Bookworm Quirks: Books I Want to Read, but Do Not Want to Write

Books I Want to Read But Do Not Want to Write

There are several versions of quotes with the same message: If you can’t find the book you want to read, go write it.

And all around the world, there are resounding cries of “But I don’t wanna!” from readers that don’t like to write, aren’t good at it, or have no idea where to start.

Here are the books I would love to read but don’t want to write for a variety of reasons.

More Diverse Books

As a straight white blonde, it’s pretty easy for me to relate to 90% of YA protagonists, especially in the contemporary romance genre. But even I’m getting sick a bajillion ‘me’s! Give me more skin tones, shapes, sizes, orientations, lifestyles, interests, hobbies, dreams, strengths, weaknesses, plot lines! We aren’t all the same, so why do so many books tell the story of the same five girls? I don’t feel like it’s my place to write these stories, to use these voices for myself, so PLEASE tell me about your favorite diverse authors so I can support them and their voices!

Pirates Please!

Will I ever get sick of pirate stories? No. Never. But that is so much research and any research-heavy material scares me (I really hate feeling dumb and wrong, y’all.) so I shy away. I might get the courage to write a pirate book one day, but who knows? Certainly not me.

Mermaids!!

Same goes for mermaids! While there’s less reSEArch (get it?! Sea! Mermaids!) and more world-building, the same fears apply. Send me fun mermaid recs!

Books with Fun Hobbies

My favorites in the category are The Language of Flowers and A Vintage Affair. Any book that makes me want to learn more about an interest of the character’s is probably going to be a favorite. Give me the party planners, the florists, the photographers, the fashion designers, the actors, everything! Every creative endeavor. Just hook a girl up.

Sound off in the comments: What books do you want to read but not write? Do we have any in common? Do you have any recommendations to fill these voids on my shelf? Let me know!

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Book Review: A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

A Vintage Affair

Synopsis: Every dress has a history. And so does every woman.

Phoebe Swift’s friends are stunned when she abruptly leaves a plum job to open her own vintage clothing shop in London—but to Phoebe, it’s the fulfillment of a dream, and her passion. Digging for finds in attics and wardrobes, Phoebe knows that when you buy a piece of vintage clothing, you’re not just buying fabric and thread—you’re buying a piece of someone’s past. But one particular article of clothing will soon unexpectedly change her life.

Thérèse Bell, an elderly Frenchwoman, has an impressive clothing collection. But among the array of elegant suits and couture gowns, Phoebe finds a child’s sky-blue coat—an item with which Mrs. Bell is stubbornly reluctant to part. As the two women become friends, Phoebe will learn the poignant tale of that little blue coat. And she will discover an astonishing connection between herself and Thérèse Bell—one that will help her heal the pain of her own past and allow her to love again.

Why I Chose This Book: I love any book that combines England, something lovely, a young woman taking a risk, and a hobby I would love to know more about. In this case, it was vintage fashion. This book has ‘Rachel’ written ALL over it.

First Impressions: I love the illustrated style of this cover. The other versions of the cover are way more generic and dreadful, but this one is warm, inviting, and relaxing. I would like it if the dresses drawn were the ones that played an important role in the book, like the cupcake dresses! But I’m being picky at this point, so I’ll move on.

What I Liked: SO MUCH. From the beginning, it was clear that there was more to her story, and I couldn’t wait to see what she wasn’t telling. Typically, I hate books that rely on deliberately hidden information for suspense, but this was so organic. Phoebe was grieving, and wasn’t in a place to address aspects of what happened until other things happened first. It was such an interesting look into the world of vintage fashion, and within the first few chapters I had mentally added it to my list of dream careers. Also, the love interest was unclear, and I love that.

What I Didn’t Like: This is less of a ‘didn’t like’ and more of a ‘would have been cool’. The dresses are described in such lovely ways, that I would have LOVED to see pictures of the pieces mentioned, even in a gallery in the back. I hated Roxy so so much, and Miles because of his terrible parenting. I wish we’d seen more of Emma, and I would so read a book about her and her hats!

