writing

The House at the End of Hope Street: A Review

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I love books that have a little bit of that magical flair. More than a little bit and I feel as if I’ve hit the reading jack pot. The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag is full of magic, from a house that seems to pop up just as you need it, ghosts and portraits that give, sometimes unwanted, advice, and a 99 day chance for a young woman to get her life back on track, this novel keeps the reader enchanted. 

When Alba, an extraordinary genius with unbelievable sight, experiences the worst event of her life (she’s not exaggerating either), she wanders the streets with no idea what should happen next. That’s when the house pops up out of nowhere, big and Victorian with vines of wisteria and the smells of calm hovering in the air, and reaches to her like a mother reaches for a hurting child. As you read on, you learn that the house has been rescuing women, especially soon to be famous women like Agatha Christie and Virginia Woolf, for 200 years. 

Alba’s story quickly becomes entwined with the three other women in the house, one hiding from her past, one scared of her future, and the wonderful woman, Peggy, who keeps the house and helps the young women who cross the threshold. One of my favorite parts of this book was the way that the characters stories became so connected. Originally, I was concerned that this was going to be a story of stories, instead of a fluid whole, but Van Praag didn’t disappoint. 

Even though the pages are full of heartbreaking life events, you learn, along with the women experiencing them, that one “must be allowed to feel her grief, must dive headlong into despair, before she can emerge again, her spirit richer and deeper than before” (46). While trying to find herself in all of the madness of her life, Alba is also on the search, rather reluctantly sometimes, for her father, who makes the story even more rich. 

Although I loved the book, the characters, the story, the mysteries that unravel one tiny strand at a time, I didn’t love the number of perspectives that the story was told from. Almost every character gets his or her say, which made me feel like my favorites didn’t get enough time with the spotlight. I also had a hard time, whether because of the different circumstances or perspective, relating with Greer, one of the women living in the house. 

I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I think it was exactly the book that I needed to read! Follow the link and get your own copy! You won’t be disappointed. 

 

 

A New Year

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A new year is once again here. When I was young, it seemed like time would not move fast enough. I spent my summers wishing for school and my school years wishing for summer. IN the past couple of years, even when school has been horrible or the heat has been unbearable, I’ve tried to focus on living in the now. As a planner, that is no easy task.

2013 was amazing. IMy friends and family are good and healthy, my marriage is thriving, my home is beautiful, my puppies are happy, and I’ve been writing almost everyday. I wrote another novel in 2013, read a lot of books, and enjoyed my life.

For the last two years, my resolutions have been writing centered, and this year will be no different. Well, maybe a little different. This year, for the next 364 days, I want to succeed at writing everyday. I’m going to go through the novel One Year to a Writing Life by Tiberghien. I want to push myself in more directions than just fiction. I want to try my hand at some fiction that is short, write some creative nonfiction, and journal without feeling like I’m not writing “what I should be writing.”

So, my writing and reading resolutions for the new year.

1. Read 52 books.

  • 52 books means reading one book a week. In summer I can do more, but during school I feel this is an admirable goal.

2. Review the books here!

  • This serves a dual purpose. I want to blog more, therefor if I am reviewing the 52 books that I read, that will be at minimum one post a week. That’s a win.

3. Write everyday- for fun!

  • I write a lot, but I sometimes forget that I love to write. I make this crazy difficult deadlines for myself and forget to enjoy the process. Whether fun means a journal entry, a blog post, or words on my WIP, I want my writing to be fun.

So, there you have it. If you are interested in following what I’m reading, add me as a friend on GoodReads! Happy New Year people!

Day 21-26: Catch UP

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I know, I know. I’m behind. Luckily for you all, I’m very good at catching up. This will be a whirlwind of information that will leave you feeling like you’ve only seen snapshots of my life instead of reading my autobiography. It is what it is.

Day 21: Write about your most embarrassing moments.

In the same way that it is difficult to make me angry, it is also difficult to embarrass me. I think I am most embarrassed when I think that I am right, only to be proven wrong. When I was young, I was always right. Now that I’m a little bit older, I rarely ever take a side on anything because I realize that right and wrong aren’t always exclusive.

