Just Call Me Stephanie. #DearStephanie

I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Mandi Castle’s debut novel, Dear Stephanie, and let me tell you, it REALLY spoke to me, y’all.

Dear Stephanie Cover

This book. Oh. My. God. This book. Mandi Castle’s writing is like a warm brownie. Gooey and decadent with all the sugary sweetness that you crave, but wicked and naughty all at once. To say Paige Preston is depressed would be the understatement of the year. Though her outer appearance oozes with perfection, she’s damaged to the core. She suffers deeply as she takes you on the biggest roller coaster ride of highs and lows.

Paige is the poster child for excessive perfection. While flawlessly beautiful, ridiculously wealthy, and fucking brilliant, she struggles with her own self as much as any of us. Sure, I’m not ridiculously wealthy. I’m far from the embodiment of perfection. I’ve never been depressed to the point of suicidal thoughts or tendencies. But as a woman who has felt pain, who has felt less than I am, who has had bouts of extreme crazy, who has suffered silently in her own right…I get it.

The novel is a series of journal entries from one Paige Preston to “Stephanie” who is a fabricated personification of Paige’s diary. Castle writes these entries with such realistic, natural, and eloquent language that I truly believe in Paige. I laughed with her, I cried with her, I felt as if she were writing to me, and I was Stephanie. I LOVED that she regularly referenced Stephanie inside the entries, often referring to her as “Steph,” which gives her a casual and even more realistic personality.

The entries are brutal, with strong sexual content that leaves you breathless, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching experiences that make you want to scream and cry, drug and alcohol abuse, suicidal depression, and brilliant acts of love and heroism. Mandi’s writing dances on the pages without glorifying the ugly truths, merely telling Paige’s tale and pleading with you to recognize depression, abuse and other unspeakable acts. By the end of the novel, you’ll find yourself begging for more, cheering for Paige’s triumphs and crying over her stumbles.

Basically, you guys, this book is fucking fantastic. I will place a mini disclaimer here and say that there are a lot of triggers in the book, so if there are things that you have difficulty with – suicide, rape, depression, alcohol and drug abuse – this novel may be extremely difficult. But if you’re okay reading about some really tough stuff, pick this one up.

Mandi Castle

Photo courtesy of Lizzi Rogers

Mandi Castle is a baller, a blogger, and a word magician. Her blog is full of awesome, and I’ve even caught her sneaking around here once or twice – which I’m not going to lie, kind of makes me feel ridiculously special.

Dear Stephanie hits Amazon today. So why don’t you pop over there and grab a digital or paper copy of this phenomenal novel?

What books have you read recently? What types of books do you love to read? What aspects of writing really turn you on and grab your soul?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

The Bad Ass Book Club for Nice Girls

Starting a book club is a lot of work. No, seriously. It’s fucking painful. But the results? OH SO WORTH IT.

A few months ago, I was contacted by a company about reading a book for a book club (and they’d provide 1. The books. 2. The wine. 3. Some snacky stuff. 4. Extras.)

So I rallied the troops. I said to a collection of my girlfriends, “LADIES, let’s start a book club. We’ll call it The Bad Ass Bitches’ Book Club. And it will be good.”

And the troops were in. Unfortunately, between regular gaming nights, epic social lives and the holidays…it was damn near impossible to get together.

FINALLY, we were able to set a date. While not everyone could make it, the wheels were set in motion.

Look! They sent us hats! :)

Look! They sent us hats! 🙂

When the calendar invites went out, Brookie Banosnapper (pictured above, slightly behind me) requested that we change the name to “The Nice Girls’ Book Club. Because we’re nice.

And so, I modified it to the Bad Ass Book Club for Nice Girls (even if we’re sometimes a little bit bitchy). And our little club was formed.

This Missing Something Club Book Review

 

We read The Missing Something Club by William Haylon…and I use the phrase, “we read” loosely. Of the four ladies who made it to the inaugural book club meeting, only two of us finished the story. We both enjoyed the easy read and the basic plot line of the story, one of the others couldn’t get into it based on the first few pages, and the other just didn’t find the time to get into it (though she liked the writing that she did read). Two other friends who didn’t make it to the book club weren’t a fan of the story at all.

SPOILER ALERT: I’m really bad with giving a synopsis without giving away what might be a spoiler. So take this as fair warning.

The premise of the story begins with a 50-year-old empty nester and divorcee who feels lost. She starts a Meet Up group for people who are missing something. Whatever that something in their lives may be. Five strangers initially show up, varying in age, sex, and life experiences. The story follows their experiences through the separate voices of each character, who all seem to find themselves with the help of the oldest member of the crew.

There’s a lot of drinking. A lot of human nature. A lot of nakedness (thought mostly non-sexual nakedness). And more drinking. The characters are all deeply flawed, and I think that’s part of the point of the story. All of the women pose naked for the oldest character, where they share even more of themselves and open up in ways they don’t even open up in the weekly group. The book is a lot of therapy jammed into several chapters.

