Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Book Review: Why Stuff Matters by Jen Waldo

WHY STUFF MATTERS
by
JEN WALDO
  Sub-genre: Literary Fiction / Humor
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of Publication: June 4, 2019 (US)
Number of Pages: 212


When Jessica, a grieving widow, inherits an antique mall from her mother she also inherits the stallholders, an elderly, amoral, acquisitive, and paranoid collection. 
When one of the vendors, a wily ex-con named Roxy, shoots her ex-husband, she calls on Jessica to help bury the body and soon Jessica is embroiled in cover-ups, lies, and misdirection. Into this mix comes Lizzie, Jessica’s late husband’s twelve-year-old daughter by his first marriage, who’s been dumped on Jessica’s doorstep by the child’s self-absorbed mother and it soon becomes apparent that Lizzie is as obsessed with material possessions as Jessica’s elderly tenants. 
Why Stuff Matters is a compelling ode to possession, why people like things and the curious lengths they will go to keep them. Returning to her fictional Caprock, Waldo turns her wry wit on the lives of those afraid to let go.
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Where do I start with this review? How about I start with this: The main character angers me. She was a horrible person with a back story that makes you sort of feel bad for her, but then she does things that just irk you. Sure, she could have been worse, but still, she's up there. I think that was what kept me interested in reading the book. A couple of chapters in and we see this seemingly heartless person in the beginning take care of her stepchild that was dumped on her by her terrible mother. Their relationship is not the best, but it grows slowly throughout the book. By the end of the story, their relationship is still not where it should be, but it's better. 

Anyways, this book takes place mainly inside a vintage thrift store and I love going through vintage, antique type of stores. I rarely buy anything except jewelry but I like going to see what people have. There are a few I go to that always seem to have the same vendors, have the same things and that's exactly how it is in this book. I never even thought about what people do with other people's stuff when they leave it at a thrift store and how the people act and now I feel like I have gotten way better insight becuase of this book. Why Stuff Matters takes a look at the people you don't think about every day and makes you think twice about crossing a bitter old woman.

The author does a great job at giving each character their own personlity. There are an array of characters to be met in this book and each one as bitter as the next, but they still had their own quirks and their own baggage to hold. With each character, the majority of them have their own booths in the vintage store. The booths, I feel, really represent each person's characteristics and I was happy to read that everyone had their own specialty sale. This particularly so with the urn sales lady. I never thought people sold used urns, but according to this book, there is a market out there. 

Overall, I would recommend this book, no matter how frustrating the characters are. I think it's a great story that looks into a group of people that you never even think about and that is part of why I enjoy reading, you're always learning something new. 





Jen Waldo lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period and has now settled, along with her husband, in Marble Falls, Texas. She first started writing over twenty years ago when, while living in Cairo, she had difficulty locating reading material and realized she’d have to make her own fun. She has since earned an MFA and written a number of novels. Her work has been published in The European and was shortlisted in a competition by Traveler magazine. Old Buildings in North Texas and Why Stuff Matters have been published in the UK by Arcadia Books. Jen’s fiction is set in Northwest Texas and she’s grateful to her hometown of Amarillo for providing colorful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind. 
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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Rainy Thoughts: How I Sort of Conquered Nanowrimo 2019

It feels like a hot minute since I wrote a rainy thought. I've just been busy and nothing significant has crossed my mind, at least none that would be worth writing about. Anyways, I participated in Nanowrimo this year again. For those of you who may not know, Nanowrimo stands for National Writing Month. The goal of Nanowrimo is to complete a standard 50,000 word book in just one month. Just the writing portion, not the whole editing part (that would be madness!). I did this back in 2017 and completed the challenge which led to The Inevitables. I tried it again in 2018, but I quickly fell off and didn't even go past a week. I decided to take it more seriously like I did for this year and this is what happened...Drum roll....

I didn't finish. I don't like admitting it, but I didn't make it to 50,000 words. BUT I still see it as a win. A couple of months ago, I got a huge dose of inspiration and I wanted to share it with the world. I used that inspiration to start up my second book and even though I didn't finish, I still managed to write every day and start the book that I plan on finishing.

So, why didn't I finish? Well there were a couple of factors. The main one being work. I work a full-time job, but it was also the busiest time for us because we put on this huge parade that brings in about 50,000 people in one whole area. It was more intense than what I planned for and I barely wrote anything for a week because I was there late at night for work. I also have responsibilities at home, plus having family obligations on weekends and I'm really into Hand Maid's Tale right now so there was that. But I didn't finish and at first I felt bad about it, but I'm looking at the positive and moving on.

Now, I keep on going. I love my current job and I love my current life, but I definitely do not want to give up my writing dreams. It may not be my first priority nowadays, but it's up there and I will get my second book pushed through. One of these days, I'll get somewhere, but for now, I'll be writing with a cup of tea to my left, my cat on my write and my dog at my feet.

Until next time, Happy Reading and Writing!


Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Book Review: Howl's Moving Castle

One of my favorite movies of all time is Howl's Moving Castle. It is definitely my top favorite Studio Ghibli film tying in with Spirited Away. I always knew Howl's Moving Castle was a book before it was a movie, but I never got around to reading mainly because I knew that it was going to be different from the movie. With my last coupon for Half Price Books, I decided why not? I read the Phantom of the Opera book, how much different could that be? Here is my full book review of Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.

