The Fairy Bookmother Advice Column: BookCation Edition

Courtney Smith
August 26 2020
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Your fairy bookmother (a.k.a., the wonderfully wise Courtney Smith) is back, responding to bookish questions that all of us voracious readers have every day. We hope you enjoy this bookish advice and be sure to send us your questions on Twitter with #FairyBookMother. Please note, this advice is for bookish entertainment only and not to be taken as professional advice. ?

My travel plans were canceled, but I was really looking forward to reading a page-turner on the plane. Should I save it for later or read it now?
—Ready for Takeoff 

Ready for Takeoff, I feel your pain. I had all my travel planned out with matching books for each flight, but, alas, we live in crazy times! Thankfully, the current state of the world does not preclude us from settling into a good story. I would suggest reading the book you had saved for your trip now. Too much has been taken from us this summer already; don’t let 2020 take your TBR pile, too! Honestly, I think the cancellation of your trip means you should not only read your planned travel book, but also treat yourself to at least one more book purchase to make up for the fact that you’ve probably seen too much of the inside of your home for the last few months.

If you think some of the impact of the story will be lost reading it in your living room instead of on a plane, may I suggest recreating a corner of said living room to be more airplane-like? Get your most uncomfortable chair and place it directly in the corner. Put another chair in front of it so your knees slightly touch it while you’re sitting. Lastly, close your windows and just circulate the air with a low- blowing fan right on your face. Level up: Have someone you’re living with (or a quarantine buddy) shake your chair for about 10 minutes to really get that turbulence feel going. Flying tuna-can atmosphere? Achieved! P.S. Need some advice on books that will take you to other places? Map out your BookCation across the USA with these titles.

Halp! My favorite book is being made into a movie, and I’m scared they’re going to mess it up!
—Concerned Bibliophile

I should really start a support group, Concerned Bibliophile, with the frequency in which I hear this concern. A book-to-movie adaptation is always bittersweet: you can’t wait to see your favorite story brought to life, but you know that, inevitably, your brain will pick apart every inconsistency until it’s more like an English essay instead of a fun two hours. However, don’t fret. With the proper precautions, you will be able to enjoy both the book and the movie.

First and most important, do not feed the temptation to reread the book right before the movie comes out. This will cause all the minor details and plot intricacies to be in the forefront of your mind, and you’ll inevitably hate the movie. You can read the book again after you’ve seen and enjoyed it on the big screen. I would say a six-month window is good, though a year is better. Second, remind yourself of adaptations you honestly enjoyed. A recent one in my memory is P.S. I Still Love You, the much-anticipated sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Not only are both books fantastic, but the first movie was so amazing. I didn’t know how a sequel adaptation could ever live up to expectation. In reality, the second movie exceeded my expectations and I actually came to enjoy the differences in plot and characters from the book (shocking, I know). This leads me to my third point and some hard truths: you have to meet the movie where it is and not expect a line-for-line remake. It’s unrealistic that a movie can recreate a book down to the most minor details. Remember, the production company wouldn’t have optioned the book if they didn’t love it, so they’re going to do their best to translate the story to the screen, but it’s a compromise. Finally, try your best to go in with an open mind and an open heart. These are characters you love! Give them the benefit of the doubt. If worse comes to worse, you can always fall back on an adage for the ages, “The book was better.” 

My books keep getting bent and ripped when I travel. What do I do?
—Clumsy Traveler 

Clumsy Traveler, your question made me cringe because there’s nothing I hate more than damaging a book. I’ve done it more times than I care to count, and each time it still hurts. It’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it? Either leave your book at home and risk boredom or bring it and risk permanent damage. Clearly, leaving the book behind isn’t going to cut it, so here are some of my tried-and-true methods of safekeeping:

  • If traveling by plane and packing away your book, situate it between layers of clothes and leave plenty of room around all four sides.
  • If bringing it as a carry-on, either carry it onto the plane or pack it between something hard (i.e., laptop, tablet, journal) and something soft (i.e., toiletry bag, snacks).
  • Going to the park or an outside coffee shop space or friend’s yard? Stand it up in a tote bag, on the side that will rest against your hip, and put something soft or light in front of it.

A few other options:

  • Download the e-book or audiobook (either purchase or borrow through your library).
  • Buy a protective case (I personally use a Book Beau).
  • If you’re traveling with a hardcover, leave the jacket cover at home.

