Monday, May 20, 2019

The Scent Keeper by Eric Bauermeister - Author Interview & Review

Y'all, I had the opportunity to get an early look at The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister. The book is set to be out tomorrow, and if you take nothing else from this post, take this - Read. This. Book. It is mesmerizing and captivating and whoa, whoa, whoa, I'm getting ahead of myself!

Today is a special day here on the blog as I'm hosting a stop on the tour for the book. I've had the opportunity to do a Q&A with the author, and I'm also going to tell you about why I've been raving about this read to anyone who will listen/read.

This is my first time reading anything by Erica Bauermeister. I took the time to ask her about how this book came to be, as well as her own connections to the topic.

1.       How did you build this story? Which came first - Characters? Concept? Something else?

It was a combination. I’ve always been interested in the sense of smell. It has a subliminal power that I find fascinating. I wondered what it would be like for a child who was brought up of smell as her primary sense. How differently would she perceive our world?

That turned into an image of a young girl living on an island in the wilds of British Columbia. Her talent was extraordinary, her situation deeply unusual. I wanted to see what would happen to her when she grew up.

***

2.       This story takes place in both an enchanted world and the "real world." How was it to write a story that exists in two places? Was one of these easier to write about than the other?

What a great question! I am naturally drawn to the magical, and writing about the island was a deep and immersive experience. I was worried that when the story left the island we would lose that magic. But what I realized was that Emmeline brought magic with her. She sees our world so differently that she puts a twist on it. Sometimes that is a dark twist, but it is still a different perception, which in the end is what I think magic is. A different lens through which to see our world.

3.       The connection of fragrance and memories can be so powerful! Are there fragrances/scents from your own life that evoke memories for you?

My second-grade teacher’s perfume. My grandfather’s pipe tobacco. The smell of wood smoke on my husband’s warm skin. If there was one scent I could bottle, it would be the smell of the top of my children’s heads when they were babies. When they were nursing and about to fall asleep, the scent would be like baking bread.

***  
I loved that I had some insight on the story prior to beginning. I think knowing the author's influence framed up well the amazing journey I was about to go on with her story.

So, y'all, let me tell you about The Scent Keeper.

This is the story of Emmeline. Her story begins on a secluded island. Here she lives with her father. What she knows of life there and beyond is from her father. He tells her stories, but more than anything, he teaches her through the smells of the world kept in drawers and drawers of wax-sealed bottles that line a wall of their home.

What I loved about this is that it's very much a coming of age, but it's coming of age in such a different way. It bridges so many different worlds, and in each, Emmeline must figure out what is true, who to trust, and where she fits into it all. 

Honestly, y'all, this one had me captivated from the first page to the very last sentence. That's rare for a book to do. It was the story of a fantasy world, but at the same time, it all felt so real because the storytelling so deeply immersed me in Emmeline navigating the world(s) around her.

It's a bit hard for me to review this one because the beauty comes in the revelations along the way. I don't want to give away the twists and turns because that is what drew me into the tale. You just have to trust me when I tell you that you need to go on this adventure. Also, while this is truly Emmeline's story, the plot very much progresses through the world around her. It first begins as she questions the island she inhabits more and more. There is then a time where she has to go out into the "real world" and learns about her past, as well as contemplates where her future is going to be. With that, there are so many feels y'all, and that's why I loved it. You truly feel each feel as truth (and lies) are revealed to Emmeline. 

This is a story that has familiar themes, but the unique nature of the setting is what makes it feel new and different. This is an ambitious direction for a story like this, but it totally works. I also really love how scent is at the center of the story. It's a sense that is so central to our memory, but it's not one I've ever seen a story built around.

