We Were the Lucky Ones: Q&A with Author Georgia Hunter

February 14, 2017 Historical Fiction 17

We Were the Lucky Ones, Georgia HunterHistorical Fiction
Released February 14, 2017
416 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Author (Publisher: Viking)

I’m thrilled to welcome debut novelist, researcher, and friend, Georgia Hunter, to the blog today! We Were the Lucky Ones has been getting fantastic advance buzz from Publisher’s Weekly, Audible, Penguin Random House, Harper’s Bazaar, and Glamour Magazine and I loved it as well!

This post contains affiliate links.

My Thoughts about We Were the Lucky Ones

World War II “annihilated over 90% of Poland’s Jews and […] all but about 300 of the 30,000 Jews from Radom,” Georgia Hunter’s ancestors’ home. Yet, her entire family survived. We Were the Lucky Ones is based on the story of how they did it.

The Kurc family’s experience during World War II, beginning in Poland and stretching to Siberia, Italy, and Brazil is nothing short of a harrowing odyssey, the outcome of which defies statistics, explanation, and imagination. Despite the many horrific details of their experience, this is a story of hope, inspiration, and true grit.

I’ve historically had a tendency to get bogged down in World War II books, but I never felt that way while reading We Were the Lucky Ones. Hunter did a masterful job at keeping the story moving along, making it feel like a “quick read” in a page-turning sense, even though it’s not a short or light book. Rather than the war itself, the story is more about what life was like during the war for a Polish Jewish family and Hunter’s caring attention to detail made the backdrop come alive. We Were the Lucky Ones would be a fantastic choice for anyone who enjoyed The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

PS – I always love Author’s Notes section in historical fiction…and this one is not to be missed!

Q&A with Georgia Hunter

We Were the Lucky Ones is based on your family’s real-life experience during WWII and you used their real names in the book. What made you decide to make the book fiction?

When I began writing We Were the Lucky Ones, I didn’t have a sense of what the finished product would look like – my goal was simply to convey the story in a way that did my family justice, and that felt less like a history lesson, and more like a novel: visceral and immersive. I wanted readers to understand, through the eyes of the Kurcs, what it meant to be Jewish and on the run during the Second World War.

I thought hard about penning the book as non-fiction, as each of my storylines is based on facts uncovered in oral histories or through outside research. (I did change a couple of names, but only for the sake of clarity.) I realized in early drafts, however, that I’d stuck so closely to what I’d been told in my interviews that my characters came across as a touch too perfect (most of my relatives were depicted to me – rightfully so – as heroes). The Kurcs were courageous, resilient, and ingenious, yes. But they were also human. They were falling in love (even making babies!), and they must have also been confused and angry and at times racked with fear.

And so, I decided in the end to write the book as fiction, in the present tense, allowing myself the creative license to dive deep into my characters’ psyches, imagining to the best of my ability what was running through the Kurcs’ hearts and minds. It’s my hope that in doing so, I was able to bring the story even closer to the truth.

Tell us a little bit about your research and writing. How long did you spend researching the Kurc family story and how long did you spend doing the actual writing?

I began researching my book nine years ago when I set off with a digital voice recorder and an empty notebook to interview a relative in Paris. From there I flew to Rio de Janeiro and across the States, meeting with cousins and friends – anyone with a story to share. My family’s narrative took shape, at first, in the form of a timeline, which I peppered with historical details and color-coded by relative to help keep track of who was where/when.

Where there were gaps in my timeline, I looked to outside resources – to archives, museums, ministries, and magistrates around the world, in hopes of tracking down relevant information.

I began actually writing my book in bits and pieces, and probably sooner than I should have! I’d come home from an interview so excited about a story I’d been told that I’d write it down and save it. By the time I put some serious thought into how the book should unfold, I had dozens of one-off scenes already crafted. Each would make it into the book eventually, but my most productive writing came when I sat down in 2011 to plot an outline and chapter summaries.

Your research involved extensive global travel. What was the most impactful destination you visited?

Great question! Of all of the places I visited in South America and in Europe, I’d have to say my trip to Radom, the city in central Poland where my grandfather was raised, was the most moving. 