Rating and Recommendations: For fans of The Language of Flowers, fashion, and tastes of WWII accounts.

2. Loved It

Final Thoughts: It reminded me so much of Language of Flowers in that I instantly wanted to know more about this world and history. I’m looking forward to adding more of Wolff’s work to my shelves!

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Book Review: Conversion by Katherine Howe

Conversion

Synopsis: It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.

Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .

Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?

Why I Chose This Book: 

First Impression: Intriguing cover. What does the yellow bird mean? The thorny branch  gave off a feeling of danger and mystery without being too cliche. I really liked this cover.

What I Liked: I’d never heard of the confession that came years after the Salem Witch Trials and revealed everything to be a prank. It was very interesting to read. I also didn’t know about the Mystery Illness of 2012, so this book showed brand new history to me, both older and recent. I liked that we didn’t get a straight answer at the end. It felt very real.

What I Didn’t Like: The two narratives didn’t mesh well to me. I think the stories would have been better as two separate novels or maybe if it had been written by someone more YA-oriented? It could have been 100 pages shorter and had a much stronger impact instead of dragging on. There’s a taboo relationship that almost felt condoned by the author/plot. Colleen felt like someone trying too hard to be a teenager.

Ratings and Recommendations: I honestly don’t know? I’m still trying to figure out how I feel.

6. Not Sure How To Feel

Final Thoughts:  I really needed to read this with a book club so I had a group of people to help me figure out what I thought of it. I went back and forth on so many aspects, that I don’t know how many stars to give or who should read it or anything. I’m very conflicted with this book.

Sound off in the comments: Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know!

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Book Review: Brazen by Katherine Longshore

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Synopsis: Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when she’s married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court’s inner circle. Mary and “Fitz” join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court’s strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed…but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?

Why I Chose This Book: I got this book as a prize for beating my sister at the 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge last year. Being obsessed with historical fiction, specifically anything set in Henry VIII’s court, I have had this on my radar since it started getting publicity. As soon as it was in my hands, I started devouring it.

First Impression: My one disappointment with this GORGEOUS cover is that the jewel under the z is off center. This was so distracting!!! It drove me so crazy that I just took the dust cover off and left it on the shelf.

What I Liked: I loved that Anne Boleyn was such a large part of this book! She’s my favorite historical figure and I love seeing her from different perspectives because so much of her life is uncertain. Fitz was so sweet and I really grew to love Mary. Her poetry is gorgeous. She has a love of words that many bookworms will super relate to: “I flinch a little at the word. [Concubine]’s not as bad as whore. The round u and long i make it taste almost fruity. But the hard c’s are like seeds, puckering the mouth.” There’s so much of this almost tasting of words, and it’s such a gorgeous way of connecting to Mary.

There are many quotes I wrote down in my notes just so I could share them.

“There are some people who make an impact as soon as you meet them. Lodge themselves in your mind. Embed themselves in your very soul. Anne Boleyn is one of those people.”

“Power undetected is not the same as powerless.”

“‘What does love feel like, your majesty?'”
“‘It’s like music only plays when you’re together. Like the very air tastes of strawberries. And like one touch-one look-could send you whirling like a seed on the wind.'”

“‘And when he looks at her- have you seen it?'”
“‘It’s like his gaze is a nod. As if he agrees not only with everything she says but with everything she is.'”

SO BEAUTIFUL, AM I RIGHT?!

Another very cool thing in this book is that it describes how the Devonshire Manuscript came to exist. The semester after I read this, we actually studied the Manuscript in class and it was so amazing to see history and fiction combine. I highly recommend looking into the Devonshire Manuscript whether you read this book or not.

What I Didn’t Like: In the first few pages, Mary spends a whole paragraph describing her surroundings, and ends it with “My eyes never left him.” Sure, Mary. You just have all-encompassing peripheral vision. I had to put down the book for a little bit after that, but thankfully it got much better. It really took my breath away, and I grabbed Tarnish (Longshore’s book from Anne Boleyn’s perspective) as soon as I could afford it.

