Big Little Lies: Book Review

Big Little Lies: Book Review

No Spoilers

Thank god for Big Little Lies. I’ve been in a reading slump pretty much all this year, and the only books I have been able to complete are new adult. Sex has been the only motivator so far this year, but there is nothing more motivating than murder.

Big Little Lies is set in an idyllic, beach town in Australia. (To an American, all Australian towns are idyllic and on the beach tbh.) We tumble into the world of the most vicious animal in the kingdom: the mom. Soccer moms, moms on juice cleanses, career moms, moms who do yoga, and moms who commit murder. Madeline, Jane, and Celeste are the three stars of this show (quite literally, as well), and the story follows the highs and lows of their intersecting lives, leading up to the murder of someone. Everybody has secrets, and everybody has lies they tell the world and themselves. Big Little Lies tries to navigate the world of womanhood through the lens of motherhood, and I enjoyed myself for the entire ride.

My favorite part of the book was the Greek chorus of “witnesses”. Their testimonies are sprinkled between chapters, and they are used for comic relief or as an ominous warning to the danger that lies ahead. I loved the whip smart dialogue, and I am enjoying their incorporation into the HBO show. I loved Madeline, Jane, and Celeste. The author did a great job of creating three very distinct characters who sometimes fall into their tropes (the assertive one, the shy one, and the beautiful one) but she does it so expertly that it creates intimate connections with all the women very quickly and easily. I will say this book is quite funny, it doesn’t carry the sardonic, pessimistic tone of a Gillian Flynn novel, but it’s lightheartedness does not mean it does not have serious stakes. I found the ending very satisfying. It wrapped up everything nicely, but I’m pretty sure there is something ugly beneath that beautiful wrapping paper.


Rusty Fork V: Character-sitter

Rusty Fork V: Character-sitter

I don’t know if I explained earlier, but these posts are not going to be filled with advice. Don’t come here looking for a teacher. You will only find a novice writer and part-time adult doing the best she can, which is usually the bare minimum. The analytics say there are, on average, 20 of you who read each post, so I will keep entertaining you as best I can. I live to serve…my own selfish desires.

My characters have become real, living, breathing people. Sometimes, I want to cry because they are so much a part of me now. It’s like how people say you have mastered a language when you dream in that langauge. I am dreaming in the language of my characters. I know them, at least I think I do, and I am finding it easier to write scenes because their thoughts have become second nature.

Yes, I still have a long way to go, and sometimes I get frustrated at the characters because they don’t always do the things I want them to, but I love them through it all. I am an ill-prepared mother, raising these three children on my own, and I really hope I don’t accidentally kill one of them or forget one in a JC Penney. I am more like a 14-year-old on her first babysitting job, and I am terrified that something is going to go wrong. It is my duty to see these characters to the end because they deserve a story. This responsibility causes some stress, but I have never felt so fulfilled in an artistic endeavour.

So I keep writing, and I keep dreaming.

Maybe one day I will give you all a more substantial update, but I am keeping the story close to me for the time being.

Rusty Fork IV: Location, Location, Location

Rusty Fork IV: Location, Location, Location

A road trip down I-40 led me unexpectedly back to the town I was born in, and it’s the town that has inspired the location of my story. I do have a Pinterest board for inspiration, but it’s private. The afternoon was cathartic, and it was inspiring to see, smell, and hear the world I imagined in my head. I tried to picture my characters walking down similar sidewalks. It felt real because it was once real to me, even though I am so completely removed from that world now.

Enjoy a slice of small town life.