My husband and I explored Radom with a guide, a young man named Jakub whom I’d contacted through the city’s Culture Center. Jakub showed us the old Jewish cemetery, which I was shocked to learn was still being restored, as the tombstones had been repurposed by the Nazis for a military airport runway. We visited the apartment building where my family lived, and I got chills running my fingers along a rusted mezuzah still adhered to the cement arched entranceway (only one of two remaining mezuzahs in the entire city, Jakub said).

I left Radom understanding why my great-grandparents had felt at home raising a family there – the city was quaint, livable; I appreciated its understated, small-town vibe. But I couldn’t help but also feel the presence of the 30,000 Jews who had once inhabited the city (a community that was reduced to fewer than 300 by war’s end), who had enjoyed it for what it was before their worlds were shattered.

Reading some of the more gruesome details hit me more than usual knowing they actually happened to a friend’s family. What was it like to learn some of the more horrific things your family went through?

It was tough, as it meant trying to put myself in my relatives’ shoes, imagining what it must have been like to experience the things they did (talk about putting my own “problems” in perspective!). It was also hard because the stories I uncovered in my interviews (e.g., what it was like to lose a sister, or to run through the streets of Warsaw during an uprising, or to give birth to a child in the thick of a Siberian winter) were conveyed with stoicism, the gruesome details glossed over. Even in the first-hand Shoah interviews I had access to, I was amazed at the matter-of-fact manner in which the Kurcs relayed their wartime experiences. It took a great deal of research to capture these stories on paper in a way that felt accurate to what my relatives might have been thinking/feeling at the time.

What was the most mind-blowing thing you learned about your family during the course of your research?

One of the pieces of my family’s narrative that felt the fuzziest going into my research concerned my great-uncle Genek (my grandfather’s older brother). I knew through interviews with his children that Genek had been sent to Siberia, and had ended up fighting for the Allies in the Battle of Monte Casino…but that was it – I had no idea when or why he’d been sent to Siberia, when or why he’d been released, or how he eventually ended up in uniform on Italian soil.

Through the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, I discovered a nine-page, hand-written account of Genek’s, which answered all of these questions, and then some. I was also able, through the Ministry of Defense in the U.K., to track down Genek’s detailed military records, including Medals of Honor he’d never collected. It was a real joy to hand over these discoveries to Genek’s sons.

How has your family reacted to the book?

Thankfully, those who have read an early copy of the book have loved it! I can’t tell you how great that feels. Getting feedback from the family, hearing how much the book has taught them or moved them, has been the most uplifting and gratifying feeling in the world.

What’s the best book you read in 2016?

Hmm…it would have to be a toss up between Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun or Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things (which were released before 2016, but I read them last year and adored them both).

And, your top 3 all-time favorites? I know this is a ridiculously hard question to answer! 

Yes, nearly impossible to answer! I will say, however, that the three books I recommend the most to friends are:

City of Thieves by David Benioff (a WWII survival account based on stories passed down by Benioff’s grandfather – the book unfolds like a film and was an early inspiration for my own novel)

Wonder by R. J. Palacio (a Y/A novel about a young 5th grade boy with a facial deformity, struggling to fit in)

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (insightful, funny, and provocative, for writers and non-writers alike)

What’s the best WWII book you’ve ever read (other than your own, of course)?

Another tough one! But if I had to pick, the one at the very top of my WWII list would be Julie Orringer’s historical novel, The Invisible Bridge. The book is nearly 800 pages long – and for that very reason it took me a while to pick it up – but when I did, I grew so consumed with the fates of Orringer’s characters, and so lost in her gorgeous prose, that I couldn’t put it down.

I see many similarities between Orringer’s protagonist, Andras (who is based on her grandfather), and Addy, my own grandfather, who were both young Jews living in Paris, separated from their families at the start of the Second World War. 

Finally…are you doing any writing now and do you have plans for a second book?

Most of my recent writing has been devoted to interviews and essays in preparation for the launch of We Were the Lucky Ones (Viking is keeping me busy!), so I haven’t had much time to think about book #2. That said I’ve got a running list of ideas that I’ll flush out when the time comes. I’m inspired (as you may have gathered) by stories based on truth, and I love an underdog protagonist – someone faced with terrible odds, whom you can really cheer for, and whose story offers a big-picture understanding of a place or time with which you might be unfamiliar. I just saw the film Lion and left the theater teary-eyed and thinking WOW – now that’s exactly the kind of story I want to write about next.