A Little Bit About the Author

Diana Wynne Jones was known throughout her career as a British novelist, poet, academic, literary critic and short story writer. She focused more on fantasy and speculative fiction for children and young adults throughout her writing career. Jones started her writing career in the mid-60's to, as she puts it, "mostly keep my sanity." (isn't that why we all write?) Her first book was an adult novel published in 1970 titled, Changeover.

Jones wrote Howl's Moving Castle in 1986 when she was inspired by a boy at a school she was visiting who asked her to write a book called The Moving Castle. In 2004, Hayao Miyazaki created the animated movie and was dubbed in 2005. The following year, Jones won the annual Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association, recognizing a children's book published twenty years later that did not win an award. 

 A Little Bit About the Book

The book follows the quiet and subdued Sophie Hatter, who's life was perfectly normal until the Wicked Witch of Waste shows up at her hat shop and turns her into an elderly woman. In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl's castle?
Diana Wynne Jones's entrancing fantasy is filled with surprises at every turn, but when the final stormy duel between the Witch and the Wizard is finished, all the pieces fall magically into place.

A Little Review

This was such a charming book that held my attention from the very first page until the romantic end. I enjoyed reading Howl's Moving Castle and my predictions were true, it was VERY different from the movie, but it was far from being great. I don't this want this review to focus on the movie and the book, but I do want to say that even though they are different, especially when it comes to the focus of the plot, it was such a refreshing story. It was like reading a rendition of one of my favorite stories with the same happy ending.

The characters were so unique and so fun to read about. Jones does a fantastic job at keeping the characters with their own personalities and distinguishing between all the various people we meet throughout the story. The world itself was so magical and I just wanted to learn more about the worlds and I want to know more about the characters. 

The whole book is just a fun read. It's a great read for the younger, maybe middle school readers out there. It is also a great novel for the adults in the room who just want some fantasy in their life. It's a memorable story and it's also warm. Definitely a book I would pick up and read again.

Overall

Overall, this a great book to read for you, for your kids or for your elderly grandparent looking for a nice fantasy book to read. It's a book that will have you wanting more adventure and wanting to read more about all the characters.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Book Review: Christmas in Winter Valley


CHRISTMAS 
IN WINTER VALLEY
Ransom Canyon, #8 
by
Jodi Thomas
Genre: Contemporary / Western / Holiday Romance Publisher: HQN Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Number of Pages: 288 pages
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Ransom Canyon welcomes you back for a Christmas that has everything you’re looking for: romance, family, and a whole lot of Texas.
Cooper Holloway would take nature over people any day—especially visiting relatives. That’s why he’s headed for a rustic cabin in remote Winter Valley, where he’ll care for a herd of wild mustangs. But Cooper’s plans are quickly thwarted by the arrival of two unexpected guests: one, a stranger in desperate need of his help, and the other, a very attractive young veterinarian.
Elliott is busy trying to keep Maverick Ranch running smoothly with Cooper gone, which is no easy task with family visiting. And when a long-lost love suddenly reappears in his life, Elliott knows he’ll have more than just books to balance this season.
With a big, chaotic family Christmas around the corner and love blooming in surprising ways, the Holloway men will have to make big choices about the future—just in time for the holidays.

PRAISE FOR CHRISTMAS IN WINTER VALLEY: "This book has everything you would want. Laughter, drama. And tears both happy and sad. I highly recommend this book." -- Patty Champion (5 Stars, Goodreads Review) “I could not put this book down once I started it and longed for more once I was done.” -- Melanie (5 Stars, Goodreads Review) "I got lost in the world that she [Jodi Thomas] has created and enjoyed seeing her characters with their overlapping and interconnected stories find a happiness that none of them expected to ever find." -- B. (5 Stars, Goodreads Review)
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I received this book for free, though this review is my own thoughts and opinions.

Already finished reading my first Christmas book for the year and it's only October! I always like to read themed books for when the different Holidays roll out. If I were you, I would add this book to your list of Christmas books to read this year.

At first, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this book. I loved the cover and it's not a usual selection for me, so I thought of reading something out of my typical reading, which is mainly biographical/autobiographical, mystery and manga. And right off the bat, this was a nice change of pace for me. 

I'm not going to lie, it was a little slow for me to get into at the beginning, but I still gave it a chance and the story really picked up like a snowball going downhill. I would be reading this book during my lunch break and not wanting to go back to work. Thus, such is life. The story overall was very well written, but I think what really got me interested were the characters. At the begnning, the characters tend to be more closed off to the world and to the reader, but as you keep going through the pages, you start to learn how more complex they are, who they are, what they like, what they've gone through and they become relatable people. It was definitely as if I was getting to know real people as most you will not know a lot right off the back, but as time goes on, the walls break down bit by bit.

I was also happy on the level of romance this book gives you. It's not overally romantic, but subtle and sweet like kiss on the cheek that makes your heart warm up. I appreciate this aspect as I love, love, but I don't like the excessiveness that some romance novels play out. 

Overall, this was a wonderful read and it really got me into the Holiday spirit. I'm excited to read more from this author and more Christmas books in general.





With millions of books in print, Jodi Thomas is both a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over fifty novels and countless short story collections. Her stories travel through the past and present days of Texas and draw readers from around the world.
In July 2006, Jodi was the 11th writer to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. With five RITA’s to her credit, along with National Readers’ Choice Awards and Booksellers’ Best Awards, Thomas has proven her skill as a master storyteller.
Thomas was honored in 2002 as a Distinguished Alumni by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas and served sixteen years as the Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.
When not working on a novel, or inspiring students to pursue writing careers, Thomas enjoys traveling with her family, renovating an historic home, and “checking up” on two grown sons and four grandchildren.

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