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 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 Crimson Thread or How Rumpelstiltskin Became the Good Guy

Project Fairy Tale

As a part of Project Fairytale, hosted by The Cheap Reader, I’m supposed to do some book reviews of Rumpelstiltskin re-tellings. I picked up this young adult novel for my Nook. The Crimson Thread by Suzanne Weyn. In a premature excitement, I may or may not have collected several of the tales from this “Once Upon a Time” series. Not to be confused by the ABC TV show of the same name.

The Crimson Thread

Maybe I got a little ahead of myself, because I was not inspired to read the rest of the books in the series. It’s not that it was a bad novel. It just wasn’t delicious enough to warrant another serving.

The Crimson Thread takes us back to 1880, where an Irish princess is introduced to us by some royal fairies or something. It wasn’t very clear. But apparently she always thought she was a princess, and it turns out that she was, but it never really did anything for her. It was a side plot that didn’t add, rather detracted from the tale.

Back to the Irish princess, Bridget, who upon coming to America changes her name to Bertie Miller (Bertrille Miller, from Wales, like the fire red hair and Irish accent wouldn’t give her away…) She is helped by Ray Stalls, who turns out to be Rudy Stilchen from Germany or something-it’s never really clarified. He used gold packing material and this stunning thread to embroider dresses and help her get the young millionaire’s son. Of course, he does it because he loves her and not because he ACTUALLY wants her first born child.

********************************SPOILER ALERT*********************************

Eventually the millionaire’s son turns out to be a douche, leaves her stranded and broke…then Ray shows up somehow and “kidnaps” her little sister while she passes out from starvation. But he was only trying to help. They fall in love and live happily ever after, running a clothing business with their business partner with the last name Rumpole. Get it? Rumpole Stilchen. Ugh.

******************************** END SPOILER **********************************

So it had an okay plot, but with so many holes and weird transitions, I found myself mostly annoyed. I get that it was written for young adults. The language was too trite. While Weyn has an excellent vocabulary, or uses a whole lot of shift+F7, the conversational tone of the book was far too formal, and I didn’t find myself relating to the characters at all.

Additionally, it seemed that the historical fiction aspect of this novel was way the F off. It’s like she just threw a bunch of ideas out there and didn’t really think about the details fitting in. Katie at Words for Worms recently spoke about accuracy in the research before publishing, and it really feels like Ms. Weyn left that part out. It didn’t feel real.

So I’m off to attempt another re-telling and hopefully the next gets me a little more hyped, because so far, I’m a little disappointed. But it only makes me want to write more fairy tales.

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!

In Which I Annoyed the Crap Out of 138 Souls, 6 Flight Attendants, a Pilot, Plus 4 Lap Children on a Small-ish Aircraft

I remember the day that The Bloggess starting following me on Twitter like it was yesterday. I was stoked. I mean, she’s the freakin’ BLOGGESS! And she’s funny. And her blog makes me laugh. But it took me a while to read her book. In the end, I couldn’t put it down. I finally finished.

Flight to Florida

Last week, Brian and I made our way back to Florida for another fun-filled vacation of joy in which I did a whole lot of awesome things when Brian wanted to be sleeping. But this post isn’t about our trip. This post is about airplanes. And The Bloggess (Jenny Lawson). And her book, Let’s Pretend this Never Happened.

On our flight down, I was reading a book that I was less than impressed with (and will not name) because I wanted to finish it before getting back to laughing hysterically at the one and only Jenny Lawson. I was stuck in the middle seat next to a larger older lady who took up her seat, half of my seat and some of the aisle. Needless to say I was not pleasantly seated for the 3 hour flight.

Not only did Bitchy McBitch feel the need to take up half of my seat, she also glared at me. Like I was spewing poison from my left cheek or something. Sure I was sitting up, leaning on my tray, but that was only because I needed somewhere to rest my arthritic, carpal tunneled wrist and she was in my way.

I feel that it’s important to say here that people who are stuck in the middle seat should be granted BOTH fucking arm rests. Also, people who recline their seats on airplanes are ass hats.

But we landed safely.

On our flight back, on the other hand, I had an excellent seat. I went in with a plan. My seating on Southwest was about 60 people before Brian, so I got on, and made my way to the very back of the plane, where the flight attendants informed me that there were 175 seats and 139 purchased. (I also overheard them say that there were 4 lap children. I’m not making shit up, people.) I sat down, and reserved the two other seats in our row.

When Brian arrived, I took the aisle, and he took the window. No one was going to come all the way to the back to sit in a middle seat. It was a brilliant plan. Once we were in the air, I scooted over and snuggled up against a sleeping Brian. Then I started to read.

Let's Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Book Review

When I told the world that I was going to read this book, the world responded with a resounding “OMFG this book is amazing!”

I’m not going to lie, though. It took me a few chapters to get into it. I totally get that the strange happenings in Lawson’s life made her the brilliant and funny writer that she is, I just couldn’t really get into the Wall, Texas thing. I didn’t totally relate. I had heard there was laugh out loud humor…but I longed for a little Chelsea Handler…until…

Jenny Lawson grew up (sort of). And found Victor. And started making me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants. Twice.

Once the Bloggess grew up, I found that I wanted her to be my new best friend (Don’t worry Katie–you’re irreplaceable). I would be reading in bed and Brian would tell me to quiet down, for fear of waking our neighbors (like seriously, not jokingly.)

So there we were on the plane with 142 other souls ( I think it’s entertaining to say souls instead of people. Does anyone know why they did/do that? Please enlighten me!) and I was reading. And laughing. And reading. And laughing more. And every time I laughed, I looked at Brian and if he was awake, I made him read the paragraph that made me laugh. Or I would wake him up to tell him. Or I would just look to see if my laughter woke him up. And then I looked around to see if anyone was silently judging me. Which they were. But I didn’t care because Jenny Lawson is hilarious.

She talks about being weird and kind of an outsider (which I can TOTALLY relate to). She talks about being a writer and a blogger and a daughter and a woman in a relationship with her person and a mom. Minus the mom part, I totally get it. And I feel like she’s one of my people.

I love that she interjects with comments about her editor. I love the randomness that the book is created out of. I love it all. And I bet if I went back and read that first part, I would love that too.

And the whole time, Brian would wake up and comment that I needed to be quiet because the captain at the front of the plane could hear me laughing.

Jenny Lawson, welcome to my hero club. You have 142 “souls” to apologize to, because I was all up in their business during that 3 hour flight with my echoing laughter. They really should just read your book, and then they would totally get it.

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!