Saturday, June 24, 2017


Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. Hardcover, 288 pgs
Goodreads Description

     Schwalbe perfectly articulates the feelings of bookish people- and is solidly my favorite
"books about books" novelist. Whether you relate to all or bits of his musings, it is a joyful read. Similar to The End of Your Life Book Club (where he chronicles the books he and his mom read while she was suffering from cancer), this is part memoir, part life lessons gleamed, and overall awe at the power of words. ".....most good books are not tackling big questions in isolation." "I also believe that no book is so bad that you can't find anything in it of interest."
"This book you are now reading is a manifesto of sorts....because I think we need to read and to be readers today now more than ever."
       Schwalbe makes me want to read all the titles he mentioned, even ones of which I was aware but hadn't considered- or had decided weren't for me. This perfectly illustrates that no two people will interpret a book or in this case, it's description, the same way- and it can also change over time.
      This would make an excellent book club selection. While not the traditional story, each book mentioned could be discussed in terms of Schwalbe's interpretation, and those of each reader in the club. It would be one long night though- because then you'd break down each book into thoughts of those who had read the mentioned stories vs ones unfamiliar with the discussed books. Would they be interested in reading them? Why or why not? Would spoilers be allowed by those who had read it? I'd vote no! :-) I seriously digress.
        Hypothetical book club meeting aside, I now must pick up Wonder by RJ Palacio and Stuart Little by E.B White for my girls (and me). Also, The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang- a book which had gone out of print but has (luckily) been reissued.
      Funny enough, on my friend Carol Kubala's Goodreads review, the paragraph she highlighted on unreliable narrators from The Girl on the Train was also one of my notes. The virtue of mediocrity found in his reading of The Odyssey was super fascinating, and brought an issue I had recently been contemplating to the forefront of my mind. Do yourself a favor and tuck into this gem. It'll be delightful, I promise!

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2009. Hardcover, 341 pgs
Goodreads Description

If you like my reviews at all, will you please read this one? I know it will be the most important one I write. This book has profoundly changed my life. I purposefully waited a month post-reading to gather my thoughts, include further resources for those interested, and tell you my personal story.

I have purchased several copies of this so far, and if you are genuinely interested in reading it after this review, would you contact me? I will mail you one. While difficult, I'm more upset that I didn't have this knowledge sooner. One caveat: I have a selfish favor. Will you please get in touch with me post reading in some way and share your thoughts? Whether you link me to a review, or if it just changed your mind on one point, I truly want to hear about it. I'll voxer chat you, or even call you! This is a discussion that more of us should be having, and with demand rising for the cheapest, most convenient meat, the issue will only become more prominent.

Before you think of this as a bleeding heart animal lover's book, Foer didn't even like dogs until a few years ago. His style is conducive to all readers, and truly not annoying or preachy like some I've encountered. He genuinely wanted facts, and paid checkers to do their own research to see if their conclusions matched his. He wanted to find a reason to eat meat, and I wanted him to tell me that at least fish and chicken were fine (from certain companies). There is an excellent section where Foer talks about food as tradition, and the narratives we've been told as a culture, and how it differs in other parts of the world. 

Beyond the slaughterhouse processes, deep sea fishing techniques, and the toxic wasteland that factory farms produce, there are interviews with people on all sides of this story.....from farm factory workers who wish to remain anonymous, midnight rescuers of animals, farm sanctuary workers, and the few remaining family farm operations (there is irony in this at the end as some are being closed or ousted for those who will practice a more compromising management practice).  

We all know animals die for consumption. The past two years I'd heard the usual horrors of chickens pumped full of crazy feeds, antibiotics way beyond necessary- and unreported levels are up to 40% higher (one of many sections that will make your blood boil). So I read labels carefully. I bought the "free range, grass fed" options when possible, THINKING I was making a compassionate difference.

I truly believed that most operations were streamlined to prevent unnecessary suffering and mutilation prior to death. Especially some simple precautions, like not letting the other animals witness slaughter. NOT the case. Less than 1% of all animals killed for meat in America come from family farms. Abuse is the norm, and classified under a Common Farm Exemption (CFE) makes any behavior towards the animals perfectly legal so long as it is commonly practiced in the industry.

