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First story published!

I am officially a published author. My novella, Dear Meri Winters, released on July 8th as an independently published book. It has been uploaded to KDP so can be purchased on Kindle, and I am waiting for it publish to various distributors through Draft2Digital. This contemporary holiday romance novella is first standalone book in the…

Happy Vappu!

May 1st is Vappu Day in Finland! Of course, they start celebrating the day before 🙂 According to the site Open Holidays, “The Finnish name ‘Vappu’ originates from an 8th-century German saint called Walpurgis, who was canonised on May 1st 870 AD.” I’ve read it has roots in paganism, upper class families, and later became…

An Evening with Dasha Kelly

The evening was intimate. If intimate can be me, one of my friends, and dozens of other area residents. From the moment Dasha spoke, I was hooked. Her words made me think, laugh, tear up. It felt personal. Dasha Kelly Hamilton’s ability to convey feeling and emotion in her words was transfixing. As an anonymous…

The Homing Instinct

The Homing Instinct by Bernd Heinrich is a collection of essays on animal migration and home-building and what it means to be at home. Today’s blog post is the third in my bibliotherapy/self-development series. The idea of home resonated with me when I saw this book at the library because I have moved a fair…

Daily Observations #96

The title is misleading. I have not made daily observations for 96 days in a row. Maybe I should. I’m doing an exercise in awareness and non-fiction writing. I’m writing what I see. I’m letting words flow. In one of her books, Natalie Goldberg tells a story that involves her and her friend sitting in…

Amish Grace

Hi, fellow readers! Today’s book blog post is about the non-fiction book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy. I first heard of this book when watching a Badger Talks presentation entitled “Who are the Amish?” It was hosted by the Augusta Memorial Public Library and presented by University of Wisconsin Professor Mark Louden (who is…

Catherine House

Today’s book review is of Elisabeth Thomas’s debut novel Catherine House. I read this novel as an e-book, and the cover is so lovely and I liked the story so much that I am going to be buying a physical book for my collection. I don’t care if I there isn’t enough room on my…

The Truth About Grief

This book discussion/review about The Truth About Grief is the second blog post in my bibliotherapy and self-development series. In this series of blog posts, I will post about some non-fiction works I’m reading and what I get out of them, as well as how I think they are helpful and useful. Fiction books are…

The Secret Power of Middle Children

The Secret Power of Middle Children: How Middleborns Can Harness Their Unexpected and Remarkable Abilities by Catherine Salmon, PhD, and Katrin Schumann is the first book I’m exploring in my bibliotherapy and self-development series. It is a research-backed exploration of the feelings and actions that middleborns make in the world. With regards to relationships among…

Bibliotherapy and Me (and You)

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Do not take medical advice from this post or any Oak & River Books content. Please reach out to a medical professional if you have questions, need advice, or want help. This is for entertainment purposes only. I encourage you to do your own search into any topic…

Meet Me in Madrid

I love that the plot centers around two women who were passionate about their careers and love lives. Recognizing our own values and goals greatly determines the decisions we make in regard to work and relationships.

Into the Abaddon and Author Q+A

Wesley Newman makes his published novel debut with science fantasy novel Into the Abaddon. Read on for details about the book, my thoughts, and a special guest interview with author Wesley Newman! The BookVincent, Sarah, Grace, and Karl are working together on a teleportation project when Vincent finally makes a breakthrough. After his work is…

Crow Planet

Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt is an exploration of wildlife in the urban setting. What happens when wildlife and humans mix in the suburbs, in the city? Crow Planet is the 2009 Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award winner. Their website calls Crow Planet, “A book that is a call to experience the wildlife in…

Olga Dies Dreaming

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez is a whirlwind story centered around Olga and Prieto, the adult children of Puerto Rican visionaries whose lives are largely dictated by their parents despite their parents’ absences.

Things We Lost to the Water

Eric Nguyen’s debut novel Things We Lost to the Water is a breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreaking account of a family making their way in a new place, trying to hold on to the past while making room for the future.

