Friday, July 31, 2015

Best Books of July

It's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time to share all of the great books I read this month.

I spent the first week of July on vacation. Maybe that means reading time for most of you, but my vacations seem to always be too busy for reading!

Still, after life got back to normal, I had a very busy month. I got to support two of my fellow Aladdin M!x authors...the first is Rachele Alpine, an extraordinarily talented writer who has both the same editor and agent as I do. Her book, Operation Pucker Up, is just as awesome as its name and cover.

First off, I have to say that I was a total drama geek in high school. This book took me back to those days. Even though I never played a main character, I spent many hours at play practice. Rachele has done a great job of capturing that environment. But mostly she manages to perfectly convey the pressure that comes from that first kiss. In this case, the main character knows her first kiss is coming since she's playing Snow White in the middle school production. But she doesn't want her first kiss to be in front of an audience. Her friends came up with the perfect idea: get Grace her first kiss before opening night. This book is so much fun, but it also has a great message about peer pressure and parental issues.

The second book is the young adult debut for fellow Aladdin M!x author Jen Malone. Map to the Stars is part of HarperCollins' Epic Reads Impulse line.

I rarely get to read a good romance these days. Although Map to the Stars is in the young adult romance genre, it reminded me what I miss so much about reading romance. Jen has a knack for capturing young voices, but she also has a true talent for creating the kind of sexual tension that makes you keep reading. On top of that, she's brought her own experience in the entertainment industry to the book, giving us a behind-the-scenes look at how things work. Buy this book! You won't be able to put it down, I promise.

I've been meaning to read the next book for a while. I first spotted The 13th Sign on the table at our local SCBWI conference and loved the look. I think it has a Mary Engelbreit look to it...and I love Mary Engelbreit! After listening to Kristin Tubb describe her book at a group booksigning a couple of months ago, I knew I had to read it. This is the beautiful cover:

I don't know anything about the signs of the zodiac, so this book was a much-needed lesson into how all of that works. The story revolves around a young girl named Jalen, who discovers a 13th sign of the zodiac. When she unwittingly frees the 13th sign, she changes the personality of everyone on Earth. She must then go on a quest to restore order. If you love action/adventure, this is the book for you! Plus you'll learn more than you ever thought you could about the signs of the zodiac. I loved this book so much, I read it in just a couple of days.

Next up is T.B. Markinson's The Miracle Girl, which has this mesmerizing cover. After helping T.B. with her book launch earlier this month, I had to read this book for myself. After all, who can resist this cover?

The characters make this book, especially the main character, JJ. T.B. has created a strong, yet flawed character who has successfully battled many demons in her past. The author pulls no punches in making JJ real, showing us a character who has battled substance abuse while also pining for the lost love of her life, Claire. Add in business-related drama at a local newspaper, and you have a read you won't be able to put down!

So now it's your turn. What great books did you read in July?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Finding Time to Read

At the end of each month, I post about all the great books I read that month. Often in the comments I see some variation of this statement:

"How do you find time to read so many books?"

The truth is, those of us who are writers know it's important to read. In fact, many successful authors say it's a must.

I think the problem with reading is priorities. Most of us have work obligations and household chores. On top of that, we spend time with our families and try to get eight hours or so of sleep each night.

Setting aside time to read each day seems impossible. If we did sit in a corner and open a book (or a Kindle), we'd feel guilty about all the other things we were neglecting. Never mind that we're feeding our minds so that we can become better writers.

When I was working full-time and building my freelance writing business on the side, I had zero minutes each day to do anything but write. But I knew I had to squeeze reading in somehow. I looked at my day and saw some wasted time. Most of it was the time I spent commuting to work--about 30 minutes each way. But how do you read and drive?

So I started renting audiobooks from the library. But getting them to my iPhone was a pain in the you-know-what. (Still is.) So then I found Audible. One book a month for a monthly fee. I'd listen to books on the way to work and on the way back each day. I found it could turn a very stressful drive into this:

Audiobooks are still great for driving, but I also find they help pass the time while you're doing undesirable tasks like folding laundry and loading the dishwasher.

Unfortunately, most of the books I want to read aren't available on audio, which means I have to squeeze in time for old-fashioned reading. I get that reading in while in the treadmill. Unfortunately, reading books on the treadmill can be tricky. It can be difficult to see the print from such a distance...but keeping it open is also a challenge.

I've found Kindles come in handy for that. You can turn the page with just a tap on the screen. Plus you can make the print as large as you need to in order to see it.

Bedtime is also a favorite time to read. It puts many people to sleep. If you're going to read this way, though, you probably should stick with paper-based books, since staring at a lit screen can keep you up at night. You also should probably stay away from scary books.

When do you read?

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Eyeglasses Adventure

When I was 15, I was told I had bad vision. That was when these suckers entered my life:

I loved that I could change my eye color. I tried blue eyes, green eyes, and even blue-green eyes. None of it showed up on my eyeballs.

I finally settled on brown. Brown made my eyes pop. That was my eye color for more than 15 years. Then things started to change. 

I started to notice I couldn't see my computer screen up close. I went to my eye doctor and she prescribed Toric (hard) contact lenses. They were great...except I couldn't get them off my eyeball at the end of the day.

So...the doctor explained to me that eyeglasses were the only option. No, it's not a bifocal thing. It's a "you're getting older and your eyeball muscles are getting weaker and can't overcompensate for contact lenses' inadequacies" thing. That's what I understood of it, anyway...but it all means it's time for these:

I admired the ultra-glamorous glasses worn by Penelope Garcia on Criminal Minds.

But those are Lafonts. As in Lafont Paris. Lafonts are in the $500 range for the frames alone. You can't exactly have a pair of glasses for every outfit like Penelope Garcia if you're stuck with only one pair of glasses for the next two years.

I was admiring my dental hygenist's blingy glasses when she clued me in on buying glasses online. Glasses for $6.95 including prescription. Of course, I'm half-blind so my prescription requires $20 more so I don't have thick lenses. Still--I ended up buying three pairs of glasses for just over $100. Two pairs were $36 each (shipping and all) and one pair was $45 or so because they were sunglasses. The tint costs more. Here's what I have so far:

But I have a feeling I'll be back for some more ultra-glam soon!

I still wear contacts for date nights and such. I just have to squint to see the menu.

Do you wear glasses? Contacts?