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Happy 122nd Birthday Ernest Hemingway

The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway (Scribner)

July 21, 2021

Hello Gorgeous Readers!

I am here to share with you that today would have been Ernest Hemingway’s 122nd birthday.  Just to refresh your memory, Hemingway was born in 1899 and died at the age of 61 years of age. He is considered one of America’s greatest novelists and short story writers of all time.  This past spring, filmmaker extraordinaires Ken Burns and Lynn Novick made a three part series on Ernest Hemingway for PBS.  Because of this, there has been a renewed interest in this literary genius!  To celebrate Hemingway on this day, I am sharing with you one of his most controversial novels, The Garden of Eden.

The Garden of Eden was published posthumously in 1986 by Scribner.  The story takes place in the 1920s in the French Riviera and Spain and follows American writer David Bourne and his wife Catherine on their honeymoon.   Catherine announces to David that she has a big surprise for him and that she will be “changed”. She runs off to the local coiffeur (French barber) and has her hair cut short in a masculine style.  She insists that David not refer to her as a girl during certain times and that he too, will be changed to… “her girl”.  

If you are familiar with Hemingway’s other work you might be saying, hmmmmm.  However, just when you think there is enough unexpected drama to work with here, Hemingway brings a woman named Marita into their lives and a new menage a trois develops. Through all of this, David continues on with his writing.  He abandons his original piece documenting his and Catherine’s extended honeymoon and moves on to writing about Africa.  Catherine does not like this one bit and they argue about his disloyalty to her. 

So here is the scoop.  I am an everyday reader and not an English scholar who can provide you with a deep analysis of this book.  I can assure you, there are TONS of qualified people who have done that already.  What I can tell you is that Hemingway worked on this book sporadically from around 1946 until he died.  Because this book was published after he died, it was edited immensely.  Literary scholars argue how much of this writing is actually his and how much was slashed or rearranged before publishing.  With that said, I will tell you my thoughts. 

The Garden of Eden opens up with a classic fishing scene and scrumptious descriptions of food and drink.  My mind immediately went to The Old Man and the Sea and of course, A Moveable Feast. It felt very much like the Hemingway I was familiar with…  straightforward dialogue, and an undemanding prose.  What was different about this novel was its contemporary vibe.  Hemingway was clearly exploring gender roles, transgenderism, and sexuality between the pages of his book.  Catherine appeared uncomfortable in her own skin and was desperately trying to examine her gender and how she fit into the world around her.  She had no guidance in this arena and instead not only leaned on David, but tried to incorporate him into her journey for validation and acceptance.  

My thoughts on David are still all over the place.  Yes he loves Catherine and accommodates many of her wishes, but I am trying to determine where he stands with all of this change. His own feelings on gender roles, love and even marriage are confusing in my opinion.  His nickname for Catherine is Devil, which in all honesty, can be discussed for days on end.  

The Garden of Eden is a tremendous read.  Though it was a huge success in 1986, I wonder how it would have been received if it was published in the 1940s.  I love how it was ahead of its time and fits so well into present day literature. I enjoyed how this wasn’t a plot driven story, but more of an exploration into the main characters.  This is a book I plan on reading again and again and again.  There is so much to unpack that I imagine each re-read will bring more clarity and perhaps even more questions to dissect.

If you are a Hemingway fan or just an inquisitive reader, I highly recommend checking this one out!  An excellent book club choice!

All my best to you!

Kelly

P.S. I Highly recommend you check out the three part series on Hemingway on PBS if you haven’t already.


P.P.S.  Click here to read some of my previous Hemingway Birthday posts.

Click on the book picture to purchase.

A Letter To Steven Rowley


Lily and The Octopus
by Steven Rowely (Simon & Schuster)
The Editor by Steven Rowley (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Guncle by Steven Rowley  (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

July 17, 2021

Dear Mr. Rowley,

Now that sounded weird.  Since we are so close in age I toyed with just calling you Steven, but because we do not know each other personally, I’m keeping it “profesh” and using your last name with a big old MR. right in front of it.  For the past three years, I have exclusively written my letters of bookish love to Hemingway…you know, that famous American writer who is beyond controversial in his professional and personal life, and who is also DEAD! Today, however, I am not only trying my hand at writing to someone new, but also to someone who is actually alive for that matter (AKA…YOU).  But please do not panic.  I assure you that I am not changing my Blog name to Dear Mr. Rowley. I know, I know, I know it would be so fantabulous to have me as a pen pal gushing (yes I just said gushing) about our favorite books, authors, and other shenanigans on the regular, but I promise to curb my enthusiasm. 