Everything’s Trash, but It’s Okay

Through hardships such as financial struggles and workaholism, to successes like meeting Bono and Oprah and building a podcast following, Phoebe Robinson shares stories that are relatable and humorous.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline tells the story of a young girl named Coraline – adamantly not Caroline; people just can’t seem to get her name right! Coraline Jones, along with her mother and father, move into an old, large house that’s been refurbished into apartments. The one next to the Jones’ apartment is empty, and the…

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Can you tell I’m on a Ruth Ware kick? The first Ruth Ware novel I read was The Death of Mrs. Westaway, then In a Dark, Dark Wood, followed by The Woman in Cabin 10, and finally The Turn of the Key. Ware’s books present just the right amount of description without being mundane, and…

What Storm, What Thunder by Myriam J. A. Chancy

Myriam J. A. Chancy’s What Storm, What Thunder is a fiction novel that explores the lives of multiple characters as their choices and circumstances lead them to where they will be during the fateful 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti, which ultimately resulted in the injuries or deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Secrets and lies come together quite swimmingly in this chilling tale. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware is a suspenseful mystery about a woman named Lo Blacklock, a journalist who ends up with passage on a brand-new, sleek 10-cabin luxury liner called the Aurora. Right away, Lo is thrown off when she borrows…

Malice by Heather Walter

Malice by Heather Walter is the fairytale story of Aurora, Sleeping Princess, spun on its head once again. Seriously, though, the history of Sleeping Beauty is kind of a whirlwind. Alyce – who her Grace sisters unaffectionately call Malyce – is the Dark Grace, part human, part Vila. The other Graces serve up blood elixirs…

Brave Love by A. M. Kusi

In today’s post, we have a review of Brave Love and a Q+A with Ash and Marcus Kusi, the husband-and-wife duo who comprise A. M. Kusi and have over a dozen stories under their belts. Brave Love Brave Love is part of A. M. Kusi’s Shattered Cove Series and can be read as a standalone.…

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

Are you looking for your next winter read? I enjoyed The Holiday Swap so much, I read it in one day! The Holiday Swap is a fun and light-hearted holiday romance by duo Karma Brown and Marissa Stapley, who both have successful independent careers as writers. The Holiday Swap features twins Cass and Charlie, two…

Q+A and Review! Sequenced by Elayna R. Gallea

Happy publication day to Sequenced, Book 1 of the Sequencing Chronicles! In today’s post, you’ll get a synopsis of Sequenced, my review, and a Q+A with our special guest, Sequencing Chronicles author Elayna R. Gallea! As with all citizens of Tiarny, Nellie is due to be sequenced when she turns 18. The sequencing process places…

The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell

The Truth About Melody Browne is the first novel I read by Lisa Jewell. I thought it was going to be more of a murder mystery/thriller, but it had a quieter suspense. Melody Browne goes to a hypnotist’s performance, and while there is selected to go on stage and is hypnotized to perform as a…

Hooked by Emily McIntire

(content warning for Hooked: 18+ content, kidnapping, death) While I’m getting more into romance in general, dark romance is not a wagon I have hitched myself to in the past. Emily McIntire’s Hooked may have me… intrigued. You thought I was going to write “hooked” didn’t you? In Emily McIntire’s retelling of the classic Peter…

The Woman in the Window/ The Art vs The Artist

Can you separate the art from the artist? I can. We all can. But it’s a conscious choice, and we don’t always do it. Below I provide a review of the book, followed by some information about the author. The rest is up to you. The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn is…

The Demon of Yodok – Adria Carmichael

The Demon of Yodok tells the story of Areum and her family as they are taken from their home and brought to live in a re-education facility far removed from the society they are used to in the capital city. At this facility, they are put to work to enforce the core values that they…

“Black Like Me” – Mickey Guyton and John Howard Griffin

While watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with my son, a new episode came on featuring country music star Mickey Guyton as the Wanderin’ Warbler. I remember seeing on social media that Mickey Gutyon was going to be a new character, and was excited to see it for myself! Mickey Guyton’s voice is so beautiful and she…

Ricochet Day & Q+A with Noel Silvia

Everything we do, even the smallest of things, matters.” With Ricochet Day, author Noel Silvia delivers another sweeping tale of the interconnectedness of humankind. The stories we tell, the memories we collect, and the encounters we share with others reach farther than we can imagine. The further you delve into Ricochet Day, the more the…

What’s new?

