Underground Books: A speakeasy for book lovers.

So, it’s not exactly a speakeasy. You don’t need a password, but you will definitely get that speakeasy secretive vibe. Perhaps you even look over your shoulder before you enter the small unassuming door and descend down the basement steps to make sure no one saw you. You might even have to double check your google maps to make sure you have the right place because it’s not marked by any signs on the building.

The perfect place for bookish rebels.

Bonnie and I immediately fell in love. This is the type of bookstore that when you happen across it, you end up losing yourself in it. You can NOT simply walk in and walk out. You find yourself browsing bookshelf after bookshelf, noticing classics hiding along side new releases. You find yourself oohing and aahing over vintage covers, humorous titles, and thoughtful displays.

There were several things about this independent bookstore that I adored . . . but the book arch simply took my breath away. This is one of the most beautifully creative and lovely things I’ve ever seen paying homage to books, and to those who love them. (Don’t worry, all of the books were badly damaged and only used if so.) The story behind the arch is just a wonderful. Josh and Megan own the bookstore and were married in 2014. They had a friend make the arch for them to be married under. And considering books are what brought them together, I couldn’t imagine a more romantic way to be wed.

On their website, Underground professes to “aim to be a bibliophile’s destination and a browser’s paradise.” They completely nail it. Not only do they have an amazing collection and variety of books, but they sell stuff that truly bookish people would appreciate. Book sculptures, journals made from damaged vintage books, decorative price-bulked books, and postcards of hilarious vintage book covers.

Another fantastic aspect of this indie bookstore was the extra moments the owners sprinkled throughout the store to draw you in. Signs of inclusion, shelves of local books on Carrollton, Ga, and even a “Call me Ishmael” interactive display. Patrons of Underground can call in and record their reviews on books so that customers can pick up the receiver and hear a review from a reader on a book. The books on the display correspond to a number on the phone . . . brilliant, right? I listened to a review from a woman on The Diary of Anne Frank. It felt extremely personal to hear her explain her heartfelt connection with the story being Jewish herself.

It’s completely obvious that the owners, Megan and Josh, adore books and desire to create a creative and special environment for book-lovers. And they are wonderful at it. They had already won me and Bonnie over at Hills & Hamlet, their sister store in Serenbe. If you are ever in or around Carrollton Ga, visiting their indie bookstore is a must!

Just knock 3 times and tell them Steen sent you. 😉

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The Night Circus Magic.

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Let me start by saying how incredibly grateful I am to have read this story. Erin Morgenstern has earned a loyal fan. I must say, after having read a few reviews of this book from people I trusted, I went into The Night Circus with high expectations. Every single one were met.

I don’t want to critique this book, or give anything away. Part of the magic for me was not really knowing much about the story other than there are two magicians dueling each other and that the backdrop was a circus, only open at night. So in order to help you decide if you want to read this book, I’m just going to make this simple!

If you like using your imagination, you will love this book. I got lost in the sweeping, beautiful details of the circus. Morgenstern did a phenomenal job painting the most elaborate pictures with her imagery. It was stunning as it unfolded within my mind.

If you need lots of action in a story, you will not like this book. This book is more a museum of unique artwork you leisurely walk through siping on a glass of wine, less of a Marvel movie you watch shoveling popcorn.

If you love magic and wonder, you will love this book. While there is not much action in terms of story, the creativity and sense of awe surrounding the magicians creations were completely inspiring. I’ve never wanted to be in the setting of a book more in my life!

If you want a mind numbing read, you will not like this book. If you want to follow the plot, you will need to use your noggin. There are lapses in the timeline, jumping back and forth with in said timeline, and multiple POV’s. But it made me feel as though I was discovering something, like I was working out something previously unknown.

If you appreciate the art of writing as much as the finished product, you will love this book. At least I did. As a writer, Morgenstern’s style inspired me. In fact, after reading The Night Circus, I was inspired to jump back into writing my own story and finishing it. Which for me, is a sign of an awesome story.

