Favorite Titles Friday & Review: First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

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This week’s installment of Favorite Titles Friday explore the novels of Emily Giffin. I found her books one day when I was perusing the bargain bin at Barnes & Noble and came across Something Borrowed, which I knew was about to be released as a film, so I decided to buy it. I also picked up the other titles in the bargain bin by her, Baby Proof, and Something Blue. They were only $3.99, which made the purchases a no-brainer, in my mind I was practically making money by buying them. I read all three in a matter of days, and then returned to B&N where I purchased the rest of her books and plowed through them as well.
This edition of FTF will also contain my review of her newest book, First Comes Love.

(WARNING: Some Spoilers)
I have previously reviewed Something Blue, but I’ll give you a quick synopsis of Something Borrowed and Something Blue since they are about the same characters, and can give you an idea of the types of stories Emily Giffin is so great at telling. Something Borrowed is about Rachel, the smart, dependable, loyal and always good friend willing to go the extra mile. She is a people pleaser, and known for being her best friend Darcy’s sidekick. The good girl to Darcy’s wild child. They have spent the majority of their lives side by side, accompanied by Rachel’s other best friend Ethan who isn’t exactly Darcy’s biggest fan due to the way she walks all over Rachel. The real trouble begins when Rachel meets Dex on her first day of law school. He’s handsome, charming, and comes from a very wealthy family. She and Dex grow close over the next three years of school, joining each other for late night cram sessions, quizzing one another, and always having a good time together. Although Rachel has feelings beyond friendship for Dex, she never tells him because she doesn’t believe he’d ever go for a girl like her. As the two get together one night to celebrate graduation, it seems as though Dex also shares feelings for Rachel until Darcy shows up and begins to flirt heavily with him. When the idea of Rachel and Dex dating comes up, Rachel quickly dismisses it citing that they’re only friends, which leads Darcy to ask Dex out. Flash forward a few years and Rachel is still single, turning 30, still best friends with Ethan, as well as Darcy even though that she and Dex are now engaged she tries her best to be happy for them. When a wild night out leads to Rachel blurting out to Dex that she had a huge crush on him in law school, it also leads Dex to ask her why she never told him because he felt the same. The two end up beginning an affair behind Darcy’s back, which leads Darcy finding out and vowing to never speak to them again but they are finally able to be together.
In Something Blue, Darcy is reeling from her broken engagement, despite the fact that she had also cheated on Dex and is now pregnant with Dex’s childhood best friend Marcus’s baby. With no one else to turn to when it becomes apparent that Marcus wants nothing to do with being a father, she flees to London where Ethan is now living and working as a writer. Despite them never getting along and Ethan always being the one to call Darcy out on her bad behavior, they find a balance and begin to enjoy living together and Darcy tries to prepare herself for her impending motherhood to twin boys. With Ethan by her side, Darcy begins to build a life for herself and puts her selfish and self serving ways behind her and she and Ethan begin their life together as a family.

There’s a fun thing that Emily does that I love that she’ll mention the name of a character in one of her other books and drop it in like a little easter egg. I’ve always thought it was neat that she did that. She really is such an amazing writer, and she continuously crafts novels that are impossible to put down, so real and human, with universal themes that make every reader feel like, “That could be me.” She is the type of writer that says things about love, marriage, and motherhood that we all feel but feel too ashamed to admit and her readers (including me!) adore her for it. All of her female characters tend to have some similar qualities that I imagine Emily herself possesses, that no matter how hard their story gets, they always find a way to get through it, no matter how badly facing the reality of it will hurt. The whole time you read her books, you really feel like you’re alongside her characters on their journey.

Giffin’s last book before First Comes Love, The One & Only admittedly made me feel uncomfortable at times because of the relationship between the main character, Shea, and Clive Carr aka Coach. Coach’s complicated relationship with his daughter Lucy, Shea’s best friend who has always been more like a sister, stems from the fact that she didn’t share his love for football the way Shea did and still does which causes friction between the two best friends. They all live in the college town of Walker, Texas where football is practically a religion and Coach Carr is king, but when his wife passes away, it causes Shea to reconsider all of her life choices and truly wonder why she made them. She quits her job at Walker and starts writing for the local newspaper, and even starts dating the fictional star of the Dallas Cowboys, but still harbors romantic feelings for Coach Carr, which eventually cause her to end the relationship. Her feelings for Coach Carr start to become mutual, complicating Shea’s life even more as they hide their budding relationship from everyone around them for fear of judgement from their community and most of all, her best friend/his daughter Lucy, who is still dealing with the loss of her mother and finding out that her best friend is dating her father would definitely add to the complicated emotions she is already experiencing. The book explores the dynamic between Shea and Coach Carr and how it changes from hero worship as a kid, to a father-daughter like bond, to a co-working relationship, then finally a romantic connection. I really enjoyed the football aspect of the book since I am an avid LSU fan, and the fact that a woman involved in a football organization actually knows the game instead of just pretending to know to woo a guy. However, I can’t say it was one of my favorite books of hers, but it was still expertly told and well written and an overall interesting story. The story was fun to follow along with and really keeps you interested throughout.

Review: First Comes Love 
First Comes Love, is about the aftermath of one family’s tragedy and how it has effected each of their lives. The Garland Family, the parents and their three children, Daniel, Meredith, and Josie live a happy life. All three children are heading down their own path and things seem to be moving toward happy lives. Then disaster strikes in the form of a car accident that takes the life of Daniel, who was the anchor that held their family together. After his death, each family member handles it differently, and the story picks up 15 years later. Despite the fact that the shock and initial all consuming grief has worn off, Daniel’s death still informs each of their lives. Their parents divorced after his death due to their father’s drinking, and the relationship between the two sisters Josie and Meredith is still just as contentious as it was when they were teenagers. Meredith is married to Nolan, who had been Daniel’s best friend and practically a part of the family but had never been anything to her but her brother’s friend until after Daniel’s death. They began to spend time together and developed a relationship much to the delight of her parents, which led to their marriage and the birth of their daughter, Harper. Meredith is a tightly wound lawyer, who loves her daughter but finds herself wondering if she made the right decision by marrying Nolan. Was she ever in love with him, or was it just the fact that they both shared a bond with Daniel and marrying him felt like the right thing to do?

