December 29, 2014

see you next year


See that look. It's Bingley telling me to give the laptop a rest and get back to snuggling.

So with that, we'll be taking a short break until the new year. (Don't worry. It's only a few days away.) In addition to hanging out with the kittens I'll hopefully work on prepping books two and three for publication.

I already have some new series--and the return of a few classics--planned for 2015. Until then, enjoy the rest of 2014. Let's end it on a high note.


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December 26, 2014

grownup advent week four

I hope all of you who celebrate had a wonderful Christmas full of joy and wonderful memories with your family and friends.

Wednesday not only marked Christmas Eve, but the final day of my Grownup Advent Calendar. Overall, it was a wonderful experience and a great way to make a point to enjoy Christmas every day of the season. I also learned a few lessons about what worked best and which activities were a challenge (or kind of a dud).

Before I share a look at my final four days of this year's calendar, I invite you to join me in celebrating Christmas next season. I created Grownup Advent, a blog just for the occasion. Every day I will post a new activity or treat at the beginning of the day (6 a.m. UTC, which is 12 a.m. Central) to give you enough time to plan for the day. I've already created the schedule and most of the activities are free or can be enjoyed at whatever price you're able to pay. The point of this is to have fun--not break your bank.

So if you'll go ahead and sign up to receive updates, you'll be signed up to receive all updates from the site (including a daily email of the calendar item) for your convenience. I hope you'll have as much fun as I did this year.

With that, here's what I was up to for days 21-24.

Day 21: Drink a festive cocktail. #grownupadvent

Day 22: After inadvertently watching tonight's movie
on a previous date, I'm subbing falling asleep on the
couch with the lights (and a random Christmas movie) on.
Bonus points for wearing an ugly sweater. #grownupadvent

Day 23: Go see Christmas lights. ‪#‎grownupadvent‬

Day 24: Go ice skating. (I didn't fall!).
And that's a wrap for this year.
Merry Christmas! #grownupadvent

What was your favorite part of this holiday season?


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December 25, 2014

happy holidays from ctw!

Merry Christmas
from the
Change the Word editorial team!



Wishing you a happy, safe and wonderful holiday.
Love, Laura & =^.^= (Bingley)


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December 24, 2014

12 days of reading 2014


Blogger's Note: With Christmas just around the corner, there's still plenty of time to ask Santa for a few new reads under your tree. Rather than share 12 writing tips (like in 2011 and 2012) or some favorite writers (like last year), this year we are sharing 12 notable (and potentially Christmas list-worthy) books from the past year. I have enlisted the help of my good friend (and voracious reader) Whitney to create this list. Enjoy the 12 Days of Reading.

12 Days of Reading 2014


In addition to these 12 noteworthy reads of 2014, there were several more stories we loved and wanted to share. Unfortunately we weren't able to find a way to turn 12 into 20 (the official 'calendar people' could not be persuaded) and in most (okay, all) cases we just ran out of reading time. Still, we felt these books deserve to be paid homage, so we are adding them to our Honorary 12 Days of Reading Bonus List.

Honorary 12 Days of Reading Bonus List

From Laura
1. Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Edited by Pamela Smith Hill - The autobiography originally written by LIW before the rest of the series, this offers a more grown-up look at what happened on the prairie. The only reason this book didn't make the main list is because demand is so high for this book, our copies haven't arrived yet. Whitney and I can't wait to finally sink our teeth into this read.

2. Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella - This is the continuation of the many adventures of Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood). If only there was more time in a year.

3. The Collector by Nora Roberts - Again, I (Laura) ran out of time to read this one, but I have an audio copy ready to go during my upcoming vacation days. Huzzah.

4. How Do You Know? by Meredith Schorr - I'm a big fan of Meredith's and I can't wait to dig into her latest book. It's ready and cued up on my Kindle for imminent reading.

From Whitney
5. One Plus One by JoJo Moyes - Love her, can't wait to read the latest! If you haven't read Me Before You, do it now. Then be prepared to read every other book she's every written, including One Plus One.

6. Driving with the Top Down by Elizabeth Harbison - Why do all of my library requests come at the same time. Will make this one a priority before it's due.

7. Tempting Fate by Jane Green - Lately I have loved Jane Green's books and look forward to this one just based on the plot alone.

8. Catching Air by Sarah Pekkanen - If I didn't go to bed at 9:00 p.m. this one might be finished, but I am liking what I've read so far...

