturday: Finish up our bedroom, which is where I began before officially starting this purge.

Sunday: A much-needed day of rest! 😉

I’ll let you know how the week goes by updating this post with how much stuff we haul away.

I’ll be back with more thoughts on this and how we can avoid a repeat of this process next year, but in the meantime, visit Penelope at her blog, The Nerdy Survivalist, buy her books on Amazon, then go declutter something!

You can do it!

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My friends Trevor, Chris, and Allen invited me to guest blog over at Sacred Margins today. I wrote about making a difference in my post, Greeting Cards and Bubbles.

“The guys” as I affectionately call them, are not only some of Benny’s best friends, but a talented band of brothers with a gift for exploring themes of faith. Their Sacred Margins site was born out of walking through life together and long talks about rest, space, and the desire to explore the deep connections between spirituality and technology. I am so honored they invited me to be part of the discussion!

I need to apologize to my friend Don. Not only because I never finished his 30 day drawing challenge, but because I’m not going to. I’ve had to give myself permission to move on. It was a great challenge – he rocked it out – but me? Not so much.

I did learn that I can draw more than stick figures. I also learned that drawing is work for me, and not the fun kind. Give me a lump of clay and I’ll be content to make whatever you want me to, but my brain does not see pictures on a flat surface in a way that is easily reproducible for me. I’m going to stick to word art for a while.

I have enough challenging things in my life now to take on any more. For instance, I decided not to join my many friends taking the NANOWRIMO challenge this month, but I am working on my time travel novel. That is fun for me, and there’s no pressure to have it completed by a certain day. I definitely work better on a deadline, but this is play, not work. It’s still challenging, but in a good way.

Have you read my story yet? The one published in Time Traveling Coffers? It’s not too late to get it at a discounted rate.

https://www.createspace.com/4021532

(Save 25% by using coupon code 9HW5GHYR when you order by 11/31/12)

I’m also trying to write our end of the year letter to our SEVENS family and friends without making it sound like a Christmas letter. It would be much easier if I had been writing quarterly letters like I had planned to do. I’m lucky they’re a forgiving bunch and they love me.

Be honest. How do you feel about Christmas letters?

Love them? Dread them? Hate them?

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