Unfortunately, for me, while I liked the premise of the story, I wasn’t sure I liked the way it was delivered. I enjoyed some of the prose, but the dialogue (and there was a LOT of dialogue) felt unnatural – almost too formal. And some of the things the characters did were…extreme. In general, though, it was an easy read and I found myself enjoying parts of it it the further I delved into it.

Brookie liked the story too, and played the part of teachers’ pet when it came to answering questions for the book club. After talking about the book, I think I liked it a little bit more. Seeing it from Brooke’s perspective definitely helped me to gather that each of the very flawed characters has something that I can relate to…and that was a really interesting way to see it.

BUT…we did eat. drink. and make merry. And we started a joyous club that will hopefully live on for many years to come.

Would you ever join a club without knowing the members? Do you think that drinking makes it easier or more difficult to open up and share secrets? What about nudity – would being naked make it easier or harder to share secrets?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Sorry Not Sorry

I can’t put this book down.

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I have 4 half posts written and a book to finish reading. I’ll be back next week. Or tomorrow if I stay up all night to finish Ready Player One. One of those.

Have you read this book?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

You Don’t Kill Prince Charming. You Just Don’t.

Colin Firth

The majority of my adult life has been spent divided between living each day to tell a story the next, searching for the Mark Darcy to my Bridget Jones, and imagining all of the glorious things that happen once Bridget and Mark live happily ever after. Especially once I finally did meet my Mark Darcy AKA Mr. Darcy AKA Prince Charming (Brian). And started imagining our happily ever after…(Shhh don’t tell Brian!)

Oh stop judging me. You have a romantic hero too. (If it’s Bella Swan, we can’t be friends…OK, maybe. But you know what I mean.)

Mark Darcy is Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy is essentially…Prince Charming.

He’s the dream hero. He’s the romantic idol. He’s what every girl imagines her future love to be.

You want a guy to look at you the way Mark looked at Bridget. You want a guy to tell you that he likes you. Just as you are.

Hugging dolphins

Lucky for me, I found that guy. Sure, he looks at me all funny like when I start hyperventilating over that fact that an author killed my novelized dream man, but most of the time, he looks at me with affection. And love.

But you know what? We’ve got a life ahead of us. And Bridget and Mark? They had a life, too. And Helen Fielding was too fucking lazy to write it. Instead, she took the easy way out. She wrote what she knew. Left broken-hearted with her own two children by her baby daddy in 2009, she started penning a book in which Bridge was a single mother of two.

We never got to see her happy ending, but we imagined it. We ALL did. Every last Bridget advocate. Bridget and Mark with one pair of folded underpants at the foot of the bed and the other pair swinging from the ceiling fan. The lovable disaster and the brilliant, full-of-heart, perfect opposite love of her life.

So I’m angry. And I KNOW I’m not the only one.

Because what Helen Fielding did was wrong.

She killed Prince Charming. She fucking. Killed. Prince. Charming.

Before his story was even written!

Did we see a wedding? No. Did we see the marriage? No. Did we see them become parents? Nope. Because Helen Fielding apparently doesn’t know how to write happy.

Will I read this abomination? Fuck no. Because it’s wrong. It’s like…LITERARY BLASPHEMY.

And BTW. While I’m on the angry subject. KATIE…we’re fighting. I can’t believe you couldn’t tell me this. You’re a BOOK BLOGGER! You HAD to know about this! And I had to read it on the internet. We named our scheffleras Bridget and Shazzer together! OK. Fine. I still love you. But I’m broken. Because of Helen Fielding.

Blog Friends, are you ex-Bridget fans too? Do you hate on Helen Fielding for her cruel and unusual punishment? I’ve created the hash tag: #YouDONTKillPrinceCharming if you’d like to sound off about this too. I’m ANGRY. And I’m LOUD.

If you’re not into the Bridget thing, have you ever been truly bothered by the outcome of a series?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem: What Problem?

Woah!

(If you, too heard Joey Lawrence in your head and thought, you know…Matthew Lawrence was always the more attractive brother, then we should be friends.)

Anyways, I’ve got another book review for the wonderful Project Fairy Tale hosted by The Cheap Reader. And it was flippin’ awesome. Finally a fairy tale rewrite I can get behind. And in front of. And all over, because I thought it was that fun.

 

Project Fairy Tale

So Katie at Words for Worms recently reviewed Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde and after reading her positive review I was stoked, because I was waiting for my paper copy (yes, a real live book) of The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, also by Vivian Vande Velde, to arrive in the mail. Of course, I’m not used to waiting this long for a freakin’ book…so I was a little antsy.

I got the book on a really great day for me and the US Postal Service. I received 2 packages, a letter (OK invitation to a baby shower), and I got my very own PO box, so that I have an address that isn’t my home in my contact information! Not only all of this exciting stuff, but also our mail carrier, who is patient and wonderful even though I stalk her asking about packages (because they won’t leave them outside our door…and then I have to wait until 8am the next day, and it’s very annoying) had already brought the packages inside with the help of our neighbors. It was very nice of everyone involved. </ramble>

ANYWAYS! Opening the package to find this adorable little hard cover that I paid like $2 for was incredibly exciting for me. (The other package was 4 boxes of K-cups for my Keurig of JOY) A little over 100 pages of pure joy, this book was an absolute delight.

