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When Your Bookshelf Freaks You Out
Category: JUST A GIRL
Tags: bookshelves bookish book preferences just a girl drea damara gaskell larry niven austen funny book blogs page dropper

You know how they say, 'You are what you eat.'? Well, what if we are what we read too?

rabbit hole signI suppose we can break this article down to me having one of those moments where you go way too far down the rabbit hole of self-analysis, but come on - walk with me a while! It'll at least be worth a laugh.

As an author I am constantly faced with the dilemma of choosing the most appropriate genre that my books fit into when it comes time to market them. I was perusing my "read" list trying to understand why I write what I write.  Is it because of what I enjoy reading? As I scanned over all of the books I have read, I began to wonder - why in the hell do I read what I read? Does it say something about me?

It kind of looked like a junk drawer of an unstable person - although, whose junk drawer makes them look stable, if we're being honest here?  I imagined that if someone was applying personality profiling techniques to me based on my reading selection, I would make no sense or worse yet, be voted off an island of population: 2 people.

I have science fiction books from the 1960s - 1970s, and I mean ONLY from the 60s - 70s. il_570xN.1099032707_pcw8I've never been interested in reading sci-fi written in any other decades.  At least not interested enough that I ever picked one up and actually read it.  If faced with an oldie or other, I go with the oldie because I know I'll like it. There was something about the creativity of the stories I never found in post era books of the same genre.  I literally get a rush of excitement when I see or hear something about Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Ray Bradbury, or Robert Heinlein.  What the heck does this say about me? Was I a hippie that got hit by a bus on her way to a sci-fi convention and came back as this hot mess?

Here's where it gets weird - if it wasn't already.

My collection also consists of the following: Western historical romance because modern westerns are too far from reality for me to tolerate, although I've read and enjoyed the ones who get it right and paint life in the west as accurate (like Elise Manion). English regency romance and the Industrial Revolution-era romances - there's something about how much life sucked for women back then that draws me to them. Why do I have such a desire to read about a lifestyle that sucked?

Almost every copy of Mercer Mayer's Little Critter series (if you don't like Little jKL1MHcCritter just step away, man!) - I will leave you no further explanation here other than they're deeply personal to me and I find them adorable. The complete works of William Shakespeare, and almost the entire Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum series (because the grandma cracked me up).

Hold on, Betsy. It gets worse...

please-stop-youreCalvin and Hobbes (the complete collection) because there was something adorable about what a genius and bastard that Calvin was and how deviously scary Hobbes could be.  I secretly wondered if somehow all the answers to life were within those comics, like when people say if you play Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" backward, you hear crazy stuff. No, I've never done that - that would just be bonkers!

Elizabeth Gaskell, Jane Austen, J.D. Salinger, George Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway.

Every book I read on forensics in college and kept because the science of the processes was so damned fascinating. About two shelves of non-fiction by authors who basically tried to dissect the origins of terrorism and haven't. I think I was personally trying to understand how awful we've been throughout history and what started it all. World War II non-fiction. Foreign language books galore - oh my!

e8c220cff956a65ba531fd9c25d10694--good-design-art-designLouis L'Amour. Another shelf about emergency management and global warming that scares the poo out of my conservative old-schoolbutt because of all the conservatives who think global warming and asteroid strikes are less believable than unicorns. Wake up people.  Put your criticism in a plastic bag and stick it in the ocean that is your toilet.

Oh, and did I mention my fondness of old-fashioned cookbooks, Joseph Campbell's A Hero's Journey, and collections of classic poetry?

Why do I read about domineering men when I don't want to be dominated? Am I searching for the literary tough guy who is a walking contradiction with a gooey candy center?  How can I learn about how to kill people with only my thumb and household products, but be enough of a pacifist that I want to know foreign languages so we can all talk it out (hug it out), while we walk on a clean beach, toting our crap in a cloth bag, looking out for aliens, meteors, and adorable little critters?

So when people try to sound like they're educated because they've read a lot of different genres of books, I take a cue from my own self-criticism and step back with caution.  You've got what on your shelves?  Oh no! They warned me about people like you! Right this way. We have your reservation - at the freaks' table.

book spiralAlso, I go to book shows or have author interviews and readers always assume I have read every book that they have because I write books.  Clearly, not the case!  As they describe the books they love with wild enthusiasm, all I can think is, please don't ask me what I read. It comes down to this, however, in my opinion.  Read what makes you happy.  "A little learning is a dangerous thing.  Drink deep," as Alexander Pope said.  Don't ever be ashamed to read for educational purposes -  be a sponge.