A few weeks ago, I even asked friends to tell me scents they loved, and reflected on some I really love, too. Take a moment to take these in with me:
  • Pastures burning in the Flint Hills, a backyard campfire, burgers on my dad's grill, COFFEE, all the ballpark smells in a beautiful mix, literally all the lemon scents, and freshly baked cookies. -Me
  • Things that smell like preschool lunch really get me. They’re usually unexpected, smells that take me back. I really always love the smell of fall too. -Deanna
  • Oh definitely coffee!!! Freshly baked bread. Newborn baby smell. Blooming lilies. Fireplaces burning in the winter. -Amanda
  • Freshly made coffee cake, lighter fluid/charcoal, fresh cut grass, deep fried mini donuts, and Christmas trees. -Jenni
  • Clean laundry. -Kate
  • Lavender! I also love the citrus-y goodness of an IPA. I liked the smell of IPAs for years before I acquired the taste to actually want to drink them. -Lauren
  • Walnut trees are my favorite smell followed by lilac bushes! -Rachel
See, SEE how just reading that takes you to some kind of place. That's what reading this is like. In addition to being about Emmeline, it gave me this feeling of home and wonder and nostalgia as I thought about my own relationship with scent. 

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for allowing me to have a part in this blog tour with an advanced look at this read, and even more importantly, for allowing me to go on Emmeline's adventure!

***

More About the Author:
Erica Bauermeister is the author of the bestselling novel The School of Essential Ingredients, Joy for Beginners, and The Lost Art of Mixing. She is also the co-author of the non-fiction works, 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide and Let’s Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. She has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington, and has taught there and at Antioch University. She is a founding member of the Seattle7Writers and currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington.

More About the Book:
Erica Bauermeister, the national bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients, presents a moving and evocative coming-of-age novel about childhood stories, families lost and found, and how a fragrance conjures memories capable of shaping the course of our lives. 

Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them.  As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world--a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.

Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home.

Buy Links (or Check it Out at Your Local Library!):


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And finally, I couldn't not end a post focused on smell without using this catchphrase.

lisa simpson GIF

Thank you for engaging with my humor. Now, go read this book. Kthxbai.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Book Reviews - Four Early Looks!

While I read on my Kindle Paperwhite a fair amount, it's rare I read four in a row. However, it looks like I plowed through some advanced copies in the last week, so here those are!



The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister is actually a book that I'll be spotlighting next Monday, so come back for that! I promise y'all that it's one you're going to need to check out. I cannot wait to tell y'all more about it!

Read this book if - Come back next Monday, and I'll seriously tell you why - so many reasons why y'all.

47 People You Meet in Middle School by Kristin Mahoney is just a sweet little read about what to expect in middle school. It's told as a letter from an older sister (August or Gus) to her younger sister Louie. As she goes through the experience, she realizes that she can help her sister know more than she did when she began the overwhelming experience that is middle school. As the title indicates, the story is told through those that Gus encounters.  I'm more than a few years removed from middle school, so I'm far from the target demographic. However, I could see how this was carefully structured so that it really has some great advice to those who are about to be there. I really dug how the advice was helpful, but not in a way that made it seem like an after school special. Side Note - Kids today will have no idea what that reference means. Anyway, in addition to navigating middle school, including making friends, dealing with problematic folks, and working with teachers, the book is about Gus and Louie navigating their parents' divorce. This layers on complications, and as she writes, Gus also realizes how much this has impacted the sisters, and how much they need each other. This was just one of those books that had a heaping helping of heart. Even with all the characters and layers of the middle school story, there is Gus in the middle committed to figuring it all out, doing what's right, and meeting some neat people along the way. Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to check this gem out.

Read this book if - You want an "insider's look" at how to prepare for middle school.

Under the Moon: A Catwoman's Tale by Lauren Myracle was an intriguing piece. I had not read any origin stories around Catwoman prior to this, so I can't speak to how in line/different this is from  previous iterations. However, I can speak to how this does a good job of exploring the "Why?" of a villain. This comic focuses on Catwoman's teen years. Said simply, she has to navigate a lot of "stuff" during this time and make some decisions on what she's going to do to help herself - and others, as well as where she's going to fight back. For a comic, this is heavy content. The obstacles and issues she encounters are a lot to process in this form - any form really. Plot aside, the illustrations are outstanding. They are so, so well done, and they perfectly give vision to the story. Overall, I wanted more. This is a quick read, but I wanted more depth and dissection to Selina's tale! There have been so many iterations of Catwoman, and it was so intriguing to read a spin on where her story (literally) began! Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to check out this origin story early!

Read this book if - You want to see where it all began for Catwoman. Just be ready that it's not such a happy tale. . . 