Thanks for joining us this holiday season as we counted down our favorite reads. From both of us, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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December 23, 2014

12 days of reading - day 12: neil patrick harris: choose your own autobiography!


Blogger's Note: With Christmas just around the corner, there's still plenty of time to ask Santa for a few new reads under your tree. Rather than share 12 writing tips (like in 2011 and 2012) or some favorite writers (like last year), this year we are sharing 12 notable (and potentially Christmas list-worthy) books from the past year. I have enlisted the help of my good friend (and voracious reader) Whitney to create this list. Enjoy the 12 Days of Reading.

Day 12: Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography!
By Neil Patrick Harris
Published October 14
Picked by Whitney
Tired of memoirs that only tell you what really happened? 
Sick of deeply personal accounts written in the first person? Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the “u” back in “aUtobiography”? Then look no further than Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography! In this revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative, actor/personality/carbon-based-life-form Neil Patrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life. You will be born to New Mexico. You will get your big break at an acting camp. You will get into a bizarre confrontation outside a nightclub with actor Scott Caan. Even better, at each critical juncture of your life you will choose how to proceed. You will decide whether to try out for Doogie Howser, M.D. You will decide whether to spend years struggling with your sexuality. You will decide what kind of caviar you want to eat on board Elton John’s yacht.

Choose correctly and you’ll find fame, fortune, and true love. Choose incorrectly and you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a hideous death by piranhas. All this, plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures from your time as a child actor, and even a closing song. Yes, if you buy one book this year, congratulations on being above the American average, and make that book Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography!
I tell ya, there’s no better way to enjoy a celebrity memoir than listening to them read it to you on audio book while you’re driving to Target or whatever. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography! is no exception, even though, as my sister reminded me, you can’t choose your own adventure, which is a super fun take on an autobiography. But, you don’t really miss out as the audio book still takes you down a path riddled with potential options, and there are even bonus features, like audio of a speech by youngster Neil Patrick Harris.

Listening to this book was so enjoyable—it’s hilarious, of course, because what else could you expect from NPH—but also touching, moving, and thought-provoking. Plus I feel like you get a lot of insider, behind-the-scenes takes on certain experiences NPH has been a part of, all while feeling like you’re hearing it from the source himself.

Rating: 5 of 5


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December 22, 2014

12 days of reading - day 11: 'yes please'


Blogger's Note: With Christmas just around the corner, there's still plenty of time to ask Santa for a few new reads under your tree. Rather than share 12 writing tips (like in 2011 and 2012) or some favorite writers (like last year), this year we are sharing 12 notable (and potentially Christmas list-worthy) books from the past year. I have enlisted the help of my good friend (and voracious reader) Whitney to create this list. Enjoy the 12 Days of Reading.

Day 11: Yes Please
By Amy Poehler
Published October 28
Picked by Laura
Do you want to get to know the woman we first came to love on Comedy Central's Upright Citizens Brigade? Do you want to spend some time with the lady who made you howl with laughter on Saturday Night Live, and in movies like Baby Mama, Blades of Glory, and They Came Together? Do you find yourself daydreaming about hanging out with the actor behind the brilliant Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation? Did you wish you were in the audience at the last two Golden Globes ceremonies, so you could bask in the hilarity of Amy's one-liners?

If your answer to these questions is "Yes Please!" then you are in luck. In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like "Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend," "Plain Girl Versus the Demon" and "The Robots Will Kill Us All" Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous, Yes Please is full of words to live by.
Amy Poehler is everything. This is an important fact to establish before gushing about how fabulously enjoyable this read was.

After once seeing an interview where Poehler said she had no plans to write a memoir--that being mentioned in memoirs by Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling was more than enough--I was basically beside myself when I learned Yes Please was coming to a bookseller near me.

As I do with most memoirs, I picked up the audio book for this one to hear the story from Poehler herself. A talented writer as evidenced by her work on Parks and Recreation, it was no surprise that her story was well-told. But more than that, I was struck by the total honesty she shared about her life. She didn't gloss over hardships, like her divorce from Will Arnett, or the great effort and hard work it took for her to achieve the success she has now. And it's a battle that is never over.

At times charming and funny, others emotional and thought-provoking, for me reading Yes Please only solidified how much I admire Poehler as a comedian, writer, actress and human being. I found myself inspired and motivated to work harder to achieve my own goals, which is no small feat for a memoir to achieve.

