Always the Bridesmaid

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This past weekend I got to be a bridesmaid in a college friend’s wedding up near my hometown. It was a wonderful weekend, filled with reunions with old friends and the making of new ones. Being in the wedding mood, I found Always the Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk in the ebook selection of D.C.’s online library.

As an event planner assistant, Madeline “Maddie” Fraser has spent the past ten years organizing dozens of weddings, birthday parties and a host of other events. Now, at 31, Maddie is starting to feel restless in both her professional and personal life. She is craving more responsibility at work and hopes to be promoted to an event manager, even if it means continuing to suffer under her strict boss Shona. In her personal life, she is serving as a bridesmaid for her engaged best friend Lauren, which is contrasted by the divorce of their mutual friend Sarah. Soon, her personal life comes crashing into her professional life when Lauren insists that Maddie plan Lauren’s wedding in three short months. Maddie’s life is further made difficult by her successful family’s disapproval of her lifestyle, although she finds relief with her involvement with handsome and charming lawyer Will.

This novel actually takes place in the United Kingdom, which I discovered after reading the first chapter. I spent some time in the UK during college, so I understood most of the vocabulary. For the words I didn’t know, Kindle’s built-in dictionary helped, as did good old-fashioned context clues.

Kelk did a great job of incorporating modern day and relatable issues. One of the biggest ones was the expectations that Maddie’s family had toward her that she should be “settled down” by age 31. This reflects the pressure that most females are supposed to be married and have kids by a certain age. I couldn’t relate to this more, with a Facebook feed full of weddings and kid announcements (although neither are in my near future.) The juxtaposition of Lauren’s engagement and Sarah’s divorce provided an interesting perspective of the opposite ends of a relationship, and added development to Maddie’s character as she struggled with having to comfort Sarah and be excited for Lauren at the same time. The stress affects all of them at several times throughout the story, an accurate portrayal of juggling work and personal life.

The plot also explores the idea of a toxic work environment. Maddie has been in the same job position for over a decade, and has to decide whether it’s worth remaining in it or moving on. Kelk sends the important message of how an unfulfilling job can affect one’s well being.

I definitely recommend this novel because of its accurate depictions of everyday struggles.

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Rain (Original Poetry by Me)

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This is a poem I wrote when I was nine or ten and recently rediscovered:

It is raining, the drops hit the ground,

In the sky there is only dark clouds to be found,

I hope it is over soon,

I cannot even see the moon,

I just hope it will be over soon,

Wait, I see sunshine,

It is finally the end of the line,

The sun has come out at last,

Boy, that rain went fast!

Girls in White Dresses

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Continuing my interest in reading wedding-related stories, I found Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer E. Close. Her most recent book The Hopefuls wasn’t my favorite, but I decided to give this one a try.

From it’s title, I expected Girls in White Dresses to be a story about friends being bridesmaids in a mutual friend’s weddings. Instead, I found a series of vignettes that involve the same group of friends from college. The short stories cover several years of their lives, including moving out of their houses and to New York City, experiencing  relationships, getting married and having kids.

I did find some of the topics to be relatable. Reading about being in your 20s and watching friends and classmates get married and have kids describes a majority of my life right now. But that was really the only part of the “novel” that I liked. The female characters were one-dimensional and boring, and they all seemed to blur together after awhile. They were constantly described as uncertain about whether they like their boyfriends or not, and their passive attitudes drove me crazy. Not to say that people aren’t like that in real life, but I’m not sure if every single 20-something feels that way, which is what Close seemed to imply. I’m pretty sure that if you are to marry someone, it should be based off of how you feel and not what others tell you.

I would recommend borrowing this one from the library like I did.

 

 

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

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Stephen King is commonly associated with the genre of thrillers or mysteries. But not all of his books are. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is one of them.

I originally read this book at age 16 as an assignment the summer before my senior year of high school. English was my favorite subject, and having to read a book over the summer didn’t faze me. Besides, I intended to go to college for journalism (which I did end up doing), so I wanted to improve my writing skills.

On Writing is officially billed as a memoir, but it also includes writing tips and tricks based on King’s own experiences, making it a little bit of a hybrid.

The first part of the book is the memoir section. As King writes, “It’s not an autobiography,” (p. 17). Rather, they are bits of memories that he recalls in somewhat random order. He grew up primarily in Maine with his single mother and older brother Dave. The two of them had many adventures growing up, which I could relate to since I have an older brother myself. King’s interest in writing began in childhood when he started making up his own stories, encouraged by his mother and brother. After having some run-ins with the school administration in his writing endeavors, which included inadvertent plagiarism and inappropriate content, they recommended him as a correspondent for the local newspaper. He continued to write and attended college, where he met his wife Tabitha. The years that followed brought the birth of their children and scraping by, until the success of his first novel Carrie, in 1974. King wasn’t afraid to include some personal confessions, such as his problems with drugs and alcohol during some years.

The second part of the book includes tips on writing: spelling, grammar, dialogue, and other basics. As a high school senior, I remember having to do assignments based on this section. King includes suggestions on how to eliminate unnecessary words and lists writing exercises to help practice. One of the most interesting parts was reading where King gets his ideas from. For Carrie, King had gotten the idea after discovering the tampon dispenser in the girl’s locker room during a stint as a custodian He talks about how ideas can come from personal experiences or interests, and how it can’t hurt to combine two ideas together.

A postscript talks about his experience with near death in 1999, when he was hit by a van while walking along a rural road in Maine. I was fascinated by the amount of detail he was able to put into his account, describing the moment he was hit, his injuries and the recovery. I imagine if I was ever in an accident like that that I wouldn’t be able to recall that much detail.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone who is interested in learning more about the art of writing and how one of the great authors gets his inspiration from.

