Author: Ellen (Page 1 of 2)

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough: ‘Resurrection of Joan Ashby’

A couple of months ago the store got advanced copies of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, this new novel from Flatiron Books that was touted to be a HUGE debut. Upon first seeing the book, I decided it certainly appeared to be huge in size, but whether or not it was a great debut was yet to be seen. I will be the first to tell you that I tend to steer away from physically large books, because I think they will take a lifetime to read (even though they never actually do). So, my first thought was that I would never actually read this book.

But then Kelly, our manager, said that she had started the book, and it was absolutely amazing. This was a large vote in the positive, because Kelly is a tough critic, guys, and if she says something is amazing I am quick to take notice. I lugged this tome home and vowed to start that night. To say the next week and a half of my life was just me trying to plot out when I could get back to reading this book is an accurate assessment. I became devoted to Joan Ashby and the story of her life, and I have yet to stop talking about this book. So let’s get down to me actually telling you about this story:

Joan Ashby became a wildly successful and award-winning author as a young woman. This could be attributed to the fact that she has been dedicated to her craft all of her life. An article in Literature magazine (Fall Issue)) at the start of the book prints something from her journal that she wrote when she was just 13 years old. It is a list of commitments to herself and requirements to becoming a great author. The list goes like this:

1) Do not waste time
2) Ignore Eleanor when she tells me I need friends [she is referring to her mother]
3) Read great literature every day
4) Write every day
5) Rewrite every day
6) Avoid crushes and love
7) Do not entertain any offer of marriage
8) Never ever have children

9) Never allow anyone to get in my way

As you can see, Joan was a very intense and dedicated little girl. She knew what she wanted, come hell or high water! But of course love will find a way, won’t it? And it certainly does for Joan when she meets Martin. Joan is upfront with Martin from the very start when she tells him that her writing will always come first and children are completely off the table. No exceptions. Clear enough, right?

Haha, wrong again

Before long, Joan will end up unexpectedly pregnant. When Martin is visibly delighted by this development, Joan can’t help but feel betrayed by his quickness to break their vow. So a child is born…and then another child. All during this time, Joan is trying to complete her highly anticipated first novel. Being a wife and a mother comes with many demands, as many of you women out there know. Just reading a book in its entirety is a struggle, much less actually writing one. All through this telling of Joan’s life, snippets of her own incredible short story are sprinkled throughout the book. It is easy to see how she became such an acclaimed short story writer so early in her career.

I don’t want to give too much about the story away, but I will tell you that she does complete her novel and there is a betrayal of Shakespearean proportions. I was reading this book on a plane and when the big event occurred, the woman sitting beside me must surely have been worried about my mental stability. I was breathing heavily and grinding my teeth. I feel sure I made her very uncomfortable, but oh well!

I truly cannot say enough about how much I loved this book. I found Joan incredibly relatable, aside from her obvious genius. She is a woman who says the thing you are not supposed to say about motherhood and being a wife: it is not enough for her. She is not completely fulfilled by the triumphs of her family; she needs something of her own. Of course she loves her family, but she has creative goals and needs. Being creative also, I relate to this. I loved Joan Ashby and I found myself cheering for her this entire book. I literally could have read this forever and been completely satisfied.

Signed first editions of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas are still available.

Ellen’s Bodacious Beach Reads 2017

So I shall be going to the beach next week, and next week can’t come soon enough. Now, being of the pale skin variety (i.e. I look like I’ve been dead for two weeks because I’m so pale), I tend not to actually sit on the actual beach all that much. I just want to sit on the balcony, smell the ocean, smoke many packs of cigarettes, and read…A LOT OF BOOKS. So, for several weeks, I have been thinking about which books I would be taking to the beach to read. This has been difficult for me, because I have several hundreds of books on my TBR (to be read) list. I have finally narrowed down the list. Hallelujah!!! So let’s do this!