Day 22: What is your style?

If you had asked me this question in high school, I would have had to answer punk/goth. It’s kind of funny that I thought I was so “hardcore” when now I’m just normal. I really love the hipster look, so I would probably associate myself with that.

Day 23: Write about one of your guilty pleasures.

Chips and Salsa. Hands down. I could almost eat chips and salsa for breakfast. You all know that I am fairly healthy. I eat clean most of the time (excluding holidays, I am from the South remember). I love salty chips paired with super hot salsa. It is what it is. Another guilty pleasure is the movie Legally Blonde, but we’ve already talked about that.

Day 24: Write about your day.

Christmas Eve was a whirlwind of packing to go to Orlando. For Christmas this year my mother and father-in-law  purchased the entire family a trip to Universal Studios in Florida. That’s right, I got to go to Harry Potter Land.
PicCollageI almost cried when I walked into HP Land. It was like coming home. I know you think I’m being dramatic, but I cannot explain to you how much Harry Potter meant to me growing up and how much it means to me now as an adult. We had butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks and rode a couple of dragons. I decided that Slytherin should be my house, even though I don’t like my house’s bad name. I got a Slytherin mug and Nathan got a Ravenclaw mug, we both got scarves for our house, and we got a Hogwart’s crest blanket. It was amazing and I loved every minute of it.

Day 25: If you could meet one fictional character, whom would it be?

This is the post that will be most difficult for me, mainly because I have no idea how to choose just one. If I said Dumbledore, I would want to say McGonagall; if I said Harry, I would need to include Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. So I’m going to exclude Harry Potter from my list of characters. Doing that makes it a smaller list, but still huge. Would I meet Tom Sawyer and ask him about growing up? Or Kendra and Seth in the Fablehaven Series? There are all the characters in The Great Tree of Avalon series that I fell in love with growing up, as well as Ben and Sorrel and Firedrake in Dragon Rider by Funke. Most recently, there is Alba in The House at the End of Hope Street, so much like me and so different all at once. I just can’t decide. I have read too many books and had too many characters help me find my way to choose just one.

Day 26:Explain why you chose your username.

When I become a published author, I will still teach. I am Mrs. Bazyk at school and as an author I will be C.C. Riley.

This is where I will stop for today. Tomorrow I will catch up the rest of the way. Again, I’m sorry for all the posts all at once, but a family emergency caused me to need to leave town unexpectedly. I will happily tell you all that all is well. Happy Christmas, and any other holiday that you may find yourself celebrating.

Day 20: What are your hobbies and why do you like them?

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For people who work only 40 hours per week (and who still gets to do that anyway?), that person will work 30% of his life. Another 30% is spent sleeping. What we do with that other 40% is completely up to us. 

For December Challenge day 20, you get to hear all about mine and Madi’s hobbies, and if you are my student reading this, prepare to see how boring I actually am. 

So my number one hobby is writing. I would like this hobby to eventually become a source of income for myself. Eve if it doesn’t, it wouldn’t matter. One day my children will inherit all of my journals and they can read all about me and whom I was and whom I wanted to be. 

I also count exercise as a hobby, mainly because I really enjoy it. I’m happy that I have met my weight loss goals and how I exercise (running and yoga are my favorites) because it makes me happy. It really isn’t something that I struggle with anymore. 

Remodeling and redecorating the house ranks in the top five because that is something that Nathan and I can do together. We get to spend time together and make our home more beautiful. Right now we’re in the middle of planning a kitchen remodel. 

Reading is another “hobby” but like writing I could never give it up. Ever. I love the feeling of being transported to another place and time, of meeting new people and being inspired. Experience equals wisdom, but reading helps you get ahead of the game. 

So, a few hobbies from me should equal a few hobbies from you! What are your hobbies? 

Day 18: A List of Likes

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Day 18 is a day of favorites, but the problem is that I have a lot of favorites, especially in these categories. For example, if you were to ask me what my favorite animal was, I would ask you, “domestic or wild?”  See, there are a lot of different components of favorites to consider. I will do my best, as I am sure Madi will also, but know that in no way is this list exhaustive, nor will it be true tomorrow. 