In closing, my favorite quote from page 269, “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work and enriching your own life, as well.”

The Wedding Date

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Now that it’s May, wedding season is in full bloom. Since mid-to-late-20s seems to be the age people get married, my Facebook and Instagram feed are full of pictures of friends’ and former classmates’ weddings and friends tagged in pictures of their friends’ weddings. I myself am set to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding three weeks from now, which I am excited about. Feeling in the wedding mood, I picked up The Wedding Date, the debut novel of Jasmine Guillory, from my local bookstore.

This book is about two strangers, Alexa Monroe and Drew Nichols, who meet by chance in San Francisco when the hotel elevator they’re in breaks down. Drew is in town from Los Angeles to be a groomsman in his best friend’s and ex-girlfriend’s wedding, while Alexa is in from Berkeley visiting her sister. Not wanting to show up to the wedding minus a plus-one, he asks Alexa if she’ll be his date to the wedding. Although it’s supposed to be a fake date, the two soon find they are attracted to each other.

The story employs just about every cliché of the romantic genre. The meet cute, ex-girlfriends, one-night stand, the subsequent sort-of relationship and conflicting feelings that follow, complete with the confidante friends that each person spills their guts to. In this case, Alexa and Drew do a long-distance deal that means flying back and forth each weekend, something I didn’t find too realistic (wouldn’t it drain their bank accounts?)  The plot has definitely been done before, in different forms. The elevator trope has even been done before too, like in the Hallmark movie Elevator Girl, which follows a similar storyline.

Guillory did add a unique aspect by making the relationship interracial, with Alexa being African American and Drew white. But I was hoping for some more originality, like the ending not being super predictable.

I wouldn’t recommend purchasing this book like I did, but if you like cute clichéd fluff, it might be worth checking it out.

The Wedding Date

Hello, Sunshine

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Social media has become pretty much synonymous with the way we live our lives. Every day, people paint a picture of their lives through posts, words, drawings, photos and other media. People can use social media to make a living through paid advertising, partnerships and other joint ventures. However, it’s interesting to see what their real background and lives are like behind the camera. Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave uses this as its main plot point.

Sunshine Stephens has built an empire as cooking personality Sunshine Mackenzie, with a television show, cookbooks and millions of social media followers. Navigating her career with her husband Danny in New York City, life is good. But on the morning of her 35th birthday, she wakes up to a hacker revealing personal information to the world, including the fact she has a ghostwriter for some of her cookbooks and had a one-night stand with one of her coworkers. The hack soon destroys her career and she loses her publishing and television contracts, husband and Tribeca apartment. With nowhere else to go, she’s forced to return to her hometown of Montauk, New York and confront her past, including her estranged sister.

The plot might sound like a cliche, but it’s not exactly that. The author even humorously acknowledges the cliche in Chapter 20, with Sunshine stating,

“In case you’re worried that this was going to turn into a story about what woman realizing her childhood home was where she always belonged, please keep in mind that I hated being back in Montauk.”

The book explores the theme of how people can use social media and fame to create an entire persona. It’s slowly revealed that Sunshine’s life is not what the public knew it as. She previously said she was from the South and grew up on farm. But we later learn she was born and raised on Long Island, a story that her manager figured wouldn’t appeal to the general public. There are important points about honesty, what people choose to share to the public and the importance of privacy.

Other than those themes, though, I found the rest of the story a bit boring. Other than Sunshine’s cute niece Sammy, there wasn’t a lot of character development. Also, I found Sunshine’s husband immediately leaving her without any talk to be a bit unrealistic. It could be that I’m not the right demographic for the novel- being in my mid-20s reading a story about people in their mid-to-late 30s. But I would says this book is more worth getting from the local library than purchasing.

Scratch: Authors, Writing and the Art of Making a Living

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I knew I wanted to be a writer from the age of eight. That was when I wrote my first short story called Katie Goes to Butterfly Land about a girl who turns into a butterfly.

Fast forward to almost twenty years later, and I have a lot of writing credits in my repertoire. I attended college for journalism, where I wrote articles for the school paper and had some of my poems published in the college literary journal. I wrote more articles for my local newspaper and even some scripts for the broadcast news station at the internships I did. Lately though, I’ve been trying to branch out for paid opportunities to publish my work, with the ultimate goal of publishing a book. Wanting to learn more about it, I found Scratch, Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living.

Scratch is an anthology, compiled by writer Manjula Martin, filled with essays and interviews from various authors and writers. The focus is money in writing and whether it’s possible to make a living solely off of writing, a topic Martin feels is somewhat taboo in the literary world. The book is split into three sections: Early Days, the Daily Grind and Selling Out.

One of the qualities I liked about this book is how diverse the writers are. Instead of focusing on authors of just one genre, Martin included pieces from authors of young adult, nonfiction, fiction, thrillers, and so on. Each writer had their own opinion on money in the writing world, some say you still need a day job, while others say it is possible to scrap by on writing. Numerous topics such as ghostwriting, publishing, and agents are covered. They really show how multi-faceted the business of writing really is.

I found it fascinating to learn about how the writers decided they wanted to write, how they came up with ideas and the different ways they execute their writing processes. Each author has their own voice, some truthful, others humorous, some even using expletives. It shows that not every writer is the same and aren’t always afraid to show their true selves.

I definitely recommend this book for people who want to learn more about the business side of writing and what goes into it.

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