Posts filed under elora reads

elora reads: favorite books of 2014

In 2012, I made a list of my favorite books. I finished the post, hit publish, and picked up Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me and promptly placed the book back on my nightstand until 2013. 

I knew if I finished the book, I would have to go back and edit my post. 

I didn't write a favorite reads post of 2013, mostly because I didn't read as much as I hoped and also because I spent the remaining few days of 2013 sick with a cold. 

But this year? This year I waited until January 1 to write the post, making sure I didn't miss any stragglers from last week. And, because coffee has counteracted my daily Benadryl + Zyrtec blend, I have the energy to curate the list. You're welcome. 

 

NONFICTION :: 

I listened to this book while driving with my husband too and from places all around town. I can't tell you how many times I didn't want to get out of the car simply because I was enjoying the book so much. Writers: her introduction is worth the purchase alone. No really. I promise. 

Do you know those books where you're constantly grunting because it feels as if the author has your number and you're wondering how she managed to share your deepest secrets without you even knowing? That's this book. I love the concept behind this so much I use it in Rebel Diaries. My type? The Intrigue. It's like the Enneagram in that once you find out your advantages, the signs pointing to your particular weakness leave you wincing with clarity. But, more than anything, this book helped salvage a lot of decision-making I did in 2014. 

Amoruso pulls absolutely no punches with this book. This past summer, I happened upon an Instagram with this cover smiling at me and given the state my current business was in, I knew I needed a dose of reality. This book won't be for everyone, her tone can be abrasive and she has no issues with swearing, but finishing this book gave me the gumption I needed to make Awake the Bones what I knew it was meant to be in the very beginning. 

A few years ago, Preston sat on our couch while drinking wine and playing Settlers of Catan and told me of this idea for a book. "It's about a table," he said. And immediately I knew it would be a game changer. Often, when you have friends who publish books, you feel obligated to shower them with praise. No obligation here. Reading this book felt as if I were sitting in a coffee shop listening to his story. In fact, my brother asked for devotionals or AW Tozer books for Christmas. There was no question for my husband and me — we got him this book by Preston and within a few hours of opening the gift, he read a third of the book.

THE book for those of us who fall into the category of intense feelers. I've been working my way through this book (slowly) since February, and this summer nailed down some Core Desired Feelings. Those words pointed me in so many places during the remainder of the year and just yesterday I worked through the words to capture what I hope to feel in 2015: generous, alchemy, wild, golden, pure, and visceral. This book is more than creating goals and visioning where you want to be in a few years. For me, it provides an avenue in which I can find contentment in my every-day poetics.

 

FICTION :: 

I'm not even sure if I have words for this one. It may be THE favorite of 2014. I read it in one sitting and didn't go to bed until 3am because I couldn't put it down. With sentences like  I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk it was easy for me to fall into the rhythm of Millay's words. I want more of them. Like yesterday. 

Oh wait. This may be a favorite too. Just...get this entire series. Read it. This last book had me reeling in awesomeness and phrases I wish I could have thought of myself. Mafi's diction and structure and syntax — all of it makes me swoon. Trust me on this one. Okay? Okay. 

This time last year, my cover artist posted on Facebook that Jandy Nelson's paperback was on sale and that we all needed to one-click, no questions asked. So I did, because I trust her taste, and y'all. It's become one of the books that I'll loan out to only the precious most important people in my life because I don't ever want to lose it. Loved this book. LOVED it. 

I may be a bit biased here, because I worked with Haas while she was finishing her book, but I promise you: part of the reason I hounded her in coaching is because I believed in this book so much. Engaging, fun, unique — it had me riveted. I'm not one to read books with faeries, but this one had me forgetting that fine line between fiction and reality. I loved her characters and loved her writing style even more. This one is on my list because Haas is an author to watch. Promise. 

This was a book club selection this past fall and I love-love-loved it because of the gut wrenching honesty Tropper manages to weave into his plot. Families are hard, but beautiful, and you see that in this book. It's also hilarious and refreshing and doesn't try too hard. So, bonus. 

What were your favorite books this past year? What are you hoping to read in 2015? For me, this is the year of Outlander and CS Lewis' fiction, among others. 

Posted on January 1, 2015 and filed under elora reads.

the magic of human moments.

...I keep thinking too of the more conventional wisdom: namely, that the pursuit of pure beauty is a trap, a fast track to bitterness and sorrow, that beauty has to be wedded to something more meaningful. 