Organic? It matters a whole lot less than what we give it credit for....especially in terms of humane treatment. Don't care? Did you know that the deplorable conditions cause such intense stress that acid is released in the animals prior to death....then we literally eat that suffering. 

Ever had a stomach bug for 24 hours? Most people have poultry poisoning and don't know it. 83% of supermarket poultry is infected with campylobacter or salmonella. Perfectly normal colored "healthy" looking chicken.

As you can tell, this book gave me a serious case of the "Did you knows?" It's been difficult to stem my passion for this topic. I stumbled onto this lifestyle pretty much on accident. I had read a couple nutrition books on reading food labels, and then watched a couple lifestyle YouTubers. One day I watched a person discuss their favorite Netflix documentaries. I then found Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Cowspiracy. These highlighted the environmental, moral, and health aspects of eating a more plant based lifestyle. I started eating less meat, but still consumed fish and chicken pretty regularly.

I never planned on going fully Vegan. I wanted to hold onto something! What's the harm in eating eggs and drinking milkshakes? The animal is still alive and the dairy industry must be slightly kinder! Unfortunately, the foul treatment continues there. The dairy industry is directly responsible for veal, continuous artificial insemination of cows, and the mechanical forced over-milking of cows who are separated from their babies at birth (to disrupt the bonding process). This overmilking leaves udders riddled with infection most of the time. Most are sent to slaughter when their usefulness runs out. I remember being "lactose intolerant" as a kid, and having to drink lactaid milk. Mom really thought I had to have milk, because that is what we hear all the time. Past baby age, we aren't really meant to drink it. Being lactose intolerant is unsurprising. We just don't need it- we aren't the intended consumers- baby cows:-P

The challenges I've encountered haven't been insurmountable- I thought I would miss more foods. (my heart does occasionally have pangs for the cookies and cream milkshake at Chick-Fila. There are surprising alternatives, and if you live in a more metropolitan area, there's even less digging. And yes, you CAN get enough plant based protein. Through research you can debunk all the meat myths society has fed us for years. Tofu can actually be delicious, and you don't need to be terrified of it. 

So, I'm a 33 year old Vegan. This read was my final straw. Never thought I would EVER do something like this. The hardest part? Cheese. However, there is a biological reason for being addicted to cheese. It's the casein. I watched YouTube videos on the science behind this, and alternatives. I had my first Papa John's Veggie Pizza with extra sauce instead of cheese...and was pleasantly surprised. I also use the Vegan go-to...nutritional yeast flakes, known as "Nooch" in my pastas and sauces. Plus the cholesterol in cheese is another reason to give it the heave-ho.

I've had to cook a lot more of my own meals. This does take effort at the beginning, but most worthy pursuits do. I actually feel fuller on my meals, less bloated, and waking up is easier. It's like a fog has lifted that I didn't even know was there. I never feel heavy, and can often eat bigger portions since it's cleaner and more nutritionally dense- if you aren't overindulging in Vegan junk food, which is as easy to find as regular junk food. Haha, movie theater popcorn is mostly safe since the butter is fake anyway.

**SUPER IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a learning process, do not beat yourself up for setbacks (intentional or unintentional). I cheated twice purposefully- once because I wanted something sweet and I was near my favorite ice cream on a road trip, the other because I was at a restaurant where I could only order broccoli or rice if I didn't want meat and cheese...and I caved instead of paying close attention and ordering smartly. Bread hides many dairy components as well, and I hadn't even thought of that until after several veggie burgers on buns. Do the best you can, and acknowledge your progress. Your efforts are amazing and should be celebrated, not picked apart:-)

I feel embarrassed for my ignorance when I rolled my eyes at events with vegans I deemed snotty and difficult, assuming they were promoting their lifestyle to feel superior to others. Now I simply realize they had more information than I did, and decided to live more compassionately. Once you know this stuff, you are forced to make a choice, even if that is doing nothing. My husband has been incredibly supportive, and I hope you will find someone in your life to support you as well. It can feel isolating to go against the grain. Every time the people pleaser part of me starts to feel awkward, I just remind myself of why I'm doing it. And armed with knowledge, that's far more important to me now.

I would love to meet Foer one day and personally thank him. I now donate monthly to animal rights groups. I support a couple YouTubers through Patreon accounts since they are more eloquent in their dissemination of information than I could ever hope to be. I'll probably even get some corny T-shirts, and I have a tattoo design I'm currently considering on my left wrist. I'm proudly one of those hippy dippy happy people:-) It's amazing to live a life in line with your values.

