You Oughta Know: That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

Happy Friday Eve, Shelfies! Today I’m featuring another book I discovered at the Miami Book Fair (was this a fruitful event or what? My TBR pile is crying for mercy!), this time a Young Adult book. Like the others, I’d never heard of it before I stepped foot on Miami Dade College’s campus for this event. This book comes with a trigger warning for all my Highly Sensitive People (HSPs). 

During my time at the Miami Book Fair, I got the opportunity to catch up with my friend and By Her Shelf Contributor Alex, who lives and teaches in Miami. Alex was there with her book club, who had researched and planned for the fair down to bringing a rolling suitcase full of books to be signed by their favorite authors. Their primary focus was YA panels/authors, so I saw Alex in passing, but we did meet up and go to one panel together: Truth in Troubled Times: YA Heroes Speak Up. Kody Keplinger, author of That’s Not What Happened was on this panel. Alex and I were a little late, but the portion of the discussion I caught piqued my interest in Kody’s book.

That's Not What Happened

That’s Not What Happened is set three years after a school shooting. One of the shooting victims, Sarah, has become a martyr, as everyone knows she died proclaiming her faith. Or do they? Sarah’s best friend, who was there when she died, claims this isn’t true. The best friend struggles with her desire to tell the truth in the face of the potential consequences.

I’m adamant about one thing when it comes to reading: if a book has an intriguing premise, I pay little to no attention to the genre. This book’s premise definitely hooked me. When Columbine happened in 1999, I was week’s away from my last summer vacation before I started high school. I vividly remember the news reports Surrounding the shooting. Americans weren’t used to mass shootings at schools. We weren’t in danger of becoming desensitized to this level of violence.

I was one of those teens who bought a copy of She Said Yes: The Unlikely Marytrdom of Cassie Bernall. Bernall was one of the victims in the Columbine shooting who early reports claimed was killed after responding “yes” to one of the shooters when asked if she believed in God. The book was written by her mother, Misty Bernall. Cassie’s friend, who was next to her when she was shot, told a different story.

It’s clear the seed of the idea for the plot of this book came from Columbine, but according to what I gleaned from Keplinger’s comments during the panel, her book is more concerned with how the media covers tragedy, creates “inspiration porn” from survivors stories, and most importantly, how the stories of those involved in these tragedies get distorted in that lens. It’s also about having the courage to speak up. This book was written before the Parkland tragedy, but Keplinger said she was amazed by the way many of those students have stood up and used their voices in the wake of the tragedy. I’m sure my experience of Columbine when I was in the age group of the victims, and more recent school shootings will influence my reading of this book. It will be interesting to see the differences in how Columbine was handled versus how the events of this book are handled 17 or 18 years later in a very different America.

If an examination of what happens in the aftermath of a mass shooting tragedy, the struggle of a teenager trying to speak up and tell the truth when others would prefer she didn’t, or an examination of how our current culture packages tragedy for distribution sounds like something you’d be interested in, then you might want to give That’s Not What Happened a try.

Your Turn: Are you a Highly Sensitive Person? How does this effect your reading life? What iconic event in your lifetime impacts how you view fiction on a related subject?

Note: There could be things I’m not remembering about this book that could be a trigger or turn off for some readers. I haven’t had a chance to read this one myself or spend time discussing it with the author, and when it comes to books, I’m usually OK with material that would be triggering to others, so I can’t guarantee I did the best job identifying the major ones.

Another Small Step and Giant Leap: Podcast Update

Happy Hump Day, Shelfies! Tomorrow, I’ll return to books I discovered during the Miami Book Fair, this time with a Young Adult (YA) selection from a panel. Today, I wanted to update everyone on the By Her Shelf Podcast. So much has happened since I announced my idea to start a podcast 40ish days ago. If you’re interested in how the podcast sausage is made, keep reading. 

On November 2, 2018, I announced I had taken the first step to creating and launching the By Her Shelf Podcast (read all about it here). What happened after I bought the microphone? SO. MANY. THINGS! If you’re thinking of starting your own podcast, here’s what I’ve done to move toward my goal, and what I have left to do.