Josie is a 1st grade teacher, and hasn’t been as lucky in the relationship department. Her best friend and roommate Gabe, who she has a straight and platonic relationship with, has been cause for many boyfriends to be jealous but it was always Gabe who was there for her, and their relationship was more important to her than the problems it caused in her romantic relationships. After having lost Will, the one person she ever truly loved, after a misunderstanding that caused him to dump her, she has practically given up on finding true love. Now, the reality of the life she could have had with Will stares her in the face every day as she teaches his daughter Evie in class, and is forced to interact with Will and his seemingly perfect wife. Josie is 37 and knows her biological clock is ticking, and her prospect of finding a man to share her life with are slim to none, so she decides to take on the role of a single mother and get artificially inseminated. Her family is surprised by her decision but is happy for her, but her sister Meredith thinks this is just another one of Josie’s schemes and finds it ridiculous that she would do such a thing.
Meredith’s marriage starts to experience trouble, and Josie begins the search for a sperm donor. As they both try to sort out their lives, they find out that their differences that have kept them from having the ideal sisterly relationship may be what finally mends their splintered bond. In an honest, real look at the lives of these women who still feel the tragedy of the death of their brother wrapped up in all the decisions they’ve made in their life, Emily Giffin explores how grief, guilt, love, tragedy and the bonds of family can effect a person in the way that only she can. I hate the term “Chick-Lit” which her work is often described as, but she’s one of the best damn writers of it there has ever been and she never shies away from complex stories of characters. I love her books and always look forward to reading them. I recommend her books to any fans of great fiction with strong female characters.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s installment of Favorite Titles Friday and the review of First Comes Love.

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Happy reading,
Erin

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What I’m Thankful For Wednesday!

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Since it’s the day before Thanksgiving I decided to forgo my usual What’s Playing Wednesdays post and give thanks for the things in my life that I have to be grateful for.

No matter what, we all have something to be thankful for. Somewhere, someone out there has it worse than you. I have to remind myself of that fact a lot because I suffer from chronic illness that takes away some of the joy in my life when I’m unable to do the things I want to do because my body won’t allow it. That’s why books have become my refuge, because when I’m stuck in bed because I feel awful, I can escape through the pages of the books I read and I am no longer a person stuck in bed, I am someone on a journey alongside the characters I come to know better with every word I read.
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The above is my favorite quote about books, some people swap out books for travel in this quote, but I honestly believe that you don’t need to travel when you have your choice of books. With a book, you can travel the world without ever leaving your home.

So to begin my list of things I am thankful for, I am first and foremost thankful for the fact that Jesus Christ gave His life so that I can be forgiven for my sins. If you’re not religious and that somehow offends you, please feel free to leave my page and find another book blog to follow because without my relationship with God, I am nothing, and I have nothing. The second thing I am so thankful for is my family: my parents who put up with me no matter how big of a pain in the ass I can be, support me in every aspect of my life, are  do so much for my little family and I and are the most loving grandparents to my baby girl. I’m thankful for my grandparents who live in Indiana that I don’t get to see often enough and wish lived closer: my maternal grandparents Grandma and Grandpa, who have been there for me through some of the toughest times of my life, and had they not taken me in during that time, I wouldn’t have met the love of my life, and I wouldn’t have my daughter. They constantly go out of their way to be a part of my daughter’s life despite the distance and she loves so incredibly much, especially her Papa, because in her opinion he’s the silliest and most fun. (Author’s Note: My Grandma is totally ok with the favoritism my daughter shows toward my Grandpa. In fact, she thinks it the sweetest thing and is thrilled that my little one loves her Papa so much.) My paternal Grandmother, who adores her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and basically raised my dad alone.
I’m thankful for my siblings, all four of them, who have made my life more interesting, fun, and make me feel very loved. Especially my little sister Avarey, who is 16 years old, Autistic, non-verbal, and deaf. She teaches me things about life I wouldn’t have learned in any other way. She and my six year old daughter are so extremely close, and their bond is another thing I’m thankful for. My daughter loves her Nay-Nay (no where close to her real name but she started calling her that when she was 2 and it just stuck). If her Nay-Nay is having a meltdown or a problem getting someone to understand what she needs, it’s my little girl that is the first one to figure out what’s going on, as if they have their own language that allows my daughter to understand her so well. My sister has aides that come to the house and help my mom with my sister ever since my mother’s near-death caused by 3 heart attacks, a quadruple bypass surgery, and a stroke that all happened in a matter of days but miraculously, she has no lasting effects from the stroke. In the almost 5 years since my sister starting requiring aides, we have had a parade of them in and out because we have trouble getting them to stay ( not because of anything my family does, it usually has to do with drama in their lives, or an inability to get to work on time or show up at all, which is hard on my sister because she becomes attached to her aides.) Since we are neighbors with my parents, my daughter spends a lot of time at their house. It’s pretty hilarious and adorable, because with each new aide, my little girl follows my mom around while she explains my sister’s routines, often adding her own commentary, and has no problem telling the aides with a large amount of sass that they aren’t doing something correctly. I know most of that could have been easily summarized, but because it’s such an adorable and unique bond they share, I wanted to really give you guys an idea of how special it is.
I’m also thankful for my partner in love and life, who always makes me feel safe and loved and goes out of his way to help me when I’m feeling  my worst, puts up with my mood swings that occur when I am having a flare, and tries his hardest to be the understanding man I need him to be, and is the wonderful father my daughter deserves. I am most thankful for my daughter, who is the reason I wake up every day and gives me the love and joy I need to get through the day, is understanding of the fact that mommy can’t always do the things she wants me to be able to do, and has the sweetest little heart of any child I’ve ever known.
I’m thankful for my best friend, who is always there for me, despite the distance. My best friends locally, who have been there for me during a dark period in my life and refuse to let me hide from life when I want to, even if they have to drag me out of my house.
I’m also thankful for this blog, that has been such a wonderful addition to my life, has connected me to people I never thought I’d know, given me a platform to discuss the things I love, and I am SO thankful for the people who read it and continue to make it more successful with every page view. Thank you readers, for being a part of this blog and making it what it has become.

