What Book Changed Your Life?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Asked this one simple question, a variety of friends, family, coworkers, and even near-strangers gave me their answers: the books that changed their lives or had the greatest impact on them. In this collaborative blog post you can see what they said and why they felt so moved by these particular books.

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
(Chosen by Hailey Almsted)
"Even though Perks came out in the 90s, it's still such a relatable novel! Though not always noticeable, everyone is going through something, everyone is the same. The issues in the book are real, they aren't overly dramatic, but instead raw, real feelings."

2. Harry Potter series
(Chosen by John Burdick)
"Harry Potter was the first book I read for fun as an adult. It was the book that made me fall in love with reading."

3. Ishmael Daniel Quinn
(Chosen by Ross Bagurdes)
"Ishmael created the first and most powerful paradigm shift in my life. It answered questions I didn't know to ask, especially about culture, the environment, and philosophy. It exposed the story I'd been taught, and embraced, of humanity as not as "true" as my young naive self expected."

4. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
(Chosen by Kelly Klein)
"The book was a true story about a woman whose mother passed away and after feeling lost about how to move forward, she decided to hike over 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. I could relate to the struggle she experienced after losing her mother since I had lost my own prior to reading the book. I admired her determination to push herself and do something completely out of her comfort zone in order to get her life back on track. The book made me laugh and cry. I found it inspiring and the feelings of loss were so relatable for me. It really stayed with me."

5. Boy Meets Depression by Kevin Breel
(Chosen by Catrice Vukodinovich)
"Boy Meets Depression by Kevin Breel was a friend to me in one of the darkest times of my life. Sometimes you need to go into the dark to appreciate the light, and this book was my light. Through Kevin’s words I caught myself nodding along to each part of his story, he could demystify depression through his honest account of his personal struggle and he put into words the feelings I was desperately trying to describe. This book has helped me to heal and accept the dark parts of my life, and been a beacon of hope to stay alive."

6. milk and honey by Rupi Kaur
(Chosen by Hunter Throndsen)
"For me milk and honey validated the fact that emotional pain exists, and that it can be hard to fight through. It made me realize that I am whole by myself, and while I am not perfect, I am enough."

7. Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch
(Chosen by Tracey Catarozoli)
"In conversations with God, the author invites you to see things differently. To see god not as vindictive and one to fear. He challenges you to see yourself in a beautiful way filled with possibility. To see the world and yourself with less judgment and more possibility of grandeur."

8. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
(Chosen by Jan Guyer)
"I have always wanted to be a pioneer. I lived on a farm in my childhood and always connected with Laura and her mischievous life... I, like her, raised animals, fished, rode horses, butchered, and moved. I also got bitten by leeches, stung by many bees, fell in the lake, stole apples and got caught, dumped the milk I had just traded eggs for, and got a huge stomach ache from eating too many strawberries when I was supposed to be picking them. I loved life on the farm as does Laura. Oh and I'm now a teacher too!"

9. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
(Chosen by Mallory Wilczynski)
"It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly how or why the The Language of Flowers made such a lasting impression on me. Maybe it was because it opened my eyes to the tumultuous foster care system, or because it sparked my curiosity about flowers. What I do know is that Vanessa Diffenbaugh reminded me that everyone has a past and we all love differently."

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
(Chosen by Jennifer Minhas)
"I read TKM in middle school, but probably didn't fully understand many social aspects of the book until adulthood. Looking back I realize how much I related to Scout, her openness and inquisitiveness about how the world worked. The notion of how we treat each other with respect for who we are, not for what we look like or due to reputation impacted me. This tenet is a truth to live by in all times."

11. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
(Chosen by Cameron Brocklehurst)
"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance showed me that there are many benefits to analyzing a situation with both a purely objective and logical mind, and a subjective emotional side, and that even though some people may see the world differently than me, that does not make them wrong."

And because this is my blog, here are 3 of the books that have had the greatest impact on me:

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This book showed me an entirely new perspective of a period in history that I thought I knew a lot about. It taught me the true and deep value of home and friendship, and reassured me that books and words really can change lives. And his incredible writing reminded me why I love to write.

2. Citizen by Claudia Rankine
This beautiful piece of writing is an impressively eye-opening one. It again showed me a new perspective on a life I haven't lived and was so brutally and painfully honest that it was impossible not to be changed and moved by it.

3. Jenny Lawson's books
I've read Let's Pretend This Never Happened, and I'm currently reading Furiously Happy. Not only are Jenny's books incredibly funny and bizarre and charming, but they also taught me that it's okay to feel different, that mental illness isn't something that defines you, but it can be a big part of your life, and that women should be able to speak bluntly and openly about their lives and opinions without caring about retaliation or judgment. She's a major role model to me as a writer and a person.

P.S. See my website to hire me as a freelance writer.
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My New Business Adventure

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Just a few short weeks ago, as a way to gain more experience, fill my free time, and make extra money for a trip I'm saving for, I began my own website as a freelance writer and editor. The site features various services I'll be offering, (article and blog writing, website copy, editing, creative writing, etc.) as well as some estimated prices, information about me, and a portfolio of some of my past work.