Ratings and Recommendations: Good for anyone that loves historical fiction, Henry VIII, Tudor court, or seeing history through the eyes of a young girl and her friends.

2. Loved It

Final Thoughts: I’m really excited to read more of Longshore’s work and see how she uses real events to bring history to life.

Sound off in the comments: Have you read this book? What did you think? What’s your favorite setting for historical fiction? Let me know!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Historical Settings I Love

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the wondrous women over at The Broke and The Bookish. Thanks, y’all!

I LOVE THIS TOPIC. I LOVE HISTORICAL FICTION SO MUCH, Y’ALL. HERE WE GO.

Tudor and Henry VIII

These are so good, y’all. I know a lot of people think this time period is way over done, but I’ll never get enough. Ever.

Titanic

SO FASCINATING. The high school I went to is doing a play about it (The Last Lifeboat) and I cannot wait.

WWII

Isn’t everyone totally into this time period? I feel like some of the most popular HF books I hear about are set in WWII. Such an unbelievable event.

Salem Witch Trials

Another super weird time period I can’t get enough of. I’m currently reading Conversion by Katherine Howe, which switches between witch trials and modern day.

Roaring Twenties

I owe my love of this era to my bestie, who is totally obsessed. And after Gatsby, I couldn’t go back. Too awesome. Too influential.

Early 1900's

I’m thinking mostly of The Luxe books by Anna Godberson, which is one of my favorite HF series. (She also wrote the Bright Young Things series for those who agree on the 20’s love).

Arthurian

Maybe it’s because I just finished rewatching Merlin, but give me all of these books.

Pirates

I AM SO INTO PIRATES RIGHT NOW, Y’ALL. PLEASE REC BOOKS TO ME.

Shakespearean

I can’t think of any books I’ve read in this period in a while, but I’m always up for book recs!

Austen and Regency

I just love Jane Austen so much. I want everything set in the Regency period please.

Sound off in the comments: What settings/time periods/eras do you love most? Do we have any in common? Or do we totally disagree? Let me know!

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Book Review and Author Interview: ’89 Walls by Katie Pierson

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Info: 264 pages, paperback, YA historical fiction, published June 5, 2015

Synopsis: College is not in the cards for Seth. He spends his minimum wage on groceries and fakes happiness to distract his mom from the MS they both know will kill her. It’s agony to carry around a frayed love note for a girl who’s both out of his league and beneath his dignity.

Quinn’s finishing high school on top. But that cynical, liberal guy in her social studies class makes her doubt her old assumptions. Challenging the rules now, though, would a) squander her last summer at home, b) antagonize her conservative dad, and c) make her a hypocrite.

Seth and Quinn’s passionate new romance takes them both by surprise. They keep it a secret: it’s too early to make plans and too late not to care. But it’s 1989. As politics suddenly get personal, they find themselves fighting bare-fisted for their beliefs—and each other—in the clear light of day.

Why I Chose This Book: I had the opportunity to review this book in exchange for a copy of the book, and I jumped at the chance. I’ll get into part of why I was excited for this book in the next section of the review, but I’d never read a book set in the 80’s that delves so deeply into the politics of the time. Since I’ve started getting more involved in politics, this seemed like the perfect book to help me get a sense of another era of change. Also, it being set in 1989 was too tempting for my Taylor Swift loving heart.

First Impressions: HOW CUTE IS THIS COVER?! If I saw this in a bookstore, I would totally pick it up. I NEVER see self-published/indie authors with covers like this. It doesn’t really match the content as much as it could, and it is pretty one-size-fits-all YA romance, but it’s such a ‘me’ cover, and it totally cinched this choice for me. Sidenote: this book is just high-quality. I don’t expect much from indie books in this arena, but the paper was thick and heavy, the binding was tight without breaking, and it just felt good in my hands.