About Georgia Hunter

Georgia Hunter, We Were the Lucky OnesFor as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to write. I penned my first “novel” when I was four years old, and titled it Charlie Walks the Beast after my father’s recently published sci-fi novel, Softly Walks the Beast. When I was eleven, I pitched an article—an Opinion piece on how I’d spend my last day if the world were about to come to an end—to the local newspaper. Since that debut in the Attleboro Sun Chronicle, my personal essays and photos have been featured in places like the New York Times “Why We Travel,” in travelgirl magazine, and on Equitrekking.com. I’ve also taken on the role of freelance copywriter in the world of adventure travel, crafting marketing materials for outfitters such as Austin Adventures and The Explorer’s Passage.

In 2000, a family reunion opened my eyes to the astounding war stories of my grandfather and his family. Eight years later, armed with a digital voice recorder and a moleskin notebook, I set off to unearth and record my family’s story. I spent nearly a decade traversing the globe, interviewing family and digging up records from every possible source I could think of, eventually piecing together the bones of what would become my novel, We Were the Lucky Ones.

I kept a blog as my research unfolded, which you are welcome to peruse. I’ve also created a list of ancestry search tips, should you consider embarking on a journey to uncover your own roots.

Learn more about Hunter on her Author Website, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Purchase We Were the Lucky Ones from Amazon (affiliate link)!

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (2/13/17)

February 13, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 56

Hosted by The Book Date.

I think I’m getting my reading mojo back! I branched way out of my comfort zone last week with two genres I don’t normally read: psychological thrillers and sci-fi. Both were page turners and set me up nicely to return to something more in my comfort zone. I guess it pays to shake things up sometimes!

Also, my husband and I took a night away from the kids last weekend, which is always much appreciated and provided some good reading time in the hotel spa’s relaxation room.

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Behind Her Eyes, Dark Matter


Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (January 31, 2017)

I’ve been somewhat burned out by the psychological thriller genre and this book reminded me why. And – #WTFthatending is definitely a love it or hate it kind of thing. I’ll be sharing all my thoughts in an upcoming Spoiler Discussion post.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Dark Matter by Black Crouch (July 26, 2016)
This was a library hold that unexpectedly came in…which is proving to be a good way to force myself to read the 2016 Books I Missed (this is the 4th book I’ve read from that list so far). Man, was this a page turner. It was completely out of my usual wheelhouse (I guess it’s technically sci-fi, but in the same accessible way The Martian is) and I had no idea what was going on for awhile, but not one bone in my body wanted to stop turning the pages.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

A Separation, Katie Mitamura


A Separation
 by Katie Kitamura (February 7, 2017)
I’m about 25% through this one and had lowered my expectations after reading some underwhelming Amazon reviews. But, I immediately loved the writing style and tone. I think this one will work for me…despite those haters on Amazon.

Upcoming reading plans…

Everything Belongs to Us, Yoojin Grace Wuertz


Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz (February 28, 2017)
This debut novel about two South Korean women navigating their country’s economic revolution has been recommended for readers of Anthony Marra (author of The Tsar of Love and Techno).

I was reading…

One Year Ago: I was trying desperately to get out of a reading slump.

Two Years Ago: I was reading some just-OK books, but was about to pick up a massive winner!

How was your reading week?

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Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller: Slowly Revealing the Truth of a Marriage

February 9, 2017 Fiction 23

Swimming Lessons, Claire FullerFiction
Released February 7, 2017
356 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Tin House Books)

Headline

Though Swimming Lessons didn’t immediately grab me, its steady revelations about the Coleman marriage and increasing complexity eventually pulled me in.

Plot Summary

Swimming Lessons tells the story of the volatile marriage between famous author Gil Coleman and Ingrid…through letters Ingrid hid in Gil’s books prior to her disappearance and their daughters’ returns home to care for their ailing father.

Why I Read It

Claire Fuller’s debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, was one of my Best Debuts of 2015.