Someday, Maybe by Elise Faber was YA focused on what happens as Brianna (the main character) starts to navigate her new normal. At the start of her senior year, Brianna's dad lets her know she is trans and will be transitioning. Brianna heads to school still processing the information, and she is asked to Homecoming by Jason, a popular soccer player at school. She is a bit surprised by the unexpected ask, but accepts. In the next months, Brianna navigates a lot. Her mother is not coping well, and there is a part in the story where Brianna is straight up abandoned and having to navigate life on her own. Brianna initially tries to keep her dad's transitioning a secret, however she tells one person, and somehow the news spreads. Y'all, this part was a reminder of how absolutely cruel and terrible kids can be. At times, this was hard to read, but that's because it was so true to the reality of these situations. There is an author's note at the end where she shares this was inspired in part by her story, so that might explain why there was so much real, real emotion pulsing through the story. Brianna is also navigating her budding relationship with Jason as they grow closer and closer. Overall, I appreciated that this was on that gave voice to a different story. Brianna is a high school senior navigating all the things, and the book does a great job of exploring these multilayered and intersecting challenges. Also, I have to say I especially loved the ending of these. So often YA leaves you with a "I wonder what happened to. . . " moment, and this ties up the loose ends via a fast forward that is a great ending. Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this important story that needed to be told.

Read this book if - You want a YA novel that tells a story that's not often told.


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Book Reviews - Reality TV, Day Jobs, Drama and Bitcoin

Y'all, three of these four (it'll be easy to see which one doesn't belong) are ones you're probably going to need to check out.



Don't Keep Your Day Job: How to Turn Your Passion into Your Career by Cathy Heller was a look at how to turn the stuff you love into a job. It's based off a podcast of the same name, but I hadn't listened before. That said, I plan on listening now that I know the spin and information available! This book was just a really good pep talk for me. I liked how it was a blend of advice, experience, and action steps. It was a summary of the best stuff from podcast guests the author had on and had learned for herself. Then, there was also some journal prompts and summaries of points to make the information shared more actionable. More importantly, this piece of the book made the ideas shared something that you could actually made happen. I also really appreciated how the offer framed up how we each have passion and purpose, and we should work to bring that to life more. Rather than making these interests something we do after hours or side hustle, this is about find how to dedicate the best of our time and energy into making this our primary gig. I also really dug how this one took on some of the barriers and excuses we use. The reality is those will always be there, and we have to figure out how to overcome them. This is one I am planning to revisit, as it's definitely a topic I need to explore for me. Thanks to NetGalley for the early preview of this November 2019 release!

Read this book if - You've ever wondered how to make your true passion into a career. You want some insight on how to make your dreams a reality.

Living to Tell by Antonya Nelson was just a bummer of a read. Like, have you ever read a book that was just really, really sad? That was this book times a million. The story starts with Winston Mabie being released from prison five years after being jailed for the drunk driving accident that killed his beloved grandma. He returns home to Wichita, Kansas (Side Note - I wanted to read this because it was sent in Kansas) to his family unsure of where he now fits since his time away. He has two sisters back home, and their stories are contributing factors for the bummer nature of this book as well as his parents. The story is well-written, but I really just found myself looking forward to it being over because I was so saddened by all the tragedy (literally, all the damn tragedy) that kept impacting this family. Ultimately, I actually wanted more Winston. I was intrigued by the premise, but after the first chapter, his story was barely mentioned. Instead, it was about his family and again, sad, sad, sad stuff. Y'all, this was just all-around too much.

Read this book if - You just want to be sad?

The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin was just such a wonderful gem of a read. Caitlyn is the new girl. She's moved to a small town where all the other kids in her seventh grade class have been going to school forever, so she's a little nervous. The kids also can't stop telling her about Paulie Fink, a kid that moved away, but just was so funny and daring and all the things. Along the way, the kids decide they should have a contest to replace what Paulie brought to the school. Caitlyn is charged with "hosting" the experience based on a popular reality television show. Y'all, that part of the story is such fun as they recount Paulie's greatest hits and try to "win" the show. What I also loved about this is it's a true story of a new girl. Having been that same new girl in seventh grade, this book did an exemplary job of explaining what the experience is like. Specifically, it focused on the emotions and the want to fit in which took me right back to my own teenage years. The storytelling format was also really fun. There was some straight narration, as well as some interviews, letters, and articles. It made it really feel like it was a legit reality television show being recounted! There was also a subplot about the viability of the school the kids attended that as an adult I found really intriguing and well told. Overall, I found this one so endearing. It had some storytelling that really showed how we can romanticize memories of people, as well as the importance and power of finding friends and fitting in. In case you can't tell already, I absolutely loved this one!

