Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Heart Sisters: Be the Friend You Want to Have

Source: Amazon.com
Well, the summer months have not ceased to throw stones, so to speak, but there have been moments and events in between the crazy to buoy my spirit and I'm thankful for that. Mostly, it's been fun and conversation with family and close friends that has uplifted me. What would we do without friends? And yet, friendship is a tough topic. If you've been around my blog for a longer period of time, you'll know I've spent the past couple of years seeking wisdom on the making of good, healthy friendships. There's nothing I've longed for more than a couple close friends who know me absolutely and in whose friendship I am confident. I've read and reviewed books of every related topic possible. So, I was very excited when a friend brought the Christian title Heart Sisters, by Natalie Chambers Snapp, to my attention.

Snapp's term Heart Sisters is defined as "the women you want to be around during your own major milestones. They will hold you up when you’re falling but will also rejoice with you when there’s rejoicing to be done." Looking at the Table of Contents alone presents Snapp's book as one that will discuss the hardest things about being a friend and how to handle them in the best way possible. She tackles topics such as:

Handling conflict
Setting boundaries
Digital Etiquette
What Heart Sisters do and don't do

Seems intense, maybe. But think of all the issues and regrets that have popped up in friendships. Plus, Snapp isn't talking about just any friendship, she's talking about the closest of friends. We all have circles of friends, who vary in closeness. Snapp's book refers to that small, intimate grouping of women who "we need to share in our laughter. Sometimes we need a good cry with a sister by our side. Other times, we need her to carry us because we simply don’t think we can put one foot in front of the other on our own. We need Heart Sisters" (emphasis mine).

This is among the best books on friendship I've read, as the advice is applicable to forming all kinds of friendships. I've always dreamed of having close friends, but comparing real life to the movie versions, doubted it was possible. Heart Sisters not only shows close friendship is possible, but gives the healthy, realistic parameters in which to form them. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Begin the Week with Words

Back to quotes for Sunday Sentence! Hope you enjoyed the previous two weeks of change up, though.

I think we are who we are, but the beauty of relationships is that we help each other find those pieces, whether good or bad. And we carry those things we've learned and gained from others with us, making them a part of us.

“ 'Or maybe a person is just made up of a lot of people,' I say. 'Maybe we’re accumulating these new selves all the time.' Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, find our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things." I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hyperbole and a Half...and Erin

Instead of the usual Sunday Sentence quote I do on Sundays, I have a special review today. A year ago I received a special copy of Allie Brosh's book Hyperbole and a Half. The short of it, Brosh started out with a blog, became wildly popular, and started publishing her posts into a book. From what I've read, there's a second book in the works. Brosh's drawings take on a kid-like look and tell stories, her life stories, from child to adulthood. They can be read in sections, so it makes it easy to put down and pick up as needed. Also, just as easy to read straight through in one day! Funny - yes. I totally recommend her blog and book, both by the same name.

But, what's so special about my copy? Its previous owner was my student Erin, who passed away July 19, 2014, just a month after graduating high school. In the memorial post I wrote last year (which shows who Erin was a bit better), I mentioned the last book she ever recommended to me, and probably among the last she ever read, was Hyperbole and a Half. She wanted me to read a specific story from it, which I did before she came back for her book right before graduation.

Just over a month later, the day of her funeral, Erin's parents gave me her copy of Hyperbole and a Half. I can't begin to explain the tumult of emotion. What extreme thoughtfulness at such a horrible time and how much and how deeply it touched my heart that they would think of me and understand what their daughter had meant to me. As a teacher, you typically expect not to see most students again, but it's mitigated by the fact that you know they are out there somewhere and that hopefully you are a forever piece of who they are, no matter how small. Erin was one of those special people who turned this around - she is forever a piece of who I am. I proudly keep this book nearby to recall her smile and energy. Her senior picture sits in the pencil carousel on my school desk, a daily reminder to reach out and make the most of my time with students while I'm blessed with the opportunity.

As for the book? I kept it at my bedside the entire past year, waiting for this July to roll around so I could read it in her memory. I loved it. The truly great part about THIS book being my last memory with Erin is that her personality is all through it. It speaks to her contagious spirit, humor, wit, laughter, and energy. Her love for making life simple and fun.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


OMG! You won't see me using that particular text talk almost ever, but I'm not sure what else to start with in reference to Outlander. The first book in a currently eight book series, Outlander has been raved and reviewed out the wazoo. After so many great reviews and encouragement from those whose choices I hold in high regard, I decided to check it out. It helped that it had two things going for it otherwise: I love reading series and I like big books.

Claire Randall is a field nurse who, at the end of WWII, finds herself back with a husband she's barely spent time with due to the war. Married eight years at that point, Frank and Claire find themselves happy to be together finally. Until one day Claire's walk among a (fictional) Stonehenge-like set of stones wisps her back in time...200 years back, at a time of unrest and soon all out war between the English and Scots...with a man who will become her own unrest, Jamie Fraser. With a setting like that, you know there will be plenty of action. In a culture she doesn't know, in a land of danger, with a blue-eyed stranger, it is a given Claire is about to live through adventures she couldn't even imagine. 

Action isn't all Outlander offers. Suspense plays a big part. But the suspense works best because you care for the characters, who whip up some romance along the way. Action, romance, suspense...reminds me of something. Twilight

Wait...wait...before you close out this page in disgust or jump to buy Outlander in joy of this comparison, let me explain. I am a fan of Twilight. They were fun reads using part of a genre (monsters) that I never read. The Twilight books also used action (though not as much), romance, and suspense. So as I began reading and love interests started forming, I couldn't help but see a parallel. But, I have to say, Outlander is much stronger in all aspects and therefore, the better story. The characters for one, are much stronger people...strong before meeting each other and even better for having been together. Their dependence on each other isn't sissified or obsessive. The action is much more intense, as Claire doesn't understand the culture and consistently finds herself in trouble. The romance is...well, ummm...yea, there's romance and you don't have to wait four books in to find it! (Consider yourself warned, anyone who can't handle steamy scenes.)