I would love to take on more writing and editing clients on a freelance basis. I can write content for your website or business, edit a blog post, write an article, or even create a personalized story for you to read to your child.

If you're at all interested, please take a moment to look at my website. Contact me via my website if you have any interest or questions. Or, if you don't need a writer, but you know someone who does, send my information their way! I would love the opportunity to do great work for anyone who needs it!


The Basics:

Who: Anyone who needs an awesome writer or editor for anything!
Why: Because I promise to do excellent, timely work for you, ensuring to engage your audience or impress your toughest clients. I'm also a very versatile writer and I offer affordable prices!
How: Check out my website and Facebook page. Fill out a contact form via my website and you'll hear back from me very soon!

Book Review: The Fifth Petal

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

Salem’s chief of police, John Rafferty, now married to gifted lace reader Towner Whitney, investigates a 25-year-old triple homicide dubbed “The Goddess Murders,” in which three young women, all descended from accused Salem witches, were slashed one Halloween night. Aided by Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the victims who has returned to town, Rafferty begins to uncover a dark chapter in Salem’s past. 

Callie, who has always been gifted with premonitions, begins to struggle with visions she doesn’t quite understand and an attraction to a man who has unknown connections to her mother’s murder. Neither believes that the main suspect, Rose Whelan, respected local historian and sometime-aunt to Callie, is guilty of murder or witchcraft. But exonerating Rose might mean crossing paths with a dangerous force. 

Were the women victims of an all-too-human vengeance, or was the devil raised in Salem that night? And if they cannot discover what truly happened, will evil rise again?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wow. The best part of this book, by far, are the characters. They take a great story and elevate it by leaps and bounds. Though I'd probably know more backstory on some of them if I read the "previous" book (and I probably will), I was fully invested. I love Callie. What a champ. 

When I was in middle school and early high school, I was fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials. I read several books about them just for fun and was so entranced when, on a trip to Boston, my family made a day's stop in Salem, the place where it all happened. This younger nerd in me needed this book. It felt like it was written just for the me of 7 years ago. The mystery, supernatural elements, and suspense of this book were very impressive. The pacing really sped up in the middle of the book and drove me on to the next page every second while I was reading. 

The writing here is very impressive and instantly intriguing. I'm very glad I had the opportunity to read this book, especially because it was a spooky and thrilling read at times too.

Book links for GoodreadsBarnes and Noble.
Or buy it right from Amazon here: 
The Fifth Petal: A Novel

I received an advanced copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. Check out the rest of the tour here!

A Few of My Poems

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

These are revised versions of several poems I wrote and edited in my poetry class last semester. They are some of my personal favorites pulled from a larger completed portfolio.


you and your gaping mouth
eyes clenched tight
with me walking by
on a street I never bother to
transfixed on something
I fall in
sliding (stumbling?) into warm darkness.
I am the cold-weakened creature
preparing for hibernation
with my backpack on.

I’ve tried to understand
but can’t
something about
the black hole on
your stranger’s face makes
an escapist of me.


Inside my darkened cave
I grumble and whimper
and wait for the sun’s
sweet return.
As salty rays trickle in
you may feel me clambering back
out of your yawn

back to the forgettable street
where I watch the strange faces pass
and forget yours almost immediately.


As I walk on frozen
hoof-feet numbed by slush
my heart feels frozen,
but not by subzero chill

every face I pass by
reminds me that every-
one is in pain too
and I wonder where
their hurt lives

whether they’re like me,
hiding it behind smiles and loud stories

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


:a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned

Alt. definition: the speaker

The modernists tell me I should be happy when I look around and see a world of progress, innovation and momentum

But all I’ve found is progress polluted by suffering and the sweat of the people with bosses standing on their shoulders, pushing down with weighted shoes, eyes desperately scanning for the next big thing

I see people with translucent ropes of technology around their necks and wrists, their nooses tightening slowly so they have time to adjust to less air in their lungs and pressure on their forearms

I see a culture that blames the person and never the root—he should work harder, she asked for it, someone has to be at the bottom, I don’t want to be at the bottom

I see a world filled with people who don’t know why they fight. Maybe they do it just to feel like something is happening, that their fists and guns have a purpose, that they have a purpose

I see young people, raised to doubt their neighbors rather than love them. Raised not to look people in the eye, but to keep their eyes locked to a screen where I’m sure they feel so much safer

I see a lack of everything I know past decades. Simple kindness, simple joy, simply being present.

Am I wrong to feel unsatisfied?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Train People

Across from me a man leans against the train door with 20 pens clipped around the collar of his shirt,
a colorful plastic necklace with a chain of dirty cotton fabric

A man in a wheelchair takes up the entire aisle,
bright pink hair and seven layers of sweaters catching the eye of every other passenger

Once in a while there are people clutching cats and every time there are others who stare blankly or lustfully. Once, there are homeless men fighting, throwing words and fists that startle us, the new college students sitting across the aisle.