Hello friends! It has been a couple months since my last post. This past summer, I separated from the military, sold my house, and moved across the country. In September, I began a new job that I was excited for – perhaps too excited. The organization itself ended up not being a good fit. My…

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

Fifty Words for Rain is at once achingly sad and poetically beautiful. I love a heart-wrenching plot and complex characters, and Asha Lemmie delivers in one sweep with her debut novel. Prepare to get lost in the range of emotions you’ll feel at every turn. Whether it’s friendship, siblinghood, parenthood, hope, or survival, there is…

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

CW/TW: depression, suicide, death Nora Seed is trapped – in the Midnight Library. Matt Haig’s latest novel The Midnight Library tells the story of a woman named Nora, who finds herself in the ultimate position between choice and fear of the unknown. After a series of events leaves Nora feeling despondent, unwanted, and more alone…

Viaticum by Patrick Morgan

“Paradise has a price. It isn’t just a job, it’s his dream job. This is everything he’s worked for and everything he deserves. One job offer, and Ethan Birch’s life changes forever. Given immense creative control, power, and perks, Ethan falls deeply under the company’s spell. His Beverly Hills office is a modern mecca, complete…

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

Can you repair a betrayal before it even happens? Should you even try? Half Sick of Shadows is a reimagined, magical story of the Lady of Shalott, also known as Elaine of Astolat. As a child, Elaine is plagued by visions which her mother – not wanting her to face the hardships of being an…

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Have you read The Lost Apothecary? If not, add it to your tbr! In present-day London, Caroline goes mudlarking and finds an old apothecary bottle that leads her on an exciting journey of personal and historical discovery. At the end of the 18th century, apothecary Nella finds an unexpected friend in young Eliza. When a…

Here for It by R. Eric Thomas

Here for It was meant to be my next treadmill read – that is, the book I read while walking on my treadmill. Eventually, I became too engrossed in the book and gave up on the treadmill part. I know R. Eric Thomas would understand 🙂 This book is FUNNY! I laughed out loud multiple…

The Last Tree Town by Beth Turley

In The Last Tree Town, Cassi Chord is coming to terms with growing up – identity, culture, heritage, sisterhood, friendships, family dynamics, and mental health are all important elements of Beth Turley’s latest work. “It’s been forty-seven days since our last night of s’mores and scary stories. The number forty-seven has too many sharp edges.”…

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

Things The Sanatorium has: murder, mystery, history, anticipation, and an unforgettable ending. I finished this book on a cold, grey, drizzly night. Definitely spent the next hour or two feeling like there was someone watching me. Thanks a lot, Sarah! *accusatory but secretly thrilled stare in her direction* One of the reasons I like this…

Alluring Bald Cypress Trees at Two Texas Parks

Bald cypress trees are delightful, intricate works of art. Luckily, I live a short drive from many great locations to view these beauties. The two locations I’m highlighting today are the Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne, TX and Cypress Bend Park in New Braunfels, TX. The trail at the Cibolo Nature Center has quickly become…

Wine, Bread, and Hiking? Castroville, Texas Has It All!

