Tag Archives: Books

Book Review: Motherlunge + Big Magic

November 4, 2015

big magic

Hi friends. Two books with two fantastic titles I wish I had thought of for myself.

Two strong female authors with the kind of writing you want to rewrite on scraps of paper so you remember.

Happy to recommend them both.

As always, all book reviews are spoiler free.

Happy November reading.


1. Motherlunge.motherlunge

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, dysfunctional family drama, new writers

If You Liked: Nearer Than The Sky

My Review: Great debut novels are always startling for a writer. You never wrote a book before and then you created this? I might as well lie back down on the couch (see next book for self-help on this topic). Of course it’s also very thrilling to find a new writer. At its core, Scott’s Motherlunge is a novel of desire. Desire for love, fulfillment, sex, children, and sometimes a completely different destiny. And even though the characters are faced with raw, difficult love, the writing is light and full of surprising wit. A story about motherhood, friendship, and mental illness. A very fresh read. Out of anything, I enjoyed its poetry. 4/4 stars. 

Their Review: Told with dazzling prose, Motherlunge is a wry, luminous exploration of the legacy of motherhood here, about the afflictions that may cycle through generations. This is a thoroughly engaging novel, with wonderful turns of phrase in every sentence, and its witty humor announces a welcome new voice in American fiction, full of charm and tender wisdom. —Don Lee

Quoted: But come down. Come here. I can promise to give you this: an appetite for silence. Loneliness, and ways to find it when you need to. How to hold yourself safe, apart, tight to the lowest rung.


2. Big Magic.big magic

If You’re Looking For: Memoir, self-help, creative inspiration

If You Liked: Rising Strong, The Art Of Memoir

My Review: Hey girl, you might not like this book. If you are not an Elizabeth Gilbert fan (I wasn’t either), her tone and writing might be the final push over the edge. Cynics beware! Tread lightly. I happen to be a convert, and happily read through this self-help book for writers with fragile nerves at a fast pace. Yes, I’ve read Bird by Bird. Yes, I agree it is the true writer’s bible. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some big magic. Gilbert packs her book full of one line wisdoms and tiny truth bombs on everything from the practical financial aspects of a writing career to the universal connectedness to ideas and inspiration. Specifically, she breaks down the creative process in such a non-threatening way that I could kiss her. Elizabeth’s approach to being a writer is conversational, practical, and unashamed–three adjectives I would also use to describe this book. Admittedly not groundbreaking but very inspirational. A helpful book for any writer or creator’s back pocket. The perfect boost. I will read and reread it over and over again. 4/4 stars.

Their Review: “Elizabeth Gilbert is an exceptionally gifted author…and this book is remarkable…. It is so densely packed with pearls of wisdom that I read it once for pleasure, and then again to unpack and outline the text just like I used to do in college…A must-read for anyone on the creative spectrum, from those who don’t think there is a creative bone in their body to those who make a living from their artistic expression.” –Yakima Herald

Quoted: The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong only to a chosen few, but they are wrong and they are also annoying.


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Book Review: Luckiest Girl Alive + Tiny Beautiful Things

October 15, 2015

Hello friends. Two books for you this week; an oldie but a goodie that I’m re-reading for the third time and a new page-turner fresh off the shelves and into my book binging heart.

Both feature strong women with strong opinions, and both had me reading until the wee hours of the morning.

Happy Reading, book lovers. If nothing else ever comes from this little blog, at least we read some books together. That will always be enough.

PS: What are you reading lately? Please feel free to leave suggestions for future reads in the comments below. I’m getting to the end of my book list which is so gratifying and terrifying.