So today and tomorrow, take some time to reflect on what you have to be thankful for and embrace those who make your life better by being in it.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy your time with your loved ones, and eat a ton of good food. And then, when you’re too stuffed to move, pick up a book. 🙂

Happy reading and Happy Thanksgiving,
Erin

 

 

 

Movie Mondays! Book to Screen Adaptations

 

This week’s installment on Movie Mondays comes to us from the brilliant novel and film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. The book and the film are both fun and enjoyable to read/watch, but also eye-opening  and hard to read/watch when the racist practices of the time are told with unflinching honesty. It’s a beautiful story about standing up for what you believe in, no matter what the consequences may be.

The story is told through alternating perspectives of Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, Abilene Clark, and Minnie Jackson. Skeeter has just returned home to Jackson, Mississippi after graduation from the University of Mississippi, and is shocked to learn that the black maid she loved dearly, Constantine, no longer works for her family. Constantine had worked for Skeeter’s family her entire life and had practically raised her, had always been a constant source of comfort when things were difficult between Skeeter and her mother, and Skeeter credited her success to Constantine for always encouraging her dreams and ambitions.
When Skeeter asks her mother where Constantine has gone, she tells her that she had just quit to go live with relatives in Chicago, but Skeeter doesn’t believe her because she and Constantine had been exchanging letters to keep in touch while she had been away at college and she had never mentioned leaving Jackson. During her final months at college, Skeeters letters to Constantine go unanswered and she worries that something has happened to her. Skeeter wants to get the truth from her mother, but due to her mother having cancer, she chooses not to push the subject any further to keep from upsetting her.

Since no one in Skeeter’s family seems to be telling the truth about Constantine, she begins to ask around but no one is willing to tell her anything. Skeeter begins to go about her life, and gets a job at the local newspaper writing the “Miss Merna” domestic cleaning column. Although she knows little about cleaning, she accepts the job, hoping it will be the start of a successful writing career. Skeeter’s mother is disapproving of her decision to get a job for the paper, and doesn’t believe her time spent at college was anything to be proud of, because she thinks that Skeeter should be married and have children by now instead of chasing a career, which causes a lot of contention between them.

Later, while attending her Junior League bridge club, she reunites with her friends Hilly Holbrook, the queen bee amongst the women in the Junior League, and Elizabeth Leefolt and the other members of the Junior League she hasn’t seen much since leaving for college. As they play bridge and chat, Aibilene, Elizabeth’s maid, overhears a conversation between Hilly and the other sabout her idea of building outhouses for the negro maids to use because she believes that the maids carry different diseases than they do and it is unsanitary to share a bathroom with them. Skeeter is embarrassed and ashamed of her friends, and later apologizes to Aibilene for the fact that she had to overhear their conversation. She also asks Elizabeth if she would be able to ask Aibilene for her help with the Miss Merna column since she doesn’t know much at all about housekeeping. Elizabeth reluctantly agrees, citing that it’s alright with her as long as it doesn’t interfere with her duties as a maid.
After hearing about Hilly’s plan to submit her “Home Health Sanitation Proposal” as Skeeter and Aibilene are working on the column, Skeeters asks Aibilene if she would be willing to tell her story of what it’s like to be a maid in Jackson, and how she is treated by her employers. Aibilene says no, and is adamant about not doing so because doing such a thing would surely get her into trouble. Skeeter tries to tell her it would be anonymous and wouldn’t cause her any danger, but they are interrupted by Elizabeth and her husband and Skeeter leaves, but not without asking Aibilene to think about her proposal.
Aibilene continues to consider Skeeter’s offer, and thinks about the fact that her son Treelore had wanted to be a writer prior to dying in an accident. She is finally decides to help Skeeter, but is still nervous about the prospect of being caught so they only meet at night at Aibilene’s house. As they work one evening, Minnie, Aibilene’s best friend and the maid for Hilly Holbrook, walks in on them sitting together writing and tells them they’re both crazy and just asking for trouble and leaves hastily. Moments later, she returns and says she will help as long as Skeeter is in this for the right reasons and will write her story exactly as she tells it. They spend the entire night talking, and by morning, Minnie takes it upon herself to find more maids to join them in telling their story of how life as a negro maid in Jackson really is.
Minnie has no luck recruiting more maids, but they continue about their lives during the day keep writing at night. After Hilly Holbrook unfairly sends her maid to jail, most of the town’s maids come forward to tell their stories, much to the delight of Skeeter, Aibilene, and Minnie. Skeeter may actually be able to get the book published now that Elaine Stein, the publisher who is interested in her book, knows that they have enough maids to tell their stories to fill an entire book.

The main difference between the book and movie is the way they handle situation with Constantine being fired because of her daughter Rachel after Mrs. Phelan was pressured to do so by the women she is entertaining and trying to impress. The book’s story is one that’s more heartbreaking, and you should read for yourself because I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone. Despite that, the adaptation was an excellent representation of the book and a great movie in general.

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Happy reading,
Erin

 

 

 

Favorite Titles Fridays!