Let me start by saying that I have read and loved all three of your books immensely.  In Lily and the Octopus, you basically shattered my heart into a million pieces, then without fail, assembled it back together again with your magical writing and approximately 3.5 boxes of tissues (we can talk later about how fantastic my puffy and tear-stained eyes looked upon completion of this book and what future remedies you recommend for these casualties that come from your brilliant writing).  I digress. In your sophomore novel, The Editor, you completely roused me with how you mindfully placed THE Jackie Kennedy Onassis in the midst of James Smale’s story to offer truth and wisdom to his writing and personal life in the most ingenious manner. But what I really want to chat with you about today though is your latest creation, The Guncle.  The second you mentioned Cassie’s solo in this work of art, I knew I had a friend in you.  

When I first read the premise of The Guncle, I was ready for a light and funny tale of Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP) prancing around in his Kaftans and cocktails taking in his niece and nephew for the summer in his Palm Springs home after their mom died and their dad went to rehab.  I mean, a single and gay forty-something-year-old/ex-sitcom star taking care of two small kids has to be funny, right?  Obviously, you know the answer to this, but I am announcing to you out loud that it was truly hysterical.  I mean, as a mom to three kids, I have been to hell and back with that Blue Lizard sunscreen you cleverly mentioned.  This thick pasty white lotion can repel the sun’s harmful rays and any other toxins lurking in the air, but it also has the unique ability to push parents to the edge of their sanity while leaving children with white stained faces to frolic about in the pool.  Funny, funny, funny. And while I loved Patrick’s chucklesome side with his Guncle rules to live by and daily interactions with the wee ones, I loved him most for his oversized heart and profound emotions he slowly revealed. 

You see Mr. Rowley, you did something pretty damn special in The Guncle.  You brought out the unexpected beauty that is sometimes embedded in the walls of grief. You wholeheartedly wrote a story that captured the unimaginable feeling of hope after a tragic loss.  You showed how experiencing grief through the lens of a child can be the ultimate lesson in healing for an adult’s aching heart.  You tackled grief, loss, addiction, family and so much more by infusing laughter and love throughout the pages of your book, making life’s challenges a little less scary to read about. You wrote a book that captures the human spirit in more ways than I could ever count.  For that, I am eternally grateful.  

So here’s the scoop Mr. Rowley.  It is pretty obvious that I admire your writing. You have dazzled me on three different occasions by keeping me up way past my bedtime reading your splendid tales.  You have moved me to a rainstorm of tears and to a belly full of laughter all in the matter of a few pages.  But most importantly, you have provided me with stories that continue to keep my love of reading alive and thriving.  

One last thing before I go.  Because we grew up more or less during the same time period, I will always be in tune with your subtle jokes and pop culture references. Your sarcasm and wittiness are totally my jam. For the record, when you said “Dance 10 Looks 3”, I immediately shouted, “And I’m still on unemployment”. 

On that note, I will gracefully end my letter to you.  I wish you health and happiness and many more books to come. Feel free to write to me any time!  Your words are always welcome here!  

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly Fredericks


P.S. If you ever want to watch A Chorus Line (the movie version) with me, I will happily make you an incredible mimosa (minus the orange juice plus the Veuve) with an organic orange slice placed on a nearby cocktail napkin for your drinking pleasure.  We can critique the dancers while giggling how Michael Douglas was such a “baby” back then and WHERE DID THE TIME GO!

Click on this picture to purchase these lovely books!

Triple Threat

Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins (Harper)
The Editor by Steven Rowley (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison (Mira Books)


May 10, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Today I am coming at you with not one, but three books to quench your reading desires. Caul births, Jackie O. and a cliffside villa on the coast of Italy is what’s in store for you with this triple threat selection.  Even though all three books could not have been more different, they all are fantastic reads in their own special way and I highly encourage you to add them to your TBR.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

J.T. Ellison did it again with another juicy tale.  Her Dark Lies is overflowing with danger, luxury and secrets galore.  The writing is atmospheric, the characters are layered, and the setting is so incredibly stunning.  A wedding on a remote Italian island sounds fantastic, right?  Throw in a huge storm, a lot of cash, dead bodies and few potential ghosts, and you’ve got yourself quite the tale.  Ellison wowed me with her nod to Daphne du Maurier.  Paying homage to one of her favorite books (Rebecca) in Her Dark Lies was absolutely stellar!  Check out what I had to say about her previous book, Good Girls Lie, RIGHT HERE!

