Tag Archives: Books

Book Review: Tell The Wolves I’m Home + The Royal We

October 7, 2015

the royal we

Whenever I write these two-set book reviews, I’m amazed how there is always some link between the texts. Even if one is a zombie novel and the other is a celebrity memoir, I’ll notice a mutual plot point, a shared theme, the same pint of whiskey on the grandfather’s kitchen table. I don’t know how it’s happening. How and when and where I get books is completely random. Is this a set up? Am I on the Truman Show?

It blows my mind.

This time, the link is sisters. Two sets of sisters and all the wonderful, terrible, beautiful things that come with that relationship (love ya Kelly).

As always, book reviews are spoiler free.

Happy reading.

PS: A few people told me that after the last book review, they accidentally bought or borrowed the wrong Her as there are two books by that name! How exciting. Please let me know how the other Her is. As an aside, if you click on the links provided in book reviews, it will take you to the Amazon listing of the correct book. Full disclosure, I’ll also make a few pennies if you buy something–but no worries. I get most of my books from the library, too. xo


1. Tell The Wolves I’m Home.


If You’re Looking For: Young adult fiction, historical fiction, coming-of-age novels

If You Liked: Eleanor And Park

My Review: Good start, long middle, satisfying ending. That’s the short version. The long version is that I really wanted to five star this book. So many people told me it was wonderful, which was perhaps part of the problem. I enjoyed it but I’m not sure I loved it. It was the very standard young adult fiction; misfit girl feels unlovable but ends up being lovable all along, while also taking on some deeper issues such as hard family dynamics and the AIDS crisis in the 80s. There were moments I cried all over my tank top and moments I wanted to stop reading. I’m not sorry I read it. I cared about the characters and felt the writing quality deserved praise. And like I said, I cried. If a book makes me cry, it deserves at least 3 stars and a pat on the back. Very readable, but also very forgettable.

Their Review: “In this lovely debut novel set in the 1980s, Carol Rifka Brunt takes us under the skin and inside the tumultuous heart of June Elbus…Distracted parents, tussling adolescents, the awful ghost-world of the AIDS-afflicted before AZT—all of it springs to life in Brunt’s touching and ultimately hopeful book.”–People


1. The Royal We.

the royal we

If You’re Looking For: Fan fiction, “summer reads,” something light, something fun, page turners, millennial thrills

If You Like: The Princess Diaries, Kate Middleton

My Review: Coming from someone who doesn’t check the royal headlines or What Kate’s Wearing ever—this book was a delight. Perfect fan fiction for the millennial girl. It is smart, funny, sexy, and a quick read despite its 500+ page length. Most of all, this novel is exactly what it was intended to be. Tip: You can love a pop song just as long as it doesn’t call itself Mozart. If you want to get lost in a love story this fall, this is the perfect pick. I wish I could read it for the first time all over again. In my best (worst) English accent: brilliant.

Their Review: “An entertaining read-but also a sharp critique of how we treat celebrities and what happens to people always in the paparazzi glare . . . Cocks and Morgan also know that daydreams should stay daydreams because the reality is much harsher. That’s what elevates The Royal We from just a good beach book to a beach book with a message–while remaining entertaining enough to keep your butt in your beach chair.” –Philadelphia Inquirer


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Up Next: Big Magic + Luckiest Girl Alive

How To Read Books And Neglect Your Family

September 28, 2015


Every week or so, someone asks me how I have time to read all those books while also being a wife and mother to two young children. It’s a valid question, considering most people have better things to do than speed read celebrity memoirs and young adult thrillers. My standard answer is usually pretty tongue-in-cheek. For example, “You should see my dishes!” or “I just don’t parent my children!”

It is not the whole story, but it’s not exactly a lie either. I absolutely neglect my dishes and ignore my kids for the sake of reading, but there’s more to it than that. But before I answer how I do it, let me tell you why.

Just like every other unathletic millennial girl, I’ve been reading under the covers until 2am since 1995 when Stacey McGill got diabetes in The Babysitter’s Club. For as long as I can remember, reading has been both an escape and joy. It’s also become a habit and discipline. Any writer knows that in order to write anything, you have to read everything. In an interview last year, the Portuguese Nobel prize winner Jose Saramago was asked about his daily writing routine. His answer was, “I write two pages. And then I read and read and read.”

So that’s why. Here’s how.

I just do it. Not every day, not every week, not when the kids are sick or I’m in the middle of projects–but most of the time I simply make the time to read. My house is rarely clean because I don’t consider being a housewife my job. Mothering, yes. Loving my children and helping them grow up, of course. But the laundry? The dishes? The piles of unopened mail and old magazines? That is not part of my job description. I help take care of those things because I live here, but I’m not putting it on my resume because most of the time everything is messy and I wait for Austin to be home so we can work on it together.