Sure, it was most definitely written for a younger audience, but hey…SO WAS TOY STORY! And we laughed. We cried.  We loved it. And there were jokes that we totally got.  Same goes for The Rumpelstiltskin Problem. Funny. Smart. CLEVER. This book was a great quick distraction this weekend, when I had 5-10 minutes to spare. Each of the short Rumpelstiltskin takes in this book were short, sweet, and awesome. A female Rumpel? Yep. A vodka drinking Miller? Yep. A fat little gnome who reminds me of a happier house elf? Yep.

Triple V aims to answer all of the questions that the original Rumpelstiltskin leaves out. Why is the king such a douche? Why does Rumpel want a baby? Why is the Miller such a bad father? What else is going on behind the music? This lady has the answers and she’s good at it.

In total, this one took me about an hour, maybe less to read. But it was worth every minute. If I thought she had a paper copy, I’d ask Katie to borrow Cloaked in Red…because I just know it’s got to be good.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

The Power of a Name

Project Fairy Tale

Remember way back when, a few months ago, when I was having a complete jealousy complex toward Katie at Words for Worms and I signed up to read some fairy tales and write about them as if I were a book blogger or something? No? Here, you can go back and read about why I chose Rumpelstiltskin…then come right back.

So obviously, my chosen fairytale was based on my obsession with Once Upon a Time (Stop judging me. Stop it.) Brian and I *almost* went as Rumpel and Belle for Halloween which would have been fucking fantastic. I would have even dyed my hair brown for the occasion. As you know, we ended up going as Jack and Sally so that I could keep my ginger color and have a bad ass costume to boot…

Do you want to know WHHYYYY Brian vetoed this plan? I’ll bet you can guess after checking out this picture:

Rumpelstiltskin

Yep, sparkles. shimmers. shine. Brian didn’t want a sparkle face. He has no problem with makeup, but sparkles are a disease. Infectious. It’s sad really…Because I miss my sparkle lip gloss.

That being said, I don’t have awesome pictures of my boyfriend as Rumpelstiltskin, but you know what? After reading the original fairytale, I’m not as impressed with Rumpel.

Granted, I know…He wasn’t all that great in Faerie Tale Theatre (and really, to be quite honest, neither was Shelley DuVall [If you are unsure of who or what I’m talking about, you definitely missed out on an excellent childhood experience: The joy of Faerie Tale Theater.]

When I was growing up, I was obsessed with Faerie Tale Theater. OB-SESSED. Whenever I was sick, Mom would go to Blockbuster [blah-k-bus-ter: proper noun: a place where one borrows movies for a set time at a nominal fee] and rent several episodes of Faerie Tale Theater. I would watch them over and over and over again. We had to get our money’s worth of viewing from Blockbuster.

My favorites–the ones Mom would rent repeatedly–were The Snow Queen, Rapunzel, and Rumpelstiltskin. My grandpa had Sleeping Beauty on Laserdisc for me, and I had Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella [Oh, God Matthew Broderick/Prince Charming I love you!] so I didn’t worry about renting those. Yes I know I’m still in parentheses)…but I was hoping for a little something more…

Rumpelstiltskin: A Fairytale Book Review

OK, it’s not a book, so much as a short (operative word here) story. You can read it easily enough by clicking the heading above. Fairy-tales are fables. They’re stories to teach. To entertain. And at one time they were verbal. SO…they’re short. Which is totally okay.

But you know what is not okay? Turning into a whiny little bitch because someone knows your name. OK OK it’s more than that. The miller’s daughter is SUCH a victim, it’s not even funny. Her dad pawns her off to the king for riches. The king demands riches before he will love her. The little man promises her riches in exchange for everything she owns including her unborn child. But she’s clever. And sneaky. And manages to survive her father, the king, AND the little man. So shit, girl…get the hell away from these crazy men and go find some elf in the woods or something…

Legolas

Like him, perhaps?

In all seriousness, though, I think that there is something to be said about the power of a name. How often do you speak the name of your children, your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend? Your friends? How often do you hear your own name? If you really think about it, it isn’t always that often. You hear your name more when you’re being talked about than spoken to.

Take a minute. Think back to the last time someone said your name. Was it gossip? Was it directed at you? Was it sweet or harsh? A name is a powerful thing to know. Google your name. See what pops up. What does the world know about your name? Do you want the world to know or do you hide behind a pseudonym? When you write about your family, your friends, your children…do you share their names?

Rumpelstiltskin may be just a short fairytale in the world of literature, but it certainly speaks volumes about power. And names.

Blog Friends, I want to know your thoughts…what is the power of a name?

Also…click the Fence to vote for me!

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!