Me-Button.pngBook: This will be the hardest. I am an avid reader I read usually four-five books a month, and that is a slow month, during the school year. During summer I don’t know how many books I read because there are so many. Right now, I’m asking myself if I should start with my favorite of all time or choose a classic. I can tell you that one of my favorite themes in literature is “things aren’t always what they seem.” My favorite YA book would be Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban which is all about the way things appear versus what they actually are. I also loved The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia. I believe in magic because of books like these. Jane Austen inspires me as a woman, and Sarah Addison Allen helps me to keep my belief in magic, even as an adult. John Green and Sarah Dessen help me stay in touch with my inner teenager so that I can more easily relate to my learners. I’m stopping here now, or I won’t have room for the rest of my favorites. 

 

Movies: So, I’m not a huge movie buff. I want to be, but I get al fidgety. It’s weird, but I can sit and read for hours, but try to get me to sit for an extended period of time for anything else and I start to get all antsy in my pantsy. So, I loved The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and I’ve loved both Hobbit movies so far. I loved all the HP movies. My secret, which is about to no longer be a secret, movie guilty pleasure is Legally Blonde. I watch that movie when I need a girl power or motivation. That’s a pretty huge secret, so don’t tell anyone.

Song: Right now, my favorite song is  easily “Begging You Not To Go” by Tired Pony. First of all, the lyrics are beautiful. I can just imagine these two people who are at the cusp of being in love; it’s the time when moments are both shorter and longer, when every word is poetry and love has never felt so close. There is this line, and it took me a while to interpret it. He says, “We’re the last to fall all around us sleeping bodies Drunken satellites in the orbit of our earth,” and I remember this feeling with Nathan. Your surrounded by people but the gravity between you and the person is so strong it seems to disrupt everything else. The satellites look drunk because of the pull between the two of you. This song, in only eight lines, captures so much about love. 

Food: Easy. Chips and Salsa. Love.

Color: Depends on my mood and the weather. In the winter my color is typically black because I’m solar powered and I start feeling a little bit melancholy. In the summer my favorite color is the color of sunflowers.  

Animal: Domestically speaking it would have to be dogs. I mean, look at these two. They are precious. 

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Wild, I don’t know. Wolves are cool. Nathan likes bears, so I think that’s pretty awesome. Owls are cool, too. And Ravens. I like birds for all the things that they can symbolize, but I would never keep one. Otters are cute. Obviously, I don’t know. 

 

There you go. What are your favorites? 

Day 12: Who are your best friends?

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December 12 is all about my best friends. I have quite a few of those, and I am lucky to have every one of them. Remember, join Madi and I on this December challenge! You never know what you might learn about others, but more importantly, what you will learn about yourself! 

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If you read my review of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, one of the truths that is in that novel is “you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.” This quote didn’t quite make it into the review, but it was close. Throughout that entire novel, you learn that sometimes you don’t get to choose the friends you have. Sometimes, the universe calls you together, for better or for worse. 

I can think of so many friends that are in my life and that I value. Some, like Holly Humphries and Nathan Ward, were the best things that could have happened to me in high school. I have so many memories with those two, and my life would not be the same without them. But, as it is accustomed to doing, life got in the way in the form of college and they became more memories, happy ones that I can always smile about. Then came college, filled with the girls in the dorm. More amazing, fun, wonderful, life changing memories happened in that dorm and in the four years that followed. 

603752_10151162962532510_184203311_nChelsy Larson and I had some serious fun in college. This picture was taken at Haley, one of our dorm girl’s wedding. We still get together every time we can, and the one thing I would change is that we would live closer together. 