The assholes trying to “secretly” take pictures of that girl across the way don’t surprise me and I’m sad that I’m so accustomed to things like this, sad that I don’t feel comfortable enough to say anything, because any other day I might be the girl getting my ass photographed. I wonder if that girl would have stood up for me.

Probably not. The train doesn’t feel like the place for courage
I’m a turtle in its shell and she probably is too

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Real-Life Princess

What bodies with blurred faces
and meaty hands poised over
their keyboards
dragging and formatting
the perfect women
decided that these were
what we wanted all
every girl to emulate
for generations

Did they ever think to give
Jasmine a weak chin
thick legs and a soft
supple belly from
years of living without want
or the frizzy hair of
a girl in salty heat

Is it possible that
Cinderella developed OCD
and refused to leave a room
without turning on and off
each light ten times
or wiping down the door
knob, perfectly trained to
self-destruct after years
of slave labor and confinement

I assume Rapunzel
would have anxiety
disorder by now, being
held like a zoo animal
in one small room and
constantly lied to.
would you live that way
And still sing and dance
rather than panic and pull
out every hair you have

What if Belle had PTSD?
Snow White could be a schizophrenic
Sleeping Beauty might need pills
to manage her depression
and maybe if all of them were
a little less polished

hair not perfect every day
waist not unreasonably tiny
and eyes not grotesquely oversized

All of the little girls who love them
would love themselves just as much

November/December/January Wrap-Up

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I've been lazy and busy a lot the last few months, and therefore haven't done a wrap-up since October. To make amends, here is what I read in November and December and January.

1. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Genre: Sci-fi, dystopian, literary fiction
Goodreads link
On Amazon here:
Parable of the Sower (Earthseed)
2. Beauty and Attention by Liz Rosenberg
Genre: Historical fiction, literary fiction
Goodreads link
On Amazon here:
Beauty and Attention: A Novel
3. Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth
Genre: Classic, literary fiction
Goodreads link
On Amazon here:
Goodbye, Columbus : And Five Short Stories 
4. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Genre: Fantasy
Goodreads link
On Amazon here:
The Queen of the Tearling: A Novel (Queen of the Tearling, The)
5. The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
 (#2 in series)
Genre: Fantasy
Goodreads link
On Amazon here:
The Invasion of the Tearling: A Novel 
6. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Genre: YA/middle grade, family drama, fantasy
Goodreads link
On Amazon here:
A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd
7. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Genre: Memoir, humor
Goodreads link
On Amazon here:
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir
8. The Fireman by Joe Hill
Genre: Dystopian, sci-fi, adventure, literary fiction
Goodreads link
On Amazon here:
The Fireman: A Novel
9. Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson
Genre: Suspense, mystery, thriller
Goodreads link
On Amazon here:
Her Every Fear: A Novel
10. The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
(book #4 in Series of Unfortunate Events)
(childhood re-read)
Genre: Middle grade, adventure, mystery
Goodreads link
On Amazon here:
The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4)
11. The Girls by Emma Cline
Genre: Historical fiction, drama, crime
Goodreads link
On Amazon here:
The Girls: A Novel
12. Disinheritance by John Sibley Williams
Genre: Poetry
Goodreads link
On Amazon here:
Disinheritance: Poems

Book Review: Disinheritance

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Disinheritance: poems by John Sibley Williams

Synopsis: A lyrical, philosophical, and tender exploration of the various voices of grief, including those of the broken, the healing, the son-become-father, and the dead, Disinheritance acknowledges loss while celebrating the uncertainty of a world in constant revision. From the concrete consequences of each human gesture to soulful interrogations into "this amalgam of real / and fabled light," these poems inhabit an unsteady betweenness, where ghosts can be more real than the flesh and blood of one's own hands.

Review: This is an incredibly powerful and moving book of poems. I'll confess I'm definitely not a poetry expert. I've taken poetry classes and love reading it, but I don't always understand every poem and I don't always know how to identify what is good poetry and what is not. The only thing I can judge poetry by now is how it makes me feel as a reader, how the words affect me and stick with me. 

This is why I know that these are excellent poems. As is the case with most books of poetry, I loved some poems and cared less for others. This is a personal taste thing, and everyone who reads this book will certainly choose different favorites. However, the overall theme of this poetry--the experiences of loss, grief and sadness on the path of a normal life-- had a strong effect on me. The writing is beautiful and at times very haunting. There are several "personas" that are threaded throughout a variety of the poems, which adds a great element of continuity to the collection. All in all, this writing impressed me deeply and this little poetry book is very well worth the read. 

Some of my favorite poems: "Things Start at Their Names", "I Sit My Grandfather by the Mouth of the Columbia River", "Procession", "Echo Chamber" and "Preparations Have Been Made"


I want again for all impossible

unsullied things,
like a fistful of stars

a fistful
of meaningful stars,

an impossible destination
to warm their bodies.

A reliable compass
made of broken arms."

-from "Forbidden Travel"

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my completely honest review.

Goodreads link
Amazon link
Author Website