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This week’s installment of Favorite Titles Friday comes to you courtesy of John Green and his amazing Young Adult novels. I honestly believe he is one of the greatest YA novelists of our time, because his understanding of the teen years that end up defining us as adults is an honest and real portrayal of the way teens feel and think. When you fall in love at 16, or your get your heartbroken, it feels as though your entire world has been turned upside down and John Green’s characters share a universal quality that we can all relate to.
I think most would assume my favorite book of his is “The Fault In Our Stars,” because it truly is an amazing novel that was turned into an amazing film, but my favorite is “Looking For Alaska.” The raw emotion that book evokes in the reader hits you like a gut punch. One of my favorite quotes I’ve ever read in a book is one from Looking For Alaska, I loved so much I even took the quote and wrote a song around it. (I’ll share it someday)
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It’s not the full quote that gets me, it’s the last bit. “If people were rain, I was a drizzle and she was a hurricane.” It almost even sounds like a song lyric. It’s truly a beautiful and accurate description of the characters. I was really upset when I found out that there were people who didn’t think this book was appropriate for high-schoolers and tried to have it banned due to the profanity, underage drinking, and sexually explicit scenes in the book.
My retort to that is: Parents, if you don’t think your high school aged children don’t curse, drink or party or whatever, and don’t have sex…you’re kidding yourself. Of course, I am ten years removed from being in high school, so I’m not exactly the best source of information on this topic, but with social media and the popularity of hookup culture in our society (which is gross, I’m sorry, but it is) this book is tame compared to what teens these days are actually doing.

Anyway, back to Looking for Alaska. The book is about a teenager named Miles Halter, a kid obsessed with the last words ever spoken by famous people, who decides to leave his hometown in Florida to attend Culver Creek Prepatory High school in Alabama. (Fun fact: Desi Arnaz, famously known for playing Ricky Ricardo on the famous sitcom I Love Lucy, spoke his last words to Lucille Ball over the phone. Although they had been divorced for a while by then and had both remarried, his last words were: “I love you, Lucy.” He died less than an hour later.) Inspired by the last words of Francois Rabelais’s last words: “I go to seek a great perhaps,” Miles believes that he will find what he feels is missing in his life during his junior year at his new school. He becomes fast friends with his roommate, Chip Martin, who is inexplicably nick-named “The Colonel.” He gives Miles a nick-name of his own, Pudge, meant to be ironic since Miles is tall and thin, and introduces him to his friends Takumi, and a beautiful girl named Alaska Young. When Miles shares with his friends his obsession with the last words of famous people, Alaska offers him the last words of Simon Bolivar, a Venezuelan leader: “Damn it. How will I ever make it out of this labyrinth?” Upon discussing this, Alaska makes a deal with Pudge that if he can figure out what the labyrinth’s significance is in Bolivar’s last words, she will help him find a girlfriend. Pudge develops a pretty huge crush on Alaska, and becomes infatuated with her.
On Pudge’s first night at Culver, he is forcibly taken from his room by a group of students known as the “Weekday Warriors” and thrown into a lake because they believe that The Colonel and his friends were responsible for getting their friend expelled. The Colonel and his friends take up for Miles, citing that one of their friends had also been expelled.
After the drama of his first night, Pudge settles into is life at his new school with his new friends and is even set up on a date, which ends up being a disaster of epic proportions. Pudge begins to really fall in love with Alaska, but also finds her extremely complicated due to her sometimes rash behavior, which makes her all the more mysterious and intriguing to Pudge.
Pudge continues to spend all of his free time with his friends, and even begins to date a girl named Lara although he’s truly in love with Alaska. Despite having a girlfriend, Pudge and Alaska continue to grow closer and learn more about each other. The more he learns about Alaska, the more her behavior makes sense to him until one night, Alaska begins to become hysterical and leaves in a rush. After that night, none of them will ever be the same and the group is left reeling and unable to deal with the heaviness of their emotions. Pudge especially is left destroyed by that night’s events, and becomes obsessed with the idea that if he can figure out what he determines to be clues, that he will reveal the truth behind what happened. But the more he tries, the more he remains perplexed and frustrated, and he is left with realizing that some things in life just happen for no reason and some people just can’t be saved.

This book is one that stays with you long after you’ve finished it, and is beautifully written. I love the way John Green takes on a story and doesn’t try and sugarcoat what being a teenager is like. I love all his books, but this one is my favorite and if you haven’t read it, you absolutely should.

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Happy reading,
Erin

What’s Playing Wednesdays!

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Oh, music. The delightful combination of lyrics and melodies that are able to capture emotions, take you back to a time gone by, break your heart, and then mend it back together. To me, music and books are very similar. Music, or songs to be exact, are just stories told through listening. Even songs without words tell a story, evoke emotion, and take you on a journey. Songs, much like books, can be interpreted in any number of ways by the listener. As a songwriter myself, people often ask me, “Who/what did you write that song about?” I never like to answer that question, because the story it tells the the individual listening to it isn’t up to me. I put it out in the world and let the listener take it and decide what it’s about. It’s truly one of the things I find most beautiful about music.

Now, I’ll stop waxing poetic about the beauty of music and get on with sharing with you some of my favorite songs. My taste in music is all over the place. That, I thank my parents for, because they instilled a love of music in me from birth. I am trying to do the same with my daughter, and I think she’s catching on. For example, her favorite songs at the moment are anything by Adele, Tear In My Heart by Twenty-one Pilots, Blame It On The Boogie by The Jackson 5, Shut Up And Dance With Me by Walk The Moon, and Cool Ya (Nobody Loves You Like I Do) by Andrew Ripp. She is not the most pleasant child to wake up in the morning, so I have taken to putting on a song she likes which literally makes her jump out of bed and start dancing. It’s a pretty effective system.
Last week I shared with you some of the mainstays on my playlists, this week I plan to share with you some of the more obscure items in my music library.