The friends that I am close to now weren’t that hard to identify. I looked through my pictures, and there they all were, in almost every picture. 1069931_10100348306727871_1399280514_n

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Casey Jo, Madi, Sam, Stephanie, and Alex. These are the people that I text when I need something, when I need to vent, when I’m quoting something silly I heard at school, and even sometimes when I’m feeling a little bit melancholy. When I want to go out and do something new, like Yoga, I know that I can count on them to come with me. I know that Alex and I can’t live in the same town because we would probably take over the world with our genius ideas (mostly hers, I’m just a contributor). I know that Sam is going to be a great mother because I got to witness first hand what it looks like when a regular woman becomes a Mom. It’s like something in the face changes. I know that Stephanie will always be there to laugh with me and cry with me, and she even still likes me after living with me. Nathan can attest to the fact that it is not a simple or easy endeavor. Casey Jo and I have an entire conversation before the rest of the world wakes up, about random things mostly. We share our fears and likes and dislikes and even some of our more “snotty” qualities.

And when you look closer at the image, I know you can see a lot of men in there, too. All of those men are some of the best that I’ve ever met. My best friends chose great husbands and boyfriends and I know that I can count on any one of them to be there for me, just like their wives. 

People don’t get lucky enough to have so many best friends that often. I love these women and men, and my life would be much worse off if they weren’t around to share it with me. I know that the universe had a hand in putting me with these strong, individual women. Thanks universe. 

Who are your best friends? 

Day 11: A Recipe and a Story

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Today is day 11 of the December Blog Challenge that Madi and I are working through, and neither one of us is in high school anymore. We decided to switch it up a bit, and since we both love cooking, we thought that sharing a recipe might be a great way to get us both into the holiday mindset. 

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My family is made up of really strong women. My grandmother, Aloma, spelled and pronounced Alamo when you want to see her get annoyed, had three daughters, my Aunt Paula, My mom, Stacye, and my Aunt Niki. As the fates would have it, today is my Aunt Niki’s birthday, so happy birthday to her! 

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There were so many different times in our lives where men just weren’t present. The only constant that I can remember growing up was Uncle Jason, Niki’s husband, and he is a story in and of himself. At one point, in a house that I really can’t remember, all the women lived together; all I really know about that house is that it was called “the house on Moses Street” and it will always be called that. 

After a few marriages, life took on a more normal routine. We all lived in separate houses and had separate lives. More children were born and I was no longer the only niece, grand baby, or daughter.  I feel like I adjusted well. 

Even though all of these normal things were happening, every once in a while, all the women would get together again. One of the houses that we lived in was gray and  on five acres. There was a gravel circle drive and a basketball goal for me. We would have horses and cows occasionally, and I really loved this house. 

Sometimes, we would get lucky and the men would go somewhere at the same time. It didn’t really matter where because the going was all that mattered. Aunt Niki, Aunt Paula, Mamaw, Taylor, and Nic (who at this point did not count as a boy), would come over to the gray house to spend time with Dallas, me, and Mom. 

Everything in the gray house was smaller than normal, except for the kitchen. My mom and I painted the bottom half of the walls red and the top half was painted to look like leather. Everything was decorated in chili peppers and the kitchen and dining room were big enough for all of us. 

Now, before this recipe will make sense, you have to understand that the men in the family don’t like a lot of veggies. They’re what I call “meat and potatoes” folk. Anytime the women got together, you could be guaranteed that whatever we were cooking would have lots of veggies in it. 

This recipe is one of my favorites because of the happy memories I associate with it. I know there was fighting and bickering and probably more than one temper tantrum from my little sister, Dallas, but these memories, the ones where we are all standing in the kitchen or leaning across the bar talking are some of the most important that I have. 

Oh , and last thing before the recipe: we don’t measure. “Just eyeball it” is going to be written on all of our tombstones. 

Ingredients:

  • Angel hair pasta
  • cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered
  • capers, drained
  • bacon bits (homemade is better)
  • asparagus, fresh, not canned, and cut into a more manageable size
  • lemons
  • any other veggie you are fond of

Directions: 

In a pan with olive oil, cook the sliced asparagus, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts until tender, salt and pepper to taste. Boil water, olive oil, and salt in a large pan. WHen asparagus is tender, add all other ingredients, including fresh squeezed lemon juice. Cook noodles “until they taste right: and combine all ingredients. Top off with a few extra bacon bits. 

There you have it. This is my go to recipe when I’m feeling a little bit homesick. What is yours?