  • I emailed people I know/have worked with to be potential guests first. Starting with people I knew who were very likely to say yes was a great confidence booster and guaranteed I had at least a few guests. I also made sure to email one person who was a target guest, someone I knew online and occasionally interact with, but who wasn’t guaranteed a yes from. I’ll try a reach guest (or dream guest) once I have more episodes under my belt. I can share more about the content of this email with those who want to know.
  • I signed up for Zoom. I needed to find a good platform to record interviews with people who aren’t in my area. Some people suggested Skype, but through research I found Zoom was easy for me and guests to use and free for what I need it for.
  • I scheduled interviews with those who agreed to be on the show. 
  • I emailed the scheduled guest a Guest Prep Email. I emailed my guest an email before their scheduled show with a brief summary of the show’s premise, preliminary questions (things I like to know about guests before I interview them), questions they might want to think about and prepare an answer for in advance, and a list of things I need from them for promo (bio, picture, etc.). I can also share more about this if anyone is interested.
  • I tested my software, equipment, and “show flow.” Fellow BHS contributor Christina and I recorded a test episode to get rid of some of the butterflies and plan for some worst case scenarios (my enneagram 6 is showing, lol).
  • I researched and found possible theme music. 
  • I researched my guest. I checked her social media, website, books, and etc.
  • I prepared a one page cliff note for the interview. This page included the guest’s bio, questions to ask, and useful bits of information that I can use to follow a line of discussion.
  • I spoke with my guest for a few minutes before hitting record. Although I follow her on social media, I had never spoken to my guest before. I used the first couple minutes to get the jitters out and connect with her a little bit before we started recording.
  • I remembered to press record!
  • I spent a couple minutes after the interview thanking my guest and letting her know my favorite thing we were able to talk about. 
  • I realized I forgot to have her share where listeners can connect with her. Ugh. You live and try and learn to do better the next time.

Here’s what I have left to do with this episode:

  • Write show notes, including all relevant links.
  • Name the episode.
  • Create episode graphic.
  • Prep the newsletter for the episode.
  • edit and upload the episode.
  • Add theme music.
  • Work on preparing show for iTunes.

There are several things here I can elaborate on, and more to tell, but this is the basic gist of what’s going on with the podcast. I have another interview scheduled for Friday, more to schedule, and more emails to send. I want to be able to release a few episodes when the podcast launches, which will be early next year.

Your Turn: What reading/book related podcasts do you listen to? What would you like to hear on a book related podcast? What should I avoid?

 

Get in My Kindle: Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

Happy Tuesday, Shelfies! I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled programming (Highlighting books you oughta know from the Miami Book Fair) to bring you this special Get in My Kindle bulletin. If you’re a fan of romantic comedies that could win trope bingo blindfolded, read on. If not, I promise a more literary book will be highlighted…eventually.  

Title: Meet Cute Meet Cute

Author: Helena Hunting

Release Date: April 9, 2019

Description: Kailyn Flowers was always calm, rational, and controlled-until she ended up sprawled all over Daxton Hughes, the former actor she totally crushed on as a teenager. Then she did the unthinkable: She became a mortifying fangirl in five seconds flat, which may or may not have included professing her undying love. And oddly, he didn’t run away. In fact, their meet cute led to a friendship she never saw coming. Of course, she never saw his betrayal coming, either…

Now Dax needs her help. As guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister, he’s in way over his head. And though Kailyn hasn’t forgiven Dax, she isn’t heartless enough to make him fend for himself, either. Soon their friendly meetings turn into flirty dinner dates, and Kailyn can feel their chemistry is as explosive as ever. But how can she possibly let down her guard again to a guy who has heartbreak written all over him?

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: How cute is this cover? Even though I know you can’t judge a book by its cover, you have to admit this cover kind of nails it for a romantic comedy. I am a rom-com super fan. I will watch or read most offerings in the genre. What can I say; I LOVE love. But there are a couple things that make this particular rom-com my special brand of candy: second chance romance, friends to enemies to lovers, a potential smart mouthed teen, and, from the other description I read, a conflict between love and career. Sign me up!

Affiliate Links:

Paperback:
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Kindle: 
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Your Turn: Meet cutes–love them or hate them? Do you share my love of a good rom-com? Share your favorites with me below!