made for loveThe first book on my list is the new novel from Alissa Nutting, Made for Love. People: this book’s cover is of the air-brushed persuasion. If that is not enough to get your engines started, let me break this novel’s story down for you: Hazel has just left her tech billionaire husband, who has also his sights set on world domination. Things have been weird in their marriage for years, but the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back is when Byron wants to insert a chip in his and Hazel’s brain in order to achieve the first mind meld in history. pinky ru ponderingHer only option is to seek refuge in her father’s home that is in a retirement trailer park. Did I mention that her widower father has just purchased a brand new lifelike sex doll named Diane? Hazel’s father’s hope is that in his last years he will die doing something that he loves; obviously, that thing is having sex with Diane. “Hazel began to look at the five-foot four-inch silicone princess a little differently now: Penthouse pet from waist up, Dr. Kevorkian from the waste down.” If this little bit I’ve just shared does not convince you to buy this book, then we do not share the same sick sense of humor…and that is totally your choice. Albeit the wrong one, but I digress.

goodbye vitaminNumber two is Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong. Ruth, freshly disengaged from her fiance, is summoned home to help care for her father Howard, a once prominent history professor has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has bouts of lucidity. When Ruth arrives home, she finds the situation much more serious than she had anticipated. When the university does finally sack Howard, Ruth and a handsome ex-student of Howard’s go a little too far in the name of justice. Over the course of a year, the comedy in Ruth’s situation becomes apparent and it gently transforms her grief. Honestly, I am eager to read anything about a thirty-something woman who is not exactly where she would like to be in her life. Perhaps I relate. HAHAHAHA.

watch me disappearWatch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown is coming in hot at number three on the list. This novel is about Billie Flanagan, who went missing a year earlier in Desolation Wilderness (which does not sound like an optimal location to go on a solo hike, but that is what she does). Her body is never found, but a shattered cell phone is recovered. Billie left behind a husband and a teenage daughter. Both of the survivors in this story deal with the loss of Billie in equally unhealthy ways. However, things get seemingly extra unhealthy when Olive, the daughter, starts having visions of Billie…alive. Jonathan, Billie’s husband, is very concerned for Olive’s emotional stability when this all begins, but as he uncovers secrets from Billie’s past, he wonders if he ever knew her at all. So, of course Olive and Jonathan unite in a quest to figure out the truth about Billie’s past and her disappearance. The tagline to this book is “Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.” (cue ominous mood music)

white furNumber four is White Fur by Jardine Libaire. The title of this novel is taken from the white rabbit fur coat the female protagonist always wears. Another great novel tagline is coming your way: “A stunning, star-crossed love story set against the glitz and grit of 1980s New York City.” COUNT. ME. IN. I mean, this novel has absolutely all the things I care about: star-crossed lovers? YES. 1980s New York City? OH YOU KNOW IT! And a female protagonist who is from the wrong side of the tracks and falls in love with a WASP? I’M STARTING TO GET SHORT OF BREATH! HELP ME! So, I have already read the first few pages and it opens in a seedy motel room with Elise, our girl, sitting on the bed with a rifle pointed at Jamie, her guy. All I can think of is, how did it get to this point? My book club is actually reading this book for July and I have already heard wonderful things from some of the members.

meddling kidsLast but not least is number five on the list, Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. Essentially, this book is about the Mystery Inc. gang all grown up, and it ain’t pretty, people. In this novel, the gang is known as “The Blyton Summer Detective Club.” Blyton Hills is a small mining town in Oregon’s Zoinx River Valley. In 1977, the gang solved their last mystery and unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster. So the story itself starts in 1990 after all of the former detectives have grown up and apart. Everyone is haunted by the disturbing memories of their final night on the case. To give you a sense of how everyone’s lives have turned out up to this point, I’ll explain everyone’s current sitch. Andy, who was the intrepid tomboy, is now wanted in two states and is tired of running from her demons. Kerri is the once kid genius who is drinking away her life in New York City with a Weimaraner named Tim who is a descendant of the original canine in the gang. Then there is Nate, who is a horror-loving nerd that is currently residing in an asylum in Arkham, Massachusetts. Nate has not lost contact with Peter, the gang leader, who was a star jock-turned-actor. This would be totally normal…if Peter were not dead, which he has been for years. So everyone is going to get the gang back together and face their fears about what happened all those years ago! I mean honestly I might start my beach trip off with this book because it sounds like too much damn fun.

So that’s what I’ll be doing for a week. I hope everyone’s week next week is as fun as mine!