  1. You Ain’t Alone by The Alabama Shakes: I love this band. Their music is so incredibly soulful and is reminiscent of a musical era gone by. This song’s message is beautiful and just amazing.
    You Ain’t Alone (Live in Sydney)
  2. Running If You Call My Name by HAIM: I love this song, and this version is absolutely gorgeous. I love all their music, so it’s hard to choose one song of theirs but this performance in particular really shows what’s so unique and special about HAIM.
    Running If You Call Me Name (Live in Studio)
  3. Stars by Grace Potter And The Nocturnals: I had the pleasure of meeting Grace Potter when she was first starting out because we shared a manager at the time, and I heard her play in a famous recording studio I can’t remember the name of for the life of me and was absolutely blown away by her. Her voice is seriously one of the best I’ve ever heard. I picked this song because it’s special to me, but I love all her music especially a little known song of hers called Deliverance Road. I can’t find a live version of her singing it, but trust me, it’s amazing.
    Grace Potter And The Nocturnals – Stars (Live Acoustic)
  4. Savior and Just Enough by Andrew Ripp: Andrew Ripp is another musician I was lucky enough to meet and open for while I was in California. I couldn’t decide between these two songs, so here you go. He’s so incredibly talented and so underrated it’s almost criminal.
    Savior – (Live Acoustic)
    Just Enough feat. Charlene Marie (Live Acoustic)
  5. Ain’t No Reason by Brett Dennen: Brett Dennen has such a unique and beautiful voice and his music is just great.
    Ain’t No Reason – (Live Acoustic)
  6. All Hail The Heartbreaker by The Spill Canvas: My little emo heart loves this song.
    All Hail The Heartbreaker – Audio Only
  7. Remember To Breathe by Dashboard Confessional: Speaking of my little emo heart, Dashboard Confessional was the soundtrack of my teenage angst and I still love Chris Carrabba and his new venture Twin Forks but will always prefer his acoustic emo songs.
    Remember To Breathe (Live MTV Unplugged)
  8. Flowered Dresses by Slaid Cleaves: Just a pretty song I found randomly and have always enjoyed.
    Flowered Dresses – (Audio Only)
  9. Rain by Patty Griffin: A beautiful, heartfelt song, by an amazing singer/songwriter.
    Rain – (Live – Audio Only)
  10. Marry You by Tristan Prettyman: I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her live a few times, and she’s amazing. This version, you can hear the hurt and heartbreak in her voice and it’s beautiful.
    Marry You – (Live- One Mic One Take)

Hope you enjoyed this week’s installment of What’s Playing Wednesdays!
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Happy reading and listening,

Erin

 

 

Review: Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

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Let me just start by saying that reading this book is one heck of an emotional rollercoaster.  Helen Callaghan crafted an interesting, compelling, and surprising mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end. My jaw is sore from it dropping so many times at the twists and turns the story takes! (Ok, not really, but you get what I’m saying.)

Margot Lewis is a high school teacher who also writes an advice column called “Dear Amy” for her local newspaper, The Examiner. She’s struggling with the ongoing divorce with her soon-to-be ex-husband, Eddy, who cheated on her with his boss Arabella and continues to toy with her emotions. Despite the hurt caused by Eddy’s betrayal, she tries to throw herself into her work and try be as nonchalant as possible about the fact that she will soon be a nearly middle-aged divorcee. She has bigger things to worry about in her life, such as the disappearance of one of her students, fifteen year-old Katie Browne. The cops have deemed her a runaway and aren’t investigating her disappearance, which troubles Margot deeply.
One evening as she is going through her newest batch of “Dear Amy” letters for her column, she finds a letter with no return address and opens it to reveal a letter written in childish script from someone claiming to be a girl who disappeared nearly twenty years ago and has long been assumed to be dead, Bethan Avery. Whoever wrote the letter claims she is being held prisoner in a basement and needs help because she fears her captor is going to kill her, and pleads for someone to find her. Feeling shaken by the letter, she assumes that the letter is just some sick prank. There is no way this could be a real letter from Bethan, how would she be able to send a letter if she were being held prisoner as she describes? Margot dismisses the letter and goes about her life until a second letter arrives, which leads her even more shaken and confused.
All she knows about Bethan Avery is that she disappeared after visiting her grandmother, who was also her guardian after her mother had run off, in the hospital. After she disappeared, her grandmother died, and it was discovered that her grandmother had not just slipped on ice and hit her head like the police initially assumed, she had been beaten to death. Margot decides to look deeper into the details of Bethan’s kidnapping and assumed murder. She finds little on the internet, so turns to the local library and finds more information about the case and learns more about Bethan Avery. In one of the books she finds pictures of Bethan’s diary pages, which is written in the same childish script that the letters are written in. Feeling shocked, she immediately decides to take the letters to the police, who basically laugh her off and don’t take her seriously whatsoever. However, soon after her visit to the police, she receives an e-mail from a senior criminologist named Martin Forrester who had found out about the letters, and asks Margot if she’d meet with him to discuss them. She agrees, and the two meet up a few days later. As they discuss the letters, Martin tells Margot that they believe that the Bethan Avery case and the recent disappearance of Katie Browne are connected, as well as a string of other disappearances and murders that all seemed to have they same MO. The girls were all similar looking, around the same age, and there were many more similarities that had initially been overlooked until Martin and his team of investigators started to recognize a pattern. Margot is stunned, and wondering why whoever is writing these letters chose to send them to her. As she works closer with Martin and the investigation reveals more evidence, it’s clear that whoever may murdered Bethan Avery is the same person who is responsible for the disappearance of Katie Browne, and her life depends on their ability to find her captor. Due to Margot’s dark past, being involved in the investigation begins to bring up long buried memories that deeply trouble her. She remains involved in the investigation, but as certain things come to light, it becomes obvious that the letter being sent to her was no accident and she may have more to do with the Bethan Avery case than she ever imagined. The closer she and Martin come to finding more clues, the more troubled Margot becomes, and it’s clear that she may also be in danger. The more entangled Margot becomes in the case and certain details come to light, her life is turned upside down, causing her to question everything she knows about herself and she is unaware of just how much danger she is in.

That’s all the information I want to give away because this book is so juicy with twists and turns and crazy plot twists that become more and more shocking as you read on. Helen Callaghan has a real talent for keeping you guessing until the last page, and this book was impossible to put down. It is so cleverly written, and the characters become more interesting the more you find out about them. The story is filled with suspense, mystery, and plot twists that never disappoint. I fully recommend this book to all fans of mystery and thrillers.