Major Themes

Marriage, family dysfunction, the writer’s life, motherhood, maintaining your identity through motherhood

What I Liked

  • The publisher’s blurb makes Swimming Lessons sound like it will be a mystery, but it’s actually an exploration of a troubled marriage. The “mystery” part of the story is somewhat ancillary and, once I wrapped my head around that, I enjoyed the book much more.
  • Swimming Lessons tackles a topic that is taboo even today and was even more frowned upon in the 70’s when Gil and Ingrid’s story began: not wanting and/or loving motherhood with every cell of your being and the conflicting feelings that come along with that.
  • I truly sunk into the second half of this book. As more layers of the Coleman’s marriage were peeled back, the story’s complexity grew, intriguing me more and more.
  • While not particularly surprising, the ending made sense and fit with the characters in the story, a type of ending that is becoming more and more appealing to me. And, it struck a perfect balance between tidying things up and leaving some questions unresolved / open to interpretation.
  • The potential discussion topics of marriage and motherhood and various interpretations of the ending make Swimming Lessons a compelling choice for book clubs.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Swimming Lessons did not immediately grab me. It’s a book that slowly peels back the layers of a marriage and it took lots of those layers being revealed for me to really get invested in the story.
  • Some of the revelations (yes, they are more revelations than twists) were not surprising, but their inevitability fit with the story.
  • One element of this story has been told before and I kind of rolled my eyes that this particular trope was popping up yet again.
  • I didn’t love Swimming Lessons quite as much as Our Endless Numbered Days…the writing sparkled a tad less and the plot was a touch more predictable.

A Defining Quote

I tried to tell you that I didn’t want it, wasn’t ready, might never be ready, but you put your finger on my lips and said, “Marry me’, and all those plans of creating my own category and giving you up after the summer disappeared like a wisp of sea mist under the relentless energy of your sun.

Good for People Who Like…

Dysfunctional families, marriage, dislikable characters, motherhood, secrets / betrayal, fathers and daughters, character-driven stories, gradual revelations of characters’ backgrounds

Other Books You May Like

Other books that untangle the truth behind a marriage:
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (review)

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (review)

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January 2017 Monthly Round-Up

February 7, 2017 Monthly Round-Ups 18

January 2017 Monthly Round-Up
This post contains affiliate links and I will make a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

January Reading / Life

  • And…we have a very late January round-up! I changed up last week’s posting schedule at the last minute, so the round-up got pushed to this week. I promise there will be better planning next month.
  • My 2017 reading kicked off with a bit of a lackluster month…even though I read 11 books, which is more than I usually finish. Quantity rather than quality in general.
  • I liked many of my 2017 reads (The SleepwalkerThe Most Dangerous Place on Earth, Always Happy Hour, and Swimming Lessons), but none of them completely blew my mind. And, The Futures was just a flat out dud.
  • I read/listened to 3 books from my Ten 2016 Books I Missed list (Imagine Me Gone, Adnan’s Story, and Mothering Sunday) and liked them all. Plus, one was this month’s Best Book of the Month!
  • Two of my audiobooks were misses: The Almost Nearly Perfect People, which I think might have been more successful in book form, and Relentless Spirit (Olympic gold medal swimmer Missy Franklin’s memoir), which just shouldn’t have been written in the first place (at least at this point in her life).
  • I also got all introspective about the state of this blog (here and here) and shared that I’d be trying some new things in the coming months. The first “new thing” is a monthly feature commenting on the Book of the Month Club selections…and sharing which book(s) I would choose. Check out my commentary on the February selections!

Best Book of the Month

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (April 19, 2016)
Fiction, 192 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

February Releases I’m Excited About

A Separation by Katie Kitamura (February 7)
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (February 7)
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (February 14)
The Brain Defense by Kevin Davis (February 28)

Most Popular January Posts

Eight Underrated Gems of 2016
My Most Anticipated DEBUTS of Winter 2017
Ten 2016 Books I Missed

Favorite Posts by Fellow Bloggers

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (2/6/17)

February 6, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 39

Hosted by The Book Date.

I had a great reading week last week with the first 2017 release that really blew me away! I’ve been waiting for this and the particular book that did it came out of left field.