Mother first. Writer second. The rest is relationships and occasionally taking out the trash. Whenever I see friends and family who find joy in cooking or general housewifery (and househusbandry!), I think– Atta girl! Please invite me over for your casserole. I will never be that woman. I will always push aside housework and complicated recipes for reading or writing or lying on the floor while the kids try to scratch my eyes out.

Speaking of the kids, I will also always be the mom who says, “This is Mommy’s time!” or “I’m reading, please stop poking me with that fork” because 1) There are only so many minutes in a day I can play dinosaur tea party and 2) Monkey see, monkey do. And if my monkeys turn out to be readers who sometimes neglect their chores to finish the last few chapters, I will consider that a pretty big win.


Book Review: Her + Why Not Me

September 21, 2015

I don’t have a lot of rules for myself when it comes to books and reading. There are no genres I won’t touch or read exclusively. I care even less what or how you read. You want to read vampire teen fiction? Zombie novels? World War II historical fiction? Knock yourself out. You want to skim read? Skip chapters? Read the last page of Gone Girl? Whatever floats your boat, baby.

I do think the best way to start a book is to know nothing about it, which is why I never read Goodreads reviews or plot summaries beforehand (and why my book reviews are spoiler free). Going into a story with a clean slate and an open mind is just better for everyone.

This idea is particularly important for thrillers and suspense novels. One of those for you today, plus the total opposite of a suspense novel: A sequel and memoir by one of my very favorite comics and women.

Happy reading, friends.


1. Her.


If You’re Looking For: Thrills, Complicated Novels, Amazing Writing

If You Liked: The Girl On The Train 

My Review: Here is what I want to tell you: This novel is exquisite. Reading it is like slow-eating a piece of rich, dark chocolate. Every little observation about motherhood and friendship is to be savored, relished, enjoyed. As each chapter switches perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill and warmth of the human experience. Harriet Lane is (truly) brilliant!!! Here is what I don’t want to tell you: There’s a good chance you will hate this book. Like really, really hate it. It’s one of those books people love to toss out the window because of a very important detail. My advice: If you choose to read this book, I encourage you to focus on the writing rather than the plot. Feel free to send me an an angry/confused/indignant email at 2am when you’re finished.  4.5/5 stars.

Their Review: “Never have I seen the angst and vulnerability of early motherhood so vividly portrayed. Harriet Lane explores the “tyranny of domesticity” and the almost primitive bonds that link women to their children and also to other mothers. HER is at once funny and terrifying. I read it in one sitting and when I was finally able to put it down, my heart was pounding.”― Ann Leary, author of The Good House

Quoted: “I found the final plot twist unsatisfying, as plot twists often are: nothing like life, which – it seems to me – turns less on shocks or theatrics than on the small quiet moments, misunderstandings, or disappointments, the things that it’s easy to overlook.”


2. Why Not Me

why not me

If You’re Looking For: Humor, Essays, Memoir

If You Liked: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Yes Please, Bossypants

My Review: My review of this book is as predictable as Donald Trump’s hair in a windstorm– you know exactly where it’s going to go. I loved this book with my whole heart. I loved it so much that once I finished it, I started it over again. If you are a fan of Mindy or funny women or millennial humor, I don’t know how you could possibly not love this book. Don’t read this book if you are A) the opposite of me or B) a heterosexual male who only enjoys filthy comedies and war movies (basically the opposite of me). 5/5 stars.

Their Review: “Hilarious…Kaling knows her strengths, and plays to them brilliantly…Aside from that effortlessly conversational tone and her pitch-perfect humor, Kaling’s biggest strength here is curatorial. She gives us the candy we came for – the advice, the anecdotes, the straight talk on body image – but sprinkles in something extra.”— Entertainment Weekly

Quoted: “People’s reaction to me is sometimes “Uch, I just don’t like her. I hate how she thinks she is so great.” But it’s not that I think I’m so great. I just don’t hate myself. I do idiotic things all the time and I say crazy stuff I regret, but I don’t let everything traumatize me. And the scary thing I have noticed is that some people really feel uncomfortable around women who don’t hate themselves. So that’s why you need to be a little bit brave.”


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Up Next: Tell The Wolves I’m Home + Luckiest Girl Alive

Book Review: Everything I Never Told You + The Boston Girl

September 7, 2015


Hi friends. We just got back from a week away in Maine where, miracle of miracles, I read two whole books. With children. The children were there and I still read the books. Thank you powers of sun and ocean and complete juvenile exhaustion. Naptime, may you bless this house until I’ve read all the books.