Ellen offers opinions on Olds’ outstanding ‘Odes’

So, I’m not sure why, but I have not been able to get enough poetry as of late. I feel like I spend most days at work figuring out which book of poetry I’ll read next. Now mind you, I don’t like flowery poetry that I have to turn my brain inside out attempting to figure out what the string of words mean when put all together. I like it to be right out there in front of me, screaming.

odesAll of that is to say I am reading A LOT of poetry right now. However, in my mind, one collection of poems currently shines above the rest. Sharon Olds won the Pulitzer with her 2012 collection, Stag’s Leap. Her newest collection is entitled Odes. Olds uses this old form of a poem to celebrate all parts of herself and female sexuality. I can’t stress enough how excited I was to get home every night and read some of these poems. I could have plowed through the book in one sitting, but I opted to savor every single one, only allowing myself–at most–five poems at a time. The subject matter of the poems ranges from the purely sexual to the everyday mundane: “Blow Job Ode”, “Ode to the Clitoris,” “Hip Replacement Ode,” “My Mother’s Flashlight Ode,” “Real Estate Ode,” & “Ode to the Last Thirty-Eight Trees in New York City Visible from This Window”. The imagery conjured by these poems is at once brilliant and so obvious, at least once Olds has put it in front of you. Many times I found myself asking in my mind “Why haven’t I ever thought of that before?” These are beautiful and brilliant in their simplicity. Get in this mix guys.

“Ode of Girls’ Things”

I loved the things that were ours–pink gloves,
hankies with a pastoral scene in one corner.
There was a lot we were not allowed to do,
but what we were allowed to do was ours,
dolls you carry by the leg, and dolls’
clothes you would put on , or take off–
someone who was yours, who did not
have the rights of her own nakedness,
and who had a smooth body, with its
untouchable place, which you would never touch, even on her,
you had been cured of that.
And some of the dolls had hard-rubber hands, with
dimples, and though you were not supposed to, you could
bite off the ends of the fingers when you could not stand it.
And though you’d never be allowed to, say, drive a bus,
or do anything that had to be done right, there was a
teeny carton, in you, of eggs
so minute they were invisible.
And there you would be milk, in you, too–real
milk! And you could wear a skirt, you could
be a bellflower–up under its
cone the complex shape like a closed
buckle, intricate groove and tongue,
where something like God’s power over you lived. And it turned out
you shared some things with boys–
the alphabet was not just theirs–
and you could make forays over into their territory,
you could have what you could have because it was yours,
and a little of what was theirs, because
you took it. Much later, you’d have to give things
up, too, to make it fair–long
hair, skirts, even breasts, a pair
of raspberry-colored pumps which a friend
wanted to put on, if they would fit his foot, and they did.

Secrets and Lies in ‘Behind Her Eyes’ by Sarah Pinborough

Continuing on with the British mystery trend, I would like to talk about Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes.

jaw dropLet me just start by saying you that will never guess how this book ends. Try as you might, this book is going to throw you for a serious loop. I finished this book on my lunch break one day and came back in the store and yelled “WHAT JUST HAPPENED TO ME?!!!” There is even a hashtag for this book, #WTFtheending. Don’t let this make you think that the ending was not good; it just shocked the hell out of me.

So onto the story: Louise, a single mom and a secretary, lives in London. Louise divorced her husband several years ago after he had an affair. Her days are taken up with work and her son. behind her eyesOn a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and they kiss. She is totally giddy about it because she feels there is a real connection and this has not happened to her in years. The next time she is at work, she meets her new boss who is incredibly handsome–and just happens to be the man from the bar. He also happens to be VERY married. Not only that but his wife is INCREDIBLY gorgeous. The new boss, David, and Louise talk about what happened and move forward. No big deal, right?

Then one day, Louise is walking back from dropping her son off at school and plows into a woman and knocks her down. It is Adele, David’s wife. Well, for whatever reason, Louise does not say she works for her husband. They grab a coffee and have a great time talking. They exchange numbers and start to become very chummy. While Adele and Louise’s friendship grows, David cannot seem to keep his eyes off of Louise. Well, of course this escalates and Louise is suddenly in secret relationships with both husband and wife. The more Louise gets drawn into Adele and David’s life, you become aware that something is very strange about this couple. They seem to be so perfect, but obviously something is rotten in Denmark. David cheats on his gorgeous wife, making the David that Adele describes in no way line up with the David Louise has come to know. So, who is lying?

This book had me guessing until the very end. If you love psychological thrillers, then you need to stop what you are doing and read this.