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Happy reading,
Erin

 

Movie Mondays: Book to Screen Adaptations!

This week’s installment of Movie Mondays: Book to Screen Adaptations is about one of my personal favorites, The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

This adaptation ranks among one of the greatest ever made in my humble opinion. When the book was first released in 1999, it was met with a generally positive response due to the themes of the book that resonated with every person’s high school experience to some degree. However, since the book tackles dark themes like molestation and childhood sexual abuse, rape, domestic abuse, drug use, homosexuality and homophobia, violence, alcohol consumption by minors, sexually explicit scenes, and frequent use of what some deem as offensive language, many critics of the book thought it should be banned because it was considered too controversial for young readers. The author frequently stated that he didn’t write it to be controversial. He wrote the book to reflect the very real experiences that teenagers go through during their high school career and he wanted the book to be an honest portrayal of the life of a teenager in the early ’90s, the time period in which the book is set. Despite the negative backlash, the book has remained a fixture among the most read books in the Young Adult fiction genre. It has drawn comparisons to J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher In The Rye,” but I personally believe this book is a much more realistic, honest, and human view of teenage life. The main character is a much more likable protagonist, and his naiveté and innocence make his story a much more compelling read. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of Catcher In The Rye, and have never seen it as the genius work of literature so many people believe it to be. I know that’s an unpopular opinion, but I found myself unable to connect with Holden Caulfield on any level, and just don’t care for the book overall. Moving on…

The book’s main character, Charlie Kelmeckis, suffers from mental illness stemming from childhood trauma surrounding the death of his favorite Aunt (Aunt Helen). His only friend, Michael, had just committed suicide the year before, leaving Charlie feeling alone and wishing that he had a friend. The book is written in the form of letters from Charlie to an unknown recipient who is never revealed, only ever described as someone who was nice and wouldn’t judge him or think he was weird because he had spent time in a mental hospital. Charlie begins each letter with “Dear friend” and explains to this person that he is unpopular and doesn’t have any friends, and he hopes that he can make some by trying to be more outgoing despite his introverted nature and overall shy demeanor.
As Charlie begins high school, he finds himself feeling alone but is determined not to let his shyness get in the way of trying to make friends. Charlie’s passion for reading and talent for writing catches the attention of his English teacher, Mr. Anderson, who begins to give Charlie extra books to read outside of class and decides to try and mentor him and encourages his writing. During shop class, Charlie notices a senior named Patrick who is in a class with all freshman because he has failed the class three times before, and later when he sees Patrick at the school’s football game, he introduces himself to Patrick and is delighted when he’s invited to sit with him. He is soon introduced to Sam, Patrick’s step-sister, who Charlie is immediately enamored with. After the football game Sam and Patrick invite Charlie along to the popular hangout Kings, and the three begin a friendship. As Charlie walks into his home that night, he witnesses his sister Candace being slapped across the face by her boyfriend who everyone calls “Ponytail Derek,” and after Derek leaves, Charlie confronts Candace. She pleads with him to not tell anyone, especially their parents, but Charlie is deeply disturbed by what he saw and fears that his sister will become the victim of the type of abusive relationships his Aunt Helen suffered through most of her life. He shares his fear with Candace, but she dismisses his worries and promises it won’t happen again and that she’s not like Aunt Helen.
Soon after that incident, Charlie attends the Homecoming dance, and has a great time dancing with Patrick and Sam. After the dance, Charlie is invited to come with them to a party where he unknowingly eats weed-laced brownies and becomes very stoned. When Sam discovers Charlie in his stoned state, she asks Charlie if he’s ok, to which he replies that he really wants a milkshake, giving everyone around him a good laugh. Sam brings Charlie into the kitchen and makes him a milkshake, and as she does so, Charlie tells Sam about his friend Michael committing suicide and that he has no friends other than Sam and Patrick. Sam is saddened by this information, and tells Patrick about their conversation, which leads Patrick to lead everyone in a toast to their new friend Charlie, the wallflower. From them on, he spends all of his free time with Sam, Patrick, and their group of friends who have accepted Charlie into their clique. He learns a lot about his new friends, particularly Sam and Patrick. Patrick, who is openly gay, has a relationship with Brad, an extremely closeted gay member of the football team who only sees Patrick in secret and ignores him at all costs when they’re in public. He also learns about Sam’s past and her reputation for being easy due to her low self esteem leading to her to drink heavily and engage in sex with older  boys when she was a freshman, but she’s much different now and has a boyfriend who is in college but doesn’t always treat her well, much to Charlie’s dismay. As the school year continues, Charlie goes through a series of events that eventually lead him to have a mental breakdown, leading him to be admitted to a mental hospital. The story ends as Charlie is released from the hospital and is reunited with Sam and Patrick and with Charlie having a much brighter outlook on life.

Now that we’ve gone over what the story is about, let’s talk about the movie adaptation. The main thing that made it so good was that the author, Stephen Chbosky, wrote the screenplay and had creative control over the movie as a whole. He chose the absolute perfect cast, Logan Lerman as Charlie, Emma Watson as Sam, and Ezra Miller as Patrick, and other great actors that were a perfect fit for their characters. Logan Lerman’s performance as Charlie was so well done, portraying his shy nature, extreme vulnerability and sweet and loving demeanor, as well as the darkness that lies just beneath the surface was absolutely amazing. If you’ve seen Lerman in his other roles or in interviews, he really transformed into Charlie, leaving no recognizable trace of himself. The same can be said about Ezra Miller, who was previously known for his role as Kevin in the movie “We Need To Talk About Kevin” (which is actually next week’s Movie Monday!) where he played a homicidal teenager in an incredibly dark role that he played so well to the point of it being eerie. Emma Watson, known to the world as Hermoine from Harry Potter, completely shed her previous role and her English accent to play an American teenager, perfectly playing Sam’s vulnerability and emotional turmoil, making it so completely believable. The rest of the cast also dug deep into their roles and played them perfectly.