Switching gears…I am a huge fan of Steven Rowley’s, The Editor.  Let me just reiterate that we book lovers LOVE reading about writers, getting published and anything literary related. Now, picture Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as the editor of an author’s debut novel, and you are officially in the middle of one charming tale. James Smale is the quintessential struggling writer who finally gets his big break with one of the major publishing houses with none other than Jackie O. as his editor.  Who would have thought that this former first lady would not only be editing his book, but also helping him come to terms with his dysfunctional family.  Wit and style paired with wisdom and grace fill the pages of Rowley’s book. I seriously adored Rowley’s humor and found myself chuckling throughout his book (James’ boyfriend Daniel, is an absolute riot in my opinion).  I loved how The Editor hit all the marks for me.  American royalty, family secrets and bookish delight, all tied up into one heartfelt novel equals perfection!  Be sure to stay tuned because Rowley has a new book coming out on May 25, 2021 called, The Guncle, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  

My last read was probably the most unique one for me.  Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins follows the Melancon Family from Harlem who are known for their caul, a special layer of skin that is used for healing and fertility.  Let me backup and explain what a caul birth is because I had no clue before reading this book and had to google it for clarity.  A caul birth is basically when a baby is born in an intact amniotic sac.  It is pretty rare and happens in less than one in 80,000 births according to Healthline (knowing this helps to understand the magic behind this story). I loved how Jerkins took this miraculous occurrence and gave it a touch of sorcery to create her story.  The Melancon women are famous for their healing skills and helping moms have successful pregnancies. Women from all over come to these women, willing to pay the steep cost for a piece of their caul.  When the plan falls through for Laila to acquire some caul to ensure a safe pregnancy, she is crushed when her baby is stillborn.  From there, the story takes flight.  Race, gentrification, money, morals and family secrets are all explored in depth with a hint of magical realism to keep things fresh and a wee bit peculiar.  There is so much to unpack from Jerkin’s story.  It is a WONDERFUL choice for your next book club.

Well my friend…three books for the price of one for the win today!

Happy Reading!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Click on the book pics below to purchase these gems from your local Indie Bookstore!

Here Comes The Sun

It Had To Be You by Georgia Clark (Atria/Emily Bestler)~May 4, 2021



May 3, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Love is in the air, and it feels like Valentine’s Day… in the beginning of May.  Because of this, I have to share with you the most sprightly and heartwarming book. It Had To Be You by Georgia Clark has all the “feels” and I literally can’t stop smiling.  Love almighty love is the theme here, and Clark delivers a five star tale blending a sprinkle of Modern Love with a dollop of Love Actually.  This twenty-first century romantic comedy is a ray of sunshine and I can’t wait for the world to read it.

Liv and Eliot Goldenhorn have been married for decades.  Their New York wedding planning company, In Love in New York is THE place to go for the ultimate wedding experience.  One night, Liv finds out that her husband had a heart attack while away, and died.  Soon after, Liv discovers that not only did her husband/business partner die, but that he left his half of the company to his GIRLFRIEND, Savannah (excellent time for your jaw to drop).  Why on Earth is he trying to bring these two women together after his death? 

Now that you have the backdrop of the story, let me continue with what happens next.  Liv is baffled when Savannah moves to New York to take on her “half “of the wedding business, and so begins their unexpected journey as business owners and women trying to discover love after loss. To enrich this story further, Clark brings in a cast of characters with their own unique love challenges that all link back to Liv, Savannah and In Love In New York. 

It Had To Be You is a must read for anyone looking for love,hope and a happily ever after.  LGBTQ themes, diversity, and romance were lovingly woven together to showcase the power of love. Clark magically melded together an incredible ensemble of characters that offered a different point of view for each new chapter.  The five storylines were distinct in their own quirky way and I was completely obsessed with each and every one of them.  As a woman in my 40’s, I personally relished reading about Clark’s characters my age and even older. It is so refreshing to see more mature women and men in romance books.  This writer truly knows how to tap into the human heart and I look forward to more books written by her.  

It Had To Be You is a treasure that belongs on everyone’s bookshelf.  It is a well needed hug after a long day kind of book and I can’t encourage you enough to read and savor this all inclusive love story.   

Love and Happiness My Friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly


P.S.  Georgia Clark shared her own happily ever after in Brides Magazine.  Check it out Right Here!

Click on the Book Pic to Purchase!

A Handful of Books…Just For You

A Handful of Books

February 19, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I love my long letters to you recounting my journey with a new crew of characters in their real or fictional worlds. Sometimes though, I am frothing over with so much literary goodness that I simply must gush about more than one book to you.   Because I am forever a mood reader, I require a variety of reading options at my fingertips at all times.  Whether it’s a literary drama, a light an airy romance, or a thriller gone wild, my state of mind always dictates to me my next read.  Here are a handful of book recommendations to kickstart your weekend.   

Happy Reading my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Your bouquet of books awaits you down below.  Arrange these books into your literary lifestyle any way you like. Click on the book pics to purchase or read the full synopsis.

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria (Avon Books)

I adored this romance. I did a combination of reading and listening to Daria’s story and both options were quick and delicious. The storyline was definitely a little predictable, but still tons of fun, worth the read and a wonderful pick me up. I loved the characters and the plot was wicked entertaining. Who doesn’t love the world of acting? There was a slow build to the “steamy” scenes making the last 1/3 of the book HOT! I enjoyed the Puerto Rican culture, and the Spanish speaking parts and accents on audio…were fabulous! This was a feel good, put a smile on your face kind of read.