You Oughta Know: One Person, No Vote

Happy Monday, Shelfies. Today’s post is the second in my little series of Miami Book Fair highlights. It’s about one of my favorite parts of the fair. Enjoy!

After the Exchange for Change presentation I chronicled in my previous post, I was in great spirits for my next stop: a panel featuring National Book Award Finalists in Non-fiction. While all three authors and books were phenomenal and deserve their own spotlight, Dr. Carol Anderson and her book, One Person, No Vote, stood out to me the most. Dr. Anderson is a dynamic, engaging speaker, and her book, while political, tells the story of a moment in time with passion and vivid detail I didn’t expect from the genre.

One Person, No Vote

One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy focuses on

the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Anderson explains how voter suppression works, charts the passing and enacting of voter suppression laws since this ruling (known as the Shelby ruling), and explores the activism and organizing geared toward restoring the basic right to vote to all Americans in the lead up to the 2018 mid-term elections.

Since this talk was occurring shortly after the midterm elections had taken place (though Florida was still doing recounts. Sigh), Dr. Anderson’s book opened the discussion. Dr. Anderson’s opening was good; so good, in fact, the whole room burst into spontaneous applause after she read a passage from her book detailing the 2017 special senate election in Alabama.

I have to be honest: when I first heard the title of this book, I groaned inwardly. I was (and am) suffering from political news fatigue. I’m not an activist; in fact, I ended up in a heated discussion around the 2016 election because I said I had no intention of marching or protesting. I read books to escape into fictional worlds, deep dive into intimate stories of someone’s life, and learn something new, not to ingest more of the distressing political climate. Add to my political news fatigue the fact most books on history, even recent history, give me unpleasant flashbacks to a horrible Honors American History class that nearly shattered my liking of the subject, and you have a huge bowl of No Thanks I’ll Pass.

However, there were a few things about Dr. Anderson’s book that made me buy a copy.

1)Her writing style. She didn’t write the dry political discourse I was expecting, but a nuanced look at an issue that isn’t being openly addressed. As someone who’s been named a Guggenheim Fellow in Constitutional Studies, and is the chair of African American Studies at Emory, Dr. Anderson knows this subject. She has the intellectual pedigree to write intelligently on voter suppression, but more importantly, she has the skill to bring to life the personalities and events shaping this discussion. She found the story, and she tells it well.

2) As a citizen of the United States who regularly exercises my right to vote, I was appalled at all the things I didn’t know were being used to hinder others from doing the same. I had no idea the Shelby ruling had such an impact on the protections afforded under the Voting Rights Act. I have family members in the states she cited as habitual offenders when it comes to voter suppression. I’ve heard them complain about many of the things she wrote in her book, but I never thought of these inconveniences as voter suppression. As Dr. Anderson pointed out, many of the tactics used are worded or presented to seem perfectly reasonable until you step back and see the intended effect. As someone who hates being uninformed, especially about one of my constitutional rights, I felt compelled to by this book and educate myself on what’s happening.

If you’re interested in constitutional law, voter suppression, politics, or one of the major issues that influenced the recent mid-term elections, Dr. Anderson’s book might be a good starting place. You can grab a copy at the links below.

Kindle:

Hardcover:

 

Paperback:

Your Turn: Have you read a book on a topic or in a genre you usually avoid? Were you pleased with your decision or did you regret it?

You Oughta Know: Don’t Shake the Spoon Literary Journal

On November 17th, I got to attend the Miami Book Fair for the first time. I didn’t get toDon't Shake the Spoon spend nearly as much time exploring and attending talks as I would have liked, but I’m profiling a couple of the sessions I attended and books I came across during my brief day experiencing the fair. As I’ve been processing everything I was exposed to and thinking of how I wanted to share it, the first thing I knew I had to share, the thing I wanted everyone who didn’t experience it to know about, was Exchange for Change and their literary journal, Don’t Shake the Spoon.

Before hearing about them at the Miami Book Fair, I didn’t know Exchange for Change existed. If you’re similarly unaware, here’s the description of the program from their website:

The nonprofit Exchange for Change teaches writing in prisons and runs letter exchanges between incarcerated students and writers studying on the outside.