I purchased The Goldfinch almost a year ago. I kept seeing it everywhere — in bookstores, on the bestseller list, in book reviews, in passing snapshots on Instagram. I one-clicked it knowing I didn't really have time for a sweeping narrative. It didn't really matter. The book was on sale and I knew I would read it eventually. 

I read it last week.

I started slow. Donna Tartt's writing has been noted as Dickensonian, and I could see the parallels early in the book. Tartt begins with Theo, the main character and narrator, hallucinating after a particularly rough patch in Amsterdam. He sees his mother, and immediately grows nostalgic. The scene is set, and we're taken back to when he is 13 and worried about discipline waiting for him at school.

But in that beginning section? Sentences stretched for almost an entire page. I'm all for grand syntax—Nathaniel Hawthorne comes to mind—but I wasn't entirely sold. 

Until the terrorist attack where his mother died and he acquired the painting.

There were at least a dozen people on the floor—not all of them intact. They had the appearance of having been dropped from a great height. Three or four of the bodies were partially covered with fireman's coats, feet sticking out. Others sprawled glaringly in the open, amidst explosive stains. The splashes and burns carried a violence, like big blood sneezes, an hysterical sense of movement in the stillness.

Something shifted within this scene for me—maybe because it wasn't written in the voice of a drug-induced surrealism. The description came alive and never really stopped throughout the novel. The characters weren't flat, and even if I didn't necessarily feel an emotional connection to them, I could see them living and breathing in my head while reading.

Especially Boris. But I liked him, dreg that he is.

As I got into the story, I realized what it was that struck me about Tartt's writing style—what worked for me and what I knew I would be taking away from her words.

She captures the magic of ordinary human moments.

More than any other book I've read before, this one nails the marking of time when your life is altered—the this time last week I was here or she was doing this or ast time I opened this we were talking face-to-face. The study of your surroundings, the honing in on the worn detail of your shoe rather than paying attention to one more person asking how you are doing.

You know. The things we think about when our life has taken the sharp left of change.

And that's not all. Theo, in a way, is an anti-hero. Very early we realize there's not much redeemable about this kid. The death of his mother and subsequently the painting coming into his possession serve as catalysts that push him forward. It's not until the last 20 or so pages that he really begins waking up and living — and by then, he's an adult.

But this is life.

The Goldfinch wasn't a pretty book. Sure. There were some incredible moments when Theo speaks of the perils of beauty unattached—those obsessions we get under our skin that don't really hold any weight. Those are the most dangerous, he believes, because there's nothing to them. No substance. But for the other 700 or so pages, it's situation after situation where he's just living. Just getting by—just scraping one more pill into his mouth and figuring out how to make it to his next conversation with Pippa, his own version of a manic-pixie-dream-girl who happened to be in the museum and one of the only other survivors of the attack.

I loved this. 

Grief changes you. Brush up against it and you won't come away unscathed. And to experience such repeated loss, and to have the closest relationships be tainted with abuse, addiction and co-dependency, I would expect nothing less than how Theo reacted in any given moment.

He was relentlessly human, and Tartt wrote him with scathing grace. Because there is grace —even for those who've experienced the darkest of humanity. Ultimately, this is the choice Theo faces: risk everything and pursue the beauty that matters, or go by the minute for the thrill of the next high.

His choice, to me, made perfect sense.

Posted on September 5, 2014 and filed under elora reads, words that work.

the book that became a favorite and the one I threw away.

In the past week, I've read two books.

One became a favorite of mine. 

The other turned into ash and scraps of paper as I ripped it up and threw it away, burning the rest taking the form of quotes on journal pages. 

A quick aside: I love literature, and because of this deep admiration, never really condone the burning of books. I mean, Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favorite books and I can assure you it is not, in my case, a pleasure to burn. I've only ever thrown away one other book. However, in this moment, I could not ignore the shaking in my bones. Maybe you've been there? There are countless reasons, one of which I would be willing to say it was nonfiction and written as truth. I won't release the name of the book, or include it in my Goodreads as one I couldn't finish. I believe in people finding their own way with words and books and if you're really curious about it, shoot me a message. We can chat more about it. 

Moving on.

A couple years ago, I was at the STORY conference when Andrew Klavan began speaking of his experience reading Crime and Punishment. It was his conversion story, set in between the pages of a plot ripe with grace and beauty.