And that’s all I’m giving you. If you’re still on the fence, just go pick it up or download it on your kindle. It’s worth the money even if you don’t end up liking it!

Indie Bookstore Tour: Little Shop of Stories

One this stop of our Independent Bookstore Tour, Bonnie and I found ourselves in Decatur Georgia. Home of the annual AJC Decatur Book Festival, which has become the largest Independent book festival in the country! So, this amazing and vibrant city square was the perfect location for our next visit.

In order to set the stage properly for this particular visit, I must tell you . . . it was freaking freezing. Just to prove it, within 48 hours of our visit, all of metro Atlanta was covered in snow. So, I’m not exaggerating.

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As Bonnie and I walked, briskly, through Decatur Square, we marveled at all of the restaurants and shops. All of them looking incredibly inviting as the sleet bounced off our faces. But we were on a mission, and when we finally arrived at Little Shop of Stories and I peeked inside, the deep chill melted from my bones.

Sunny bright yellow walls surrounded me, every square foot covered in autographed illustrations from authors and illustrators. This store was not only the largest we’d visited so far, but the most colorful and brightly lit. Almost as though the store was sparkling against a grey winter backdrop. Like a shiny new penny. (Seriously, part of the floor is gorgeous mosaic pennies.)

For those of you who know me, I love two things: color and themes. So Little Shop of Stories checked many of my boxes. Especially considering everywhere I turned was another corner of the store dedicated/curated from a different children’s book. Including everything from murals, to furniture, to complete rooms! My favorite? Why, Platform 9 3/4 of course!

On par for our tour, we met the super helpful Justin, store manager. He walked us around, showing us the different sections, the loft area for parties and book clubs, answered our questions and gave us some history behind some of his favorite books at the moment.

A fantastic characteristic I noticed about the store, and Decatur in general, was the support for other local businesses. Justin was quick to tell us other indie bookstores in the neighborhood we should put on our tour. Even signage around the store encouraged customers to buy and read local. Supporting community authors, artists, and businesses is very important to me . . . especially as a local author. 🙂

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One of my most favorite features of this particular bookstore was the little handwritten notes I found scattered everywhere. The owners encourage staff to write reviews of books they read and display them on the shelves with the books. How amazing is that?

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While this is absolutely a children’s bookstore, but I highly recommend you visit if you enjoy whimsical enviroments or want to revive your childlike joy and enthusiasm for reading. This bookstore is everything you want from a local, indie business – it’s unique, has a helpful and knowledgeable staff, and the overall feel of the place is incredibly personal. And if you have kids, wether they like to read or not, you need to bring them just so they can get lost in their imagination. I can’t wait to visit again next August when I attend the Indie Book Festival.

If you want to learn more about different events and author readings Little Shop of Stories host, make sure you click here. My tour buddy, Bonnie Clark, is a children’s author herself, so if you want to read her take on our visit, click here! Thanks again to Justin and Little Shop of Stories for being such a warm host on such a frigid winter day.

 

On a scale of 1 to Serenbe: Hills & Hamlets Bookshop

Many years ago, I visited a little community called Serenbe, immediately becoming obsessed. It’s like a small village that values health, the environment, the arts, and sustainable living. Amazing farm to table food, no pesticides, beautiful landscapes, thoughtfully designed houses, random famous people, and all things organic. I talked about it with whoever would listen and dreamed about going back. I even named one of my fictional flowers after it in The Door Keeper. But life gets busy and it’s been years since I’ve visited again, sadly.

Until that is, I found out there was a new adorable bookshop that had open up last year called Hills & Hamlets. Thankfully, my friend Bonnie was just as excited as I was to check it out, so we put it on our Indie Bookstore Tour.

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Our introduction to Serenbe was just as beautiful as I remembered. Everything is thoughtfully designed, from street signs to trash cans. It’s as though the people here find ways to insert passion and art into even the most mundane of objects. After a quick stop into the General Store, (all organic, local, handcrafted), Bonnie and I headed over to Hills & Hamlets.

