Hello strangers! How are YOU? Can you believe I have a post? It took a Books of My Life post to drag me out of hiding – ha!
I do owe you an explanation as to my writing sabbatical, and I promise one is coming. I also, believe it or not, have a Favorite Books of 2017 post on a flash drive somewhere that I really, really want to share. I just have to find the flash drive, because I really, really don’t want to re-write it.
Today I want to share with you a book I read a few weeks ago that I really enjoyed: The Lemonade Year by Amy Willough-Burle.
Nina’s once-sweet life has unexpectedly turned sour. Her marriage is over, her job is in jeopardy, and her teenage daughter is slipping away from her. Then her father dies and issues with Nina’s mother come to a head; her estranged brother, Ray, comes home; and her sister, Lola, is tempted to blow a big family secret out of the water. They say the truth will set you free, but first, it will make a huge mess of things.
All Nina’s got left is her final photography assignment shooting images for the book 32 Ways to Make Lemonade. Well, that and the attention of a younger man, but Oliver’s on-again-off-again romantic interest in her ebbs and flows so much she is seasick. And then Jack, her ex-husband, shows up, wanting to get back together.
As Nina struggles to find a way through her complicated relationships and to uncover her true path, she discovers just how valuable a second chance at life and happiness can be.
Nina has had it tough, let me tell you, I was really bummed out at times. On the plus side, I felt really good about my life. However, the writing is compelling and perfectly illustrates how life is sometimes really, really hard. We all deal with grief and heartaches, and some of us have many ghosts from our childhood. Still, you have to keep your head held high and keep on living (as Mr. McConaughy would say). The story has many subplots and I thought that was interesting, because we all juggle stuff, some good, some not so good. Some characters are hard to empathize with, but they’re family, so you’re kind of stuck. Sometimes, you can only laugh. I highly recommend this realist portrayal of a woman at midlife struggling to hold it together, while gaining the courage and strength to start over, with a forgiving heart. Beautiful cover, right?
You can purchase a copy of Amy’s book by clicking here. I long ago gave up on affiliated links, so no worries. You can also comment below to win a copy of the book. I will pick a random winner on Friday. Even if you just want to say, “hi,” and tell me something good about your life!
What was my favorite book as a child?
Goodness, all of them. Seriously though, reading was my superpower as a kid. I lived for a summer read-a-thon. The second-best day of school was when the teacher handed out the Scholastic ordering booklet. I can still smell and feel that newspaper print. I read and reread the description of each book and circled carefully the things I liked. As a child, I didn’t get everything I wanted, but I did get those books. My parents never said no to a book. The best day of school, of course, was the day the books came in.
What’s a book that really cemented you as a writer?
The Outsiders. I loved the book right away, and then I discovered that S.E. Hinton was practically a kid herself when she wrote it. That blew me away. I had thought that being a writer was something that you did after you’d done your regular life (this is teenage me talking.) After I read that book, I really started to see writing as a viable “thing” to do. I kept that secret though. I didn’t tell people that I wanted to write until I was in college and still, truth be told, I acted like it was a hobby—pretending that I was there to get a “real job.” I do have another job, but I consider writing just as much my career as I do teaching. I wish I could tell teenage me to own it, live it, do it. I teach creative writing to middle school and high school students, and I encourage them to do just that—not to wait to pursue it, but to grab hold of that gift and desire they have for writing and go for it.
Is there a book that you’ve read over and over again?
Hula by Lisa Shea. I don’t know how well known it is, but I love that book. It’s a small little thing, but so rich. I think it came out in 1994. It’s so vivid and captivating. I can read it over and over—and I have. It’s the perfect blend of poetic prose, plot, and character.
What’s a classic you’re embarrassed to say you’ve never read?
I’ve never read a plenty of them, and there was a time when that embarrassed me. Here’s the thing though, there are so many books being written right now that blow some of those classics out of the water, so there’s no reason to think that any one set of books is better than others. Not to take anything from those works that have stood the test of time, but did they stand it because they’re actually that good, or because we keep telling ourselves they are? Probably some of both. I think it’s good not to let older literature fade into oblivion, but there’s some pretty amazing work being produced today as well.
What’s a book you’ve pretended to read?
Funny, this is a similar answer. You know how it goes, you’re a writer, and so people assume you’ve read everything, and you’re at a party with other writers who either actually have or are really good at pretending, and you don’t want to look foolish when they’re name dropping characters that you know you should know, so you nod and smile and hope no one asks you a direct question? Yeah, that was me many moons ago. Now, I just say I haven’t read it without feeling like I’m less well read or knowledgeable about literature.
What’s a favorite movie adaptation of a book you loved?
So, speaking of classics, I recently feel in love with a movie adaptation of Jane Eyre that I stumbled on while I was sick in bed one day. I am a full-on sucker for the Mr. Rochester type hero—or anti-hero as it might be—I can’t tell the difference in his case. It’s the 2011 version starring Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska. I’ve watched it a ton of times. Yeah, I’m in love with that movie. Costumes from the film came to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, where I live (the city, not the estate) and I went about four times to see them. I have an annual pass. If you’re near Asheville, you get one. Costumes from Titanic are there right now through May 13th. (No, I don’t work for the Biltmore Estate.)
The books you read to your children:
I love to go to the library and just let them pick out what they want. With my girls when they were little, they wanted the picture books about fairy tales and whimsical creatures. My little boys right now always go to the non-fiction section. One wants everything about space, and the other picks dinosaurs and reptiles. I miss the picture books, but I want them to love to read and they like what they like, so be it.
Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite anti-hero or villain?
I’m such a character-driven reader that it’s hard for me to pick a favorite, but because I mentioned The Outsiders, I’ll say Dallas Winston. I think he could fit into both the hero and anti-hero category—reluctant hero might be the best way to say it. I’ve read scores of other characters since him, but you always remember your first love.
Is there an imaginary place you dream of moving to?
Hogwarts. If they need an English teacher, I’m there. I dream of a magic spell that will grade all the five paragraph themes about the White Witch of Narnia that are sitting on my desk. It’s a nice dream.
If there were only one genre that you could read for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I’m a sucker for poetic prose and character driven stories, so contemporary literary fiction always works for me. I don’t mean experimental, overly cerebral stuff. I mean the works that feels like real life and real people, but it reads like pure poetry. Leah Wiess, Ron Rash, Wiley Cash—that’s sort of tongue twister there.
What was the last book that you told people they have to read?
Anything and everything by Ron Rash. He’s the end all be all of contemporary authors. He does it all—poetry, short story, novel.
What are you reading now? What will you read next?
Right now, I’m reading If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss. I’ve got The Risen by Ron Rash waiting in the wings. (Like I said, some of my favs right there.)
Books or eReader?
Books! I think eReaders are great—they’re greener, cheaper, and allow more authors to see their work published, but I’m old-fashioned when it comes to books. I love the feel of them in my hand when I read. They’re little pieces of art. I love to get them signed by the authors when I have a chance. I have hugged more than one book. Yeah… books.
Do you keep your books or pass them on?
I keep them. Is that bad? I recommend the ones I love, but the more I love a book, the harder it’s going to be to pry my copy from my hands.
Do you have a favorite bookstore?
Malaprop’s in Asheville, NC. I practically live there. It’s my happy place.
AMY!!!! I love Malaprop’s Bookstore. Whenever I’m in Asheville I visit. In fact, I was there on a girls weekend a couple months ago and dragged a bunch of my friends in there after dinner (and more than a few cocktails) to play.
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