This post was updated on 4 April 2021 to include information about the Castroville Poppy House. Texas travel and tourism has no shortage of small-town stopping points. One of my favorite things about Texas is that travel here often involves history, nature, or some combination of the two. Today’s post is about Castroville, “the Little…

Letters to an Author: Dear Michael Crichton

This is the first of a series called Letters to an Author. What authors have influenced and inspired you? What did you like or dislike about them? How did they change how you perceive the world? * * * Dear Michael Crichton, For making sci-fi feel accessible, I thank you. I have never considered myself…

Bloom Where You’re Planted: Q+A with Hannah!

Bloom where you’re planted. Today’s post explores the benefits of houseplants and gardening. Gardening can be rewarding mentally, physically, spiritually, and even economically. Bringing the outside in brightens up living spaces and helps with air quality – not to mention the sweet scents of the flowers! Read on to explore Hannah’s love of plants -…

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam is not your typical suspense novel. The best way to describe Leave the World Behind is that it is somehow both subtle and specific. Human nature + the unknown + what we do when we are put to the test are themes throughout. I will not lie -…

Happiness Week + Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies

Over the course of multiple weeks, I read Tara Schuster’s Buy Yourself the F*cking Lillies while working out on my treadmill. It took some adjusting, I assure you. I’ve read on a stationary bike before but the treadmill was a new ballgame. I would definitely recommend that you do not read this book while on…

Author Q+A with Alma Gray

Alma Gray is the pseudonym of Serenity Brame and the author behind Lucid Lies, a self-described collection of dark and passionate poetry. Released in 2020, Lucid Lies was a work years in the making and explores the rawest parts of ourselves. Poetry can be used to both escape and explore reality. I like to think…

Discussion: Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

Mikki Kendall’s “Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot” is FULL of important information. Feminism is not just for women and is not just about women – but so much of it is about women using their voices to help. Mikki Kendall’s essays will inspire you to think twice about your actions…

Writer Igniter Prompt: The Masked Magician

Good morning, friends! Today’s post is inspired by the diyMFA writer igniter. I have used this tool a handful of times and want to start using it more to build my writing habit. diyMFA offers tons of info on writing, reading, and building your community. You will love it! Today I am sharing a short…

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman tells the story of Maria Owens – a young witch, afraid to fall in love, afraid to let anyone have power over her being. I remember watching Practical Magic with my mom and my sister, thinking – obviously – how cool it would be to be able to do magic.…

A Morning at the Mobile Botanical Gardens

I recently visited the Mobile Botanical Gardens with my son! We were greeted by one of the on-site cats, provided some fish food for the little pond, and encouraged to head up the hill to visit the chickens. If that doesn’t entice you, it is also leashed-dog friendly! The Mobile Botanical Gardens are known for…

Vicious by V. E. Schwab

Vicious tells the story of Victor and Eli: college buddies, roommates, handsome and intelligent, and striving for excellence. And it presents an ultimate question – What will you do to be a hero? Victor and Eli are ambitious. Their experiments in near-death experiences lead them down a path of no return. Will they go beyond…

The Binding by Bridget Collins

Happy 2021 to friends old and new! Oak + River Books’ first post of 2021 features historical fiction-meets-low fantasy novel The Binding. The author, Bridget Collins, has over a decade of published writing under her belt. Exploring more of her work is on my 2021 list of to-dos (note: not resolutions 🙂 ). I purchased…

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

Two romance reviews back-to-back? Who even am I?? In a Holidaze by the duo known as Christina Lauren was part of my December Book of the Month box. I chose it to be my Christmas day read for obvious reasons. (The holiday theme? The need for romance in 2020? You get it.) And wow! I…

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

Are you a fan of dating apps? Has internet dating become your bff during covid? The Right Swipe might restore your faith in the dating app scene. The Right Swipe was in a stack of pink books I picked up at Target. Pink and I were a vibe that day. My love life has been…

My first audiobook! Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

I first heard of Matthew McConaughey’s memoir a few months ago and mentioned it in my post of anticipated releases of late 2020/early 2021. Looking for something different to listen to on my morning commute, I recently downloaded Audible. Greenlights was my first audiobook choice. Audiobooks have quickly become a godsend, and Greenlights was a…