Verity by Colleen Hoover (Independently Published)

Buckle up friends this is an absolute WILD RIDE. This has been the most hyped book I have read in quite sometime, and guess what…….It lived up to every juicy and disturbing detail. If you adore psychological thrillers that are mentally unsettling then this book will WOW you. Not only is the writing quick and captivating, Hoover pretty much nailed a five star ending in my opinion! Absolutely brilliant!

Good Eggs by Rebecca Hardiman (Atria Books)

A multi-generational Irish family, laugh out loud dialogue and dysfunctional characters you just can’t help but love fill the pages of Hardiman’s debut novel. From an aging grandmother, to an unfulfilled father, to a teen lost in her own way, Good Eggs takes on the trials and tribulations of family life…one character at a time. Hardiman’s heart felt story is peppered with humor that could be construed as inappropriate, but to me was hilarious and on point. I personally enjoy this approach to writing, especially when talking about sensitive topics such as aging, teenage life and infidelity. Good Eggs moved along at a steady pace offering me an equal distribution of comedic relief and tender moments. The ending was a bit over the top, but never the less brought a big smile to my face. I think this story would be incredible as a TV series. Move over Schitt’s CreekGood Eggs is coming to town. This book comes out on March 2, 2021. Pre-order or reserve it from your local library now!!!

The Prophets by Robert Jones, JR. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

The love between two Black and enslaved men in the deep south is enough to grab most readers’ attention. Pair that with a beautiful and heart wrenching story filled with prose that will literally hypnotize you, and you’ve got yourself an extraordinary read. The Prophets is by no means a fast read. Jones’ writing is lyrical and oftentimes reads like a poem. It is one that you consume at a pace that allows time to sit with your heightened senses and experience Samual and Isaiah’s journey, one page at a time.

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon (Berkley)

Radio co-hosts who pretended to have dated in order to share their “fake” past on their award winning show is the premise of The Ex Talk. Another feel good romance for the win with this bright and shiny new release. Enemies to lovers will always be one of my favorite tropes, and Shay and Dominic had me yearning for a “romantic” connection right from the start. This was a slow burn romance with great energy that evens gets a little naughty in the bedroom during the second half of the book. So much fun and perfect to read if you need a little boost to your day.

Fashion Scenes & Low Rise Jeans

Everybody (else) is perfect

Everybody (Else) is Perfect:  How I Survived Hypocrisy, Beauty, Clicks, and Likes by Gabrielle Korn (Atria Books)

“Under the guidance of 29-year-old Gabrielle Korn, an out lesbian who lives in Brooklyn with her musician girlfriend, Nylon has become one of the most politically-aware, racially diverse, LGBTQ-inclusive, and feminist-forward digital magazines out there since Korn was appointed editor-in-chief in September 2017 (the same time the outlet’s print edition folded).”

January 25, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Women!  You were a fan…I am quite sure of that.  We empower one another to live life to the fullest, love who we want to love, feel confident in our bodies and demand equality in our everyday lives.  But the bottom line is…are we ever 100% happy within our own skin?  How can we get to a place of peace and acceptance of our most wonderful selves, especially when we are promoting this to those around us?  Sometimes a deep dive into the roots of these issues is more telling than a one size fits all answer.  Gabrielle Korn, a digital media expert, former editor at Refinery29 and former editor-in-chief of Nylon shares in her new memoir, personal essays relating to this very issue. Her story is an eye-opening, contemporary account of how damaging the fashion and beauty industries have been (and still can be) to women.  Her writing is fresh and alive and pretty much blew me away.  I hope you will read her book and find wisdom and courage in her words.

I will admit right away that I have never read Nylon (I have seen it referenced in books and on the internet though) and until I read Korn’s memoir, I didn’t even know who she was.  I am telling you this because I loved her book and I loved getting to know her through her writing.  I am not sure how much of a difference it would have made if I had more knowledge of who Korn was and what Nylon was all about.  FYI…Nylon is an international lifestyle publication that focuses on emerging culture (beauty, fashion, music, entertainment, etc.).  Korn’s book is a compilation of essays about her time spent in her twenties working in the fashion/beauty industry and her fast rise to the top of the publication, Nylon.  Korn had a great education, a supportive family and plenty of friendships.  Despite these blessings, she found herself in a cycle of eating disorders and body dysmorphia that not only impacted her health and well being, but had an acute influence on her intimate relationships with women.  Society’s view of sexualality was and still is in constant flux, making Korn’s goal of bringing diversity to this area and to all shapes, sizes and races to the media a constant battle. Fashion Week in New York City was one of the biggest culprits of all.  Stick thin models with dress sizes measuring an xxxs, is not ideal for anyone.