Through this program, many inmates are learning to express themselves and wield the power of the written word. I’m absolutely here for a program that brings the power and dignity of being able to express yourself and share your story to those who might have never known that power.

Don’t Shake the Spoon is a literary journal filled with poems, essays and stories produced in the courses taught by Exchange for Change. They are currently selling their first volume, which I immediately purchased after hearing several pieces performed by guest speakers and volunteers. Listening to the pieces read at the fair and reading through the pieces in the journal, I’m struck all over again at the immense amount of talent existing within people that many have gone their whole lives not realizing they have. I walked away wanting to do something to facilitate this exchange of words and world views, to cultivate a conversation about our justice system, and to just be a part of something that can change someone’s perception of their freedom even in imprisonment.

I’m not attempting to argue about the how’s and why’s of people ending up in prison. I realize the conversations around rehabilitation and prison reform are much broader and nuanced than a simple post can address, and the answers much more complicated than the questions make them seem. What I am attempting to do is to shed a little light on what I think is an amazing literary journal, and an amazing endeavor undertaken by Exchange for Change.

If you’re interested in own voices, then I suggest you give this journal a try. If you’re in the Miami Area and are interested in seeing the students perform their original works at one of the upcoming graduations, or you want to get involved with Exchange for Change, please visit their website.

Stay tuned to find out how one session with National Book Award Non-Fiction Finalists piqued my interest in a topic that usually leaves me with extreme fatigue.

Your Turn: What wonderful book have you recently stumbled upon? Share it in the comments!

Get in My Kindle: The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman

Good morning, shelfies! How was Thanksgiving for you? Did you get any reading done? My TBR pile is growing much faster than it is shrinking, but I plan to cram in a couple books this weekend to stay on track with my reading challenge for this year and make room for more of the books I’ll be featuring on Get in My Kindle. It’s just so hard to decide what to read next! If you’re struggling with your next move in life–whether it’s what to read next, where to relocate to, what to do with your life, or any decision in between–today’s pick, The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions, might be just the book you need to read.

Title: The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions The Next Right Thing
Author: Emily P. Freeman
Release Date: April 2, 2019
Description: Nothing gets our attention like an unmade decision: Should I accept the new position? Which schooling choice is best for my kids? How can I support my aging parents? When we have a decision to make and the answer isn’t clear, what we want more than anything is peace, clarity, and a nudge in the right direction.

If you have trouble making decisions, because of either chronic hesitation you’ve always lived with or a more recent onset of decision fatigue, Emily P. Freeman offers a fresh way of practicing familiar but often forgotten advice: simply do the next right thing. With this simple, soulful practice, it is possible to clear the decision-making chaos, quiet the fear of choosing wrong, and find the courage to finally decide without regret or second-guessing.

Whether you’re in the midst of a major life transition or are weary of the low-grade anxiety that daily life can bring, Emily helps create space for your soul to breathe so you can live life with God at a gentle pace and discern your next right thing in love.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: I found Emily P. Freeman years ago on a podcast (I believe it was The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey). Since my introduction to her and her work, I’ve listened to Emily on many other podcasts and followed her to Hope*Writers, the writing group she co-founded to help provide writers with the tools they need to succeed at writing, whatever that looks like for them. I’ve read her books, blogs, and newsletters, and I follow her Instagram (and her popular hashtag #itssimplytuesday), but the project of hers that really inspired me is The Next Right Thing podcast.

I was already following Emily when she started talking about pursuing a project that didn’t feel like it wanted to be a book. Eventually that project became The Next Right Thing, and Emily began releasing episodes helping people make decisions by doing–you guessed it!–the next right thing. The reason this struck me wasn’t just because I was interested in podcasting or tend to avoid decision making because I get overwhelmed; it was Emily’s assertion of letting a project tell you what it wants to be, and then just doing the next right thing until the project is fully realized.

I love that this thing that didn’t feel like a book and became a podcast is now going to be the basis for a book. It feels like a full circle moment. I don’t think Emily thought the journey into The Next Right Thing podcast would include writing this book, but I’m happy it did. I’m excited to read this book and learn about decision-making, yes, and there’s no one I can think of who frames simplicity in as flattering and, well, simple a light as Emily, but the thing I am most looking forward to is seeing how the message is translated into the medium of a book.

