The Books of My Life: Samantha Brinn Merel

samanthaHead SHotSamantha is a blogging friend I met through The HerStories Project. She’s a lawyer and a new mom to the most adorable little baby boy! (Don’t tell Cammy I wrote that). I swear, the pictures she posts of her son make me long for the days of no sleep and breastfeeding – just so I can hold a sweet little baby again. I don’t remember exactly what triggered it, but I initially connected with Samantha by corresponding back and forth with her about an essay she wrote for The HSP’s first book. She was so sweet and kept encouraging me to submit an essay to Jessica and Stephanie. As with any new blogging friend, I explored her site to get to know her better. I read an essay she wrote about politics and thought  – this chick is really brave! I liked how she wrote her opinions in a diplomatic manner.  She’s smart and eloquent and I know we’d be able to talk for hours over a glass of wine. Another thing I appreciate about her is that she loves to read romance! She’s hard core, and has read many more romances than I have – and she’s quite a bit younger than me. We both adore Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  We’ve also bonded over Nicolle Wallace novels – which blends our love of politics and romance. I’m so happy to have her on the blog today, sharing the books of her life.

What was my favorite book as a child?

 The Baby-Sitters Club books. I read Kristy’s Great Idea when I was around 7, and then immediately tore through the rest of the series.

 What was your favorite book that you read for school?

 My favorite book in school was actually three books. My senior year English teacher, who I adored, was a Dante Scholar. She was famous for her “100 days of Dante,” which was a deep dive into the whole Divine Comedy. Every February she would drape her classroom in black sheets and read straight through Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise. Her students either loved it or hated it. I fell square on the side of love. I loved it so much that I took another Dante class my junior year of college and read the whole thing again.

 What’s a book that really cemented you as a writer?

 I really wish I could answer this question, that there was a single book that made me a writer. For me, reading books and writing stories have been inextricably linked for as long as I can remember. I would never be a writer without having first been a reader.

 Is there a book that you’ve read over and over again?

 Birthright, by Nora Roberts. It’s a classic Nora mystery; 3 couples; quirky families; a spunky little kid; strong, smart and capable women with interesting and unusual jobs; and a complex and fascinating mystery. This book is my ultimate comfort food, and I’ve probably read it ten times.

 What’s a classic you’re embarrassed to say you’ve never read?

 Emma, by Jane Austen. Embarrassing as it is, I’ve started it four or five times, but could never make it past page twenty.

 What’s a book you’ve pretended to read?

 The Scarlet Letter, my sophomore year of high school. I just read the CliffsNotes and white knuckled it through the paper and test.

 Is there a book that you didn’t understand what all the hype was for?

 The Twilight series. I love YA books. I’ve motored through The Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies and read my fair share of Rainbow Rowell and John Green and loved them all. I also have a deep and abiding love for romance novels. Twilight seemed like a perfect fit for me, but I just didn’t get it at all.

 What’s a recent book you wish you’d written?

Judy Blume’s new book, In the Unlikely Event. Judy Blume is one of my all time favorite authors, and this is one of her very best. It was such a well-written and layered story with great characters, told in such a brilliant way.

 What’s a favorite movie adaptation of a book you loved? Worst adaptation of a book you loved?

 Favorite: the Harry Potter movies. Every single one of them was like seeing my imagination on screen.

Worst: I thought The Time Traveler’s Wife was a terrible movie. I loved the book so much, but the movie just couldn’t quite get to the heart of it.

 The books I read to my children:

 My little boy is 10 months old, so right now he’s a lot more interested in grabbing and eating the books I try to read to him, but I’m looking forward to when he’s old enough for me to introduce him to my favorites. I have visions of reading all the Harry Potter books together and I can’t wait.

 What was an illicit book you had to read in secret as a child?

My parents were very cool about letting me read whatever I wanted (my first ever romance novel came from my mom’s bookshelf), so I don’t think I ever really considered anything illicit. I remember reading books like Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret when I was probably way too young and my mom answering my hundreds of questions, so I definitely wasn’t reading anything in secret.

 What’s a book people might be surprised to learn that you loved?

 I love CIA spy novels and have bookshelves full of them. My favorite author of these is the late Vince Flynn, whose Mitch Rapp series I have probably read four times now.

 Who is your favorite character?

I love Stephanie Hirsch and Rachel Robinson from Judy Blume’s Just as Long as We’re Together and Here’s to You Rachel Robinson. I think they are the very best and most honest literary portrayal of teenage female friendship, and are still my favorite book characters all these years later.

 Who is your literary crush?

 Susan Elizabeth Phillips, one of the very best romance authors of all time. I live by her motto, “because life’s too short to read depressing books.” I met her a few years ago at the Romance Writers of America annual conference in New York and totally fangirled out.