There are a few differences between the book and movie, but the story didn’t suffer for it. Chbosky decided to take out the chain smoking the characters indulge in, and took out the fact that Charlie told Mr. Anderson about his sister being in an abusive relationship which Mr. Anderson felt compelled to tell their parents, causing a rift between Charlie and Candace. He also left out the fact that Candace became pregnant with Derek’s baby, and she only told Charlie because she needed someone to take her to get an abortion and she knew Charlie wouldn’t tell anyone. Aside from those and a few minor changes, the movie was exactly like the book, and the cast could not have been more perfect. Although the movie is technically set in the early nineties, it felt as though it could have been set in current times, or any time before or after due to the universal messages of the story.
It is a great book, and also a great film and I fully recommend both of them if you haven’t seen/read it already.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s Movie Monday and feel free to comment or subscribe below.
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Coming up: review of Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan!

Happy reading,

Erin

 

Favorite Titles Fridays!

This week’s installment of Favorite Titles Fridays are two books by Wally Lamb that had an incredible impact on me and my love for literature. I first read She’s Come Undone when I was 16, and was blown away by the way Wally Lamb is able to tell a story and the depth of his characters. The unflinching way he is able to write his characters on such a human level, and never shying away from even the ugliest realities of life are what sets him apart from his peers. I recently reviewed his latest release, I’ll Take You There, and he never ceases to amaze me with his undeniable talent for story-telling.

She’s Come Undone follows the main character, Dolores Price, along her journey of a traumatic childhood that leads her to find a comfort in food that she hasn’t experienced through anything else. Her overeating causes her to become morbidly obese by the age of 17, and after the loss of her mother she goes to college in Pennsylvania where she is constantly ridiculed for her weight and deeply unhappy. She develops an obsession with Dante, the long distance boyfriend of her roommate and builds up a fantasy in her head that if she were thinner and prettier that he would love her. Dolores becomes severely depressed, and attempts suicide by trying to drown herself. She is committed to a psychiatric facility, where she spends years trying to work through her issues, and also manages to lose over 100 pounds. She becomes frustrated with her lack of progress in her therapy, and decides to leave the mental hospital and move to Vermont, where she has found that her former obsession Dante lives and works as an English teacher. She gets a job there and moves into an apartment right across from Dante’s, and eventually they begin a relationship. They even get married, but Dante is sometimes cruel and often controlling of Dolores, and when she becomes pregnant, he forces her to get an abortion. After the loss of the baby she desperately wanted, she finally admits to Dante that she had only moved to Vermont to try to be with him and admits that she had been obsessed with him while in college, and that their relationship had all been part of an elaborate plan. She and Dante divorce, and she moves back to her grandmother’s house that she spent many years living in during her unhappy childhood. Dolores inherits the house after her grandmother dies, and after the funeral is able to connect with some friends who she grows very close to, forming a surrogate family that encourages her to find her own happiness. Dolores begins to live her life for herself, finally gains the self-confidence she has long searched for, and finally begins to be happy. She finally finds true love, and finally makes peace with her troubled and traumatic past.

The Hour I First Believed is part fiction and part fact, telling the story of a teacher and his wife who both worked at Columbine High School at the time of one of the deadliest school shootings in history. Caelum Quirk, a 47 year old high school teacher who teaches at Columbine, and his wife Maureen, the school nurse, are happily married and enjoying life in Littleton, Colorado. Caelum is called away just days before the attack to take care of his ailing aunt and must leave town. It is with horror that he hears about the events taking place in his hometown, in his school, and watches helplessly hundreds miles away as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold take the lives of several students, one teacher, as well as their own. Frantic, Caelum isn’t able to get in touch with Maureen because she had been in the library, hiding in a cabinet, and is among the last people to be evacuated. The library had been the epicenter of the attacks, and Maureen is left with horrible PTSD and depression. He comes home to try and comfort his wife, but she is distant and angry with Caelum for not being there. They soon leave Colorado for Caelum’s hometown to find some comfort and safety away from the turmoil that surrounds their little town. When Caelum and Maureen arrive in Three Rivers, their marriage is barely holding on, and Maureen is withdrawn and quickly begins to unravel and sink into a darkness that takes over her life. While cleaning out his attic, he finds boxes and boxes of old letters and mementos that trace his family history back to the civil war era to his troublesome childhood. As another tragedy occurs, Caelum must summon all his strength to be there for his wife and puts his own strength to the ultimate test. It’s a beautiful story of love, tragedy, loss, and the strength it takes to rebuild your life from the ruins of tragedy.

I read The Hour I First Believed at a tumultuous time in my life, and it was proof of how literature can help us through the hardest times. It is such an amazing and complex story, dealing with the events of Caelum’s life as it happens, but also diving into the layers of his family’s story, recounting the lives of the family members who impacted his life and making Caelum understand them in a way he had never before, which also leads him to reconcile some of the pain of his past. It is truly an amazing book and I have tried to get everyone I know to read it, but a 1000+ page book is daunting to most people who aren’t bibliophiles and look at a book of that size as a beautiful challenge, meant to engage and  excite us as we go on an adventure along with the characters. So, if you’re looking for a great book to dive into, either of these Wally Lamb books are amazing works of literature and are worth the time they take to read.

I hope this post makes at least one person read one of these books, because they are amazing and deserve to be read.

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Happy reading,
Erin

 

 

What’s Playing Wednesdays!

music-washes-away-from-the-soul-590x295

Since the name of this blog is Books, Music, and All Things Written, I figured it was high time to discuss music. For any readers who do not know, I am a singer/songwriter as well as a bibliophile. You can find my music on iTunes and all other digital music stores. There’s a bunch of songs on my old school MySpace page, and you can listen to the full album plus a few covers there.