Where should I go to read outside? I’m looking for tips for social distancing while still getting sun in the city.
—Deficient in Vitamin D

Vitamin D Deficient friend, you and I, we are the same. This is a cause near and dear to my vitamin D–deficient heart because I’m terrible at remembering to take this supplement and thus, spending as much time as possible in the sun is integral to my health. I also live in a one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment that does not have a balcony or outdoor space (I can only dream). Lucky for all of us, there is still nature to be discovered in the midst of all the concrete. I love reading at the park or on the beach, so if you’re near one of those, definitely take advantage! Stay safe by going early when less people are out, bringing a large blanket or tarp to stake out your space, and wearing a mask if you notice a lot of people walking by or sitting too close. I suggest a face covering that says: “Do Not Disturb, I’m Reading!” A café with outdoor seating is a good option, but that may be hard to come by nowadays, especially if there’s too much adjacent foot traffic. Another idea: find your local library and see if they have outdoor seating! Just make sure to bring a disinfectant wipe or two to wipe down the surface before settling in. Also, consider searching around on Google maps for those elusive green squares and make your way over to one. Worst-case scenario, you just got a good walk in!  If you live in NYC, be sure to check out this article about great reading spots.

I need the perfect beach read NOW. Don’t let me down.
—Desperate for Escape

Desperate for Escape, okay, okay! Your fairy bookmother is here and she has brought a great selection. (Yes, I’m speaking about myself in the third person and surviving quarantine just fine.) I’ve recently devoured a fantastic bunch of books that I think will serve you well (see list below). And if you want even more suggestions, check out these titles that are sure to take you on a BookCation.

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The Key to Happily Ever After
by Tif Marcelo

I’m pretty sure we can all agree that one of the best forms of escape is the rom-com. It’s a classic for a reason! Not only does The Key to Happily Ever After fit the bill, it’s also a story about sisterhood (we love) and the wedding industry (the craziest things always happen!). The de la Rosa sisters are determined to take over the family wedding planning business from their retired parents, but there’s a lot to learn about how to keep everyone involved happy and on schedule. Not only are they trying to rein in hysterical brides and grooms, but the sisters are looking for love themselves. Talk about feel-good fiction that will ease your stress—for a couple of hours at least!

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The Key to Happily Ever After
Tif Marcelo

One of BuzzFeed’s “Books Coming Out This Summer That You Need to Seriously Read” * One of Bustle’s “New Romance Novels to Make Your Spring Reading Even Dreamier Than You Imagined”

A charming romantic comedy about three sisters who are struggling to keep the family wedding planning business afloat—all the while trying to write their own happily-ever-afters in the process.

All’s fair in love and business.

The de la Rosa family and their wedding planning business have been creating happily ever afters in the Washington, DC area for years, making even the most difficult bride’s day a fairytale. But when their parents announce their retirement, the sisters—Marisol, Janelyn, and Pearl—are determined to take over the business themselves.

But the sisters quickly discover that the wedding business isn’t all rings and roses. There are brides whose moods can change at the drop of a hat; grooms who want to control every part of the process; and couples who argue until their big day. As emotions run high, the de la Rosa sisters quickly realize one thing: even when disaster strikes—whether it’s a wardrobe malfunction or a snowmageddon in the middle of a spring wedding—they’ll always have each other.

Perfect for fans of the witty and engaging novels of Amy E. Reichert and Susan Mallery, The Key to Happily Ever After is a fresh romantic comedy that celebrates the crucial and profound power of sisterhood.

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Big Friendship
by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

One positive thing about social distancing, at least for me, was the reuniting of my friends from college. At the beginning of this mess, we all made the effort to FaceTime together once a week. We’d do crafts, talk about our lives, and have fun! Since then, the big group calls have faded to maybe once a month (though I still do sheet masks with one friend every Monday). Sometimes, the best way to escape is to go back to those who bring comfort and happiness. For this reason, I recommend reading Big Friendship. I started reading it after attending a virtual event with the authors and became hooked! As the podcasters behind Call Your Girlfriend, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman know what it takes to make long distance friendships work. Tell all of your friends to download a copy and make it your next (or first) book club pick!

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Big Friendship
Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

A close friendship is one of the most influential and important relationships a human life can contain. Anyone will tell you that! But for all the rosy sentiments surrounding friendship, most people don’t talk much about what it really takes to stay close for the long haul.

Now two friends, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, tell the story of their equally messy and life-affirming Big Friendship in this honest and hilarious book that chronicles their first decade in one another’s lives. As the hosts of the hit podcast Call Your Girlfriend, they’ve become known for frank and intimate conversations. In this book, they bring that energy to their own friendshipits joys and its pitfalls.

