Friday, October 23, 2015

Celebrating Fall


Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own.
~ Charles Dickens


As hard as I have tried, I haven't been able find a way to hold onto summer. Despite my penchant for sundresses and flip-flops, the days of long sleeves and fleece-lined boots have arrived. Might as well stop the resistance and make the best of them, I decided.

So I have replaced the worn-out summer annuals with mums and pansies


and bundled up in sweats to enjoy long walks in my sunny neighborhood.


I am back to work on the granny square afghan I started months ago,


 baking,


putting the finishing touches on my presentation for the Georgia Music Teachers Association fall conference in November,


and gearing up for NaNoWriMo.

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month
So what if autumn isn't my favorite season of the year? I really don't have to look very hard to find plenty of reasons to celebrate it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

THE BEST OF ENEMIES by Jen Lancaster


From inside the dust jacket:
Bridesmaids meets Big Little Lies in a novel told from the alternating perspectives of two women who define the term frenemies - from New York Times bestselling author Jen Lancaster.

The central characters of this story are Jacqueline Jordan, a hardcore journalist who has been in the Middle East for the past ten years, and Kitty Carricoe, soccer mom extraordinaire. The only thing these two women have in common is their mutual best friend Sarabeth Chandler, and their differences turned into mutual hatred back in college when Jack "accidently" hooked up with Kitty's boyfriend.

But their love of Sarabeth is greater than their differences, so both women drop everything to be with their friend when they learn that her wealthy and powerful husband has died in a suspicious plane crash. Eventually, they decide to put aside their differences and go on a road trip together in order to solve the mystery.

I will admit that I had a bit of a hard time getting started with this book. I found the prologue to be a bit confusing (albeit hilarious) and the first chapter was written from the point of view of the shallow and snobbish Kitty Carricoe. I wouldn't choose to spend time with her in real life and wasn't sure I would be able to stomach her personality in fiction. But I'm glad I stuck it out. This turned out to be a great women's friendship story, with the author using both humor and sarcasm to portray the challenges of a three-way friendship. In the end, this book was highly entertaining, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and enough plot twists to keep me up until the wee hours to find out the truth about the plane crash. Turns out Jen Lancaster is as gifted a fiction writer as she is a memoir writer. I can hardly wait to dig into her backlist!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

LOSING ME by Sue Margolis


From the back cover:

Knocking on sixty, Barbara is too busy to find herself. But when she loses her job, everything changes. Exhausted, lonely, and unemployed, Barbara is forced to face her feelings and doubts. Then a troubled, vulnerable little boy walks into her life and changes it forever...

Her grandchildren's babysitter, financially and emotionally supporting her grown children, caring for her elderly mother, teaching disadvantaged kids, 58-year old Barbara Stirling is many things to many people. But she completely loses her equilibrium when she is let go from her job due to budget cuts. Finances are already tight; Barbara's husband Frank films documentaries and he is too busy trying to save the world to pay much attention to his wife and her needs, even when she begins to suffer panic attacks. Her hypercritical mother makes things worse and her best friend isn't much help either; she has chosen to deal with her own sexless marriage by cheating on her husband with a gigolo.

Barbara finds purpose and direction by intervening in the life of Troy, one of her former students. His single mother, Tiffany, is impoverished and trying to raise Troy and his baby sister in the shadow of fear of an abusive ex-boyfriend. Barbara discovers strengths she did not know she possessed; by speaking up not for others she learns to speak up for herself and eventually she finds her life - albeit a different life - again. Alternately lighthearted and serious in tone, this book is highly relatable, especially those "women of a certain age" who find themselves caring for aging parents while helping adult children get established. Five stars! Highly recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, October 5, 2015

What I've Been Up To

Sometimes things just fall off your plate.
~ V. K. Springs

My academic year began on Monday, August 3rd and the weeks since have been hectic. With 61 students on my fall teaching schedule and hours of practice in preparation for a recital on Saturday, September 19th, there hasn't been time for much of anything besides the piano. In case you missed our performance, here is a sample.

Asberry & Hardy Piano Duo's rendition of Debussy's Petite Suite

I am more excited about the piano than ever and consistent daily practice, along with teaching and all that entails, will remain a constant in my life. But despite the joy and fulfillment I receive from music, I cannot seem to let go of the dream of being a published author. Toward that end, I have renewed my memberships in Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers. I missed this year's Moonlight & Magnolias conference but look forward to seeing all my writer friends at GRW's November meeting. And yesterday I attended a fabulous workshop with local writer Janice Hardy, author of Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, that proved to be the kick starter I needed to get back to work. This afternoon I spent a couple of very satisfying hours immersed in her book, actually "a series of self-guided workshops designed to lead you through developing a novel idea, drafting a summary line, creating a summary blurb, and finally writing a working synopsis" (p. 3). The goal by the end of the book is to have a solid plan from which to craft a novel. My goal is to be ready to start a new project in time for NaNoWriMo.

In the same vein, some of my readers have said that they miss reading blog; I know I have missed posting. So I am going to do my best to show up here three times a week, including a book review every Wednesday. Please note that comments are moderated for the time being, but I hope that won't stop you from becoming part of the conversation. I love connecting with my readers!

I'm not quite sure how I'm going to squeeze one more thing into my busy days. But it's important to me. So I'll find a way.