Read this one if - You want a fun, uplifting story of a new girl finding her people.

Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption by Ben Mezrich was an enlightening read. Prior to reading this, all I knew was that bitcoin was a thing. That said, this taught me so much. The story primarily revolves around the Winklevoss twins (yes, those Winklevoss twins). After settling with Zuckerberg, they're trying to figure out what might be next for their business ventures. They then learn about bitcoin, and the story just goes from there. As I said, I knew zero pieces of information on cryptocurrency, so I was a bit worried this might go over my head. It definitely did not. The story was told in a way that made the topic really easy to understand. I also appreciated how the "logistics" of the currency were told with a heaping helping of drama. This wasn't just about bitcoin, rather it was about the people that were involved. Given the nature of the beast, there were a variety of humans involved given their expertise in business, economics and/or technology. For being a nonfiction read, this was one that was a pageturner. I was so drawn into the world of bitcoin, and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I also appreciated that this was all built around the Winklevoss twins. I had no idea they were so involved in bitcoin (and honestly, it doesn't seem many do as they can't believe they're the center of this story when I rave about this read!), and it was fascinating to see how they decided to try again at the ground level with a technology after their first venture. Thanks to Flatiron Books for the early look at this one. Trust me, this is one that you'll need to check out. Also, while the book will always be better than the movie, I do kind of hope they take the plunge and make this one a movie, too.

Read this book if - You want a nonfiction read with some drama and intrigue. You'd like to learn so much more about bitcoin.

See y'all next time!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Flipping the Camera

Recently, I spent some time going through two years of pictures I'd stored in a cloud. This wasn't a fun reorganizing project, rather it was out of necessity for being over the storage limit. 

However, said project was some kind of life lesson that I was definitely not expecting, but so, so needed.

You see, as I went through the pictures from roughly November 2014 to the end of 2016, I saw something in contrast to what I see now.

Y'all, this was a tough one.

For about the last year or so, I stopped being in the pictures myself.

Along the way I started focusing my pictures more and more on the "stuff" in my life. Sure, it's great that I share all those books I read, things I create and places I go, and I don't plan to stop. But in between all of that, I haven't been taking the time to share my own story through me for some time.

There are lots of reason that's grown to be the case. And even though this is a blog where I often share stuff within the deep, dark places of my mind and body, that's not stuff I want to share in detail today. 

What I will say is this - I lost control of the narrative. I told myself that I needed to have one kind of story, and because that wasn't where mine was right now, I just didn't take the time to share much of anything about me. I know, I know, we don't even have to share anything on social media because that's also an issue. But the filters I've been choosing are almost worse than sharing nothing. I've written a story that left the main character out. 

I've been sitting and reflecting on this for a week now as I do. This post has been bubbling, but I wasn't quite ready to share it. However, last night as my husband and I chatted about our days, I had a moment of clarity to explain all these pieces. 

I told him the only thing I had control over was how I took care of me. I am so easily wrapped up into the components out of my control that the ones I actually can control never get the attention they deserve. This is a problem I've had since the beginning of my time on the planet, but I'm working on making a change. I have had the power to flip the camera all along, and I need to just take the time to do it.

I don't want to look back on the memories of these days and just see all the stuff I saw. I want to be centered in the story. This is, after all, the only story I've got. Is it what I expected? Not so much. Is it what I want? It's getting there. Is it worth the adventure? Always.

I'm taking that first step and stepping in front of the camera here.

This is me most mornings - Leggings, t-shirt and a cardigan. Behind me is the comforter from an unmade bed because most mornings it is. Oh, and there's the laundry I need to put away, but at least it's nicely folded?



Here's me drinking coffee. My hair's a bit of a mess, and even the picture is a little messy. But that's where I'm at as I settle into my day, and now you can see that life, too.


See y'all (literally) soon.