Korn talked a lot about trending body parts and their continuous sway on our self-esteem.  First it was a flat as a pancake stomach, then it was an oversized booty, followed by big boobs or bust.  Let’s not forget the thin waif look or the “strong is healthy” body.  What body part was the focus was and still is ever changing.   Looking in the mirror became a confusing vision for Korn and one that she battled everyday.    

“Even before hashtags, women’s body parts have been going in and out of style for as long as there’s been style.  What’s meant by that, really, is that for the moment, people with a certain physical characteristic are privileged. “ 

With popular body parts comes fashion to highlight them.  From low rise jeans, to high rise leggings, to crop tops to the no makeup makeup look, there is always a trend lingering around tempting us to conform or shaming us because we don’t.  Korn takes us through her days of dressing and undressing in the clothes of our time that were supposed to inspire us to feel beautiful but also had the potential of making one feel empty and not good enough.  She does mention that what you wear still can be valued.  Fashion has changed through the decades and for example, women being able to wear pants was a huge deal.  It was a sign of strength and equality that should be celebrated.  With this comes a hefty side order of  sexism, mental health issues and a variety of eating disorders that keep us from reaching our full potential and most happy selves.  Korn shares how her own eating disorder came to be and her battle to overcome it in a world that was determined to defeat her with unobtainable bodies and beauty standards. 

Through her years in the instrustry, Korn called out the fashion world for promoting diversity and women empowerment, while at the same time, not adhering to their own standards.  

“For any real change to happen in the fashion industry, all of the editors and bloggers and influencers would have to agree to stop showing up for designers that aren’t making an active effort to improve diversity.  That would mean going to probably four or five shows as opposed to the nearly one hundred that happen during New York Fashion Week.”  

Gabrielle Korn’s memoir was a deep-seated read.  I was beguiled with how she shared her most private moments in her life in a way that felt like she was talking in confidence with a close friend.  As a forty something year old straight woman who has never worked in the fashion industry, I could still relate to so much of what she revealed.  I have lived through my fair share of fashion/body trends and unreachable beauty standards and of course…sexism at its finest.  I can’t say that it was all bad (excluding sexism…that is always never welcomed here), but looking back now I wonder if some of it was even worth it.   Some trends worked in my favor, while others had me scrambling or left feeling pretty low.  Through the decades, I have witnessed media, fashion, diets and beauty products make strides towards diversity and inclusion of all shapes, sizes and even genders…at least from my perspective as a consumer. But is society moving in the right direction to meet the needs of our diverse and beautiful world?  Hopefully.  Do I still feel like I am reaching for the stars sometimes?  Absolutely.  But my one take away from Korn is that there are so many outside factors that influence our lives and we can’t change everything, especially all at once.  What we can change though, is our reaction to the cultural influences around us and how we let it seep into our minds and relationships.  We do not have to be a slave to our image.  We can just be who we are and love ourselves, flaws and all.   2021 continues to be an uphill battle. But as the steepness slowly decreases, our strength is increasing. Our bodies are our vessels that carry us through life.  I am focussing more on loving my vessel than hating it.  How about you?  

Much love, health and happiness to you!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Wallace ❤️❤️❤️

Click on the book pic below to purchase this book. It comes out January 26, 2021 🥰🥰🥰

Guest Writer

Guest writer Sol Kelly

Sol Kelly

Bookstagram Bonanza Edition

Guest Writer Graphic for Sol Kelly

October 2, 2020

Dear Book Lovers,

I am so very happy to introduce you to today’s Guest Writer. Sol Kelly lives in Houston, Texas. She is the creator of the gorgeous book blog, The Sol Reader, and the popular Bookstagram (Instagram for book lovers) page, @thesolreader. Sol is an absolute free-spirit who loves to travel and explore new bookstores while learning new cultures and languages along the way. She is currently working on becoming quadrilingual in English, Spanish, French, and Japanese 😮! Sol is a mood reader whose favorite genres include literary and contemporary fiction, social science, gender + sexuality, and poetry. Sunny beaches, cold beer, and good reads give this ray of sunshine life. I hope you enjoy her letter to Mr. H. and follow her around on all of her bookish adventures. I can assure you…this gem will brighten your day ☀️☀️☀️.

Enjoy!

❤️❤️❤️

Kelly

P.S. Sol told me she hails from the city where people second-line and throw a party for everything. Can you say New Orleans 🍺🎭🎉!!!

_____________________

Dear Mr. H., 

While 2020 seems to have been written by a fantasy and thriller author who gets a laugh out of that whole “it’s one thing after another” stunt, the one thing they did get right is the amount of amazing books that are coming out this year. I’m not sure how many books you now have on your TBR (to be read) list, but if it is anywhere close to mine, a number we shall not speak of, then I hope All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson is somewhere on there. If it is not, you need to add it as soon as possible because this book is a gem and the author is an incredible creative. 