Just About Enough of This Ship: ‘The Woman in Cabin 10’ by Ruth Ware

Continuing on with my mystery trend as of late, I want to tell everyone about Ruth Ware’s latest book The Woman In Cabin 10. Since this recent obsession of mine was kicked off with Ware’s first novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, I figured why not try the one that people have been buying like crazy since it came out.

The main character is a travel journalist named Lo Blacklock, who has worked at the same magazine for awhile and gets an exciting assignment because her boss is on maternity leave. Lo is eager to go on this assignment and make a good impression on her boss, because she would love to keep getting assignments such as this. titanic ballroomRichard Bullmer, the multi-millionaire businessman who married a noblewoman from the Netherlands, has built a state-of-the-art luxury cruise liner named the Aurora and is about to take its maiden voyage to the North Sea. The ship is said to the be the height of luxury and opulence, so obviously Lo is very excited to cover the maiden voyage and profile some of the super A-list guests.

A few days before Lo is set to leave on her trip, she is a victim of a home invasion and is extremely shaken. Lo is determined to not let this unfortunate event keep her from her work. On the day of departure, Lo boards the ship and is immediately impressed with the ship and the staff. Her cabin is like nothing she has ever slept in, and she settles right in. On the first night is a formal welcome party, complete with evening gowns and tuxedos. When Lo was getting ready, she met the girl in cabin 10, which is beside her cabin; however she does not see her at the the welcome dinner. Lo wonders if she is being hidden there by another passenger because she doesn’t look like the kind of person who would be on this ship. Richard Bullmer is handsome and extremely charming and his wife is exquisitely dressed, but extremely frail due to the treatment for aggressive breast cancer she has been diagnosed with and battling with for a year.

overboardLater that night, Lo is woken by a noise next door and then hears what she believes to be a body splashing in the water. To say that Lo has a proper freakout about this would be an understatement, and rightly so. She gets the head of security involved and demands to meet all of the staff to see if the girl in cabin 10 is among them or if anyone notices her missing. So what seemed like it was going to be a very pleasurable assignment soon becomes a real-life nightmare. Lo is nervous about the confined spaces, jumpy from her home invasion, and rather unnerved because no one believes her suspicions about what has happened to the girl next door. Lo discovers that all the passengers and staff members remain accounted for, which makes it especially hard to prove that there was a person murdered if no one even knows about the person. Much to Lo’s dismay the cruise continues on as if nothing is wrong. This does not dissuade Lo in her hunt for answers.

There is a crazy twist in this book that I didn’t see coming at all. Mrs. Ware really set the mood of this book in her writing. There were times that I found myself struggling with the small spaces that the character was put in and just her general mood of desperation. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone needing a thriller in their life.

Whodunit at a Hen Do: Ruth Ware’s ‘In a Dark, Dark Wood’

in a dark dark woodSo, I have never been much of a mystery reader, but right now I can’t get enough of them. I credit Ruth Ware for this trend in my reading as of late. A customer came in wanting Ware’s first book, the 2015 mystery In a Dark, Dark Wood, a few months ago and the first thing I saw was Reese Witherspoon’s review on the front: “Prepare to be scared…really scared!” Well, that’s about all I needed to become very, very interested in this. Not that I am the world’s biggest Reese fan, but purely because she said I was going to be scared. Excuse my language, but frankly I love to have the ever-loving s*** scared out of me. I don’t know why I am like this, or how I got this way, but I think I just enjoy the rush of adrenaline while still lying in bed.

The main character in this book is Leonora, a.k.a. Nora. Nora lives in London and is a crime writer. Nora lives a very solitary life, basically only leaving her apartment to take a lengthy run. One day, Nora gets an email from a person she does not know and the subject of the email is “CLARE’S HEN!” scared chickens(And for those of you that don’t know what a “hen” is, that is what British people call a bachelorette party. Technically it is a “Hen Do.”)
Nora immediately thinks she does not know anyone named Clare, but suddenly she remembers the only Clare she knows is someone she hasn’t seen in 10 years. Years ago, Nora left her life behind and didn’t keep in touch with anyone but her friend Nina. Nora sees that Nina is also included in the email, so both women make a deal to go if the other one does. Leading up to the Hen, Nora cannot figure out why she would be invited to Clare’s Hen when they haven’t spoken in so long. Sure, they had been best friends since childhood, up until Nora vanished. Nora immediately thinks something is up, but can’t quite put her finger on what that is. The Hen turns out to be happening in Clare’s very strange friend Flo’s aunt’s house. Flo seems to be almost obsessed with all things Clare. Nina and Nora immediately decide she is crazy. Perhaps they are right?