What I Liked: So much! I loved the class in which a large part of the story starts, I loved how the politics and romance never outshine one another, I love all the additional information in the back (glossary, timeline, further reading, bibliography, etc), I loved that it leaned liberal without painting conservatives as villains, I loved how relatable it felt, it was just a good read. I read it on a flight back from my visit to North Dakota, and it didn’t even last the entire 1.5 hour flight. The only time I stopped reading was to cry and stop feeling airsick. SO GOOD.

What I Didn’t Like: One thing that this book made me realize is that kids will always have to try and see how their political views differ/agree with their parents. My sister and I have opposing views on almost everything from our parents, so many of the conversations in the book between Quinn and her parents felt so true. It’s a sucky thing to realize, but that’s how change happens. The kids in this book also grew up with this war, and that’s so relevant to today’s youth. It hurt to read and see how little the world has changed in that arena. Also, this book made me cry and feel things. #Rude.

Ratings and Recommendations: I think this is a book every high school and public library should have available. It teaches recent history in such an organic way, and (nonfictionalized) history is NOT my thing. I suggest this to anyone that is curious about the US and periods of great social change. It’s also just a good romance. 2. Loved It

Final Thoughts: I loved this book. I have already recommended it to a handful of people and I’ll be looking out for more from Katie Pierson.

What I like to do with books I receive for review is get an interview with the author. I love seeing the background of the story, and getting to know these contributors to the book world is a chance I don’t get often. So here’s the interview with the amazingly talented Katie Pierson!!

The first part of the book is largely set in a US Foreign Relations class. Did you have a similar class when you were in high school?

Yes, I had a social studies teacher my senior year who really made me think critically for the first time, and got me hooked on U.S. Foreign Policy. Unlike Mr. Levine, though, he gave tests and was a tough grader. 

One of my favorite aspects of this book was that it presents both sides in their flaws and features. In other media, this is a view increasingly harder to find. Did you have people in your life that helped find this middle ground, or did it come from within?

Like Quinn, I grew up in a prominent Republican family in Lincoln, Nebraska. I understood in those days that being philosophically “small government” meant that you personally showed up to be part of the social safety net through volunteer work, quiet philanthropy and being a good neighbor. I don’t hear this anymore in the GOP. I don’t hear “volunteer and donate.” I hear, “It’s all mine. You can’t have any, and it’s all your fault.” That’s meanness of spirit, not fiscal or social conservatism. Partly, I wrote this book to show what partisan politics used to look like. Writing it also helped me deal with my frustration with the shut-down of meaningful debate during the build up to the Iraq War. Dialogue isn’t just possible but critical in a democracy. I wish we all spent more time trying to figure out what our “adversaries” want and fear rather than trying to score another sound bite.

When I was growing up, Green Day was one of my favorite bands. So seeing both characters go to (and subsequently ignore) one of their early concerts was amazing! What inspired you to include this band and not another?

I wasn’t nearly cool enough to appreciate Green Day as a young adult. I was listening to Madonna and Prince with everyone else. I got hooked on Green Day when they released “Holiday.” My research revealed that they’d been around for decades and I thought mentioning them in the book would be a fun way to make historical fiction relevant to teen readers.

What inspired you to write a novel set in 1989? 

1989 was the summer that changed everything for me. First, on July 3, the Supreme Court’s Webster decision gave states the power to limit abortion access and opening the door for waiting periods, procedural bans, and state-scripted woman shaming. It upheld a Missouri statute that said that human life began at conception and barred the use of public funds for abortion and prohibited abortions at public health facilities. Webster made it okay for states to restrict abortion before the point of viability, and marked the first time in 26 years that the court failed to affirm Roe v. Wade. It set up a system of Jim Crow for women.