I believe that knowing more about the author helps to elevate the reading experience. There’s something about getting to know them beyond their pages. With George M. Johnson, the more you learn about them, the more you fall in love with their authenticity, creativity, vulnerability, and innovation. I literally fangirl every time I see Johnson on my timeline, and if you’ve checked out their Instagram you will see why. They never disappoint..and I mean NEVER. George M. Johnson is an award winning writer and Bestselling author of All Boys Aren’t Blue who recently invited us in on identifying as nonbinary (pronouns: they/them) and queer. They are constantly and continuously demonstrating the importance of having agency over our lives. 

All Boys Aren’t Blue is an LGBTQIA+ Young Adult read (with a stunning cover for all my cover lovers like myself) that has an overarching theme of agency – being able to control our narrative. Johnson does an incredible job of showing what this has looked like in their life throughout every chapter from discussing their upbringing to their relationship with their family to their college experience in regard to becoming a member of a fraternity to exploring their identity and sexuality. We get a taste of it all, which I know with confidence will not only help younger readers see themselves in these pages, but everyone who cracks open the book, especially those of us who longed for books that gave us the words and convictions to navigate our own identities and sexuality in our respective worlds growing up and even now. Johnson words it perfectly on page 85 when they say, “You sometimes don’t know you exist until you realize someone like you existed before.” Have you ever read a book that made you feel understood and considered, Mr. H.? Maybe your works do that for others. 

The book is categorized as a memoir-manifesto with an outstanding amount of vulnerability expressed in every story that is admirable and is home to so much beauty. We are seeing a Black, queer, nonbinary author be an open book (pun intended lol) and give us stories we need – the stories that get buried in headlines, in graves, and in family secrets. Stories that never get told but should. Stories that challenge the gender binary and the heteronormative systems in society. Stories that speak to unconditional love and acceptance, and that give us permission to be our most genuine, authentic, bold, brave, and queer selves.

You should be adding All Boys Aren’t Blue to your cart…right…about…NOW!

Shine Brightly, 

Sol

P.S. Click on the book pic below to purchase this amazing read from an incredible bookstore!

Sol Kelly's bookstack

**Photo credit~Sol Kelly

Audio Books Worth Your Hours

Audiobooks worth your hours custom graphic

Tales From An Audio Book Junkie

March 2, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I need to say something and I really hope you and everyone else hear this correctly. AUDIOBOOKS COUNT AS READING! I can’t believe that there are actual people in the world that believe this to be untrue. I am setting the record straight today. Listening to your books vs. reading a physical book comes down to modality. One uses visual, while the other uses auditory. That is it. Still reading!

Now that I have cleared that up, I’ll let you in on a little secret. My personal reading life drastically changed once I added audiobooks into the mix. I pretty much doubled the number of books I was consuming and felt way more up to date with my TBR list. Let’s face it, the act of reading a physical book is pretty much incompatible with most activities (except for maybe working out on a treadmill or exercise bike). However, listening to a book pairs quite perfectly with so many everyday activities (driving, exercising, household chores). With that said, listening to books wasn’t exactly a slam dunk for me. It took many failed attempts to find the right fit. The key to finding a great book on audio boils down to the narrator. While a poor audio narration can destroy the experience of a five-star read, the right performance will elevate your listening adventure beyond the stars. In fact, you will feel so fantastically entertained that you will wear your earbuds 24/7. And that my friends, is a sign that you are on your way to becoming an audiobook junkie. Welcome to the club!

Today I am sharing with you a few audiobooks that worked for me. Between the stories and the talented narrators, these audiobooks brought joy to me during the most dreadful activities…laundry, cleaning, endless driving. You get my drift. While so many of these daily undertakings are unavoidable, we can at least get some reading done while doing them. But don’t just associate your listening with unpleasant activities. Long walks, gardening, and everyday life work well with good storytelling. Make reading more a part of your day. Start listening!

Synopsis from the Publisher: (Penguin Random House Audio)

“One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them are a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured veteran returning from Afghanistan, a business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. Halfway across the country, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor. Edward’s story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a part of himself has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery—one that will lead him to the answers to some of life’s most profound questions: When you’ve lost everything, how do you find the strength to put one foot in front of the other? How do you learn to feel safe again? How do you find meaning in your life?”

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ In the wake of an unimaginable tragedy, Napolitano’s story tells of one boy’s survival and how he went on to not only survive but truly really live. My emotions were everywhere in this book. I hesitated to listen to this story because I didn’t want to feel sad. While a few parts of this book completely gutted me, the majority of this story was uplifting and heartfelt. Casandra Campbell’s narration comforted me during this emotionally charged story. Edward will forever be in my heart! This book is 100% worth the 11 hours 36 minutes of listening hours in your day.