The Boston Girl and Everything I Never Told You were suggested to me by fellow readers of this blog and I enjoyed them both. Eerily similar in their tone and content, both novels had themes of struggle, heartache, immigration, and impossibly hard family dynamics. Neither changed my life or ended up on my favorite books list, but they held my attention and had me reading until the very end.

As always, all reviews are spoiler free.

Happy Reading.


1. Everything I Never Told You.

Everything I never told you

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, dysfunctional family drama, historical fiction

If You Liked: All The Light We Cannot See, The Boston Girl

My Review:  If you are looking for a suspense or crime thriller, you can skip right past this one! Everything I Never Told You is a domestic drama marketed as a thriller about a Chinese-American man (born in the US), his blonde, Caucasian wife, and their three mixed race children. I liked it. Ng is a lovely writer, but the story dragged and a lot of it felt repetitive. It was also dark without instigating much empathy for the main characters which was frustrating and sad. There are some really beautiful passages scattered throughout this book, though. Overall, it read like a debut novel but made me look forward to reading her next book.

Their Review: “Wonderfully moving…Emotionally precise…A beautifully crafted study of dysfunction and grief…[This book] will resonate with anyone who has ever had a family drama.” – Boston Globe

Quoted: “Before that she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.”


2.  The Boston Girl.

boston girl

If You’re Looking For: Historical fiction, young adult fiction, easy read

If You Liked: Inside The O’Briens, Everything I Never Told You

My Review:  Easy, predictable, just fine. I didn’t want to stop reading it, which is always an indicator of something. If you are looking for it to be as meaty as Diamant’s The Red Tent (one of my favorites), you might be disappointed. The story starts with a granddaughter interviewing her grandmother whose parents were immigrants in the early 20th century and continues as if you are listening to her story. I really enjoyed her accounts on the hot topics of the time; women’s education, abortion, WWI , the flu epidemic, prohibition, women’s voting rights, civil rights, child labor, orphan trains, women wearing pants. If I had to think up two adjectives for the book, I’d choose warm and sweet. If you are looking for a light read, go ahead and pick this up.

Their Review: The Boston Girl suffers most from its refusal to acknowledge the complexity of memory and oral history. Addie claims, ‘I’ve forgotten a lot more than I like to admit,’ but without hesitation, repetition or unconscious revelation, she delivers happy recollections from the 1920s with more detail and dialogue than I can recall from breakfast. On the tight, shiny surface of this narrative, there’s so little tremor of real life. Without letting us hear the resonance of actual reminiscence and the timbre of authentic speech, the novel moves along without moving us.” – The Washington Post

Quoted: “They all agreed that things were better in the old days. Some of them were sad about it and some were bitter, but it was always, ‘Nothing is as good as it used to be.’ I swore I would never talk like that and you know what? Now that I’m an old lady myself, I think that most things are better than they used to be. Look at the computers. Look at your sister, the cardiologist, and you, graduating from Harvard. Don’t talk to me about the good old days. What was so good?”


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Up Next: Her + Luckiest Girl Alive

Six Books On Motherhood

August 25, 2015


Edited From The Archives

As a reader and parent, I’m often asked what books I’d suggest to new moms. The truth is I didn’t read a lot of parenting books when my son was born. I started many but only finished a few, namely the ones that didn’t gloss over the hard stuff. The rest of the time I read coming-of-age memoirs and end of the world fantasy thrillers. You know, to keep my mind off the fact that I was now in charge of another human.

I have read a few great motherhood memoirs over the years. Stories about the love and tribulation that comes along with parenthood. Today, a list of the best of the best. Most revolve completely around parenting, a few do not. I can assure you non-moms will enjoy them as well.

If you ended up here because you are going to a baby shower and you thought you’d get her a book, here’s my advice: buy her the first two memoirs, a giant tube of lanolin, and a box of dark chocolate. You’ll be golden.

As always, all book reviews are spoiler-free.

Happy reading.


1. Waiting For Birdy.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor

If You Liked: Operating Instructions

My Review:  Catherine Newman is the kind of person you want to invite to your book club just to trick her into being your best friend. She is funny, irreverent, and cursed with a sappy heart just like the best of us. After my first baby was born, my friend Elizabeth passed this book along to me and I soaked in every word, every little detail and joke. I laughed until I cried, and read paragraphs out loud to anyone who would listen (no one). It is the book I wish I wrote. My very favorite parenting memoir next to Operating Instructions. A must read for the millennial mom.