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

“One more hour until I prove to Visidia that I’m meant to be their heir… Two more hours until I’m engaged to a man I’ll never love… Three more hours until I give the command to ready a ship to set sail tomorrow, and demand to know every secret about this kingdom that’s ever been…

Review: The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork

Winter is approaching quickly! The last part of 2020 seems to be flying by and the holiday season is almost upon us. The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork is a perfect addition to this winter’s TBR. It’s a music-laden and intriguing twist on the nutcracker story. I was going to wait until December to…

Where Light Enters & Q+A with Author Noel Silvia

Where Light Enters is a powerful and moving debut by emerging author Noel Silvia. Read on for my review and a mini Q+A with the author where he shares his inspiration for the novel and his favorite authors! After a lifeless body is discovered by the river, readers are led back in time to meet…

The Maiden of the Storm – My First Adult Romance Review

The Maiden of the Storm by Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Maiden of the Storm by Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple is a fast read full of depth, developed characters, and researched content. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and this story really delivers with the historical details, such as clothing, vocabulary, and scenery.…

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Kya lives alone in a shack by the marsh, cared for from a distance by a handful of people, all the while earning the title of Marsh Girl – although not earning the harsh treatment that comes with it. Her path crosses with Tate, her first love, and Chase, former high school athlete. They feel…

Book Review: The Last Story of Mina Lee

“What would the world look like if she made it her own, even temporarily, for a moment, fleeting, so that she could experience again the throb, the hunger of being alive, eyes wide, teeth showing?” The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a gripping tale. It’s addictive, edgy, and so full…

Are Book Club Picks the New #1 Bestseller?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin What’s more important – being a bestseller or being lauded as the latest celebrity book club selection? On the one hand, your book sales have satisfied – if not exceeded – the requirements to be added to a prestigious list. On the other hand, your book was preciously hand-selected and…

Coming Soon in 2020/2021! My Anticipated Book Releases

This post is not sponsored and I am not affiliated with any authors or companies mentioned. Opinions are my own. Happy September, friends! The end of 2020 may be in sight but my TBR pile keeps on growing. This fall, in addition to some first-time selections, I want to re-read Daniel Mason’s The Piano Tuner…

Book Review: The Space Between Worlds

Cara is a traverser – jumping between worlds by both the mercy of Goddess Nyame and the intentional hands of science. She spends every day with a woman she loves from afar while trying to reconcile the present with the past… That is, until a powerful announcement is made and Cara begins to believe that…

10 Ideas for Including Nature in a Joyful Life

What’s the difference between being happy and living a joyful life? How can we incorporate nature into a joyful life? Happiness is fleeting –whether we want to admit it or not. A joyful life is overall content with the way things are while recognizing the moments that bring peace into your heart. We all know…

5 Things I Learned in My First Month of Blogging

Hi, friends! To commemorate my first month of blogging, I wanted to write about my experience and five things I’ve learned so far. Oak + River Books is not a blog about blogging. I will probably never write a post on how to make a six figure salary while working from home and raising a…

Book Review: THICK and Other Essays

THICK and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD, was one of my August Book of the Month Club selections. It is eye-opening, descriptive, and academic (the 20 pages of notes and references rocked my world). THICK is not a history book. While McMillan Cottom draws on personal experiences, it is not specifically autobiographical enough…

Obtainable Orchids feat. the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center

This is Part 3 of a three-part Botanical Garden series, featuring gardens that are members of the American Horticulture Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program. A membership at one of these gardens includes eligibility for free or reduced admission at 300+ participating locations across North America. Always call ahead of your visit to verify what special admission privilege is offered by…

Book Review: The Death of Vivek Oji

How would you live if you carried a secret that someone would hurt you for? More, how would you die? What would you do if you lost your only child? How would you weep? Resigned and silent… Loud and unforgiving… In The Death of Vivek Oji, author Akwaeke Emezi shares sections of Vivek’s life and…