I also had some library holds come in: The Unwinding by George Packer on audio (how am I going to finish an 18 hour audiobook in 2 weeks?!) and Human Acts by Han Kang (which I tried after finishing This Is How It Always Is, but the timing wasn’t right…I may get back to it).

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

This Is How It Always Is, Laurie Frankel


This Is How It Always Is
 by Laurie Frankel (January 24, 2017)

My favorite book of 2017 so far! This story of a family of five boys, the youngest of which knows he wants to be a girl at a very young age, had me feeling every possible emotion. Plus, it’s the best book club selection I’ve come across in a long time. Review to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Behind Her Eyes, Sarah Pinborough


Behind Her Eyes
 by Sarah Pinborough (January 31, 2017)

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a psychological thriller, but I needed something different following This Is How It Always Is and I have to admit the marketing push that’s whipping everyone into a frenzy about the ending has me curious (I’m a total sucker). I’m about 40% in so far and I’m feeling a Spoiler Discussion post coming…
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Desperation Road, Michael Farris Smith


Desperation Road
 by Michael Farris Smith (February 7, 2017)
I just wasn’t into it and didn’t much care where it was going. I can’t even remember anything about it now…even though I only stopped reading it less than a week ago. Bailed at 20%.

Upcoming reading plans…

A carryover from last week:

A Separation, Katie Mitamura


A Separation
 by Katie Kitamura (February 7, 2017)
This might be the Winter 2017 novel I’m most excited about. It’s about an unraveling marriage and Rebecca Schinsky mentioned on Book Riot’s Holiday Recommendations podcast that she was also excited about this one. I don’t have an advance copy, so will have to wait for February 7.

How was your reading week?

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Book of the Month Club February 2017 Selections: What Would I Choose?

February 1, 2017 Book Recommendations 25

Book of the Month Club February 2017 selections

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.


Do you want help choosing from the five Book of the Month Club selections each month?

Welcome to my new monthly feature “Book of the Month Club Selections: What Would I Choose?”! Every month, I’ll provide commentary on the books that are chosen as that month’s Book of the Month Club selections and tell you which book(s) I would choose.

Book of the Month Club February 2017 Selections

Pachinko, Min Jin LeePachinko by Min Jin Lee (Release Date: February 7, 2017)
496 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.32
Selected By: Alexander Chee (author of  The Queen of the Night)

For readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone.

Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

My Thoughts:
I’ve seen this book around (by around, I mean I’ve seen other bloggers I follow mention that they’re interested in reading it), but I haven’t seen that any of them have actually read it yet. It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, mainly due to its length and heavy subject matter (just not what I have the mental space for at the moment).

Update: A little more information about Pachinko from Beth Fish Reads.

The Animators, Kayla Rae WhitakerThe Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker (Released: January 31, 2017)
384 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.18
Selected By: Cynthia Sweeney D’Aprix (author of The Nest)

At a private East Coast college, two young women meet in art class. […] A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, and with the release of their first full-length feature, a fearless look at Mel’s childhood, they stand at the cusp of success. […] When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, threatening their partnership—and hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.

My Thoughts:
Susie at Novel Visits, a blogger who has similar taste to mine, said this debut novel was her favorite book of the year so far and wrote this glowing review. Consequently, I added it to my “must at least try before the end of the year” TBR list.

Update: Here’s one more review from a blogger I follow (52 Books or Bust)…it’s not as positive as Susie’s and will give you a different perspective. Also, Liberty Hardy mentioned on today’s All the Books podcast that this book has a chance to be one of her favorites of the year.

Behind Her Eyes, Sarah PinboroughBehind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (Released: January 31, 2017)
320 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.06
Selected By: Cristina Arreola (Bustle Books Editor)

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. […] As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

My Thoughts:
This twisty psychological thriller has been compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train (seriously, when will publishers get sick of these comparisons?!) and apparently has a controversial ending that people will be talking about. Beth Fish Reads, a blogger I follow, shared these thoughts on it. If you like psychological thrillers and/or want to be a part of the conversation about that ending, this one might be a good choice for you.