Their Review: “Catherine Newman’s new book about the rock and roll life of newborn parents is hysterical… Don’t give birth without it.” —Jacquelyn Mitchard

Quoted: “Until it happened to us, I didn’t understand that having a baby would feel like falling in love on a bad acid trip. With an alarm clock–a pooping alarm clock. I wasn’t prepared to lie awake by the sleeping babe, my heart pounding audibly and so swollen with passion that I could barely breathe. I hadn’t realized that my mind would scan constantly for disaster, like a metal detector casting around for the big stuff and turning up endless bottle caps. What is that? Pneumonia? A brain aneurism? Woops, ok, no, just a little cold.”


2. Operating Instructions.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor

If You Liked: Waiting For Birdy

My Review: A few months ago I went to see Anne Lamott talk about her newest book. She was exactly as expected; bright, wise, unbelievably funny. When it was my turn to finally meet her in the book signing line, all I could say was thank you. Thank you for all the books, but especially this one. It saved me in the middle of newborn colic and complete despair over having a newborn who never stopped crying. Really, there is no reason not to read this book. My favorite parenting memoir to date.

Their Review: “Painfully honest, laced with humor and poetry and moments of profound insight. It captures the intense fluctuations of feeling, the rapid alternation of exhilaration and fury, love and despair, that characterizes new parenthood.” –San Francisco Examiner

Quotable: “I guess he’ll have to figure out someday that he is supposed to have this dark side, that it is part of what it means to be human, to have the darkness just as much as the light- that in fact the dark parts make the light visible; without them, the light would disappear. But I guess he has to figure other stuff out first, like how to keep his neck from flopping all over the place and how to sit up.”


3. The Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir

If You Liked: NurtureShock

My Review: Funny, engaging, and raw. I’m not sure what all the negative press and fuss was about. This book was never supposed to be a parenting manual, just a story of one mom trying to do her version of best. Chua is a brilliant writer and great story teller. I recommend it to everyone.

Their Review: “Readers will alternately gasp at and empathize with Chua’s struggles and aspirations, all the while enjoying her writing, which, like her kid-rearing philosophy, is brisk, lively and no-holds-barred. This memoir raises intriguing, sometimes uncomfortable questions about love, pride, ambition, achievement and self-worth that will resonate among success-obsessed parents… Engagingly and provocatively chronicled. Readers of all stripes will respond to [Battle Hymn of the] Tiger Mother.” –The Washington Post

Quotable:  “Unlike Western parents, reminding my child of Lord Voldemort didn’t bother me.”


4. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.

If You’re Looking For: Self-help, Advice On Discipline, Books On Older Kids

If You Liked: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

My Review: The only parenting manual I’ve read without falling asleep. Practical, manageable, and wise. The perfect remedy for millennial mothers trying to follow Maya’s advice: When you know better, do better.

Their Review: “An exceptional work, not simply just another ‘how to’ book…All parents can use these methods to improve the everyday quality of their relationships with their children.” –Fort Worth Star Telegram

Quotable: “I was a wonderful parent before I had children.”


5. Expecting Adam.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir

If You Liked: Operating Instructions

My Review: The true account of an academic Harvard couple who conceive a baby with Down’s syndrome and decide to carry him to term. A wonderful read for anyone, including my husband who read it before we met or had children and cried like a baby. One of the very best birth stories ever been told.

Their Review: “Expecting Adam is not one of those grit-your-teeth, lemons-into-lemonade sagas that leave the reader feeling more besieged and guilty than the writer. It is a long hymn, from a practical woman caught flatfooted by amazing grace. Martha Beck is a celebrant skeptics can trust.” –Jacquelyn Mitchard

Quotable: “…then I understood. She was talking about the soothing, singsong language mothers speak spontaneously when they talk to babies. Baby talk is found in all nations, all cultures; it is the original Mother Tongue. It translates across any language barrier because it is more about music than about words; the sounds themselves, not their meaning, give comfort and support.”


6. Bossypants.


If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor

If You Liked: Yes Please, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, all that is sacred in this life for the love

My Review: I have read it seven times.

Their Review: “A masterpiece in comedy writing…I was hooked from the first word.” -Sunday Telegraph

Quotable: “Read! When your baby is finally down for the night, pick up a juicy book like Eat, Pray, Love or Pride and Prejudice or my personal favorite, Understanding Sleep Disorders: Narcolepsy and Apnea; A Clinical Study. Taking some time to read each night really taught me how to feign narcolepsy when my husband asked me what my “plan” was for taking down the Christmas tree.”


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