Aminatou and Ann define Big Friendship as a strong, significant bond that transcends life phases, geographical locations, and emotional shifts. And they should know: the two have had moments of charmed bliss and deep frustration, of profound connection and gut-wrenching alienation. They have weathered life-threatening health scares, getting fired from their dream jobs, and one unfortunate Thanksgiving dinner eaten in a car in a parking lot in Rancho Cucamonga. Through interviews with friends and experts, they have come to understand that their struggles are not unique. And that the most important part of a Big Friendship is making the decision to invest in one another again and again.

An inspiring and entertaining testament to the power of society’s most underappreciated relationship, Big Friendship will invite you to think about how your own bonds are formed, challenged, and preserved. It is a call to value your friendships in all of their complexity. Actively choose them. And, sometimes, fight for them.

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The Black Kids
by Christina Hammonds Reed

Another form of escapism is to become so engrossed with a story, you have to read it through to the very end in one sitting—and then talk about it with everyone you know. For that kind of escapism, I recommend The Black Kids by Christine Hammonds Reed. A YA novel hailed by #1 New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone as “required reading,” this is a book you don’t want to miss. The story follows Ashley in 1992 Los Angeles as her senior year in high school winds down and she’s spending more time at the beach with her friends than ever. Everything changes when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a Black man named Rodney King half to death. This changes Ashley from just one of the girls to one of the Black kids. She does her best to keep moving forward even as her sister gets involved in the riots and her family’s reputation crumbles, but where does she go from here? Ashley and Los Angeles are at a pivotal moment to decide what they will do and become.

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The Black Kids
Christina Hammonds Reed

A New York Times bestseller

“Should be required reading in every classroom.” —Nic Stone, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin
“A true love letter to Los Angeles.” —Brandy Colbert, award-winning author of Little & Lion
“A brilliantly poetic take on one of the most defining moments in Black American history.” —Tiffany D. Jackson, author of Grown and Monday’s Not Coming

Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?

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The Girl from Widow Hills
by Megan Miranda

The escapism involved in this book is double-fold. The reader escapes into another thrilling novel from Megan Miranda and the main character, Arden, escapes into another life as Olivia. As a child, Arden sleepwalked outside, got swept away in a storm, and was miraculously found days later in a storm drain. Fast-forward 20 years and Arden is living as Olivia when she begins sleepwalking again. This time, she wakes up in her yard, the dead body of someone she used to know at her feet. What happens next? Get sucked into Miranda’s legendary storytelling with The Girl from Widow Hills.

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The Girl from Widow Hills
Megan Miranda

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last House Guest—a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick—comes a riveting new novel of psychological suspense about a young woman plagued by night terrors after a childhood trauma who wakes one evening to find a corpse at her feet.

Everyone knows the story of “the girl from Widow Hills.”

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows—from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again, in this propulsive page-turner from suspense master Megan Miranda.

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The Jackal
by J.R. Ward

It felt only right to round this list out with some romance because, let’s be real, I’m a romantic at heart. Don’t even ask how many of the 43 books I’ve read in quarantine were romances (answer: 24). What better way to escape than to dive not only into a romance, but a paranormal romance that begins a new spin-off series from legendary author J. R. Ward. The Jackal is the first book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood Prison Camp series. It follows Nyx as she ventures into a long-forgotten prison camp far below the earth’s surface, looking for her sister. There she meets the Jackal, who can’t stop himself from lending a helping hand. Will she find the answers she’s looking for? Will they escape or be lost to the prison forever?

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The Jackal
J.R. Ward

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sinner brings another hot adventure of true love and ultimate sacrifice in the Black Dagger Brotherhood world.

The location of the glymera’s notorious prison camp was lost after the raids. When a freak accident provides Nyx clues to where her sister may still be doing time, she becomes determined to find the secret subterranean labyrinth. Embarking on a journey under the earth, she learns a terrible truth—and meets a male who changes everything forever.

The Jackal has been in the camp for so long he cannot recall anything of the freedom he once knew. Trapped by circumstances out of his control, he helps Nyx because he cannot help himself. After she discovers what happened to her sister, getting her back out becomes a deadly mission for them both.

United by a passion they can’t deny, they work together on an escape plan for Nyx—even though their destiny is to be forever apart. And as the Black Dagger Brotherhood is called upon for help, and Rhage discovers he has a half-brother who’s falsely imprisoned, a devious warden plots the deaths of them all…even the Brothers.

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