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The bookstore is unbelievably quaint and completely perfect for this community. Even though it was small, it maximized shelf space in creative ways. We quickly met the friendly and helpful owner, Josh Niesse. He and his wife own another bookstore in Carrollton, Ga and decided to open Hills & Hamlets after falling in love with Serenbe. (Common theme I’m seeing among all who visit.)

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Josh was just what you hope a bookshop owner is: passionate about books all bookish things. He showed us the different sections, including his favorite, the Rare Antiquarian wall. Y’all, this wall is gorgeous and every book lovers dream.

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Not only does H & H sell modern books, antique books by the foot, and beautiful book sets, but they sell some adorable and fun bookish things. Including artwork from book passages, awesome candles called Secular Saints, and handmade journals made from vintage books!

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After spending some quality time in the bookstore, Josh recommended a quick stroll to the walking bridge . . . that apparently leads to magical journey “across the pond.” One of the new developments in Serenbe called Swann Ridge, contains houses and architecture with an European old-world flare.

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I’m not even going to attempt to pretend that Bonnie and I weren’t completely giddy with excitement. We also may or may not have spoken in British accents as we moseyed along the cobblestone streets.

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Already sold and completely in love with Serenbe, we took a moment to find our inner child, jumping on one of the many trampolines spread throughout the community. Just one more way this place encourages residents and visitors to find the fun and joy in life.

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Hungry and spent from our visit, we made our way to the Blue Eyed Daisy. One of my best memories from my visit before. The first of now several restaurants built in Serenbe, The Blue Eyed Daisy is sustained from the 25 acre organic farm located on the property. Seriously farm fresh. Bonnie and I both decided on the Blue Eyed Burger, a local favorite with pimento cheese. That burger sealed the deal, 10 was no longer my judge for perfection, it had become Serenbe. On a scale of 1 to Serenbe, this food, this place, was so Serenbe.

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I can’t wait to go back, please check out the links I included above to learn more about Hills & Hamlets Bookshop and Serenbe. Or you should just go visit and fall in love yourself! If you’d like to read Bonnie’s account of our amazing day there, click here.

Thanks for joining and I look forward to sharing stop number 3 next!

Not all news is good news.

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Hello friends and family. After careful consideration, I have decided to push back the release date of The Lost Door until next year.
Between being sick for the past month and some other personal things I am working through, it has become apparent that I need to put my health and family first, especially during this holiday season. Everything is fine, I just realized I should probably capitalize on the greatest benefit of self publishing: setting my own deadlines!
Although The Lost Door is almost completed, there are a few things I do not want to rush, final edits and formatting topping that list. So I will take my time, allow myself to heal, and make the book it’s best possible version.
As soon as I land on a new release date, y’all will be the first to know. Thank you so much for your support, patience, and understanding these last few months.
I hope you all have a wonderful Holiday Season!

Book Review: Shades of Magic Series

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This week I finished A Conjuring of Light, the third installment of the Shades of Magic Series by V.E. Schwab. Wow. Just wow. There are so many things I enjoyed about this series. So, let’s start with the most important part of any story.

The Characters. I adored the characters. Not only are the characters themselves unique and entertaining, but their individual development and growth throughout the books are wonderfully strategic. Kell, the Antari from Red London that can pass from world to world (and one of the only few left) starts off the story mysterious, but rather stiff. Not necessarily stiff in a bad way, just an inflexible way. Kind of emo, determined, and content to carry burdens alone. Without giving away any spoilers, his characters opens himself up to vulnerability, love, and empathy. Lila, the thief from Grey London, while technically a trope (special snowflake/tomboy) was still amazingly refreshing! In most genres, tropes are unavoidable, but if done right can still be new and fun. Schwab does it right. Lila begins the story reckless, fearless, and very lost. She doesn’t have an anchor, or anything worth caring about, which makes her fun and different to read. By the time the story ends, she learns to stop running and allow herself to open up and care about those around her. Plus, I just loved her quick tongue and sharp words and her odd obsession with wanting to become a pirate. Holland, the Antari from White London. I don’t want to say much about him, but I REALLY enjoyed his character. I love when the line between good and evil are blurred, and Holland was an excellent example of that. Prince Rhy of Red London quickly became one of my favorites, especially given his growth over the span of the series. Genuine, slightly spoiled, yet generous and kind, he starts the story simply fun loving and boyish. By the time I turned the last few pages, be had become a brave, unselfish leader who no longer valued the things he once held so dear. Lastly Alucard, a good looking charismatic captain from Red London with witty banter and incredibly gifted with magic, but his character becomes so much more than that by the end of the books. His relationships with the other characters; his loyalty to Lila, love for Rhy, and distaste for Kell, seriously made the series for me. (Not to mention so many secondary characters that were wonderfully developed.)