It also reassured me that I was totally right about dressing up as Poehler's author photo for Halloween.


Rating: 5 of 5


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December 21, 2014

grownup advent week three

My Grownup Advent Calendar continued this week (check out weeks one and two), and it required a lot of reading. This turned out to be a good thing, because I had a lot of other fun activities to participate in all week (like wrapping presents for children receiving them from an angel tree, a Facebook Christmas party and a holiday party with my co-workers).

Take a look at what my week held:

Day 14: Holiday nails (and a Hallmark movie).

Day 15: Curling up with a peppermint
cocoa and Christmas novel.

Day 16: Read from "Five Golden Rings"
(which I'm doing while checking out
the December Delights Bookish Party). 
Day 17: Make a donation to a charitable organization or cause.

Day 18: Read "The Gift of the Magi."

Day 19: Christmas cupcakes and wine.
(Sugar, I wish I knew how to quit you.)

Day 20: Christmas movie marathon and carryout.
Up first: SCROOGED. 

Only four more days of my Grownup Advent Calendar to go!

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December 20, 2014

12 days of reading - day 10: 'landline'


Blogger's Note: With Christmas just around the corner, there's still plenty of time to ask Santa for a few new reads under your tree. Rather than share 12 writing tips (like in 2011 and 2012) or some favorite writers (like last year), this year we are sharing 12 notable (and potentially Christmas list-worthy) books from the past year. I have enlisted the help of my good friend (and voracious reader) Whitney to create this list. Enjoy the 12 Days of Reading.

Day 10: Landline
By Rainbow Rowell
Published July 8
Picked by Whitney
From New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell, comes a hilarious, heart-wrenching take on love, marriage, and magic phones.
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply—but that almost seems beside the point now. 
Maybe that was always beside the point. 
Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her—Neal is always a little upset with Georgie—but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go without her. 
When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything. 
That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts. . . . 
Is that what she’s supposed to do? 
Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?
I was lucky enough to get to see Rainbow Rowell at a reading of Landline and she was lovely, hilarious, and real—she had so many thoughtful things to say about writing, being an author (I consider those two different things sometimes) and everything else. She also talked about the book, and her inspiration for it, and keeping that in mind, it was even more fun to read.

The book itself was good—I liked the magical phone element and the idea of whether you should change fate if you have the chance. But what l liked so much about Landline was the character of Georgie. I appreciate that she is a strong, successful female character, as these are sometimes hard to come by. She is well-written, three dimensional, and real, and makes Landline worth the read.

Rating: 4 of 5


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December 19, 2014

12 days of reading - day 9: 'every time i think of you'


Blogger's Note: With Christmas just around the corner, there's still plenty of time to ask Santa for a few new reads under your tree. Rather than share 12 writing tips (like in 2011 and 2012) or some favorite writers (like last year), this year we are sharing 12 notable (and potentially Christmas list-worthy) books from the past year. I have enlisted the help of my good friend (and voracious reader) Whitney to create this list. Enjoy the 12 Days of Reading.


Day 9: Every Time I Think of You
By Tracey Garvis Graves
Published September 16
Picked by Laura
Thirty-year-old Daisy DiStefano has two people she holds dear: the grandmother who raised her, and her three-year-old son, Elliott. But when Daisy’s grandmother is killed in a seemingly random act of violence, Daisy must take steps to protect herself and her child. 

Despite a thriving career in San Francisco, thirty-six-year-old Brooks McClain has returned home to spend what little time his mother has left before she succumbs to the deadly disease that is ravaging her. The seasoned investigative reporter has taken a position with the local newspaper and been on the job less than twenty-four hours when he’s summoned to cover the death of Pauline Thorpe. 

Brooks is all business, but the more time he spends with Daisy DiStefano, the more invested he becomes; there’s something about a single mother, a defenseless child, and an unsolved crime that has stirred Brooks’s protective instincts like nothing ever has before. 

And when the unthinkable happens, Brooks will do whatever it takes to clear the name of the woman he’s fallen for and the child he’ll protect at any cost. 

Romantic and suspenseful, Every Time I Think of You shows how far two people will go to fight for the ones they love, and the life they’ve always imagined.
It's no secret Tracey Garvis Graves writes well--superbly so--and she lived up to her reputation with Every Time I Think of You. Character-driven and expertly crafted, I found myself wishing I could read and flip the next page faster to get to the end.