Perfect Little World, Kevin WilsonPerfect Little World by Kevin Wilson (Released: January 24, 2017)
352 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.81
Selected By: Maris Kreizman (Book of the Month Club Editorial Director)

When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she’s just about out of options. […] So when Dr. Grind offers her a space in The Infinite Family Project, she accepts. Housed in a spacious compound in Tennessee, she joins nine other couples, all with children the same age as her newborn son, to raise their children as one extended family. Grind’s theory is that the more parental love a child receives, the better off they are.

My Thoughts:
Perfect Little World has gotten starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist and the premise sounds intriguing. Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books, a blogger whose taste I trust implicitly, thinks I would like it. So, it’s joined The Animators on my “must at least try before the end of the year” TBR list.

The Possessions, Sara Flannery MurphyThe Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy (Released: February 7, 2017)
368 Pages
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.82
Selected By: Liberty Hardy (co-host of Book Riot‘s All the Books podcast)

In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances.

My Thoughts:
This is another psychological thriller with the obligatory comparisons to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, BUT is also being compared to Station Eleven (review) and Margaret Atwood, which is definitely a combination I’ve never seen before. Another blogger I follow (Michelle at That’s What She Read) shared her brief thoughts about it on Monday. I’m sort of burned out on psychological thrillers and am generally skeptical of comparisons to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, so I probably wouldn’t choose this one.

Update: Michelle at That’s What She Read has now posted her full review.

What Book of the Month Club February 2017 selection(s) would I choose?

My choices this month would be The Animators and Perfect Little World!

Make your Book of the Month Club selections by Monday, February 6th.

For anyone unfamiliar with Book of the Month Club…

Book of the Month Club is a subscription service for people who like to try new books from a curated selection and like to read in hardcover format. Through Book of the Month Club, you can get a hardcover book for $9.99, which is generally significantly less than you’d pay in a bookstore or through Amazon. And, you get to try something new that has been vetted by one of Book of the Month Club’s well-read judges!

Sign up for any of the subscription plans below and you get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month Club’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge) for $9.99 per month. Book of the Month Club will then mail your chosen book to your house with a cute note. You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want.

Sign up for a 1-month, 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month Book of the Month membership!
(Special February Deal: get a free BOTM tote when you sign up for a 3 month membership)

Book of the Month Club


*All book descriptions are from Goodreads.

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Nose Graze: The Best Web Host for Beginner or Non-Techie WordPress Bloggers

January 31, 2017 Bookish Posts 4

Nose Graze, best host for beginner non-techie bloggers

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission at no cost to you. All opinions are my own.

Though I’ve been a blogger for almost 4 years, I’m decidedly NOT good at the technology side. I’m not particularly interested in it and don’t have the time to really learn all the ins and outs. I don’t know how to code. I (generally) don’t know how to figure out what’s wrong when something on my blog breaks. 

I started this blog because I love to read and talk about books…not fix technology issues or learn to code!

Last year, my blog frequently “broke” (to get technical about it) when I uploaded new versions of WordPress or my plug-ins. I’d spend hours on the phone with my host’s premium WordPress support desk (which I paid extra to have access to) and I’d often get nowhere with my problem. After this happened a few times in a row, I knew I couldn’t continue this way. 

Enter Nose Graze Hosting…

After doing some research, I discovered that Ashley at Nose Graze (yes, the same awesome girl who built the popular Ultimate Book Blogger plug-in) runs a hosting service specifically for people like me that use WordPress! Here’s Ashley’s description of who would be a good fit for her hosting service:

  • You’re a book blogger or author. My service primarily caters to book lovers.
  • You’ve outgrown a free platform and want something more, but you don’t want to have to deal with cPanel and FTP and installer scripts. You want something easy.
  • You hate being responsible for maintaining a website.
  • You don’t like techy stuff.
  • You want someone who will install plugins and themes for you.
  • You want a WordPress expert to turn to if you have any questions.

That last bullet in particular was music to my non-techie ears.

Nose Graze Hosting Pricing

I’ll admit, Nose Graze Hosting at $19.99 a month is more expensive than more basic hosts like Bluehost at $3.95/month (current sale price) or Siteground at $9.95/month (both are recommended hosts if you want lower prices and don’t mind more basic service). But, once I factored in the add-ons I used with my old host (Sitelock security and Premium WordPress tech support), Nose Graze actually ended up being slightly cheaper.