I absolutely loved this book from start to finish. It had me on the edge of my seat the whole time, and while it didn’t scare me to death, it definitely gave me a thrill. Ruth Ware’s newest book The Woman in Cabin 10 has been a huge success and I will write about that one very soon!

Gifting the Perfect Book: For the Decorating Devotee

Thank the decorating book gods! The new Domino book is out!!!

jacketIf you are a long-time subscriber to Domino magazine or even if you’ve never heard of it but you love decorating, this book is for you people. Domino magazine comes out quarterly and when I see it on the news stand, I basically squeal. Then I will go home to start looking through it, loving every second but also hating it. Sometimes I have to close the magazine because every house featured is so perfect I can barely cope with it. But, make no mistake, I finish the magazine and then refuse to throw it away.

Well, the book, Domino: Your Guide to a Stylish Home, is even better. And did I dominomention this is their SECOND book! Their first book, Domino: The Book of Decoratingcame out in 2008 and looking through it is really amazing because I would still have everything in that book in my own little corner of the world. The work featured in Domino is just clean and timeless. I realize that 2008 doesn’t seem that long ago, but PEOPLE—that was eight years ago! Decorating styles can change A LOT in just a few years. But that is the trick with decorating: don’t do trendy, do clean and timeless.

domino-roomAs for the new book: first of all, just the physical book itself is so pretty that I want to scream. But it also has incredible content inside, broken down into navigable chapters such as “seating,” “walls,” “art,” “flooring,” etc. Every chapter is broken down further into sections like “Walls We Love,” “Handbook,” “Style Statement,” and “Style School.” There are so many helpful things in this book that I have a hard time knowing where to start, but I will say that the Style Statements at the end of every chapter almost send me into orbit because the designs are so incredible but all so different. There really is something for everyone. Then there are also the Style Standoffs at the end of each chapter, focusing on things such as Large Patterns vs. Small Patterns.

This is the perfect Christmas gift for the person in your life that loves decorating. There is even a beautiful box set of the two books, The Domino Collection. So if you come in the store and you are interested in this book, let me show you just how great it is!

Ann Patchett’s ‘Commonwealth’ is a treasure

When I read my first Ann Patchett book when I was about 19, it was love from the very start. My grandmother, Bebe, insisted that I read this book, Truth and Beauty. She gave me her paperback copy, but we left it at that. I kept it for several months until one day, for whatever reason, I decided to read it. Little did I know I would carry that story with me forever. I think of Ann Patchett’s telling of her friendship with poet Lucy Grealy at least once a week; such is the way that Ann Patchett’s telling of anything haunts me.
commonwealthWhenever the store gets an advanced reader copy of Ann Patchett’s work, I am one of the first to try and snatch it up. I do love her simple, no-fuss style of writing that is also beautiful and highly literary at the same time. She is an absolute master of what she does and that was never more apparent to me than while I was reading Commonwealth a few months ago.

This novel starts off with a christening party for a second child in Southern California in the late 1960s. Franny, the guest of honor, is proclaimed to be the most beautiful baby to have ever lived by nearly everyone in attendance, including the uninvited acquaintance Bert Cousins. Even more beautiful than baby Franny is her gorgeous blonde mother, Beverly. Everyone gets drunk on gin and juice from the oranges that grow in the backyard. Toward the end of the party, Bert and Beverly share a kiss in the bedroom where all the children at the party lie sleeping. This one event will end two marriages and create a new blended family that spans the country. Every summer one set of children will have to fly the lengtorangeh of the country in order to spend the summer with their father in Virginia. The Keating and Cousins children are a formidable group who will leave their sleeping, hungover parents asleep in a motel while they, the children, claim the gun from the car, a bottle of liquor, and the Benadryl that one of them is required to keep on them at all times. More will be revealed about that situation if you read the book.

Skipping forward, Franny, the youngest daughter, is a cocktail waitress in Chicago when she meets her author idol in her bar one night. They embark on a multi-year affair, during which he writes a novel that is HEAVILY based on the story of Franny’s family. The book is called Commonwealth and is wildly successful. Needless to say, her family is not pleased about this public divulging of all their personal history.