At the time I was volunteering as an abortion counselor at the Planned Parenthood affiliate in downtown Philadelphia. This was before the Freedom of Access to Clinics Act. I was already spending every Saturday pushing through hostile, screaming crowds to help my patients get in the building. Webster felt like a huge betrayal. And the Republican Party didn’t put up much of a fuss. That was the point in which I changed parties and thought, maybe those of us who are not privileged white males, need big government to guarantee our basic rights.

The summer of 1989 was also when my dad died. Writing this book let me imagine the adult conversations with him that would have helped me make sense of the huge shifts in the political landscape in the late Eighties.

Quinn’s debates with her family were so relatable! Were they rooted in reality?

Thank you! While nothing in this book’s plot actually happened, the relationship between Quinn and her father are emotionally true for me.

What was the first book you remember reading, and did it impact your life?

The Judy Blume middle grade books made me realize that some of my best friends were in books.

What’s your writing routine? Do you have to listen to certain music or have snacks on hand? Maybe jolly ranchers?

I get up at 6:30 and write for two hours (in total silence, always). I put my kids on the school bus. I work out at the YMCA at 9:00. I write for another two hours. My dog sits on the red sofa behind me all day and stares at my back. I read a section of the Sunday New York Times while eating lunch. (It takes me a week to read the whole paper). Then I write for another two hours before ramping up for after-school craziness and the dinner hour. (Is it me or does literally everyone call my house at 4:00?) I work in my yoga pants and t-shirts, usually with my hair sticking up. I feel extremely lucky to be able to do daily this thing I love. I can’t stress enough how much it helps to be married to a great guy with a job and health insurance.

My go-to snacks are Choco-Love Cherries & Almond dark chocolate bars, and apples with peanut butter.

What advice do you have for blossoming writers?

First, everyone feels like a fraud—it’s not just you. All you have to do is print yourself a business card and put “writer” on it. When you claim the title you are one. Second, I have a quote Ernest Hemingway taped to my desk that says, “The first draft is always shit.” Own it. Don’t set out to win the Printz or the Pulitzer. Set out to write what Anne LaMott calls the “shitty first draft.”

Did you always want to be a writer?

Yes, but I didn’t always know it. In my office jobs I contrived to write whether or not it was in my job description as a fundraiser for the Nebraska Humanities Council or lobbyist for Planned Parenthood. I’ve written a bunch of political commentaries for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and have an actual fan base for my annual holiday letter. But I didn’t claim writing as my vocation until I was in my thirties. Taking a memoir class at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis motivated me to finally put “writer” on my business card.

Lastly, if you could tell the readers of ’89 Walls one thing, what would it be?

You can find out more on my website at http://www.katiepierson.net!

Thank you for having me, Rachel, and for reviewing my book!

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Book Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

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Info: Hardback, 448 pages, Young Adult/Historical Fiction, published January 23, 2014

Synopsis: Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

Why I Chose This Book: I’ve been in a reading rut for a while, and while I was going to read some of the easy contemporary romances on my TBR, this book kept drawing my eye. Finally, I picked it up and read it. I got it for Christmas this last year, and I could have sworn it’s been out forever. But only a little over a year!

First Impressions: I love this cover! Gorgeous. Doesn’t really have to do much with the story, though. Since Vicky’s an artist, I think the cover could have really drawn (ha!) from that to make something other than a Girl in a Big Dress cover. But I’m still a sucker for those, and I’m loving yellow right now.

What I Liked: Um. Everything? This was amazing! Strong feminist message out of its time, a romance, and a girl that won’t give up on her dreams for anything. Yes, please! Plus, I loved that Will not only supported her, but encouraged her. That’s how you date an independent woman, people!

What I Didn’t Like: At first, I didn’t like the love triangle. I thought it was unnecessary. But then I realized the point of it and I was a lot happier.

Ratings and Recommendations: For fans of The Luxe series, The Jewel, historical fiction set in the early 1900’s.

1. New Favorite Alert

Final Thoughts: This is definitely a book that belongs on those ‘books for your daughter to read before she reads Twilight’ lists. It’s so strong, and Vicky really shows how to go after what you want when everything is pitted against you.

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