Okay, I've showed you mine.  Show me yours.  What's on your shelf that makes you look like a scary, complicated enigma?

Happy reading!

- Drea

Drea Damara

Drea Damara is the author of YA fantasy and thriller fiction, as well as, occasional blogger of completely useless information.


Review: A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer
Category: JUST A GIRL
Tags: karen witemeyere tailor-made bride romantic western western romance romance novels period romance 1800s just a girl book review

This was a beautifully written slow-burn romance that followed the internal struggles of two God-fearing people in Texas. There were times I was happy to get lost in the language and style of the writing and forgot I was reading a story. Plus, I love sewing, so I got a little giddy each time words like pleats and flounces were mentioned ;)

Hannah Richards is an apprentice dressmaker who is given a chance to run her own shop and takes the leap of independence. She keeps having run-ins with the local liveryman, J.T. Tucker, who makes it blatantly aware that he despises her, which cracks her new found self-esteem. I enjoyed that the story was realistic to the period, right down to the behavior of the characters--a lot of authors stray from that and it was refreshing to be taken back in time.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book as I went searching for something on my shelf that I hadn't read (which was difficult to find!). This was one my sister had left behind and so I took a chance and dove in. For a debut novel, I was highly impressed with the artful writing style of Witemeyer. It was poetic and elegant. I don't seek out christian romance, which I wouldn't consider this, but each character looked to bible versus for direction and there was beauty even in the way the author presented those moments. What was most impressive was that the novel was basically a growing desire from beginning to end written from the POV of the two main characters, yet it never once got boring or repetitious as they struggled to understand their feelings. Well done. I'll gladly look for more by this author.

Review: Wind Chime Wedding by Sophie Moss
Category: JUST A GIRL
Tags: sophie moss wind chime wedding wind chime series contemporary romance book reviews

Review of Wind Chime Wedding by USA Today Award winning author Sophie Moss

Speaking as a veteran, I was highly impressed and grateful that Sophie Moss is the first author I’ve found who could actually nail what it feels like to be a veteran and the issues that are very real and important to them. Many books try to capture the essence of military life, the terminology, and the persona, yet most fail by trying to create overly-machismo characters in ridiculous situations, using generic phrases, and hyped-up resumes – not Sophie Moss, she gets it. Moss portrays a veteran in a realistic manner and fully captures issues important to them in a way that makes you feel neither ashamed or embarrassed to be a veteran or enjoy this beautiful story. Equally refreshing, the author has created the kind of story that makes you feel like you are the one falling in love.

Wind Chime Wedding is the story of Becca – a woman on the cusp of her long-overdue wedding to her childhood sweetheart, and a veteran trying to find his place in the “civilian world”. Sophie Moss creates an entire island of scented, swaying, and living scenery that you can both hear and taste as you walk down the docks and streets of Heron Island. Wind Chime Wedding introduces you to a community that becomes your friends and neighbors, playing out like a film of some peaceful place you have long lost. The character development of young and old in Wind Chime Wedding was obviously well-thought out through the heart and soul of the author – you quickly understand why she is a multiple award-winner. It’s amazing how many different issues Sophie tackles so effectively in this gem of a story – readers can feel themselves evolve on several levels through the struggles of her jump-off-the-pages characters. This is one of those books where you forget that you are reading, being pulled into a vortex of a world and faces you want to see to the end.

You can find more of Sophie's works here, including the prequel to Wind Chime Wedding, Wind Chime Cafe!

Review: Josh's Challenge by Elise Manion
Category: JUST A GIRL
Tags: book reviews elise manion joshs challenge king brothers josh's challenge bhc press

Please forgive me, the adventures of pregnancy, motherhood, and raising a toddler have infringed on my book reviewing the past year and a half.  However, I'm happy the first book I read after the reading drought was Josh's Challenge by Elise Manion.  It is the last installment of her King Brothers series and I was eagerly awaiting its release and some "me time" to sit down and read it.  Congratulations to me, I finally did it ;)

Without further adieu:

joshs_challenge_fc_webThis was such a great ending to this terrific series. I love Manion's use of humor and the artful way she writes flirtations for burgeoning relationships. She has such a talent for witty, charming dialogue and lovable, endearing characters. Like the other King brothers novels, I devoured this book in record time. It brought me more than a laugh and flutter to my heart.