 If there were only one genre that you could read for the rest of your life, what would it be?

If you couldn’t tell from all of my answers before this one, romance, hands down. I read my first romance novel when I was 15, and it’s been a love affair that has lasted almost two decades.

 What was the last book that made you laugh out loud, and what was the last one that made you cry?

Laugh – Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Cry – Wild by Cheryl Strayed

 What are you reading now?

 Everything I can get my hands on by Jill Mansell. I just discovered her a few weeks ago and her books are delightful.

Books or eReader?

 Books, always and only.

Do you keep your books or pass them on?

I keep absolutely everything. My book collection is my most prized possession.

Do you have a favorite place to read?

 We just moved to a new house, and we have a second family room that I commandeered for my office/study/reading room. I’m absolutely in love with it.

PMSamantha reading place

Do you have a favorite bookstore?

Posman Books in Grand Central Station was my old favorite before it closed in the fall of 2014. I love the Barnes & Noble in my town for new books, and there’s an awesome online used bookstore called Yankee Clipper Books that I order from all the time.

Dante is one that has not been mention in these interviews! Oh, that had to have been a tough read. I didn’t care for The Scarlet Letter either. Ugh. I read Birthright and remember really enjoying it. Also, I was not a fan of Twilight – only made it half way through the first book. And my oh my, did I get beat-up for that. All my friends loved that series. I already mentioned our love of SEP, but I must admit her last two books were a bit disappointing to me. But I believe her next one is a Chicago Stars series book! I haven’t read An Unlikely Event, I remember reading mixed reviews. But if you love it, I’m adding it to my list. And I’d completely forgotten about Are You There God It’s Me, Margaret. Oh my gosh, what a blast from the past!

Thank you so much Samantha for participating! Please leave a comment for Samantha below.

You can follow Samantha here:

Samantha’s Blog

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30 thoughts on “The Books of My Life: Samantha Brinn Merel”

  1. Definitely have a bit in common as The Babysitter’s Club was a favorite of mine back in the day, loved Harry Potter and the movies, too and Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event, too. So, loved getting to know Samantha a bit more here today and thank you for sharing her with us here :)

    1. Oh, another endorsement for An Unlikely Event! I have to read it. And I think (dating myself) that the Babysitter Club came out after I aged out. I’ll have to look into it for Audrey. Also – Janine, you should do one of these interviews…

  2. I went to her site and saw her baby boy and now I need a third child. I need one!
    I was so, so obsessed with The Babysitter’s Club. Sometimes I think about reading one again. Just to wipe off the dust from my parent’s attic and then dig in!
    I love Liane Moriarty!

    1. I know, her son and Des hurt my heart. But Cammy would never give up his spot as the baby! And I can’t wait for Moriarty’s new book – and the mini series on HBO of Big Little Lies!

    2. My mom recently gave me some boxes from her basement with all of my Baby Sitters Club books, and I also thought about reading them again, for old times sake :)

      Have you read Liane Moriarty’s Three Wishes? It’s one of her older ones. I just finished it and thought it was great.

  3. I love this series! So much. Looking forward to Lianne Moriarty’s new book … and the new family room with books is divine, Samantha! xox

  4. That room is awesome and now I want to read some romance. First though I need to go back to the first HS novel and remember which one Samantha wrote! Thanks for sharing Allie!

  5. Ohmygosh I want book shelves like that! I have too many books now and that would be PERFECT.

    Thanks for yet another awesome interview, Allie and Samantha! It’s just such an excellent series you have going on, Allie. I learn SO much about the person and about BOOKS. We were just in Barnes and Noble because Cass had a gift certificate from her b day- and there were all the classics, and sadly I could’t remember a damn thing about any of them. “The Scarlet Letter” was one of them among many others. Have either of you read “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”? We almost got that just because of the girl (Marie sp?) reading it and LOVING it in “All The Light We Cannot See”

    Cass ended up getting The Wizard of Oz and Wicked hard back classics. Some girl there said they were both amazing!

    Now adding “In the Unlikely Event” to my library list.

    Thanks for that, Samantha!

    1. There are so many classics that I’ve never read. My high school English teachers were a prettye clectic bunch, so there was a lot of standard-issue high school reading that I was never assigned.

      Definitely recommend In The Unlikely Event. Judy Blume is always spectacular.

  6. Hi Samantha! Our paths have crossed via HerStories, so it is great to see you here with Allie.

    I’m not a huge romance reader, but as soon as I read that you love Dante, I thought of the Gabriel’s Inferno trilogy by Sylvain Reynard. The main male character is a Dante scholar. I’m sure you would understand many of the references that just went over my head.

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