1. Luckiest Girl Alive.


If You’re Looking For: Fiction, suspense, page turner

If You Liked: Sharp Objects, Dark Places, We Need To Talk About Kevin

My Review: It’s become very trendy to compare any new thriller novel to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and reviewers have done the same with Luckiest Girl Alive. It’s unfair though, especially for books so unlike Gone Girl. If anything, this book rivals Gillian Flynn’s other (darker) novels– Sharp Objects and Dark Places. It also reminds me of We Need To Talk About Kevin. I still regret watching that movie, the book was traumatizing enough. I liked this novel. It’s always fun to read a story located in or near your hometown. It also carries a good deal of suspense and a strong, narrative voice. Was the book perfect? No. The ending dragged and the “plot twist” was less like a twist and more like a climax placed at the wrong moment. Ultimately, though, Luckiest Girl Alive was what I look for in light book entertainment: A strong voice, a refusal to dumb things down, and the kind of story that keeps me turning the pages. PS: Not for sensitive souls on issues of rape and violence. Skimmed at least 5 paragraphs to avoid nightmares.

Their Review: “Luckiest Girl Alive is crime fiction at its best, proving the genre’s deep connections to society’s fears, ambitions, and ability to question the status quo. . . . Jessica Knoll is a writer to keep an eye on, especially after being compared to Gillian Flynn by Megan Abbott. . . . However, I have found enough personality in Knoll’s debut novel to let her stand on her own, rather than label her ‘the next Gillian Flynn.’ Knoll’s version of the feminist crime novel is more steeped in pop culture than Flynn’s, and Ani’s psyche has nothing to envy of Amy’s: they are both troubled, and they both put up outstanding gender and class performances. But while Amy is more private and emotional, Ani relies on modern fashion references that will thrill even Vogue, Cosmo, and Glamour readers. . . . . Luckiest Girl Alive is the ultimate critical companion to millennial femininity.”—Los Angeles Review of Books

Quoted: There is something about seeing someone from behind, something about the way people walk away, that I’ve always found unnervingly intimate. Maybe it’s because the back of the body isn’t on guard the way the front is – the slouch of the shoulders and the flex in the back muscles, that’s the most honest you’ll ever see a person.


2. Tiny Beautiful Things.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 9.31.12 AM

If You’re Looking For: Non-fiction, self-help, memoir, humor, philosophy, essays

If You Liked: Wild, Rising Strong

My Review: Every time I read this book, I want to buy 100 more copies and mail them to everyone I know. Cheryl has the unique ability to plow you over with her stories. Her essays in this collection drip with honesty and raw, human emotion. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll take pictures of passages with your phone and then text them to your friends at three in the morning. There is more sensible advice here than I’ve ever found in one place. Empowering, moving, and inspiring to anyone who has ever tried and failed to be the kind of person they always thought they’d be. Five out of five stars. Would recommend to anyone.

Their Review: “Why do we read memoirs? Some choose autobiographies to better understand the lives and histories of important men and women. Some might hope that the experiences and insights of a personal essay might unveil a small truth about the human condition, might teach us about ourselves. Some of us might just be busybodies, looking for a socially acceptable way to peek deeply into a stranger’s life. If you fit into any of these categories, you must meet Dear Sugar, the ultimate advice columnist for lovers of memoirs. Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of her works, interspersed with Q&As from Sugar herself. The columns were written anonymously, but with an amount of personal detail that no advice column has ever seen before. In a gracious, sassy, poetic and maternal voice, Sugar shares her own raw personal accounts . . . She runs a highlighter over the breathtaking aspects of mundane tasks, from wedding planning to the day-to-day duties of raising small children. By the last page of the book, which will likely be a bit wrinkled with tear stains by the time you’re through, you may know more about Sugar than you know about your closest friends. . . .Though many of the letters she receives contain ugliness and woe, she weaves them together into a story that is unexpectedly beautiful and impossibly warm. There’s no shortage of conversations on love and sex, but we words also go beyond that. . . . There’s something worth quoting on almost every page. . . . Eloquent . . . Generous.” —Kara Zuaro, Biogrophile

Quoted: I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.


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Up Next: Big Magic Motherlunge

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