Josh King is the youngest of the rowdy, wise-cracking King brothers. Known for sewing his wild oats he's kept a secret through all his years of carousing: the one woman he wanted, he couldn't figure out how to get. Now that Melissa Theroux has moved back to town, he's determined to do whatever it takes to make her want him. Melissa, however, has let her social awkwardness turn into social anxiety over the years and is better at running away than having a conversation. To top it off, someone besides Josh is out to get her and not in a good way.



manion ransom noteThere was a surprising sub-romance to the story that had me screaming for more at the end of the book - literally. I will send the author my demands in unmarked envelopes, using letters clipped from magazines until she realizes how imperative it is that she writes a fourth book or spin-off for Melissa's sister. Until then I will just have to come up with my own pathetic idea of what happened to that poor woman. But if the worst thing you have to say about a book is that you want more, that's the best worst thing someone can possibly say.

The thing I love most about Manion's writing is that she isn't dirty or graphic and still spins unforgettable, sexy scenes and romances that leave you smitten and totally immersed. I love it when I'm forced to say, "awe", and I did with this book - only a damned good romance writer can do that.

A funny, sexy, and sweet suspense that immediately went on my favorites list. I'd recommend the King Brothers series to fans of Debbie Macomber, Elizabeth Lowell, Diane Palmer, or Johanna Lindsay.

You can read an excerpt of Josh's Challenge, check out info on the first two books in the series, and access a list of purchase links for various retailers for the book via Manion's publisher's page here.

Elise Manion's website and her blog.

And here are the other books in this series:













Drea Damara

Happy reading!  - Drea


Drea Damara is the author of the Blinney Lane series and the Trinity Missions series and is an occasional blogger of useless information.

The Emotional Journey of Reading Books
Category: JUST A GIRL
Tags: bookish books booknerd bookworm emotional books fangirl drea damara book blogs

Here is a video collection of the many emotions I go through while reading a book. I have way too much inner-dialogue going on 24/7 and because of such, I often think in "movie" quotes or book quotes. It's like having a few hundred too many imaginary friends.

1.The Hook

The hook is what I call the point in the novel where the light from Heaven cracks open, the page glows, and you are like Alice going down the rabbit hole, knowing you are now in it for the long haul. When this happens, I often see this scene from "Grandma's Boy" in my head where he comes home stoned, raiding the fridge and declares, "I don't know what you are,  but I'm going to [email protected]#king eat you too!"

2.The Oooh! Moment

I know there is a story diagram, arcs and dips, that the flow of novel is supposed to follow, but I happen to feel that the Oooh! Moment comes at different times for readers. Perhaps, it might come at the same moment, but there can be something different about that moment that each reader appreciates and clings to.  When I hit that mark, when the action gets good, when the sexual tension goes up a notch, or when I realize I don't have it figured out anymore, but want to scurry up the mountain to find out where in the hell the author is taking me, I remember the Zesty salad guy...wait for the end of the commercial!

3.The I Hate You Moment

Some books...just  I have literally growled like some rabid animal and chucked a book across the room I was so disgusted, aggravated, or angry with the way dialogue or the story development was going in a few books. There are plenty of movie "meltdowns" we could attach to this emotion, but here's one that comes to mind from "Happy Gilmore":

4. Redemption / Climax

After the "You're gonna die clown" moment, sometimes there comes a moment of redemption.  I am very grateful for this because I always WANT to enjoy a book that I am reading. This goes hand-in-hand with the climax of a book where you know good things are coming or that the end will at least not disappoint.  This, for me, is Lisa Kudrow's line about shopping in "Romy And Michele's High School Reunion"

5. Emotional Roller coaster

Not every story is meant to be a happily ever after. I don't mind dramas. I don't. I love a book that sucks me in body and soul, so if it does that, I forgive the author for leaving me emotionally crumpled, bawling, or scarred for life. It looks a little something like this:

6. It's Over?

If you've just discovered your new favorite author or series, you may find yourself in a moment of fangirl/fanman madness as you wait for more.  You visit the author site, prowling for new release dates, giveaways, and any sign of life about the characters to which you've become emotionally attached.  You pray you'll meet some other geek in the painful real world that will gush story lines with you.  You dream at night that you are back in the warm bosom of the pages and you are the protagonist. You know exactly what you'd wear...what you'd say.  Congratulations, you have just become a book stalker and probably look something like Bill when he's practicing to be the Bionic Woman for Halloween on "Freaks and Geeks".

Well, time to go pad the walls in your book reading nook corner and remove all sharp objects. It's a war zone in there!

Happy reading.  -D.D.

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