Affiliate Links
Hardcover:

Kindle: (Link not yet available. Will update ASAP)

Your Turn: How do you make life decisions? Have any podcasts you’d recommend to readers? Any podcasts you’d like to see turned into books?

One Small Step, and One Giant Leap

Hello, Shelfies! I realize this blog has been dead silent for weeks, and I apologize. It’s not because I haven’t been reading. In fact, I read 2 books more than I needed to for October to stay in step with my Goodreads Reading Challenge. I have quite a few reviews to post and Get in My Kindle recommendations to share, but today I wanted to share a couple pieces of exciting news. 

It is officially fall in Florida right now. I’m sitting in a screened in patio area luxuriating in the perfect weather after a truly exhausting day yesterday. Yesterday, something I’ve been thinking about and planning for months finally took a small step forward, and I’m still basking in the glow of its awesomeness.

In June, I began working through an idea I had for a project I wanted to start working on. I know I have a tendency to bail on things, so I gave myself a few benchmarks of things to accomplish before I would tell anyone about it. Later, an author I was working with specifically ask me if I’d ever thought about pursuing the thing I was mulling over. I reached out to my co-contributors on this site with my idea and they both thought it was a great idea and wanted to know how they could support it. Yesterday, after months of mulling and planning, I took the small step of buying something I need to do the thing: a microphone.

Now it’s time to take the big leap and share with you what I’m working on and how you can help or be involved. *deep breath* OK, here it goes…

I’m working on a By Her Shelf podcast!

The By Her Shelf podcast will feature everyday readers as well as authors, entrepreneurs and influencers who will invite me to peruse their bookshelves to find out the kind of people they are, and add an alarming amount of books to all of our TBR piles. There will also be episodes focused on Upcoming releases and book-related events, publishing news, literary discussions, and more.

Friends, I’m beyond excited to let this cat out of the bag. It’s been killing me to keep this idea between myself, my co-contributors and my mom. However, it’s a scary leap to announce this now because the show isn’t ready to launch yet. I’m at least a couple months away from releasing episodes. So why am I sharing this now? Because I want your help.

I’m looking for guests who aren’t afraid to share the books they love or hate, the works that changed their perspective and shaped their lives. I want to host guests who don’t mind judging and being judged by the books people choose to read, all in the name of getting to know each other. I’m dying to hear about the time you gave in to FOMO and regretted it so hard you might have broken your brain, or the weird way you stumbled upon your favorite author, or your goal to read a specific group of books in a year. I want to know what book people would be surprised to find on your shelves and the book you can’t stop pressing into every pair of open hands you find. Tell me all about what subjects or tropes you can’t help but buy, and which ones you wish would go away for good. And we simply must talk about your TBR pile before your family has an intervention.

If a conversation like this sounds right up your alley, let me know! If you’d like to be a guest, or have suggestions for the content of the show, leave a message in the comments, fill out the contact form, or email me at mz.zeyzey2@gmail.com. Want to keep up with my podcast journey and find out when the show will be ready to debut? Subscribe to the By Her Shelf Newsletter via the pop up, or send me your email address and I’ll add you to the list.

Be on the lookout for a new Get in My Kindle post on Monday.

XOXO,

Erica

 

Currently Reading: Goodreads vs. Reality

If you look on my Goodreads account, it will give you a list of seven books I’m currently reading. (o_O) While I’ve been making more of a concerted effort to keep up with my reading on Goodreads, I have to admit my current reading life bears little resemblance to the list you’ll find there. I wanted to give you a real glimpse into my currently reading list, TBR pile, and recent reads. It’s time to take a look at my real reading life vs. my Goodreads account.

Current Reads: 

The Promise of Home

I recently visited a used book tent at a Flea Market and they were having a 2 for $1 sale on Harlequin’s Love Inspired books, which I love. I bought and devoured Love Finds a Home by Kathryn Springer. I loved it. According to the Dear Reader note, the next book in the series was about one of the secondary characters I really liked, and it had a good hook. Three books later (hello, reading rabbit hole!), I’m reading my fourth book set in Mirror Lake (in less than five days).