From the onset, I was drawn to Daisy and Brooks, the main characters who tell most of the story. They are both hard-working, family-oriented individuals who face hard times, sometimes make the wrong decisions, but make every choice with the intent of doing well. I so desperately wanted these two crazy kids to be together, because they were exactly what the other person needed to survive and live to their fullest potential.

Garvis Graves also continues to impress with the amount of research and attention to detail she gives. As a former reporter, Brooks's actions, lines of questioning and written products were spot-on. The depictions of ALS, and even meth addiction and peddling, were developed so completely I felt like if stepped into and episode of a hospital drama or Breaking Bad, which I loved.

Though not as steamy as some romances or nail-biting as some thrillers, there was enough toe-curling passion and page-turning intrigue to keep my interest piqued from page to page. This story had enough interesting and relatable elements that it didn't need gimmicks to work.

What made this book all the more exciting for me was the fact that I went to see Tracey speak while she was still in the developmental stages of working on this book. She offered a few bits about what we could expect, and I eagerly anticipated the moment I would finally get to read this story. It didn't disappoint.

Rating: 4 of 5




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December 18, 2014

12 days of reading - day 8: 'i am having so much fun here without you'


Blogger's Note: With Christmas just around the corner, there's still plenty of time to ask Santa for a few new reads under your tree. Rather than share 12 writing tips (like in 2011 and 2012) or some favorite writers (like last year), this year we are sharing 12 notable (and potentially Christmas list-worthy) books from the past year. I have enlisted the help of my good friend (and voracious reader) Whitney to create this list. Enjoy the 12 Days of Reading.


Day 8: I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
By Courtney Maum
Published June 10
Picked by Whitney
In this reverse love story set in Paris and London, which Glamour hailed as one of the “10 Best Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List Right This Second,” a failed monogamist attempts to woo his wife back and to answer the question: Is it really possible to fall back in love with your spouse?

Despite the success of his first solo show in Paris and the support of his brilliant French wife and young daughter, thirty-four-year-old British artist Richard Haddon is too busy mourning the loss of his American mistress to a famous cutlery designer to appreciate his fortune.

But after Richard discovers that a painting he originally made for his wife, Anne—when they were first married and deeply in love—has sold, it shocks him back to reality and he resolves to reinvest wholeheartedly in his family life…just in time for his wife to learn the extent of his affair. Rudderless and remorseful, Richard embarks on a series of misguided attempts to win Anne back while focusing his creative energy on a provocative art piece to prove that he’s still the man she once loved.

Skillfully balancing biting wit with a deep emotional undercurrent, this “charming and engrossing portrait of one man’s midlife mess” (Elle) creates the perfect portrait of an imperfect family—and a heartfelt exploration of marriage, love, and fidelity.
So often we see the traditional love story of boy meets girl, they fall in love, they get married and have kids and live happily ever after. But these things are much more complicated than that, and that is what Courtney Maum explores in I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You. (Hereafter referred to as “the book,” as while I love the title it’s awfully long to type.)

The book is a compelling story with interesting characters and humor, and it felt very real to me, like the characters were people I knew instead of a character in a book. And by looking at what marriage, parenting, and creating an identity for oneseself can do to (and I would even say for) a couple, the love story is there, even if it is unexpected.


Rating: 3 of 5



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December 17, 2014

12 days of reading - day 7: 'the secret keeper fulfilled'


Blogger's Note: With Christmas just around the corner, there's still plenty of time to ask Santa for a few new reads under your tree. Rather than share 12 writing tips (like in 2011 and 2012) or some favorite writers (like last year), this year we are sharing 12 notable (and potentially Christmas list-worthy) books from the past year. I have enlisted the help of my good friend (and voracious reader) Whitney to create this list. Enjoy the 12 Days of Reading.


Day 7: The Secret Keeper Fulfilled
By Brea Brown
Published September 27
Picked by Laura
New family members, new career paths, and new neighbors create new challenges for the Northams in the final chapter of the popular Secret Keeper series. 

Wrangling more children than ever and living with a clergyman who doesn't know how to sit still, Peyton doubts she can keep up with the latest batch of changes. Family feuds, growing pains, and unspoken truths between husband and wife only add to the frenzy surrounding Brice and Peyton as they cope with the aftermath of the life-changing events from months before. 