I thought of this story as I watched flames lick the cover of the book I had been so interested in reading. The one I purchased seven months ago, almost to the day. The other half of Klavan's tale includes a book that's dark and twisted and revealed to him the path he was taking. He too had read two books, with one shaking him to the core with the evil and darkness apparent.

Put simply, he didn't want the narrative of the second one. He wanted the grace and beauty, even in moments of discomfort and darkness.

I don't often write about my spirituality, mostly because I've grown to believe the relationship I have with God is inherently intimate, and therefore not meant to be put on display. However, in this moment all of those intentions went rogue.

I bolted out of bed.
I grabbed the book. 
I started ripping out the pages, whispering prayers and curse words alike.

You can attribute this reaction to the firm lineage of righteous indignation pulsing in my blood. There was no fucking way I would allow those words in my home any longer.

I can't tell you how viscerally I reacted to this second book last night. I can try, pointing to posts written days after receiving it in the mail. I can attempt to mention the synchronicity of those closest to me speaking truth. 

Or I can explain the conversation I had with my sister on the phone, when I once again realized the power of words placed with intention. It reminded me of what I wanted my words to create: hope, second chances, redemption, love, the beauty of small yet breathtaking human moments. 

And the realization that I can't fill my own story—the one I'm living—with hope and beauty when I'm reading words built around lies and darkness and the power that feeds off the very truth I'm trying to share.

So I build my list slowly, with intention. I'm done taking the words of others as gold. I know what Gold is, and I recognize the moments her name is plastered on tarnished brass. I don't want the words of trite suppositions filling the space meant for belonging and restoration. I've pondered this for a few months now, how as a writer, reading serves as filling up that internal reservoir. 

I will be fierce in my execution of good reads, because I want more. I want the words that leave me hanging on for dear life. I want the stories that leave me breathless and aching to write. My life—my story—my words deserve nothing less. 

This means something for this space: an addition of sorts, a series tried about twice over and probably three years past its time: Elora Reads. The goals being specificity, honesty and ingesting words that make me want to turn around and create.

Because I'm done with the words that stifle that fire. They're now ash in my disposal. They're burning in the rancid dumpster heat.

First up and later this week: The Goldfinch—the book that became a favorite.

Posted on September 1, 2014 and filed under books, elora reads.

elora reads :: THE LIGHT BETWEEN US

When Beth Morey invited me to read an advanced copy of The Light Between Us, I jumped at the chance. I love it when my friends take the leap and jump into self-publishing, and knowing Beth's ability to weave words together it really was a no-brainer.

  For twenty-something Boston school teacher Ruth, she's gotten by just fine on playing it safe, thank you very much. But now her risk-free life and nice-girl demeanor are leaving her increasingly heartsick. So when she meets bad boy Derek, she's willing to overlook her “no romance” rule and give him a chance to prove her fears wrong. Because he, also, is plagued by a sense of ennui and pointlessness, wanting to change his fast-and-loose living but not knowing how.    Neither can deny the inexplicable, illogical attraction drawing them together, and they are hard-pressed to resist it. But what will their unlikely relationship cost, and who will be caught in the crossfire?

For twenty-something Boston school teacher Ruth, she's gotten by just fine on playing it safe, thank you very much. But now her risk-free life and nice-girl demeanor are leaving her increasingly heartsick. So when she meets bad boy Derek, she's willing to overlook her “no romance” rule and give him a chance to prove her fears wrong. Because he, also, is plagued by a sense of ennui and pointlessness, wanting to change his fast-and-loose living but not knowing how.

Neither can deny the inexplicable, illogical attraction drawing them together, and they are hard-pressed to resist it. But what will their unlikely relationship cost, and who will be caught in the crossfire?

What I Liked: 

This was an easy read. I purposefully chose to save this book until after the Story Sessions' retreat, and I'm so glad I did. It's light, romantic, and quick on the plot. If I hadn't had some work-related things I needed to do while reading the book, I probably could have finished it in one setting. 

What I Loved: 

Ruth and Derek. Their characters were so engaging I wanted to know more. I wanted more of Ruth interacting with her girlfriends, more of the backstory of how Ruth and Derek got to be where they were, more of Derek and his friends, more of Ruth's history of writing...just more. 

I also loved that this book reminded me of Serendipity in a lot of ways. Remember that movie? I loved-hated that movie because of how frustratingly realistic the missed-opportunities were for the couple. Yeah. Buckle down. This book is like that and I kinda loved it.