The Worlds. This is absolutely my favorite thing about Schwab’s writing style. Her ability to create, detail, and explore multiple worlds in such a unique way. She draws things out, and tells you everything. Which I know drives some people crazy, but not me. I’d rather be told too much than not enough. But that’s just my preference. She describes everything lyrically, and she lets her writing set the tempo. In this story we have Red London, Grey London, White London, and Black London. Four different worlds that somehow all overlap with their version of London. Some worlds have magic, some don’t, and some have died because of it. Kell, as well as all Antari, can travel between the different Londons, which becomes complicated as something is found in one London that shouldn’t be there.

The Story. The story itself is full of adventure, love, witty banter, pirate ships, murder, magic tournaments, torture, cursed stones, travel between worlds, death, betrayal, and family. You get to witness brotherly love and kinship, wounded and severed love, romance rekindled and heartbreak. While the first 150 pages A Darker Shade of Magic took me a while to get into, once the story took hold of me, I couldn’t stop reading. Once the action and story starts, it doesn’t stop until the last page. You can see the planning that Schwab put into this story, the perfectly organized plot not going unnoticed.

Series as a whole: 5 STARS

If you like epic tales of Fantasy and haven’t read the Shades of Magic series, I would highly recommend them. V.E. Schwab has me as a loyal reader and I can’t wait until the continuation of the story with her next trilogy set in the Londons.

Sunday Pinning: Cozy reading nooks.

So this week on Pinterest, I found myself drifting into the cozy reading nooks. Maybe it’s the cold weather fast approaching or losing daylight savings time. Either way, the idea of curling up in any one of these nooks with a book, fills me with the warm and fuzzies.

So what makes a reading nook cozy? For me, it breaks down into 3 reasons, sometimes 4. The first and most important requirement?

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  1. Mood lighting. Ah yes, candles, twinkle lights, or in the case above, lanterns. Low lighting may not always be conducive for reading, but it is essential in finding the balance so you feel cozy and relaxed.

(Note: the only exception to not having mood lighting, is to be by a fire, which technically provides the same thing.)

2. Your cozy nook must include soft cuddle-able material such as blankets and/or pillows. Preferably both. In my opinion, a pair of pillows and fleece blanket can transform most any space into a perfect reading nook. There is nothing better than your feet being tangled in a blanket, getting lost in a book.

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This pin.

3. Speaking of feet, mine have to be up. Wether they are propped up on an ottoman, or curled up underneath me, in order to consider myself in a cozy position, my feet have to be up in some way. Now, I know this is technical and I’m getting very obsessive about this, but there are several things I take very seriously and being warm and happy are two of them. The only exception to my feet being up rule, is if I’m swinging. If I’m in a swing, like the one pictured below, I can totally over look my feet touching the ground.

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Reading nooks for nature lovers pin.

The above pin still checks most of our boxes: mood lighting and soft material. Plus, it opens the door for our 4th bonus box that is much harder to check, a gorgeous view.

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Now, the above reading nook checks off every box on our list, including our bonus one. It’s difficult to achieve the “nook” feel with a view because most nooks are in little corners, tucked away. But on the rare occasion, like the one above, you can tuck yourself away into a corner of windows and still stare off into the beauty around you while mulling over your fantasy book’s plot.

Do you have a favorite spot to read? What is most important for you in a cozy reading nook?