With her insecurity at an all-time high, Peyton must heal her raw wounds—both old and fresh—and uncover one more secret before she can be fulfilled at last.
I may be a little biased with this pick, but what the heck, it's my list and my blog and I can do what I like!

During the past couple of years I have had the privilege of becoming friends with Brea Brown. Throughout last summer, Brea and I had many conversations about the book she was writing--the final chapter of her well-loved The Secret Keeper series. Wanting to be as supportive as I could, I gave the first book a go on a Friday evening. I ended up staying awake all night to finish the story. So I started the second book. Then the third... And by the end of the week, I'd caught up with Brea and demanded she finish the series.

What made this all the more fun and exciting--and unique--for me as a reader was that I could talk with Brea while she worked on this book. We discussed a few inner writerly battles she was fighting, and I could be her cheerleader. (I also may or may not have mentioned a few things I really, really liked about the first few books, and what I might really, really like to see in the final installment, which in hindsight was pretty rude of me to do.)

I also had the opportunity to serve as a beta reader for this book. Like the other stories, I inhaled it. And I was deeply moved by the lovely note Brea wrote for me in her author's note. While Brea was the one offering me thanks, in actuality I'm the one who is grateful. The whole interaction was powerful for me as both a reader and writer. I had a front-row seat to watching a story I loved be crafted. I also could see how a writer I respect practiced her craft, which helped me reflect upon my own approach. Even now it's surreal to me. It's hard to explain how much it meant to me.

As for how the final Peyton and Brice story turned out, my Amazon review says it best:
It's never easy to say good-bye, but like graduation or moving to pursue a dream, it can be more sweet than bittersweet. That's how it felt reading the final installment of Brea Brown's Secret Keeper series. We've been through a lot with Peyton, Brice, and the rest of the gang, and this was a lovely and satisfying send-off for a cast of characters we've grown to love like family. Like the rest of the series there were a few tears, plenty of laughs, and a whole lot of heart in The Secret Keeper Fulfilled. This book lives up to its title. 

Rating: 5 of 5


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December 16, 2014

12 days of reading - day 6: 'goodnight june'


Blogger's Note: With Christmas just around the corner, there's still plenty of time to ask Santa for a few new reads under your tree. Rather than share 12 writing tips (like in 2011 and 2012) or some favorite writers (like last year), this year we are sharing 12 notable (and potentially Christmas list-worthy) books from the past year. I have enlisted the help of my good friend (and voracious reader) Whitney to create this list. Enjoy the 12 Days of Reading.


Day 6: Goodnight June
By Sarah Jio
Published May 27
Picked by Whitney
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Songs) is an adored childhood classic, but its real origins are lost to history. In Goodnight June, Sarah Jio offers a suspenseful and heartfelt take on how the “great green room” might have come to be.

June Andersen is professionally successful, but her personal life is marred by unhappiness. Unexpectedly, she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby’s estate and determine the fate of Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store’s papers, June stumbles upon letters between her great-aunt and the late Margaret Wise Brown—and steps into the pages of American literature.
As the mother of an almost-one-year-old, I spend a lot of time reading children’s books, Goodnight Moon especially. (This is the one I have mostly memorized, in fact.) So it was super fun that an author I already love, Sarah Jio, has written a book on the imagined history of the well-known children’s book.

Jio always does a nice job of crafting multiple main characters with different voices and perspectives, and Goodnight June is no exception. I also love the fact that the book takes place around a children’s bookstore, as I think that would be my dream job. Combining mystery, a love story, and of course, books, Goodnight June is a quick, cute read.

Rating: 4 of 5


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December 15, 2014

the writers' christmas album: 2014

It's mid-December and I'm still singing along to Christmas music at work, in the car, around the house, and just about everywhere else you'll find me. As I've shared before (in this post and this one) it's always been a dream of mine to cut a Christmas record. Don't worry. I'm not a Kardashian, the daughter of a record mogul, or a Real Housewife, so it'll never happen. Your ears are safe.

But those technicalities won't stop me from dreaming.

With that in mind... I am pleased to share that a few of my favorite writers and I are creating an imaginary Christmas album with our favorite hits.

But we need your help. Our album only has five songs on it. If this is going to be a truly great Christmas album, we'll need more songs. So after you finish reading what songs we're singing, leave a comment telling us what song you'll add and why.

Now, let's take a look at what we're working with, shall we?


Track 1: Brea Brown, author of The Secret Keeper Fulfilled and Let's Be Frank performing "I'll Be Home for Christmas" 


There's just something about that song that sparks my imagination. I picture someone coming back to a town where they haven't been in a while, dredging up old memories... and feelings for the people (or a specific person) still there... That whole prodigal son/daughter theme is always intriguing to me, but it's particularly poignant when a story with that theme is set during the holidays. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

Connect with Brea on Facebook and Twitter.


Track 2: Laura Chapman, author of Hard Hats and Doormats and "Twelve Drummers Drumming" performing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"


I grew up watching old Hollywood musicals, and some of my favorite starred Judy Garland. From a young age, I'd walk around singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "The Trolley Song." One of my favorite hits was always "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from "Meet Me in St. Louis." There's something so sweet, so sincere about pausing at the holidays to reflect on where you have been and where you hope to be the next time you put up a Christmas tree.

You know where to find me... But in case you need a reminder it's here and here.


Track 3: Cat Lavoie, author of Zoey & the Moment of Zen and Breaking the Rules performing "Christmas is All Around"


Love Actually is one of my all-time favorite movies and I need to watch it at least once during the holidays. One of the many reasons I love the movie is the awesome soundtrack... so I have decided to sing "Christmas is All Around" by Billy Mack (as portrayed by Bill Nighy) because it's such a fun song and it reminds me of some very memorable (and hilarious) scenes from the movie.

Connect with Cat on Facebook and Twitter.


Track 4: Samantha March, author of A Questionable Friendship and The Green Ticket performing "All I Want For Christmas is You"


The song I’m singing is “All I Want For Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey. This song can instantly get me in the Christmas mood like none other can, and simply lifts my spirits. And I want to think it gives me permission to act like a diva while I sing!

Connect with Samantha on Facebook and Twitter.


Track 5: Martha Reynolds author of Best Seller and Bits of Broken Glass performing "Hard Candy Christmas"


I'm going to channel my inner Dolly Parton and sing "Hard Candy Christmas." Long before I'd ever watched "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," I'd listen to Dolly sing this song. I love how she fights against what can be melancholy and difficult at the holidays, and decides to put forth a positive attitude instead. There were a couple of years when the words rang so true - "I'm barely getting through tomorrow, but still I won't let sorrow bring me down." I'll be fine and dandy.

Connect with Martha on Facebook and Twitter.


Now it's your turn... What are you singing? Why? Anyone want to sing "Baby It's Cold Outside" with me?


Stay connected with Laura Chapman on FacebookGoodreads and Twitter. Like Change the Word on Facebook.

December 14, 2014

grownup advent week two

It's Week Two of my Grownup Advent Calendar (check out Week One here). This week involved a lot of movie watching and crafting, which isn't too bad of a way to spend the time.

Also, not pictured, I found additional ways to celebrate the season by listening to Christmas music nonstop at home and work and reading more holiday novellas. While this has been a lot of fun, I'll admit that some days I don't wake up as excited to celebrate the season. It's kind of like needing to go to the gym for a workout or doing your laundry. Only, instead of in those situations (which for me feel rewarding once done, but I'm still not left with the, "man that was the best" feeling) I'm left feeling a little bit merrier than I was before.

So here's what I was up to this week (with a little help from some friends in the end):

Day 8: Watch "The Nightmare Before Christmas."
(The bag of red & green M&Ms I ate
was a bonus.) ‪#‎grownupadvent‬
Day 9: Bake cookies. (Giving Gingerbread Stars
the old college try for this batch) ‪#‎grownupadvent‬
Day 10: Watch SNL Christmas (with
cookies baked last night). ‪#‎grownupadvent‬
Bonus Day 10: Met Santa. Talked Books.
Day 11: Spend 30 minutes listening to Christmas music
and enjoying the lights. (Jane photobombed the tree.)
Day 12 (better late than never):
Build a gingerbread house. #grownupadvent
No. 13: In lieu of going to "The Nutcracker"
I'm having a few friends over for the 5 Cs
of Christmas. #grownupadvent


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December 13, 2014

12 days of reading - no 5: 'the one'


Blogger's Note: With Christmas just around the corner, there's still plenty of time to ask Santa for a few new reads under your tree. Rather than share 12 writing tips (like in 2011 and 2012) or some favorite writers (like last year), this year we are sharing 12 notable (and potentially Christmas list-worthy) books from the past year. I have enlisted the help of my good friend (and voracious reader) Whitney to create this list. Enjoy the 12 Days of Reading.


Day 5: The One
By Kiera Cass
Published May 6
Picked by Laura
The highly anticipated third book in Kiera Cass's #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series, The One will captivate readers who love dystopian YA fiction and fairy tales. The One is perfect for the fans who have followed America's whirlwind romance since it began—and a swoon-worthy read for teens who have devoured Veronica Roth's Divergent, Ally Condie's Matched, or Lauren Oliver's Delirium.

The Selection changed America Singer's life in ways she never could have imagined. Since she entered the competition to become the next princess of IllĂ©a, America has struggled with her feelings for her first love, Aspen—and her growing attraction to Prince Maxon. Now she's made her choice . . . and she's prepared to fight for the future she wants.

Find out who America will choose in The One, the enchanting, beautifully romantic third book in the Selection series!

You can't call me a die-hard fan of the Bachelor franchise. I'll admit I regularly watched a few seasons during the late 2000s. And I may have followed a few of the former cast members on Twitter, searched for spoilers and never missed a post from a Bachelor-focused blog for couple of years. Okay, so I was a fan. I confess. It was that brief fandom--plus my need to cleanse the YA palette after binge-reading the Hunger Games series--that led me to The Selection, based on the recommendation of a friend. I've been following America's quest to end up with Maxon or Aspen since 2012 and was delighted to have a resolution this year.

Not as strong of a book as The Elite perhaps (which was surprisingly action-packed), but more exciting--and less frustrating--than The Selection, the final book in this series gives readers long-anticipated answers. At the same time, it took some adventurous and unexpected turns. This series' finale satisfied the teeny bopper inside of me who occasionally (regularly) needs her angst fix.

And while feeding the YA hunger I acquired thanks to the Twilight franchise, this series differed in that the main character shows personal growth. While I might have liked to see more developed with the political issues and rebellion, this series' greatest strength comes in how much the main character develops and grows up through her experience in The Selection. She takes responsibility for her actions, which atones for some of the aforementioned annoyances I experienced reading book one.

Overall, I was satisfied by where America landed at the end of her story and the journey and development she underwent to arrive there.

Rating: 4 of 5


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December 12, 2014

12 days of reading - day 4: 'the one & only'


Blogger's Note: With Christmas just around the corner, there's still plenty of time to ask Santa for a few new reads under your tree. Rather than share 12 writing tips (like in 2011 and 2012) or some favorite writers (like last year), this year we are sharing 12 notable (and potentially Christmas list-worthy) books from the past year. I have enlisted the help of my good friend (and voracious reader) Whitney to create this list. Enjoy the 12 Days of Reading.


Day 3: The One & Only
By Emily Giffin
Published May 20
Picked by Whitney
Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

Thoughtful, funny, and brilliantly observed, The One & Only is a luminous novel about finding your passion, following your heart, and, most of all, believing in something bigger than yourself . . . the one and only thing that truly makes life worth living.

I worship at the altar of Emily Giffin. (Case and point: I had the book sitting on the kitchen table after it was returned to me by the friend I lent it to, and my husband said “Is that a new Emily Giffin book? I haven’t seen it before.”) Just as I have with her other books, I eagerly awaited the release of The One & Only.

There was a lot to like about The One & Only. I mean, the whole story was based around a football school and living in Nebraska, that is something that I could easily relate to. (And maybe it’s because I live in Nebraska that I noticed this, but in the past few books Giffin has made nods to the Cornhuskers, which makes me like her even more.) I also liked the characters themselves—specifically writing an awesome female character into the more-traditionally male-dominated sports media world—and the more complex, serious storylines that were explored.

However. And it’s a big however: I did not love the ending of this book. From what I have seen, the ending of this book is perhaps one of the most controversial things to ever happen. (OK, a slight exaggeration but only a slight one. I’m not joking about how people have felt about this ending. You either LOVE it or HATE it. It’s like picking Team Edward or Team Jacob. Or Team Peeta or Team Gale. That serious of a decision.) Without giving anything away, so that you can be unbiased in deciding which team you want to be on, I will just say this: I totally understand the overall issue and how it fits in to the overall theme of the book, but I also feel more could be done in the story to make me see how this happens and feel a little more resolved.

All the same, it takes a talented author to create a story that makes people think about an idea as much as you do after finishing this book, so that in and of itself is a reason to check it out.

Rating: 3 of 5


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