Why Nose Graze Hosting Is Worth the Extra Cost

I migrated to Nose Graze Hosting in April 2016…actually, Ashley did the whole thing for me for a flat fee (and she’ll do it for free if you’re migrating from WordPress.com or Blogger). Since then, I’ve had very few issues with my blog. Ashley updates all my plug-ins for me, so it’s done correctly every time.

On the very few occasions when one plug-in is acting up, Ashley responds to my support requests quickly (sometimes instantaneously) and is always able to fix the issue.

Most recently, I received a notice from my old host about Google’s SSL security initiative with instructions on how to pay them extra for an SSL certificate and installation. I emailed the Nose Graze support desk to ask how I should go about doing this and Ashley responded with this:

You already have one. 🙂 It’s been set up for a while now – you don’t need to do anything. Your site goes to https:// when you visit it and that’s how you know the SSL is there.

That’s what I call top-notch customer service!

She also answers my silly WordPress questions that aren’t technically in her hosting domain and always takes the time to explain the “why” behind the answer…educating me in the process.

For the first time since I started this blog, I feel like someone has my WordPress back…that I’m no longer floating around alone in a lifeboat trying to figure things out myself.

Visit Nose Graze Hosting for more information and to sign up!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission at no cost to you. All opinions are my own.

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (1/30/17)

January 30, 2017 It's Monday! What are you reading? 38

Hosted by The Book Date.

Thanks so much to everyone who shared their thoughts on the state of this blog last week! The basic gist of many of your comments boils down to this:

  • I should create whatever content brings me the most satisfaction (my blog readers be damned…haha!).
  • I have some readers who don’t necessarily share my taste in books, which is interesting. I’m curious what keeps them reading if its’ not the books.
  • Lists and discussion posts are popular (lining up with my pageviews data).
  • Others are struggling with the book review dilemma (i.e. least favorite posts to write and least viewed posts) as well, but no one has really figured out the key to this castle.
  • People seem to be (cautiously?) intrigued by the book recommendations project, which I’ll share more about later.

I’m still mulling over my next steps. But, I’m going to try some different things over the next few months to see what sticks. You might see me occasionally branch out from writing just about books, cut back on (though not eliminate) traditional book reviews, and try some new features.

And, I’d love to hear your feedback whenever you see new content!

This post contains affiliate links.

I finished reading…

Most Dangerous Place on Earth, Lindsey Lee Johnson


The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
 by Lindsey Lee Johnson (January 10, 2017)
This wasn’t the twisty page turner about demented high school students that I expected…it was more about the characters (don’t worry, some of those characters are definitely demented) and the writing was stellar. I preferred it this way.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (February 7, 2017)
Another novel that wasn’t quite what I was expecting. But, I ended up really liking it. I’ll post a review after thinking on it a bit more.

Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Desperation Road, Michael Farris Smith


Desperation Road
 by Michael Farris Smith (February 7, 2017)
I’m only 15% into this Grit Lit novel from the author of 2013’s Rivers. It didn’t grab me immediately, but I also don’t feel like I need to put it down just yet.

Upcoming reading plans…

A Separation, Katie Mitamura


A Separation
 by Katie Kitamura (February 7, 2017)
This might be the Winter 2017 novel I’m most excited about. It’s about an unraveling marriage and Rebecca Schinsky mentioned on Book Riot’s Holiday Recommendations podcast that she was also excited about this one. I don’t have an advance copy, so will have to wait for February 7.

How was your reading week? 

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Read Both: Every Last One and Always Happy Hour

January 26, 2017 Mini Book Reviews 17

Every Last One, Anna QuindlenEvery Last One by Anna Quindlen
Fiction (Released August 13, 2010)
299 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Random House)

Plot Summary: The story of the Latham family – a normal, but not perfect family with teenage children – and the ripple effects of small decisions.