I put aside all else, including my Goodreads Challenge goal, to read this chunkster. And I plan on moving straight to the second book, Dragonfly in Amber, in total disregard of that "books read in 2015" goal. Because I just can't wait to see what Jamie and Claire are going to get into next.

Haven't read it yet? What's stopping you?

Jamie Fraser and I on our
date at the B&N in DC

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Three Year Blogiversary

Source: partybox.com
I know, I know, it's Sunday. Where's the quote? Well today is a special day for My Life in Books, so the quote is on hold. (Be warned, same thing is going to happen next Sunday!) So what's the deal? Three years of blogging today. It seems like a long time, yet it doesn't. I never expected I'd make it to three years, I can tell you that! Actually there are a few things I never expected blogging to add to my life.

1. I never expected I'd make it one year, let alone more than one. It seemed so imposing when I started. There are so many bloggers out there. How will I find a place to fit? How will I keep this going? Am I even good enough for this? Etc...you get the picture. Lots of self doubt.

2. I never expected I'd find a whole new community. I mean, look down the right side of my blog. I have a whole list of amazing book loving blogger friends. And that's not even all of them...too many to keep adding! I've talked to these people about books and life. We've exchanged Christmas presents and birthday wishes. As a group we've reached out to another who needed help or was celebrating a big life moment. I've supported them and they've supported me.

3. I never expected this would be useful for work/school. My book knowledge has grown exponentially from more exposure to books and from discussing with others, which in turn gives me more to work with in the classroom. I also realized this time last year that I finally had an audience who would look at my students' book learnings and writings with interest and reply. So, I began posting student work under the headline of "Student Spotlight." I had a specific student for whom the experience was life changing, and for that I thank my readers and responders. Even though it took a little coordination and ended up on the back burner a couple of months last school year, it was a good first try and I look forward to more student publication this year.

4. I never expected I'd personally converse with publishers and authors. I currently have three publishers who will send me anything they have coming out ahead of its publication date. This is really cool to me because it didn't happen automatically, it's a matter of building relationships with them over time through book reviews and other event participation. I've also talked with a number of authors about their writing process and their books I've reviewed. And yes, I've saved every email and screen shot every Twitter discussion with them! It's a dream come true!

5. I never expected book blogging to make me comfortable with myself. I started blogging out of a love for writing and reading and I had no expectations for it at all. I've always been a bookworm, but besides my mom and a couple teachers, I didn't say too much about it. Even as an English teacher, I limited my passion. When I started to make it a more known part of my life, I felt weird and exposed...thinking people would be shaking heads and rolling eyes, rather than loving or appreciating this thing about me. But, with one year down and a solid community cheering me on, a switch flipped and I no longer cared what anyone thought about my hobby. It was bookworm, do or die, and I made it proudly known. I love my mom and teachers for the support that kept me going, and give an ultimate shout out to all of you readers and bloggers who made this huge shift happen in my life without even knowing it.

Here we go year four...what's in store?!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Washington D.C. Barnes & Noble Visit

My family visited Washington D.C. for the first time this past weekend. It was a great weekend seeing all the sites everyone always talks about in person. However, for the purposes of this post, I have to focus on one specific stop: Barnes & Noble. On every vacation, especially in a new city, I visit the local B&N because they are all so different looking inside and out. Plus, what better souvenir than a book?!

With some time to kill before our next stop on Sunday afternoon, I told my husband I found a pic of a cool B&N I wanted to visit in the city. You can tell my husband is used to my weird book requests because he thought nothing of it and off we went. I must've clicked the wrong link on the webpage though, because the GPS took us to one outside the city, closer to our hotel, that was pretty plain and normal looking...nothing against it, but it looked exactly like what I've got at home in Ohio. So I rechecked the Internet page and found the proper link. Without a word or hesitation, my hubby turned around and headed back toward the city.

And it was worth it. I have pictures to prove it.

How great is this sign? (Yes, I made my whole family cross the street just to take this pic and then cross back. None of them thought it weird - I've conditioned them well.)

Unlike where I live, cities like to stack their stores. Everything goes up - has a second story - instead of spreading out on a massive first floor. So how cool is this?! Do you have an escalator in your local B&N? (That's my husband and son coming down...okay with being forced into my madness.)

It was one of the pop culture weeks at B&Ns nationwide and my kids found hola hoops just sitting around and figured they'd give it a spin...or in my son's case, a photobomb.

I passed on the hola hoop in favor of Jamie Fraser. It's like he was just standing there waiting for me, so I had to take advantage of the photo op! I mean, for the love of books, Outlander was sitting in my car at that moment. Impeccable timing Jamie, really. He was more than happy to pose with me. 

And what did I purchase? A bookmark with some of my life's priorities simply spelled out. And, the next book I needed in the Outlander series, of course! I own books 1-3, so book 4 it is. The family each found a book too! Book souvenirs all around - gotta love a family who reads together.

Do you have a common place you always try to visit when you travel?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Begin the Week with Words - Happy 4th of July

My family spent the holiday weekend in Washington DC. We visited a number of museums and war memorials, collecting quite a few quotes along the way. Here they are, in remembrance of history, our nation, and our capital.

First is the Gettysburg Address at the Lincoln Memorial:

Next, a perfect Fourth of July reminder from the Korean War Memorial:

Lastly, the Holocaust Museum, where quotes abounded: