Bookstagram breaks are healthy.

This weekend I took a break from bookstagram. I logged out of my account so that I wouldn’t get notifications and just focused on things that made me happy this weekend.

While I love bookstagram and the community, it can be tiring at times. Bookstagram is a lot of work and sometimes negativity likes to sneak its way in. By the time the weekend rolled around I was exhausted from every day things in my life and on social media and needed time to take care of myself.

After a weekend away, I felt great. Here’s a couple of things I accomplished:

  • Finished Other People’s Houses
  • Saw A Quiet Place (and loved it!)
  • Finished season 2 of A Series of Unfortunate Events (and can’t wait for season 3)
  • Worked out multiple times with my boyfriend
  • Visited my sister at work and had a pretty great BBQ chicken pizza

None of these are major things, but they were things I wanted to do and could do without interruption or worry about social media.

After this weekend, I might take more breaks from bookstagram and focus on taking care of myself (and worry less about how other people are perceiving me). It really did help with my mental health (and, saying this mostly for myself, there is no shame is taking a break from something no matter how positive it usually is).

Distractions from reading: TV shows that I highly recommend

I got a cold during the holidays. One that made my life a little miserable. I could barely get through books because I was so exhausted and did not want to get out of bed.

This is where binge-watching TV shows came in handy.

I recently caught up on a few that I feel are worth mentioning:

5. Outlander

Most bookworms probably know all about Outlander. This show was created off of a series of books written by Diana Gabaldon. It follows the story of Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser. Claire travels to Scotland with her husband in 1946 as a second honeymoon. It is on this honeymoon that Claire discovers a circle of standing stones, which she travels through and disappears from 1946.

Claire wakes up in 1743 with nothing but the clothes on her back. It is in 1743 where she meets (and has to marry) highlander, Jamie Fraser,  and their love story begins.

This show is currently on season 3, which is well into Claire and Jamie’s story. If you haven’t watched this show, I highly suggest it. It’s a great historical fiction love story that is filled with adventure and interesting politics. I also can’t complain about Sam Heughan and his looks.

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I mean… c’mon.

I will give you a fair warning though! Season 1 is quite slow and I had to power through the first couple episodes. I think the last few episodes of season 1 is where the show really finds its stride and is definitely worth watching by that point.

4. Ultimate Beastmaster

I might need to explain this one a little for you.

I love competition shows.

I especially love obstacle course competitions.

Ultimate Beastmaster is both of those things. This show has competitors from around the world (season 1 and 2 focus on different countries) to take on, what they call, “The Beast”. Each episode focuses on 12 competitors (2 from each country) as they make their way through a physically demanding obstacle course. The winner from each episode then goes on to compete in the final episode for a prize of $50,000 and the title of “Ultimate Beastmaster”.

This show is ridiculously fun and exciting. My favorite part of the show is the hosts. There are two hosts from every country so there is diversity and fun rivalry. This is a great show to have on in the background when just need something mindless.

Ultimate Beastmaster currently has two seasons on Netflix so, if you have any interest, go watch it!

PS. Did I mentioned Terry Crews is a host in season 1?

3. The Good Place

Kristen Bell is my idol. She is fun and bubbly and adorable and, of course, loves sloths. So when I found out she was in a new show, I knew I had to watch it.

The Good Place is about the afterlife. Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) wakes up in “the good place”, but it doesn’t take her very long to figure out she’s not supposed to be there. She hides in plain sight from the good place’s architect, Michael, and enlists the help of her neighbors and soulmate so she can earn her place in “the good place”.

This show is bizarre, fun, and utterly hilarious. The chemistry between all of the characters is amazing. All of the characters are eccentric and are what make the show so good.

The Good Place is a classic sitcom. The characters find themselves in some far-fetched mess that they need to clean up by the end, but the twist at the end of season 1 turned the whole show up on its head. It also has funny jokes throughout each episode that I can’t help but laugh at.

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Quite possibly my favorite joke in the show: The Shrimp Dispenser

I cannot recommend this show more. It takes a boring trope and surrounds it with such strangeness that it turns it around completely. The jokes are well thought out and I will sing the praises of the cast until the end of time.

2. MINDHUNTER

Do you like true crime? If the answer is yes, then MINDHUNTER is for you.

MINDHUNTER is a fiction retelling of the conception of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI. It follows young FBI agent, Holden Ford, and veteran agent, Bill Tench, as they begin to study a new type of criminal: serial killers.

The best part about this show is Jonathan Groff (of Glee, Frozen, and Hamilton fame). Groff plays Holden Ford and does a stellar job. He captured the essence of the character so perfectly and made me forget that he was the king in Hamilton any time I watched the show.

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Kind of hard to forget Groff’s performance as King George… but he made it happen!

MINDHUNTER is classic true crime. It features prolific serial killers, questionable characters (even those who you think are supposed to be the “good guys”), and intense themes. Every minute of this show put me on my toes and made me want to watch more of it.

It’s definitely not a quick watch and you have to focus on it while you’re watching it, but I think it’s totally worth it!

1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Let me tell you about my favorite show ever. It stars Andy Samburg and it is the most important cop show ever.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine a sitcom about the 99th precinct of the Brooklyn police force. The show starts with a new captain joining the force, Ray Holt. Holt’s commanding presence throws a wrench in the life of Jake Peralta (Samburg) an immature, but talented officer.

This show is the perfect balance of chemistry between characters, cold opens, and witty humor. It is funny without being insulting to any groups of people. There, of course, is the right amount of stupid humor. There are jokes that have made me laugh uncontrollably. Andy Samburg has had stare-downs with a corgi, Terry Crews constantly refers to himself in third person, Chelsea Peretti’s character is a role model… I could go on.
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There are so many reasons to love this show, but the friendships between all of the characters is what keeps me in it. Sure, they all make fun of each other, but you can tell it’s because they all love each other. The 99th Precinct is a team that compares to no others.

If you need a show to put you in a good mood, to make you laugh, or to revel in how amazing human friendships can be… Brooklyn Nine-Nine is for you.

Honorable mentions:

 

Podcasts that you should probably (definitely) listen to!

Since I am not a fan of audiobooks or the radio (and sometimes I need a break from the Hamilton soundtrack…), I usually fill my commutes with podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to get a daily dose of comedy, positivity, or insight on specific topics.

I’ve been listening to podcasts for a couple years now and have found some really great ones that I think everyone should give a try at some point in their life.

5. Wonderful!

Wonderful! is a podcast hosted by Griffin and Rachel McElroy, a husband and wife super duo. This podcast is based completely on positivity. Griffin and Rachel post an episode every week where they talk about the things they love. This ranges from music albums, video games, food, and so much more. The whole point of the podcast is to talk about the things that are wonderful in their lives. They end each episode with listener submissions so that everyone gets to hear what makes others’ lives wonderful.

My favorite thing about this podcast is it’s positivity. It has given me a new appreciation of the small things in my life that make me happy. I also think that Griffin and Rachel have really great banter throughout every episode. You can tell they work really well together (personally and professionally) and I enjoy hearing them talk every week.

Wonderful! is a part of the Maximum Fun network. You can learn more about it here or on iTunes!

4. Myths and Legends

The Myths and Legends podcast was started by Jason Weiser because of his love for traditional English literature. The Myths and Legends podcast brings you stories from folklore, fairy tales, mythology, etc. that have shaped our world. Some are stories you’ve heard tons of variations on (think Disney princesses or Grimm fairytales), others are stories that are seldom told.

This podcast spans generations and cultures. Jason shares stories from cultures you may not know and does an excellent job researching each story. With every story he provides his own commentary which provides an interesting look at classic tales.

As a book lover, this podcast is everything. It gives me a chance to listen to classic stories that may not be written down and shows me origins of stories that are being told today. Jason is a wonderful, funny host and this is one of my favorite podcasts to listen to on a long drive.

If you want to learn more about The Myths and Legends Podcast, check out their website or check out iTunes!

3. Cold Case Files: The Podcast

As a lover of true crime, this podcast is one of my favorites. If you’ve ever watched Cold Case Files on A&E, you’ll probably love this podcast. It is Cold Case Files in audio format. This podcast explores cases that have been cold for years and what it took to solve these cases. With breakthroughs in forensic technology and the advent of social media, cases that have been cold for decades are coming back into the the light.

Cold Case Files: The Podcast is hosted by Brooke Gittings. Brooke provides interesting insight to these cases. In addition to Brooke’s commentary, this podcast also includes interviews with detectives and others involved in the cases.

You can check out Cold Case Files: The Podcast on PodcastOne or on iTunes!

2. My Brother, My Brother, and Me

I think MBMBaM is might be my favorite podcast. It’s the podcast that got me into podcasts. MBMBaM is “an advice show for the modern era” (Maximum Fun). Three brothers (Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy) take questions from Yahoo Answers and listener submission and provide hilarious “advice”.

This podcast has been going strong since 2010 and the brothers get funnier with age. The three of them have great chemistry and bounce jokes off of each other almost professionally. Sometimes they have guest-perts (Lin Manuel-Miranda, Jimmy Buffet) who they interview, sometimes they have surprise segments (Munch Squad, Haunted Doll Watch), but they always answer your questions and provide you with the best possible advice they can come up with.

The McElroy brothers are hilarious and I always find myself laughing when I listen to them. If you want to learn more about MBMBaM or any of their other shows, check out their website! For more information about MBMBaM specifically, check out Maximum Fun or iTunes.

PS. My Brother, My Brother, and Me has a TV show. If you want to watch the McElroy brothers in their hilarity and give really great advice, check it out here!

PPS. They also have two other podcasts that sporadic, but hilarious. If you want to list to the only annual, eternal podcast in existence, check out Til Death Do Us Blart. The McElroy Brothers Will Be in Trolls 2 follows the McElroy Brothers’ journey to get parts in the Dreamworks movie Trolls 2.

1. My Dad Wrote a Porno

MDWaP is probably the best podcast in production. Ever.

This podcast is based on book. A book that happens to be an erotic novel written by one of the hosts’ dad. Jamie Morton’s dad, Rocky Flintstone, is the author of the internationally renowned novel Belinda Blinked.

Jamie Morton is joined by his friends Alice Levine and James Cooper as they read through Rocky Flintstone’s Belinda Blinked series. They release a new episode every Monday (appropriately named “Porno day”) and a footnotes episode on Thursdays where they dive deeper into the Flintstone lore and have special guests. Some of these guests include Michael Sheen, Nicholas Hoult, and Mara Wilson.

I have had the most fun listening to this podcast. Belinda Blinked is gross and terribly written, but the most hilarious erotic novel to ever exist.

This show is definitely for adult audiences, but for anyone over 18 My Dad Wrote a Porno is an amazing show that makes any Monday better. You can learn more about it on their website or on iTunes!

Honorable mentions:

An interview with author Tiffany McDaniel

After reading The Summer that Melted EverythingI had the pleasure of interviewing the author, Tiffany McDaniel. McDaniel was such a pleasure to talk to and I really enjoyed learning more about her through these questions.

What is the first book that made you cry?

I was introduced early to books through my mother who instilled in us the importance of reading and who read to us every night, so the first book that made me cry was probably a book I read when I was a kid and that’d be Donkey, Donkey by Roger Duvoisin. It’s about a donkey who is sad about his ears. He doesn’t feel they are beautiful like the other animals and their ears on the farm. There is an illustration in the book where the donkey gets his ear cut on a farm tool. The illustration of the blood and of the subsequent pain on the donkey’s face was shocking to me as a kid and I still remember the feeling of sadness that cut through me.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

The most surprising thing is learning about the industry of publishing itself. While The Summer that Melted Everything is my first published novel, it’s actually my fifth or sixth novel written. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen, and wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine for TSTME. It was a long eleven-year journey to publication, full of lots of rejection and heartbreak. I was often told I wasn’t publishable in today’s commercial marketplace, but I never gave up. Another surprise was to learn how slowly traditional publishing moves in today’s fast-paced world. Even after TSTME was on contract, it was over a two-year wait to see the book on the shelf as two years is the average time it takes to move a debut novel through a publishing house. So all told it was close to fourteen years before I got the chance to see one of my novels on the shelf. Starting out as an eighteen-year-old novelist seeking publication, I had no idea of the struggle and the years that lay ahead.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

As authors we need to be able to craft characters of every gender, race, religion, and age. Prior to writing a novel, I don’t write character sketches or outline, so for me the story evolves with each new word and page I write. Perhaps this is the reason why I don’t find a challenge in writing characters who are not like myself. I’m in the head of the character and so focused on delivering the truth of the character to the page, that I don’t stop to think about the differences between myself and the character I’m writing because at that moment the only voice I am hearing is that of the character’s.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Going into having a book published, I didn’t realize how much of the marketing and publicity falls on the author’s shoulders. I started the marketing outreach about four months prior to the hardcover’s July 2016 release, and have continued the marketing since then, whether it be reaching out to book bloggers, offering interviews such as this, Skyping with book clubs, and attending the book fairs and festivals. Part of having that working relationship with bloggers and reviewers is that you read the review when it comes in. Sometimes the review is great, sometimes it’s the opposite. Having the rejections I’ve had and the struggle to get published has made it so I struggle to feel deserving of a good review. On the flip-side of that, it’s never easy to receive a bad review, especially in today’s world in which we’re often reviewed on a 24/7 cycle with the internet and that level of criticism can erode a person’s spirit. In addition to the emotional reaction to a review, a review has the power to turn readers on or off of a novel, which in turn affects not just sales of a book, but an author’s very career. Reviews are powerful things. You can get a million good reviews, but it’s always the bad reviews that you remember, oftentimes, line for line.

Where did you get your inspiration for the Bliss family?

When I write a novel, the characters always feel like real people to me. So much so, that if there is anything after this life, I feel as though my characters will be among those I meet on the other side. I have written novels in which characters are inspired by real people. Such as the first novel I wrote which was based on my mother’s life coming-of-age in southern Ohio and the sexism and racism she faced growing up. But in the case of the Bliss family, it was the Bliss family members themselves who inspired me to write them. The father, the mother, the sons, it’s all through listening to them with the goal of writing their truths to the best of my ability, that they came to life on the page. It is their love and connection as a family that makes them so special. For many of us, they are the “bliss” of the family unit we all crave.

No spoilers, but what was your hardest scene to write in this novel?

The hardest scene was Sal’s scene toward the end of the novel. I can’t say any more than that without giving anything away. But I will say Sal was such a wonderful character to write. He’s so creative and intelligent. He’s also a contradiction being an old soul in a young body. That type of character is always a pleasure to spend time with.

The names of the characters in this book are so fun and interesting, how did you select them? Specifically Autopsy’s.

With names I try to add a subtle meaning to the characters. In the case of Autopsy’s name, I had seen the word “autopsy” the day I was writing his character. I was familiar with the word and its meaning of the dead body on the cold slab about to be cut open and examined. Then I dug a little further to the word’s Latin roots which mean “to see for oneself”. I thought it the perfect name for a man who one day invites the devil to town. My hope with his name is that as readers continue to repeat the name Autopsy throughout the course of reading the novel that they began to see older Fielding, getting up on the cold slab, and cutting himself open, trying to figure out what has killed him and his spirit. In essence the whole book can be seen as one big autopsy Fielding is performing on himself.

There are some characters I can’t reveal the meaning behind their names without giving something away, but I’ll say Dresden was named so because here in Ohio there is a small town called Dresden that I have fond memories of, but she was also named Dresden for dresden porcelain, which is fragile and easily broken, in many ways a representation of her character.

Fielding is named so because when I thought of him, I thought of a field and its two possibilities. On one end, a field can be a nurturing place, a land of fertile possibilities in which great things can grow. On the other side of things, a field can become barren, unable to grow again. Fielding experiences both sides of a field as he comes-of-age.

As for Elohim, Elohim means God in the Hebrew bible. So we have the one who is called “god” in Elohim and the one who is called “devil” in Sal, only it’s about taking these two ideas and turning them on their heads, emphasizing that we should look beyond what people are called to understand them and to see for ourselves who they truly are.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning The Summer that Melted Everything?

For this novel, the research centered on learning more of the cultural identity of the 1980s as well as the emergence of AIDS and how the disease was shaping the nation as a whole. I didn’t want to weigh the story down with too many facts from the 80s because I always want my books to feel timeless, as if they could have taken place in any decade because even though our fashions, music, and hairstyles will change, there are some things about being human that will never change. We will always love and we will always hate. There’s no research involved with understanding and writing that part of the story, because as humans, these emotions are what we experience throughout the course of our personal and societal evolution.

Did you pull from personal experience when writing The Summer that Melted Everything?

The town in the novel, Breathed, Ohio, is a fictional town based on a real town in the southeastern portion of Ohio, where I’d spend my childhood summers and school-year weekends on the farm my father was left by his parents. It was from my memories and experiences of coming-of-age there in those hills that I pulled from as I wrote of Breathed. In all the novels I have written thus far, Breathed, Ohio has been in all of them. That southern Ohio landscape and culture has shaped me as an author.

How did you decide to write this from an older Fielding’s perspective?

I wanted to explore not just that summer of 1984, but the ripple effects of that summer that carried throughout the rest of Fielding’s life. Melting is such an important theme in the novel, because once something is melted, it can never be put back together again. Melting changes the very chemistry of something and of someone. I wanted to explore this with Fielding in an attempt to show that something that happens in our life can have lasting effects.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Perhaps Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It’s a beautiful story about two sisters who are living in their dilapidated family mansion. Together, the sisters try to come to terms with who poisoned the rest of their family. Jackson has a wonderful delivery that makes her an author more people should read.

I usually end up needing a break from my work throughout the day, how do you de-stress from the writing process?

Art is a wonderful way to de-stress for me. I enjoy painting and drawing. It’s that fluidity of the movements that I find therapeutic. I love plants, so gardening is something that energizes me, especially given writing is a process in which one is constantly staring at a computer screen. It’s nice to step away from technology and really focus one’s eyes back out on the world around us. I also enjoy baking, crocheting, and spending time with all the animals in my life.

What books have most influenced your life?

One of the books that had an effect on me as a child, an effect I have never forgotten, is Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius. It was the first book I remember reading as a child that had a main character who was female. She lived life on her own terms, without male involvement, whether good or bad. By the end of the novel, she had changed the world through something so seemingly simple, and yet so powerful. As a girl coming-of-age, it was important to read a book that celebrated a woman’s independence.

A good villain (or devil in this case) is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

I knew going into this that I didn’t want to write the stereotypical devil, the one of red flesh and horns that has almost become cartoonish in our society with his fire breathing manners and pitchfork ready to stab us. I wanted to explore the good and evil within the human spirit. So while there was no certain real-life inspiration for the villain in this story, I think it’s a villain that we recognize in its human form. Without giving too much away, I will say that the villain of the story is not who readers may think going into the novel.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

There’s nothing about the story that I would change. It’s a novel that upon completing it, I knew I had laid down the truths of the characters and there is a sense of peace in that. As far as getting it published, so much of publishing is out of the author’s hands that even if there are things I would change, I wouldn’t be able to. One of those things would certainly be the time it takes to publish a book, though.

Do you have any future projects we should be on the lookout for?

I have eight completed novels, as well as a completed compilation of poetry. I thought with a novel already published, it’d be easier to get a second book published, but the two novels I’ve pitched to editors since TSTME’s release has been rejected with editors citing the riskiness of my storytelling, which is something I think female authors hear more than their male counterparts, especially in the literary fiction genre. In addition to that, editors go by the sales of a book, and if a debut undersells, that can make it a struggle to get published again. While it’s up to the publishers if I get published again, I’ll not give up, which is something all us authors must never do.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

While I don’t have social media, readers can always reach me direct through my website where I personally answer every email sent to me. As authors we must never forget to value our readers and to make sure they feel appreciated because without readers, and their support and championing of a novel, we authors do not have a career.