My Thoughts: Catherine at Gilmore Guide recently got me started on Anna Quindlen by recommending Miller’s Valley and then Every Last One…and I cannot thank her enough. Quindlen just gets it…she gets motherhood, marriage, adult female friendship, life with teenagers, and grief (and I’m sure I’ll discover more as I read more of her work)…and that shines through in the “yes, that’s exactly how it is” writing that permeates Every Last One.

A loose end—that’s what we women call it, when we are overwhelmed by the care of small children, the weight of small tasks, a life in which we fall into bed at the end of the day exhausted from being all things to all people.

This is the rare book that combines a booming plot with depth, emotion, and sparkling writing. A central plot point drives the story, but the action really isn’t what this book is about. Quindlen kicks things off with an honest portrayal of a family that isn’t too perfect and isn’t too dysfunctional…they are decidedly average and relatable (I know, a departure from the dysfunctional families I normally love to read about). Mary Beth, the mother, is someone I could see myself being friends with and their three children are characters I recognized clearly from my youth. But then, something unimaginable happens and the book becomes about how regular people deal with inconceivable events. An overarching theme of the constant politeness that society expects…the sometimes cavernous disparity between what society expects people to say vs. what people truthfully feel or want to say…pervades the second half of the story.

Every Last One was not the light read that I expected…it was much better than that and enabled me to finish my 2016 reading (I read this in late December) with a 5 star book.

Always Happy Hour, Mary MillerAlways Happy Hour by Mary Miller
Fiction – Short Stories (Released January 10, 2017)
256 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Liveright)

Plot Summary: A collection of short stories from the perspective of women in bad situations making bad decisions.

My Thoughts: Always Happy Hour is going to be a tough sell because 1) short stories generally are and 2) my descriptions of the book aren’t the kind that generally make hoards of readers run to the bookstore…but, this collection is very, very good if you like dark stories (read between the lines: it isn’t for everyone). Elements of this collection reminded me of two beloved TV shows: Seinfeld because the stories aren’t really about anything, yet they’re about everything (sort of snapshots of life rather than plot-heavy)…and The Office because of the deadpan tone.

This is not my life, or it is not the life I’m supposed to be living, and so I can pretend that it is. I don’t consider the actuality of my situation, which is that every day I live this life it becomes more and more mine, the real one, and the one I’m supposed to be living falls further away; eventually it will be gone forever.

Most of the women in these stories have a defeatist quality about them; life has sort of left them behind. There is a sense of inertia hanging over everything and they can’t seem to take control of their lives. I wanted to shake them many times…but, we’ve all had defeatist moments in our own lives and those moments are the reader’s lifeline to relating to certain aspects of these characters’ lives, if not the overall wholes. There is a sameness to many of the stories and so they ran together in my head a bit, but reading a story a day or so helped, and my two favorites (Little Bear and First Class) came towards the end of the collection. Pick this collection up if you’re a fan of dark, dry humor and gorgeous writing.

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Eight Books Friday Night Lights’ Tami Taylor Would Love

January 24, 2017 Book Lists 25

Books Friday Night Lights Tami Taylor Would Love

 

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you are probably aware of my Friday Night Lights (the TV show, not the movie) obsession by now. My husband makes fun of me because I talk about the characters as if they are real people…and also because I’m still obsessed with them years after the show ended. I 100% own all of the above and this post is a prime example. And, don’t think I’m stopping with Tami; I feel Coach and Riggins (yes, unlikely, but I think I can make it happen) installments brewing down the line.

Eight Books Friday Night Lights’ Tami Taylor Would Love 

Because she focused on her career within the context of her marriage…
 
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (review)
 
Because she was the Dillon High School students’ main source of adult, yet non-judgmental advice…
 
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (mini review)
 
So she could stay informed about the high school sex scene (and counsel Julie appropriately)…
 
Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein
 
Because she counseled Becky on a major life choice…
 
The Mothers by Brit Bennett (mini review)
 
Because she takes kids from terrible home situations under her wing and pushes them to want more…
 
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (mini review)
 
Because she’s a champion for bad@ss ladies and, you know, Texas high school sports…
 
 
Because underneath all her Southern charm, Tami is a feminist at heart…
 
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

Fellow Friday Night Lights fans, what other books do you think Tami Taylor would love?

 

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