Anyway, today I’m going to talk about the 10 songs I can’t stop listening to at the moment. Some of them may be new, some may be classics, because my musical tastes are very eclectic. I grew up with music loving parents, especially my father, who was a disc jockey back in the day and began his career in Lawton, Oklahoma as an on-air DJ at the young age of 12. One of his favorite stories to tell about his time as a disc jockey is the day Carly Simon came into the studio he was working at, and he was so in love with her that he could barely utter a word in her presence. One of the other guys working at the station told Carly Simon this, and she was so flattered, she grabbed my dad’s face and planted a kiss right on his lips. Needless to say, my dad has remained a dedicated Carly Simon fan ever since.

My dad introduced my siblings and I to great music at a young age. He encouraged and supported me whole-heartedly when I wanted to try my hand at being a professional singer/songwriter after I began writing songs and teaching myself how to play guitar. Music runs in my blood. My paternal grandfather was an amazing musician, was a member of the band The Mascots and a handful of other bands, toured with several famous acts, but despite his talent, he never quite made a name for himself, but remained well-respected in the music world until he eventually retired. My dad and I made several trips to Nashville to meet with people with fancy titles at huge record labels, and when nothing came of those meetings, he and I spent six months living in Los Angeles while I recorded an EP and tried to get meetings with people in the music business who could possibly offer me a recording or publishing contract. I got to play at some of the most famous venues in Hollywood, such as: The Viper Room, The Whiskey, The Mint, and The Troubadour. I was also lucky enough to have had the opportunity to play with some amazing musicians. I recorded my EP at Drumroll Studios, owned by Steve Ferrone, one of the founding members of The Average White Band, is currently touring with Tom Petty, has also toured with Eric Clapton, and is one of the coolest guys you could ever meet. My EP was co-produced by John Jones and Steve Postell. John Jones has previously worked with such acts as Duran Duran, and won three Grammys for his work with Celine Dion. Steve Postell is a brilliant musician, having toured with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, John Oates, and worked closely with Jennifer Warnes. John Jones, Steve Postell, and Steve Ferrone were the first people in the music business who really believed in me as a singer and also as a songwriter, and were pivotal in helping me discover my sound. Even though I was only 16 at the time, they treated me like a real musician, listening to my opinions, allowing me to be a part of every step of the recording process, and never let my age get in the way of that.

Alright, enough about me and all the name dropping. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

10 songs I’m in love with at the moment:

  1. Million Reasons by Lady Gaga: This song is beautifully written, and I love the stripped down production, allowing for Gaga’s voice to shine without being overshadowed by being over produced.
    Lady Gaga – Million Reasons live on SNL
  2. Unsteady by X Ambassadors: I was a little late to the party when I discovered this song, but it’s raw, emotional message is evident in the way the song is sang and is just an amazing track.
    X Ambassadors – Unsteady (Live)
  3. When We Were Young by Adele: I feel like this one needs no explanation. Adele can do no wrong and this song is perfect. Fun fact: My daughter and I sing this song every night as I give her a bath, and she gets SO into it that I have to refrain from laughing, because when I’ve laughed before I got in trouble because she thought I was making fun of her.
    Adele- When We Were Young (Live at Church Studios)
  4. Simplethings by Miguel: I was in love with this song the minute I first heard it. Miguel is so incredibly talented, and I feel like this song really showcases that. Below is the remix featuring Chris Brown and Future that I also love. I have had a hard time finding videos of Miguel doing Simplethings live, which I don’t get because it’s SO good.
    Miguel – Simplethings remix feat. Chris Brown & Future
  5. Lights Down Low by MAX feat. gnash: Great song and artists. MAX is a former YouTuber who gained a name for himself by posting covers, and this is one of his first original songs he has released.
    MAX – Lights Down Low feat. gnash
  6. Stay (Rihanna cover) by Thirty Seconds To Mars: It’s rare when a cover is better than the original, but Jared Leto’s vocals on this are amazing and really capture the song’s emotional message. Jared Leto shouldn’t allowed to be THAT beautiful and that talented. It’s unfair to the rest of us mere mortals.
    Thirty Seconds To Mars – Stay (Rihanna Cover) Live
  7. Lady Magic by Ben Taylor: Being the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon, it was impossible for Ben Taylor to be born devoid of musical talent. He has a lot of songs that I love, but this is by far my favorite. It’s unique, cleverly written, and just a really fun song to listen to.
    Ben Taylor – Lady Magic (audio)
  8. Death of Me by Tony Lucca: This is another one of those songs I loved immediately upon hearing. Lucca’s soulful voice and lyrics are amazing. I recommend the acoustic version because I prefer the acoustic version of any song over the produced studio version.
    Tony Lucca – Death Of Me (acoustic live)
  9. 15 by Rilo Kiley: This song is fun to listen to, Jenny Lewis’ amazing voice shines on this track, and pretty much the whole album Under The Blacklight. Pretty much every song on there could be on this list. This isn’t the best live version, but another fun fact: I was actually at this show and it was an amazing and super fun concert. I think you can actually see me in a few of the shots.
    Rico Kiley – 15 (Live at The Republic NOLA)
  10. Last Love Song by ZZ Ward: ZZ ward is an incredible artist, her sound is like a gumbo made up of several genres. This song in particular is beautiful, her voice, the raw emotion she sings wth, and the lyrics make it one of my favorite songs by her.
    ZZ Ward – Last Love Song (live acoustic)

Bonus song: No Diggity by Blackstreet has remained one of my favorite songs ever since I first heard it in third grade after watching them perform it on the Nickelodeon show, “All That.” Below is a cover I found that I just really enjoy.
Anthony Hall – No Diggity (Live Blackstreet Cover)
Ok, actually 2 more bonus songs:
This is another one of those songs I’ve been obsessed since first hearing it as a kid:
Rupert Holmes – Escape (Live) The song starts at 3:28.
And, of course, one of my favorite songs my dad ever introduced me to and frankly one of the best songs ever written:
Don McLean – American Pie This is a really cool live version from 1972, and he sings the whole song and not the radio edit.

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Hope you enjoyed this new weekly installment! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the subject!

Happy listening,

Erin