Synopsis from the Publisher (Penguin Random House Audio): “In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don’t speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling. Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey’s district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit–and her sister–before it’s too late.”

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Liz Moore’s story brings awareness to the opioid crisis that plagues our nation. She shines a light on how this calamity impacts not only society but the ones we love most. Allyson Ryan’s narration transports you to the streets of Philadelphia while bringing to life this mystery and family drama in the most satisfying way. It is definitely worth your 13 hours 19 minutes of listening time.

Synopsis from the Publisher (Penguin Random House Audio): “Cyril Avery is not a real Avery — or at least, that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he? Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his many years, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more.”

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I am not going to lie. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is one of my favorite books of all time. Boyne’s story is rich. It’s full. It absolutely requires 21 hours 10 minutes to tell. Do not let these long hours deter you from experiencing this coming of age saga. Stephen Hogan’s performance will keep your earbuds permanently in place with his luscious Irish accent. Cyril Avery is one to root for. He will stay in your soul forever. This my friends…..is worth every second of your listening time (76,200 seconds to be precise).

Well, Mr. H., I must get back to my listening! Cheers everyone!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. If you are looking for a way to listen to your books while supporting your local bookstore, check out Libro.FM. Feel free you use my referral link to get your first month free. I am NOT affiliated with Libro.FM. I personally support this listening option on my own. Any member can share their referral code.

Click here to check out my referral code!!!

The Best Books of 2019!!!

Collage for Best Books of 2019

December 31, 2019

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Can you believe that today is the last day of 2019? The last day of this DECADE???? This year has turned out some tremendous reads. Today I am sharing my top nine reads of 2019. Whether I was excited, crying, horrified, or genuinely scared, these nine books delivered the feels!!!! My reading motto is and always will be READ WHAT YOU LOVE~LOVE WHAT YOU READ! If you follow this way of thinking…your reading life will be stellar! So without further ado…My top nine of 2019 (in no particular order)!

1. The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo (Doubleday)~This is the ultimate family drama/saga. It stole my heart ❤️❤️❤️!!

2. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware (Gallery Books)~Smart homes, technology and keyholes officially terrify me 😱.

3. The Testaments by Margaret Attwood (Doubleday)~This book was absolutely BRILLIANT! Click here for my blog post!

4. The Girl He Used To Know by Tracey Garvis Graves (St. Martin’s Press)~I ran out of tissues reading this love story. My heart melted…….is a good way!!! Click here to read my blog post.

5. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Celadon Books)~This book absolutely lived up to the hype. Clever, sharp and impossible to put down.

6. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)~ Whitehead does a fantastic job depicting the south in the early 1960s while getting his point across without overly graphic descriptions of the unimaginable.

7. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press)~ A poetic, thought provoking and stunning read.

8. Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison (Harlequin)~ An elite all girl boarding school, a murder and a couple of mean girls……..this was great!

9. If You Want To Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais (G. P. Putnam’s Sons)~. This South African story tugged at my heart strings. A truly beautiful story! Click here to read my blog post.

Well Mr. H…………..That is a wrap! Cheers to another decade of reading!!!!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Did you know that the most read book in the world is The Bible and according to PBS “The Great American Read”, Harper Lee’s To Kill a MockingBird is America’s most loved novel.

Post Summer Catch Up With Kelly

A stack of books viewed from the side

September 5, 2019

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

It has been weeks since my last letter to you. Time flies by when you are on vacation, spending time with friends and family, and reading wonderful books! Nevertheless, summer is over 😢😢 and fall is in the air 😁😁. Today, I thought it would be great to recap a bunch of books that I’ve read recently. Now is the time to get everyone’s fall TBR piles stacked and ready to go. I look forward to writing to you often this fall Mr. H.

Until Next time!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. I am looking forward to everyone’s comments on this post. I would love to know what everyone is reading!


The Perfect Wife
by JP Delaney is a fantastic read. What started off as a thriller, quickly turned into so much more. Abby, a mother, surfer, and artist wakes up one day dazed and confused. She has no idea who she is or where she is. Her husband gently informs her of an accident that happened many years ago. Before I go any further, The Perfect Wife is the kind of book to read without knowing too much going into it. I was pleasantly greeted with surprises, twists, and sharp turns along the way. Without divulging too much information, I will say that this book is filled to the brim with mystery surrounding Abby and her tech-savvy husband. Delaney’s story is so intriguing that you will be hooked from page one. It is the perfect blend of domestic noir with a splash of sci-fi and the unconditional love of a mother. I had an extremely difficult time putting this fast-paced novel down. I highly recommend this read. It is crazy different and crazy good! Thank you to Random House (Ballantine Books) via Netgalley for an early look at this book. It is out now!!!!!