Rusty Fork I: The Why

Rusty Fork II: Strength

Rusty Fork III: The Tools

Moons Out of Molehills

Moons Out of Molehills

My grandpa once said the moon was mine. It’s the kind of scene that would open my biopic. It’s a simple story that I was reminded of many times growing up, and I even wrote a super, cheesy paper about it my freshman year of college when I thought I was hot shit. Are you going to tell us the story or what? Well dear reader, I was sitting on the back porch with my grandpa. He pointed to the moon and said, “The moon is yours.” I don’t remember his exact words. I can barely remember what I ate for lunch (broccoli cheddar bread bowl from Panera), but that is essentially what happened. I’m doing a horrible job introducing this post. Get ready for a quick change of tone…

I’ve been thinking about my history with depression and anxiety recently, and I’ve come to liken it to making a coin shine in a moonless night. Once in a while, you might find a street lamp, but it can seem like a hopeless task for most of the journey. I’m not saying that there is one right or one wrong way to handle these issues, but I do want to talk about my own struggles and where I am now.

I was always called a worrier or an over thinker. They were traits to trivialize or ignore. My mother would laugh it off, “That’s just Liz.” She didn’t do it out of carelessness or spite. I think, in her own way, she wanted to normalize what I was feeling so that I would feel normal. I am a sheet of paper. My mother is the paperweight on top. She has kept me grounded through the years. She is the one that suggested I try counseling. She is the one who told me to go for a run when I was getting anxious. She is not perfect, but she is perceptive and strong.

College created physical distance between us, but she was always there for me. I had a really hard time. A. really. hard. time. Sometimes I didn’t know if I would graduate. Sometimes I didn’t know if I would live. Some people say, “Oh man, college was the best years of my life.” Not me. You could not pay me to go back to that head space. The constant worry about my future. The worry. People forget how exhausting worry can be. There were days I was too tired to eat or sleep. I lost my freshman 15, and then I gained 30 back.I joined a sorority. I lived with roommates. I had a steady boyfriend. I should have been happy, and then I was angry when I wasn’t. I was angry that I couldn’t ride the bus to class because I had a panic attack the last time. I was angry that I couldn’t give my senior thesis presentation because I was worried about a panic attack. I was angry that I was worried and not living.

Being angry and sad and worried is exhausting.

I couldn’t tell you when things turned around. It’s funny how you can pin point all the sad moments in your life, but happiness is usually vague and undetectable. This post was never meant to be a how-to, more of a self-centered look at my own life, but I know it started to turn around. I moved back into my mom’s after graduating.I found a job, not a life changing career that fulfills me everyday, but it does help pay my student loans down and it keeps me in a routine. Routines keep me centered. When I am centered, it is easier to stay happy, normal. Find a routine. Be willing to break it at times. Know that you can always come back to it.

A lot of my anxiety stems from crowds and claustrophobia. This also led to a fear of public transportation. Avoid those triggers. Be vocal with friends. Work around it, and when you are ready, fight it. Find the strength to face it. You will be exhausted after. You might fail the first time or slip even when you are more seasoned. Sometimes the normalcy you are fighting for will feel like making a coin shine in a moonless night, but here is a little secret, normal is what you make normal.

Now back to the beginning to tie it all together. My grandpa was not theorizing that I had ownership of the moon, I don’t think I could afford the monthly payments and I assume it would get rather lonely, but that the reach of my life extends beyond my flesh, four walls, state, country, planet, and it travels past the moon and many other moons. I have not considered myself religious for a long time, but I believe there is something to everything we are doing. I take solace in this. I take comfort in this simple story that has created my own personal mythology.  I’ve learned to not pay attention to the coin. Look at the moon.Look at the stars. Look at the sun. They always come back. 