 

Born a Crime

This is one I have out from the library. I started reading the first chapter the other day and so far it’s really interesting. I also made a print that says “Just waiting for Trevor Noah to realize he’s my husband,” so there’s that.

 

 

 

Come Matter Here

This one is a bit of a cheat. I’m actually slowing reading through a sample of this book and deciding if I want to borrow it or buy it. I haven’t read much, but it’s pretty good so far, and I’ve heard great things.

 

 

 

Currently Checked Out of the Library:

Born A Crime, referenced in Current Reads. Divided Kingdom is a book a listener suggested on a special episode of What Should I Read Next that has an interesting premise. Close Enough to Touch has been in my Goodreads Want to Read for years, so I requested it. Educated and Vox were my FOMO and Buzz Book picks, respectively.

Recent Purchases:

Along with the second book of the Mirror Lake series referenced above, I also picked up Firestarter and Thinner by Stephen King and Finally a Bride by Renee Andrews at the flea market. There are more Love Inspired Titles, but I can’t remember them right now. I saw a kindle deal for  I’ll Take You There and snapped it up because the Staple Singers’ music makes up a large part of the soundtrack of my childhood, yet I had no clue it “shaped the Civil Rights Era.” I’m looking forward to it.

Speaking of Kindle Deals:

I purchased these as kindle deals and have yet to dive into them. I started the first essay in All the Lives I Want but got sidetracked by other books.

Recent Reads:

Series:

I went back and closed the loop in my reading of Julie Miller’s The Precinct series, reading books 4-6, which I’d somehow skipped. As I mentioned in current reads, I bought the second book in the Mirror Lake Series, Love Finds a Home, at a flea market and found books 2, 3, 4, and now 5 on kindle. I read and loved three of the six so far and am currently reading the fourth.

Individual reads:

I read more than category romance this month. Since September 14, I’ve also managed to read I’d Rather be Reading (a Get in My Kindle Pick that turned out to be amazing), I Am I Am I Am (a FOMO book that was well worth the buzz), and Vinegar Girl (a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew that kept me turning the pages and proved to be an enjoyable read).

TBR:

Remember God

In addition to the library books and recent purchases (and books that will inevitably jump the line and demand to be read before what I planned to read), there’s this book, Remember God by Annie F. Downs. I actually listened to the audio book I received as a pre-order bonus, but I don’t think of audio books as reading (I know, this is a hot button issue in the reading world. I’m not saying YOU can’t count them however you want on your Goodreads or in your bullet journal, just that I, personally, don’t count them). I loved hearing Annie tell me her story, but it’s a different experience for me to read the words on the page, and I can’t wait to read it.

Your Turn: Does the reality of your reading life match your Goodreads profile? What are you currently reading? What’s at the top of your TBR pile?

Get in My Kindle: The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Happy Tuesday, fellow shelf-addicts! This week’s Get in My Kindle comes with a bit of a **SPOILER ALERT. THIS IS NOT A TEST OF THE SPOILER ALERT SYSTEM! IT’S A LEGIT SPOILER ALERT WARNING.** If you haven’t read Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven and you want to (trust me, you want you if you haven’t already), then you might want to skip this post and come back to it after you do. If you just can’t wait to know why I’m so excited about The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, I suggest skipping over the Amazon description and going straight to why I’m excited to read. You’ve been warned. **THIS CONCLUDES A LEGIT WARNING FROM THE SPOILER ALERT SYSTEM**

Title: The Next Person You Meet in Heaven The Next Person You Meet in Heaven

Author: Mitch Albom

Release Date: October 9, 2018

*SPOILER ALERT* Description: In this enchanting sequel to the number one bestseller The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom tells the story of Eddie’s heavenly reunion with Annie—the little girl he saved on earth—in an unforgettable novel of how our lives and losses intersect.
Fifteen years ago, in Mitch Albom’s beloved novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, the world fell in love with Eddie, a grizzled war veteran- turned-amusement park mechanic who died saving the life of a young girl named Annie. Eddie’s journey to heaven taught him that every life matters. Now, in this magical sequel, Mitch Albom reveals Annie’s story.