Need a reading break? Try some of these games!

We all have those moments. You have a million unread books and the one in front of you is so good, but you aren’t in the mood to read…

That’s okay! It happens to the best of us.

Whenever I have those moments I either take a nap (which is never a bad choice) or I pick up a video game. I have a couple favorites that always help me satiate my mood for something other than reading.

5. Just Dance 2018

So this game is utterly embarrassing, but so much fun. It makes you listen to terrible (but secretly amazing) Top 40 music while flailing around your living room. I absolutely love it. It’s one of the first games I played with friends when I was in high school and we weren’t afraid to do stupid things.

Just Dance is a good game to play when you’ve been sitting in an awkward position all night trying to finish your book. It not only is a mini-workout, but it’s a way to let loose and laugh at yourself (and with others)!

4. Hey! Pikmin

The original Pikmin games stress me out. You only have so much time to explore before the sun sets and you have to get your Pikmin to the ship before the die! Too much pressure.

Hey! Pikmin takes that away completely. It’s a 2D scrolling game with various levels where you collect Pikmin and shiny objects that contain “sparklium” to help fuel Olimar’s ship. Each level determines what type of Pikmin you can use (so you don’t have to worry about bringing the wrong ones!) and there is no time limit to any level.

I find that I really enjoy this game because 1) Pikmin are adorable little creatures and 2) it’s very low stakes. It’s a nice game to take a break from your book, but one that you can play in bed so you can stay cozy.

3. Super Mario Odyssey

If you have a Nintendo Switch, then I’m sure you’ve heard of Super Mario Odyssey. My boyfriend, who I think might be in love with Mario, says not only is it his favorite game of the year, but that it might be his favorite game ever.

In Super Mario Odyssey you play as Mario as he fights his way through different worlds to save Princess Peach from Bowser. The best part about this game is Mario has a companion, Cappy. Cappy is a hat ghost from the Cap Kingdom whose sister was also kidnapped by Bowser.

This game is open world so you have free reign to explore and collect power moons to power up the ship Mario and Cappy travel on. I’ve played it a few times and it’s a lot of fun to just run around and explore all worlds that Nintendo worked hard to create.

Also, after a certain point in the game a little Shiba Inu (that strongly resembles a Nintendog) in a cowboy hat will follow you around and show you places where things are hidden!

I mean just look at how cute this little guy is (Photo Credit: Polygon).

2. Anything Sims

I’ve been playing The Sims since 2004. As an introverted kid I used Sims as a way to “make friends” without having to actually make friends.

Setting that aside, Sims is a great game. It doesn’t matter what iteration or version, I have always enjoyed myself while playing Sims. Whether it was creating myself and a boy I had a crush on or making characters for a story I tried to write, Sims was there.

The current version of Sims that is out is The Sims 4. It has various expansion packs out, the most recent being Cats and Dogs. I haven’t had the chance to play it yet, but I have always loved the pet expansion for Sims.

Any Sims game is a great way to unwind and just have fun building up (or tearing down, if you’re into that) the lives of little virtual people.

1. Anything Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is everything. Any Animal Crossing game is a great choice to give you a break from reading. It’s a really positive game where you just decorate your home, fish, make friends, shop, etc.

My current obsession right now is Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. It’s a mobile app where you build up a campsite where you invite animals to visit. While there are other players in the game, the only way to interact with them is by visiting their camps and giving kudos.

Here’s a picture of my character hanging out with a cute dog!

It doesn’t matter what Animal Crossing game you choose because any version will take you to a world full of positivity and cute animals.

Any of these games are great for when you’re in a slump and need a break from reading. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with a reading slump! Just take your time and do other things that you enjoy. Maybe even check out one of these games, you may find yourself getting addicted (like I am to Sims and Animal Crossing).