Rusty Fork III: The Tools

Rusty Fork III: The Tools

This will be the most visually stimulating post that I make in this series. I have mad respect for bookstagrammers who can actually take decent photos. Enjoy the harsh sunlight. I didn’t think about editing or adding filters to the photos until I wrote this sentence, and I am too lazy to go back now.
A) Neo 2 Alphasmart – deserves an explanation. Maybe one day I’ll do a post on it.
B) Laptop – self-explanatory
C) My Bible – this is where I plot and draft many of the scenes. The pages are scattered with quotes and descriptions that have not been used yet. I had a nightmare that someone broke into my car and stole it from me.
D) Sticky Notes
E) Pens and Highlighters
F) Progress Calendar – I stole this idea from VE Schwab. It’s an easy way to see what progress you’ve made and can be utilized in many different ways. Each stars represents something I have completed for the day: read for an hour, write/plan for an hour, and work out.
G) Plot Sticky Notes (different from regular sticky notes) – I’m a very tactile person and Scrivener wasn’t cutting it. I had a flash of genius a few weeks ago, and stuck up the basic plot points for the three main characters on my bedroom wall. It has helped tremendously.
H) Progress Stars – everybody loves a reward, even a sticker reward.
I) Plot Calendar – this plot calendar is much more detailed than the original plot hanging on my wall. The story takes place over three weeks, so this makes it easy to break down each character’s story day by day.
J) Candle – because it’s calming as shit.
K) Note cards
L) Books on writing – okay, sometimes books on writing can be cheesy as hell and very limiting, but you can always find a glimmer of inspiration from them. I have enjoyed the Write Great Fiction series shown above.
M) Kindle
N) Book with prompts – this book has become part of my nighttime routine. I pick one prompt and write a short paragraph from the perspective of a main character. It has helped A LOT at finding the voices.
O) Desk

Rusty Fork I: The Why

Rusty Fork II: Strength




Rusty Fork II: Strength

Rusty Fork II: Strength

Rusty Fork I

I’m roughly 5,500 words into a very rough draft. This is an idea that has been floating around for about a month. I’ve never had a story idea come so vividly and easily before, so I feel like this is a good sign. I’ve had ideas in the past. Many ideas. Usually my ideas start with a cinematic scene, more often than not it is a climatic scene. That one scene will play over and over in my head with different takes and actors and backgrounds, and I will start to formulate a story from there. Right out of college, I had one such idea. I will spare you the gory details, but it wasn’t good. I had another idea last year for a fantasy that I worked on extensively for about 6 months, but I hit a wall and was not able to recover. I still like it, but I have set it aside for now. I may pick it back up in a few more years when it has aged a bit because I loved the characters. The characters were the strength, not the setting. I need to find them a home that they are worthy of. Read more

Rusty Fork I: The Why

Rusty Fork I: The Why

I’m not going to regale you with a nauseating story about how I have always wanted to write. Okay, I will.

Storytelling has been my window to the world. It has taught me how to put emotions into words and pictures. I could lie and say reading was my first love, but really, movie theaters were my first love.

I have a complicated relationship with my father. There was a lot resentment and anger growing up, but there was, and has always been, love. My father is a man of few words, but his few words are booming and exact. I am a woman of few words, but mine are quiet and exact. This caused a lot of miscommunication and distance, physical and emotional, especially when I was a teenager. Our language and middle ground has always been movies. Instead of talking, you watch and listen,you collectively observe. The room is dark. The music swells. The plot takes you out of your own plot. Some people will find this form of escapism unhealthy, dodging the real issues, but in our own strange way, stories helped us to connect. I’ve seen my father cry more times in a movie theater than I’ve seen him cry outside of one. I’ve probably seen him cry more times than most children have seen their own fathers cry. When my father told me that he was divorcing my mother, it was on the way to see a movie. I like to think that connection we had with theaters gave him the strength to tell me the worst thing he has ever had to tell me. You would think that safe space would become sullied with such a horrible memory, but it became a thread that helped mend.

A story is vulnerable, and allowing yourself to connect with that vulnerability takes strength. Yes, most of the movies we see together have more guns than dialogue or have a 30 or lower percentage rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but they are our movies. And the our is the most important part.

Liz, why not be a scriptwriter? I think in another life I would have done this. I really do think there is another version of myself in an alternate universe who lives in LA and works on a CW show or something, but Hollywood scares me. There is so much room for failure and not a lot of people to help you up. Movies are almost religious to me, and I would be worried about my mental state when I became disillusioned (the me in this reality, not the other version of myself). Also, there are books.

I’ve spent a lot of time in this first post about writing a book talking about movies, but I thought it was important for you to see where I am coming from and where that could lead.

The scariest thing in the world is to tell someone, “I am writing” because there are a lot of implications and expectations attached. So here it goes,

I am writing.


A Post About Nothing (Please Excuse My NyQuil Daze)

A Post About Nothing (Please Excuse My NyQuil Daze)

I am currently sick and out of commission. I just took NyQuil, so please excuse my writing if it becomes incoherent. I haven’t been reading the last few days, which explains the lack of book reviews, and I am currently plotting a story that has taken over my life. I won’t reveal too much, but it is a family dramedy. It’s crass. It’s dark. It’s inappropriate at times. I have a handful of scenes in rough stages, and I am putting the pieces together and filling the cracks. I hope to have a working rough draft in the next few weeks. I’ll leave you with one line,

“He was a corn-fed body with jazz eyes. Girls whispered about his love-making like he was a folklore hero.”

The story currently involves furniture making, script writing, and a lot of jokes about vaginas. Wish me luck.

A West Wing gif for literally no other reason than the fact that I like it.

xoxox zzzzzzzzzz zzz zzz zz

The Mistake: Book Review

The Mistake: Book Review

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You know in my review for The Deal  where I said I could read about hockey bros all day? I could read about hockey bros all day EXCEPT for John Logan AKA Logan. Ugh, could that name be anymore white bread? Yes, I can turn a carb into an adjective if this book is going to call itself a love story. This whole book is a mistake, but people did warn me that the first and third book in the series were the best, so I guess that automatically means the second is the worst.

The Mistake is about Logan and Grace. Grace is a lackluster freshman. Logan is a cookie cutter hunk. Logan makes a *~mistake~* and spends the rest of the book trying to show Grace he is a good guy who deserves a second chance. The story lacks the charm of The Deal, and I really didn’t enjoy it.

Grace and Logan’s hook up spots are the absolute worst. They dry hump in the closet of a movie theater. I had a friend who worked at a movie theater in high school, and I will never forget his horror stories. When they would turn the lights on to clean, he could see the rats scurry up and down the aisles. Is that an acceptable place to hook up?? Dry humping is nauseating as well. When has dry humping ever been hot and not awkward? They also hook up in the bathroom of a frat house. I have been in a frat bathroom a time or two, and that is literally the worst place you could ever imagine. What turns you on? The mold or the crusty Playboys? The empty roll of toilet paper or the pubic hair? You are more likely to get a staph infection than an orgasm in a frat bathroom. Grace needs someone to teach her standards. Woo her in a goddamn bed with clean sheets.

I was waiting for my car at Autobell because a flock of birds left purple shit spots all over it when I read the scene of Grace losing her V-card, and believe me, my story of a carwash was more entertaining than their sex. Logan came off super creepy, always calling her “babe” and “gorgeous” and asking if she was alright. Gag me with a spoon. Grace says in the first chapters of the book that she doesn’t care about her V-card, but they treat it like a fucking event. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think losing your virginity is something to disregard, but it is also not something you should have a parade for. I  don’t feel like the author had a good handle on the middle ground, which I think she was going for.

There was a whole side plot about Logan’s family life and growing up in a dead end town, blah blah, he eventually conquers that and the woman he loves. Hooray.

Overall, this story wasn’t for me. The characters were boring and the sex was recycled. I could write a love story about Publix brand yogurt that is more compelling than The Mistake. Actually, don’t mind if I do…

I was young. I was wild and lost. There is no safe haven at 26. The future was a bleak path that I could not turn back from, and then you walked into my life, something strange and wonderful. There was hope in your eyes. You were smooth and fulfilling and only 200 calories. You showed me that there were many paths that I could walk–raspberry, mixed berry, mango–and you would be there to hold my hand. There was a strength to your silence, and I will always love you, Publix Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt.

