unapologetically yours, KJ

by Jackie Ferrari in #AmReading

some books and also some thoughts

This is a weekly-ish email about books.

But it is also a weekly-ish email about me, the reader and writer behind the weekly-ish email about books. If you vibe with my books, it’s quite likely, that you will vibe with, well, my general vibe. Thus, below, a bit of a riff on 2024 and what I want to bring to it. But if you’re just here for the reads, no worries, I got you! Let’s start with those. First, my latest read: This Spells Love, a delightful little timeline glitch/multiverse/roads-not-traveled that teach a much-needed lesson romance that also serves up a good sisters story. This one was a BOTM; it earned its place in the box.

My latest DNF involved a protagonist turning 40 and bemoaning such, with all the accompanying cliches about women and mothers and suburbs and… yeah. Word to the wise: if you want to write a novel about benchmark birthdays (and these can be great) try not to alienate any reader who has already celebrated that particular benchmark in the first chapter, even if you plan to redeem your protagonist later… because we may not hang around that long.

And I’m halfway through two popular picks, and I feel confident with both in telling you that they deliver—because so many other people have loved them, and I’m happy so far. If either Inheritance from Nora Roberts or Meet Me at the Lake from Carley Fortune have been tempting you, go ahead and pop them on the cart. Meet Me at the Lake is dual timeline, which I don’t always love, but I’ve figured out that it works for me if there are questions to answer in both timelines, and especially if, as here, the protagonist seems still stuck where she was ten years ago. Inheritance is serious long-lost-uncle-haunted-manor, and the fun of this, so far, is that the humans can do everything right and be rockstars (not literally) but the ghosts still gonna mess things up.

And—arriving Tuesday is a book I blurbed that also delivers on its back-of-book copy. The Gardins of Edin is the story of four women in a close-knit Georgia clan whose family ties are fraying—and yes, it’s something of a retelling/continuation of the biblical stories. This one sets it up big and serves it with drama, and once again, what I tell you is that it delivers on its promise.

That gets us off to a good bookish start! Next week I’ll drop a quick list of my most-enjoyed reads of 2023, the ones that stuck in my head and that I constantly press into people’s hands. But for now:

Looking ahead to 2024, I hereby declare that I have wasted far too much time worrying far too hard about far too many things, and it is time to stop. Honestly, kids, sometimes I feel like I’m apologizing just for existing in this time and this space! That’s why my word for 2024 is UNAPOLOGETIC, and here is just a sampling of the things I need to quit apologizing for:

Good things.

Bad things; which are not as bad as the bad things that happen to other people but which still feel bad to me.

The styrofoam SOMEONE ELSE put in the box with the thing I ordered; my failure to do something appropriate with

Online ordering; external costs associated with

My lack of interest in: that Netflix show, college basketball, the details of a political scandal that are just depressing

My shoe and bag and coat collections. (They’re collections, I tell you.)

The fact that I did not cook dinner tonight.

My failure to respond to your email like, yesterday.

I’m not the only person feeling the need to take my mind back from worries about what other people think or think I should think or expect me to do or pay attention to. These words, from Dan Blank, in his weekly newsletter on gaining clarity finding space to do your thing (Which you can and should subscribe to HERE) made be get up from my computer and shout YES. This is what I need:

[M]aybe it’s okay to not care about every single thing in the world. To not feel the pressure to know everything, have an opinion on everything, show up everywhere, and to check of every box in a seemingly endless to-do list.

I DO think that’s okay. No, it’s necessary. For me, and for you.

Finally, if you’ve hung with me this far, I want to leave you with these words from my friend Nancy Davis Kho in her latest email (which you can subscribe to here), who managed to write exactly what I needed to hear, and maybe you do too:

In the run-up until Christmas, one of the most delightful things I spied on the Instagram was the White House’s video of a tap dance troupe riffing on The Nutcracker while they provided a tour of this year’s Christmas decorations. As a ballet mom and veteran of the Nutcracker Wars myself, I delight in Nutcracker-adjacent content, and this video was so upbeat and fresh and cheerful.

Then I made the mistake of reading the comments from what appeared to be an equal mix of conservative and liberal people, finally united together under one question: “How dare you have fun, when there is bad stuff happening in the world?” To which I could only think, in open-mouthed wonder, is that not the entire point of life? To experience joy when it finds us, despite the fact that bad stuff is happening in the world?

I’m not for a second arguing that we shouldn’t also do what we can to mitigate the awfulness we encounter, nor put our heads in the sand with a collective “shuffle-off-to-Buffalo it’s not my problem” refrain. What I’m saying is that, personally speaking, if ALL I do is focus on the awfulness, I have a vastly reduced store of energy and motivation to get involved in fixing what’s broke. Why invest in saving the world when you’ve come to believe it’s beyond repair? It’s too much, when all you see is darkness.

I’ve learned that if I want to stay upright and functional, I need tap dancers in Sugar Plum Fairy outfits to remind me that we live in a world where joy and pain will take turns leading. ... 

What. Is. The. Point. Of not letting Joy knock on your door, when Grief steps up and hammers it like a vacuum cleaner salesman with a monthly quota to hit? DUDE. That’s what the peephole is for! Let the right one in! (Not in the sense of the horror movie of the same name.)As this trying year comes to a close, my wish for all of you is that joy pours into the cracks and crevices in your life, and that you don’t feel guilty for allowing it to wash over you when it arrives.

Kids (and I say this literally with a bottle of DayQuil clutched in one hand and that Nora Roberts book in the other)—let’s let the right one in!

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