So this is the part where I tell you that this book is Ann Patchett’s autobiographical masterpiece. When meeting her in the store a month ago, she talked about how she had struggled with actually doing this because she feared the backlash of writing about her life and family. But she said the people she was worried about couldn’t have cared less and she couldn’t care less about the people who were. It’s funny how things work out. Now, she did not tell us exactly which parts were autobiographical, so we get to imagine that for ourselves. But, honestly, this book is a must read. We have all read thousands of family sagas, but no one can write one quite like Ann Patchett. Maybe this is because this story is so close to her heart, Commonwealth comes off as particularly emotionally-charged. You can tell when reading it that these characters mean something to her, even more so than just imagined ones.

I could gush about this book for hours, but I will only suggest that you read this book and enjoy every moment of its simple brilliance.

Signed first editions of Commonwealth are still available. Click here to purchase your copy today.

Sally Mann is here tonight, and one of her biggest fans can barely contain her excitement

I have read so many great books lately, I was torn about what to write my monthly blog about…until I finally did what I have been putting off for over a year, and that is read Sally Mann’s memoir, Hold Still. I am never one to run for nonfiction because oftentimes it can get really dry, and that disappoints me to no end. It’s not that I don’t want to know about all these things people write about, because trust me I do. It’s just that I don’t want my image of someone I hold in such high esteem to be flawed by their attempt at writing.


“Candy Cigarette” from Immediate Family

Being a photographer myself, Sally Mann is someone I hold in the absolute highest regard; she is without a doubt my favorite living fine art photographer. Her photographs stir something inside of me that no one else can. The first time I saw the image “Candy Cigarette” from her body of work Immediate Family, I was hooked. With each image I saw thereafter, I fell more and more in love with her and equally became fascinated by her. I have studied her work and process for years and soaked up anything I could read about her on the internet and in books. I have had little glimmers of her in my life through various other people who know her. These stories are like little flashes of light in my peripheral vision that, if I hadn’t been paying close attention, I might not be sure that I had seen at all. But I can assure you, I am always paying attention when her name is spoken. Like a horse, my ears prick up, seeking out wherever the origin of the name came from.

One such story was from a friend of a friend who was at a dinner that was a veritable who’s who of photography. William Eggelston, of course, was there, and he said Sally was happily snapping, snapping away the entire dinner. Then there was the occasion when I walked into James Patterson’s studio, and Sally had sent him a ruined print with a note written on back, which is a common practice of hers. (That was certainly a thrill for me.) And last but not least is the time Marcy Nessel, James, and I went to Nashville to visit Jack Spencer’s studio. Jack is one of my other favorite living photographers. He and Sally are longtime friends, and to hear someone speak of her in such a familiar way was in a word surreal. But the best part was that Jack had a book of photography of her work; however it was no ordinary book. All of the images were handprinted, platinum prints, and the book also included her poetry. It was heaven in the softest shade of ballet pink. Digging into the recesses of my mind, I come up empty when thinking of another time I have coveted something so greatly.

So needless to say when I heard SALLY MANN was coming to the bookstore, all of my tendencies for a flair of the dramatic were sent into overdrive. The fact that I didn’t weep is in actuality a miracle. I did however make a 911 text message to my dear friend Ashleigh to tell her she had to call me immediately because it was a matter of the most importance.

JacketJust a week ago I realized that I could not have the woman I basically worship come to Lemuria without even reading her book. So I did it. I picked up the book I had treasured like a child for almost a year. This book has had permanent residence beside my bed in two different homes at this point. I can only blame putting it off for so long because of my own stupid fear. What if it wasn’t as good as I needed it to be? After all, she is human. She could get it wrong. Thankfully all that worrying was in vain because not unlike Patti Smith, Sally Mann is a Renaissance woman. And if I had looked a little more closely, I would have seen that Patti had even blurbed the damn thing on the back.

Y’all, I couldn’t put this damn book down. Not only is Sally’s life amazing, it is so utterly real. She is a mother who fiercely loves her children and a wife who adores her husband Larry. The seemingly unwavering drive she has to make her art is awe-inspiring. With three children, a husband, and a full-time art career, I would imagine she falls into bed every night, asleep before her head hits the pillow.