The accident that killed Eddie left an indelible mark on Annie. It took her left hand, which needed to be surgically reattached. Injured, scarred, and unable to remember why, Annie’s life is forever changed by a guilt-ravaged mother who whisks her away from the world she knew. Bullied by her peers and haunted by something she cannot recall, Annie struggles to find acceptance as she grows. When, as a young woman, she reconnects with Paulo, her childhood love, she believes she has finally found happiness.
As the novel opens, Annie is marrying Paulo. But when her wedding night day ends in an unimaginable accident, Annie finds herself on her own heavenly journey—and an inevitable reunion with Eddie, one of the five people who will show her how her life mattered in ways she could not have fathomed.

Poignant and beautiful, filled with unexpected twists, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven reminds us that not only does every life matter, but that every ending is also a beginning—we only need to open our eyes to see it.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: Over a decade ago, I sat in my aunt and uncle’s sun room and read The Five People You Meet in Heaven in one sitting. I was captivated by the story of Eddie, the “war vet turned amusement park mechanic,” who dies trying to save a little girl and goes to Heaven. During the course of the book, Eddie meets five people who explain his life to him, people who have, whether or not Eddie has known it, changed his life’s path. Eddie, and the reader, is left wondering if Eddie managed to save the little girl until the end. The book’s portrayal of Heaven and the afterlife serves not only the premise, but the story. I remember being spellbound.

As soon as I saw this book’s title while scrolling on Facebook, I knew two things: this was a sequel to a book I loved reading, and I had to read it. Reading the description and finding out who we’re following on this journey only made me want to read it more.

I have to be honest. I am, by nature, immediately suspicious of sequels to things I loved. I don’t mean series books that are all leading to the epic showdown or reveal, but an honest to goodness sequel. I’m plagued by worries that the author, director, or songwriter is going to release a work that will not only be subpar, but take away from my love of the original. I hope for more than a rehashing or remixing of the same ingredients or another lap around the same track, but I brace myself for a carbon copy that doesn’t quite live up to the original. So it’s a big deal that I’m buzzing about a sequel here.

Unlike millions of people, I never read Tuesdays with Morrie or any of Albom’s other books. He’s not on my auto-buy list. But the memories I have of reading and loving the one book of his I have read makes this a can’t miss book for me. I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed this sequel is worth the wait–and a read.

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EVENT ALERT: If you are in the Orlando/Winter Park, FL area on Oct 11, independent bookstore The Writer’s Block will be hosting The Orlando Sentinel’s Unscripted event, a Celebratory Evening with Mitch Albom, at Rollin’s College.

Your Turn: Do you like reading sequels? What’s your favorite sequel or “return” to a specific world or character’s life after a long hiatus? 

Get in My Kindle: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Happy Thursday, Shelfies! It’s been a grueling week here after a fun but chaotic weekend of reading, editing, exploring with my dad to celebrate his birthday, and a series of flat tires. I finished I’d Rather be Reading this weekend before getting ensnared by Maggie O’Farrell’s beautifully written and well structured memoir I Am, I Am, I Am. I am 65% done and still turning the pages as fast as possible. In the spirit of sharing what promises to be a great memoir in its own right, I give you this week’s Get in My Kindle featured book (and a promise to start posting regularly again). 

Title: BecomingBecoming Michelle Obama

Author: Michelle Obama

Release Date: November 13, 2018

Description: In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: Michelle Obama has become many things to me since I first saw her standing beside her husband at different campaign events, but perhaps the most important has been as a role model, an example of what’s possible, for young black women. She’s been poised under scrutiny, exhibiting class and refusing to be cast as another angry black woman while speaking out on issues and speaking up for those who have been marginalized. An intelligent woman, a gifted orator, and a woman who seemed to balance career and family well in what’s perhaps the world’s strongest spotlight, I can’t help but be interested in her story as a whole.

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of origin stories. Whether it’s the idea for a novel, a career defining decision, or the minute choices and steps taken to evolve into a world leader, I’m fascinated by stories that take me back to the beginning and show me how people and things came to be. To hear the tale in the person’s own words is even better. I want to know how Michelle became Michelle Obama, the first African-American woman to become FLOTUS, and what she’s evolving into in her post-White House life.

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Are you looking forward to Becoming? Any other memoirs coming soon you can’t wait to read? Let me know in the comments below.