Dating Yourself: An Afternoon in Denver feat. the York Street Botanical Gardens

This is Part 2 of a three-part Botanical Garden series, featuring gardens that are members of the American Horticulture Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program. A membership at one of these gardens includes eligibility for free or reduced admission at 300+ participating locations across North America. Always call ahead of your visit to verify what special admission privilege is offered by…

30 Favorites for My 30th Birthday

Happy Friday, friends! Today is my 30TH BIRTHDAY! Despite social distancing, life still shows up in little ways – not only did I manage to get an AMAZING parking spot at work (we all now how good that feeling is!), I also received an appreciation award at work today! Then on the way home we…

Nature in the Novel: Mexican Gothic

*ATTENTION* This is not a book review. It is a post about ecocritical topics within the novel. Do not read any further if you want to read Mexican Gothic with fresh eyes! Save this post to come back and delve a little deeper. 😊 To see a spoiler-free review, click here. Thanks! Synopsis reminder: Noemí Taboada travels to a mansion in…

Break Out Your Dustiest Earl Grey: A Review of Mexican Gothic

GREETINGS: Already read Mexican Gothic? Check out Oak + River Books’ first Nature in the Novel post, exploring ecocriticism within Mexican Gothic. Noemí Taboada travels to a mansion in the misty woods to keep tabs on her questionably ill and confused cousin who was recently married to the son of an old-wealth family. After some…

San Antonio Botanical Garden Offers Family Fun All Year Long

This is Part 1 of a three-part Botanical Garden series, featuring gardens that are members of the American Horticulture Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program. A membership at one of these gardens includes eligibility for free or reduced admission at 300+ participating locations across North America. Always call ahead of your visit to verify what special admission…

Summer, Sunshine, and Sunflowers

Summer is my favorite season. I love Wisconsin summer – Up North during the summer means family, beach time, and camping. And I love living in Texas, where even the sun seems bigger, and where it’s acceptable for everyone to be sweaty all summer long and not have to worry about being judged. No matter…

Special Guest Q+A with Mecca Ilminen

Happy Sunday, friends! This is what I plan to be the first of many special guest Q+A sessions for Oak + River Books. Today’s is extra special because Mecca Ilminen – my sister, an eclectic spirit, and the family forager – is sharing her truths on growing up in the Midwest, edible plants, and creative…

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday, WordPress fam! My first week of blogging was fun! I’m excited to share more in the future, finalize my posting schedule, and really hone my thoughts and messages. I love sharing information with others and giving them the tools to explore on their own. This weekend I’m planning to post a special guest…

The Orchid Graveyard

Me: Hey, do you remember when you asked me to watch your aloe plant while you were on vacation? Friend: Yeah… he never really recovered after that. Oops. My bad. I soooo wanted to be one of those people with a green thumb. I wanted vines hanging by the windows and giant fig leaf trees…

The Ecocritic

Growing up in rural Wisconsin, I was blessed to be surrounded by trees, the sweet smell of hay, and some avid skiers. Thanks to my body’s sometimes-painful aversion to the cold, I didn’t quite take advantage of everything the outdoors had to offer, but the good news is there is much to be offered! Despite…

The Coveter

What is the deal with wanderlust? When I was briefly on the Tinder, it seemed like every guy was looking for a picture-perfect girl who would be up for spontaneous adventures to anywhere as if they had no other earthly obligations. In the wise words of Ariana Grande, “Thank you, next.” But there is something…

The Creator

“Heather, you’re not very creative.” About six years ago, a friend said those words to me. And I just laughed it off. “Haha, I know!” It wasn’t funny, though. When I was a kid, I loved reading and writing. In the fifth grade I shared a short story with my teacher after I was inspired…

A Beautiful Beginning

Welcome to Oak + River Books! I am honored to be a part of your journey. Browse the Q&A below to learn more about what Oak + River Books means to me. What is Oak + River Books? This blog is a creative space to explore literature with a special emphasis on nature and the…

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