There are so many layers to this memoir: family history (which is riveting), discussions on the bodies of work Immediate Family and  Deep South, her creative process… I’ll have to tell you, the family history stuff, at times will leave you with your mouth hanging open in shock. Lots of families have those stories, but Sally just busts it out very matter of factly and tells it like it was. The honesty is very refreshing.

Jacket (2)And then we come to her writing about her work. Well I could read about that until I am I don’t know what. Immediate Family was the first body of work that I became familiar with of Sally’s, but it was her writing about Deep South that really resonated with me. Being a Mississippi delta girl and someone who is very connected to the land, I very much get what she was doing with this work. But I can honestly say I didn’t feel the images before as I do now. I am looking at those images in a completely different way now. In one part she says that the images look “breathed onto the plate.” If you haven’t read the book or aren’t familiar with her process, she is referring to the way the southern landscape and the light appear on a collodion plate. “Breathed onto the plate.” Now that is one of the loveliest things I’ve ever read, and it will always be with me.

The way she writes is so readable and beautiful at the same time. I imagine she writes exactly as she speaks, which is how it feels when you are reading it. Like someone is just telling you a story. And Sally has got some stories. Come and get some of these stories on Thursday night. It’s going to be unbelievable!

Come Check Out My Spring Display (Pt 1)

Despite all the rain of the past few days, spring means a number of very sunny and happy things to me. So in honor of this most wonderful time in Mississippi, during the two-week period when we don’t all feel like we will surely die from wretched, wet cold or suffocate from the stifling heat, we can all walk outside our homes and just say “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”



I have built a display. This display is what spring means to me and essentially all of the things it makes me want to do. I feel certain I’m not the only one who gets the planting bug in the spring. I have a particular fondness for succulents and terrariums. Why you might ask? Well that is because they are low maintenance, they are clean and fresh looking, and depending on your arrangement, they can look rather elaborate. I like to appear like I know what I’m doing, people. And I truly, to goodness do not. I was not blessed with the green thumb of father and mother. It is not necessarily a black thumb; I fondly call it my gray thumb. So in this situation everyone wins…including the plants. If anyone feels so inclined, I’ve placed a book on this display for each of these loves. One is called Terrarium Craft, the other Hardy Succulents. Another favorite is Tiny Terrarium. If you are interested ask me and I’ll show it to you! Essentially you create scenes inside your terrarium with people and any manner of thing. I know Joan Hawkins Interiors had the makings for these things.


Anyhow moving on…spring also makes me want to spruce my house up. Justina Blakeney’s new book The New Bohemians makes me want to completely rethink my entire decorating scheme – just completely start all over again. I love the clean lines of a mid-century furniture, but lord knows I can cram a lot of stuff in a space and hang a lot of art on the walls. So does this make me a modern bohemian, as a section in her book suggests? I have many questions left on this matter, but honestly this book is a feast for your eyes. Blakeney has gotten quite a lot of acclaim for design aesthetic over the past few years, and this book only further proves why. Now if I really want to build on what I’ve got (which my mother would say is my best option), I should really invest in the new Apartment Therapy Complete + Happy Home. This book pulls from a little bit of everywhere just like their incredible blog of the same name (Apartment Therapy…in case you missed that part). I mean this book talks about it all, down to the frames you use for your art, without being overwhelming and nitpicking. Oh I almost forgot to mention that The New Bohemians has great DIY projects in it which segues into my next desire of spring…CRAFTING.

I pretty m9781617691751uch always love to make something, but I think the whole new life thing that comes along with spring really does something to me. A book I’ve been drooling over for quite some time now is The Modern Natural Dyer. Not only is it a gorgeous book, but it also tells you how to dye fibers with flowers, vegetables, and spices. Basically head on over to the grocery store and make a mess because I love to make a mess. It’s the cleaning up that presents a problem for me. This book has twenty projects for your home and your wardrobe, including knitting and sewing. Pretty amazing if you think about it. “Oh, why yes, I did make this! I dyed it as well. Eat your freaking heart out!!!” Next up on the docket we have Materially Crafted: A DIY Primer for the Design-Obsessed (that’s me). So this book’s projects are broken down into sections of spray paint, plaster, concrete, paper, thread, wax, wood, and the list goes on. I could definitely get into a modern looking concrete cake stand or some precious wax bud vases. There is more to come about this display, but I feel like I am close to losing all of you so I will leave you here

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