 1 out of 5 disembodied male torso and one Publix yogurt


The Deal: Book Review

The Deal: Book Review

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This is After Hours Liz, so if you don’t like talking about penises, check out my review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Guys, I have no idea what fucking happened. One minute, I am browsing Goodreads because I am really bored with Crooked Kingdom (yeah, I said it), the grass always looks greener in some other book you don’t own, and the next thing I know, I am buying The Deal by Elle Kennedy. I seriously don’t know what happened. I was never against new adult, but it was something that was never on my radar. I’ve read like one or two romance novels in my day, mostly when I was in high school, sneaking them from my aunt’s collection at Thanksgiving, but I had never really felt the true power of romance. This book was like the first boy (or girl) you ever kissed, messy at times, completely awkward, but full of lust and sincerity. For the record, my first kiss, was with a boy named Cameron in a movie theater during Into The Blue with Jessica Alba and Paul Walker. The movie was horrible and so was the make out, but I digress.

This book blew me away. I am sorrrryy there are so many cheeky innuendos in this review. How can I pass them up?? I did not expect to like this book that much. It is told in dual prospective between college juniors, Garrett and Hannah. Garrett is your typical jock with a heart of gold and a penis of note, and Hannah is a studious, music geek with “narrow hips”, make what you will out of that, and a troubled past. Actually they both have troubling pasts, but they are the optimistic types I would liken to golden retrievers. The plot is the screenplay Jennifer Love Hewitt, riding high on her success in the late 90s, would have passed on, but good god, this book swept me off my feet like a blushing virgin. The dialogue is unbelievable (not the good unbelievable) at best but there is so much wit, and I loved the quirky situations our main characters found themselves in. The depiction of college is LAUGHABLE (and not the good kind), but I still found myself enjoying the world these characters roamed. Look, it’s not Hemingway, but does it have to be by a dead guy to be good? No, Hemingway could not write good sex like Kennedy. I loved, loved the main characters. They were well-rounded and they made me care. Garrett could have easily given off stalker vibes, but the author does a good job of playing the persistent suitor in a new way, and I can’t tell if she’s poking fun at the overused trope or not. Hannah is a strong character and downright funny.

The Deal handles heavy subjects. Abuse and rape, but it never comes off gimmicky or exploitive. Hannah tells us on the very first page that she was raped in high school. Rape is an important part of Hannah’s development but it does not become her defining characteristic. She shows that acceptance and resilience can be found among tragedy. Garrett does not fall into a savior role. He helps her to flower (god, I know it’s terrible, bear with me). She already has the power; she just needs help finding her groove. I found their stories honest and rooted for each to find happiness and peace.

Now the sex. Yes, kids we are going talk about sex. Fab-fucking-tastic. The first sex scene between the two main characters features no penetration, but was literally hotter than any sex scene I have ever read. Her scenes make Sarah J Maas’ sex scenes look like the Mojave Desert. Kennedy’s sex scene would literally KO Maas’s sex scenes and get a 35-million-dollar endorsement deal from Nike. I know that sex is a slippery (sorry) subject for some. Not so much for the actually act(s) but because sex is all about comfort and preference. We all know what we are into, or at least what we aren’t. I found the scenes were tailor-made to put a woman’s thoughts first which is so refreshing, especially coming (ha) from an English major who was forced to read the Tropic of Cancer and listen to her professor lecture on the sex scenes (true story, bro). Yes, the story isn’t perfect. Yes, I cringed at times from the ridiculous “deal”, a plot point that is abandoned at the halfway mark, but found myself laughing out loud (literal lols, people) multiple times. I was giddy and obsessed. I was satisfied…with the reading experience.

I know that this series is a quartet with each book focusing on one of Garrett’s roommates, and I will be picking them up. I hope the Kennedy makes a whole series about every fucking member of that hockey team, and the janitors, and the dude who rides the Zamboni. I could read about annoying jocks and bated breaths all day.

Four out of five disembodied male torsos

(took off a star for the clunky plot and for too many mentions of Justin Bieber).

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