P.S. Click here to purchase The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney

Wow!!!!!! The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr was an amazing read for me this summer. First of all, the cover alone had me at “Hello”! In addition to my cover love, Barr’s book was overflowing with passion, betrayal, and self-discovery (this is my jam). The story follows Sophie Bloom, a 42-year-old mother who discovers on her birthday that her husband has been having multiple (and I mean multiple) affairs. So what does she do??????? Sophie takes off for France to rediscover who she really is and what her life is now going to look like. Cheating husbands and marriages falling to pieces are not new themes in the world of fiction (or nonfiction). Barr manages to take it a step further by untangling the roles of infidelity, love, and friendship with her characters. Mt recommendation is to jump right on in with this book. It is fast, engaging, and “unputdownable”. Go grab it now!!!!

P.S. Click here to purchase The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr.

I am an absolute sucker for the classic frenemies turn lovers romance story. Nina Bocci’s new book, On the Corner of Love and Hate, met my romance reading needs this summer. Emmanuelle and Cooper have been friends since they were kids. Now that they are back in their childhood hometown and working in the same office, Emmanuelle realizes just how much of a grudge she holds against Cooper. When Cooper decides to run for town Mayor, Emmanuelle takes on the difficult job of managing his campaign and his personal life. Bocci’s story follows these two bickering “friends” as they both navigate the campaign trail and their feelings towards one another. As it gets closer to voting time, Emmanuelle needs to make some personal decisions that will have an impact on moving forward with Cooper and the race to a campaign victory.

I absolutely adored On the Corner of Love and Hate by Nina Bocci. I loved all the characters in this small town romance story. The political backdrop was the perfect setup for Emmanuelle to figure out her true feelings for Cooper. Their relationship had the exact amount of wit, charm, and sarcasm to keep the pages turning. The romance was sweet and the steam level was extremely mild. Bocci’s story is an easy-breezy read that will leave you grinning from ear to ear. I look forward to future books from this author. Thank you to Gallery Books via Netgalley for the advanced read of this book in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. Click here to purchase On the Corner of Love and Hate by Nina Bocci

All you Great Gatsby Lovers out there are going to devour Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald. I am so amazed that the letters between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda Fitzgerald were found and preserved. Even more impressive is that these letters were pieced together to form an intimate look at the personal life of this literary couple. On the outside, Scott and Zelda appeared glamorous and put together. Cocktails, great food, and artistic friends were only a small part of the equation though. Their attractive lifestyle was filled with alcoholism, health issues, mental illness, and financial struggles. I didn’t realize until I read this book, that Scott and Zelda lived a good portion of their lives apart. With Zelda in and out of mental health institutions and Scott traveling for work, caring for their daughter, and managing his own health issues, their relationship truly depended on their letters to one another. Even though their life together was filled with heartbreak, Scott and Zelda managed to hold on to hope and dreams for a better tomorrow.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a lover of literature and the works of great American writers from the 20th century. It was an honor to get an inside peek into the once private letters of such an iconic couple. Thank you to Scribner via Netgalley for the advanced read of this book in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. Click here to purchase Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald

If you are looking for an intimate read with unlimited depth, then On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is the book for you. Vuong’s main character and speaker in the story is named Little Dog. In his twenties, Little Dog tells his life story and his family history through letters he has written to his mom (who can’t read). He holds absolutely nothing back in what he has to say. In addition to talking about his mother’s past living in Vietnam during the war, he also describes their complex relationship and how it impacted his life. He also dives deep into his own sexuality and coming of age as a Vietnamese boy growing up in Connecticut. Vuong’s writing is extremely raw and profoundly tender. Not surprising considering he is also a published poet. I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Ocean Vuong at Print Bookstore in Portland, Maine this summer. It was a beautiful evening filled with words, passion, and wonderful people. His new book, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is beyond stunning. His writing is lyrical, poetic, and breathtaking. When I finished Vuong’s book, I was completely speechless. I highly recommend picking up this book. It is truly a work of literary art.

P.S. Click here to purchase On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

If you have read anything by Blake Crouch, then you have a pretty good idea of how his books flow. If this is your first Crouch book…buckle up, it is a wild ride. The premise of his new book revolves around something the media is calling, False Memory Syndrome. Basically, individuals are having vivid memories of a former life they never lived. The memories are so strong and disturbing, that the victims of this syndrome are literally going mad, even resorting to suicide to escape the insanity. In comes Barry Sutton, a NYC cop who is investigating this phenomenon, and neuroscientist Helena Smith, who is working on developing technology to preserve one’s most important memories. Memories, the physics of time, and many twists and turns will have you on the edge of your seat! Warning…this book moves fast. Once you start, you are in it to win it. Crouch’s Dark Matter rocked my world, and Recursion rocked it again! Happy reading!

P.S. Click here to purchase Recursion by Blake Crouch

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