What You Should Know: 

In Story Sessions we have this saying of choose yourself. It goes for a lot of things, really, but Morey did it by self-publishing this title and staking her claim within the indie author market. It's a huge risk. HUGE. Check out this blog post she wrote a few weeks ago on her perfectly-inperfect book launch. I already had respect for this woman before she wrote about listening to her critics with a patient ear. After this post? That respect sky-rocketed. From someone who knows what it's like to be on the proverbial chopping block of book reviewers and naysayers, I love-love-love her attitude here. 

We need more of her in the indie world.

You can find THE LIGHT BETWEEN US on Amazon and Beth Morey on GOODREADS.

Posted on July 3, 2014 and filed under fiction, elora reads.

A guest post :: Heather Lyons on self-publishing

It's not often I'm able to host a published author—and one of multiple books at that—on my blog. So when my friend Kelly over at InkSlinger PR mentioned Heather Lyons would be participating in a blog tour for her final book in the Fate series, I was on it. I've been intrigued with her books since the moment I saw the first one release (those covers!) and so I was thrilled when she said yes. 

Below are Heather's thoughts on self—publishing. I love what she says. 

Writing has been a life-long passion of mine, beginning when I was a little girl and stretching all the way to the present, but I’d not thought it a feasible reality until after I’d left a career to raise my children. The more and more I thought about finally finishing all those stories that had been building up in my head over the years, the more attractive the idea finally sounded. What was there to lose? I told myself. And so, I finally finished a book, and another, and another, and started others.

And I queried eight agents and got rejected.

I know, I know. Eight rejections in nothing in the literary landscape of dreams. But after those eight rejections (all form letters), I got to really thinking about the book I submitted and its overhaul. And in that time, I met a number of authors both traditionally and self-published, alongside some editors and other writers, and had some frank discussions about the pros and cons of traditional vs. indie publishing today.

Before I go further, I feel like I ought to clarify I don’t think one platform is better than the other. I like both, to be honest. And I think there’s room for both in the book market. That said, when it came time to send A Matter of Fate, the first book in my Fate series, out into the wild, I decided to try the indie route. I didn’t send out any further queries—but I did research what I needed to do to give my book baby its best chance. I realized that I couldn’t skimp on my novel just because it wasn’t being put out by one of the Big 6—so I found an excellent editor. A crazy-talented cover designer. A formatter. I sent out queries to bloggers instead of agents, asking if they’d want to take a chance on my book. I booked blog tours to get the word out. I hired a publicist. I got an agent. And I have never regretted going the indie route with the Fate series, although I do wish I could go back in time and give myself a better publicity lead up to that first release.

Now that A Matter of Forever, the fourth and final book of Chloe’s arc in the Fate series is coming out, I look back on the journey I’ve made in the indie publishing world and see that I’ve continued to tweak and refine what it takes to put a book out. There is no one right way—each path is different. I look forward to putting more indie books out, and I look forward to submitting some books to publishers. I love that, in today’s book world, there are so many ways stories can reach readers . . . and that there’s room enough for all.

//

Intrigued by her words? You should check out the series, which is one of the most original I've come across in the YA/NA market. Even better news: book one and the follow up novella are only 99 cents right now. Find them on Amazon here :: 

A Matter of Fate :: book 1
Beyond Fate :: book 1.5 
A Matter of Heart :: book 2
A Matter of Truth :: book 3 
A Matter of Forever :: book 4

It all comes down to this . . .

Chloe Lilywhite has struggled for years to find her footing in a series of dangerous and demanding worlds. Creator, first tier Council member, and one of the most powerful Magicals in existence, she was little more than one of Fate’s pawns. But now, Chloe is back home and ready to call the shots. She knows what she wants and who she wants to be.

Except the Elders never got the memo.

Annar and Magical-kind are under attack. The lives of Chloe’s loved ones, and life as they know it, are at stake. Chloe's the key to taking the Elders down, but they won't go quietly into the night.

This time, neither will Chloe.

*This is a New Adult title, suitable for readers 18+.

 

About Heather Lyons:

Heather Lyons has always had a thing for words—She’s been writing stories since she was a kid. In addition to writing, she’s also been an archaeologist and a teacher. Heather is a rabid music fan, as evidenced by her (mostly) music-centric blog, and she’s married to an even larger music snob. They’re happily raising three kids who are mini music fiends who love to read and be read to.

Links:

Website
Author Goodreads 
A MATTER OF FOREVER Goodreads 
Twitter
Facebook
Pinterest

Posted on May 20, 2014 and filed under fiction, elora reads.