I think I've gone on quite long enough. If any of you are still there, here is a list of some of my resources.

Awesome YouTube channels and links:

Awareness and activist videos/channels:
Top 5 Vegan Films of 2017  -An overview video from the YouTube channel Plant Based News, this one is self explanatory.
101 Reasons to Go Vegan  - a great starter video. Condenses tons of facts. A great go-to after or before Netflix documentaries.
Mic. The Vegan He is a vegan science writer so gives excellent nutrition facts.
The Vegan Activist His videos are powerful, and some can be graphic. Sometimes they're too much, but if you need extra motivation...he's your guy. He's pretty helpful about putting (Non-Graphic) in the title if you can't handle the tough images.
Gary Yourofsky Gary has some incredible lectures. He can be controversial, but his data is hard to dispute. He has recently retired from activism, has reached burnout and had to deal with lots of hate.
Bite Size Vegan She is touted as Gary's protege. As her channel description says, she provides friendly and fast facts on how and why to be Vegan

Recipe Ideas:
Cheap Lazy Vegan
Hot for Food
Liv's Healthy Life
Happy Healthy Vegan (they also do vlogs. Sometimes they can be a little much, but I like them nonetheless:-)
That Vegan Couple (also vlogs. They are about the happiest people I've ever watched. That alone speaks volumes. You want what they have!)
NikkiVegan  (super chill and soothing gal, her voice lulls me sometimes and I have to relisten:-P
SoTrueQ (a male!! I promise they exist. He is a funny, honest, and super entertaining African American from the South who is Vegan)
Mind Over Munch  While not solely Vegan, she usually provides Vegan recipe options. I love her personality and awesome ebooks. My favorite is her Bento Box Lunch ebook. Tons of great ideas for packing school lunches for kiddos.
Clean & Delicious -also not strictly Vegan, she has a Kale Butternut Squash soup recipe that I have made multiple times.

Cookbooks I've been loving:
Isa Does It! (Isa Chandra Moskowitz is one of the first names I came across in the Vegan cooking world. She is praised for her many books, had a show called Post Punk Kitchen, and is known for making meals that meat lovers enjoy as well. Just check out her reviews). I can heartily recommend 15+ of these recipes. My kids prefer the chocolate cake and blueberry muffins out of this book over ones containing dairy.
Thug Kitchen One of the highest rated Vegan cookbooks on Amazon, the recipes are delicious...but full of swear words. Be warned: Lots of profanity. Like every other sentence.
**Many of the YouTubers I mentioned sell their ebooks. Some I've been able to print and coil at my local Office Depot.
Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking by Dana Shultz  - 101 Entirely Plant-Based, mostly gluten free (if you care about that), recipes that require 10 ingredients or less. I highly recommend following them on Instagram and their blog for tons of free recipe posts. The most recent amazing one was a Jalapeno Cheese Sauce. Nom Nom Nom!

Netflix stuff:
Fed Up
Forks Over Knives
What the Health

There are a ton more, these are just the ones I've seen and found helpful.

Hmm, what to rate?

Please leave me a comment below:-) I'd love to know what you think or if you'll be picking it up!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Published by Ecco, 2017. Hardcover, 336 pgs
Goodreads Description

     Breaking from my trend of reading dystopias, the premise of communal parenting was the description that hooked me on this utopian-esque novel. I found myself with mixed opinions.
     Wilson did a bang up job with Izzy, the fresh faced protagonist. She made mistakes, but quickly got back on track and remained mostly self-assured. He gave her atypical female talents (in stories anyway!) self-confidence, and the ability to love- but not become so infatuated that her own identity was compromised. I loved that she didn't have these incredible feats of daring, and lived a mostly normal life. This might seem boring to some readers, but the character felt like a real human being, and not a forced stereotype to drive the story.
         The Infinite Family Project is meant to take place over ten years. For a slim novel, this in an ambitious narrative. I applaud Wilson's attempt. Setting up the backstory, parameters of the study, everyone's living accommodations, the progression of the children, and the adult relationships had to be incredibly challenging.
       Therefore, I wished it had been longer or structured differently. I missed hearing from different perspectives, and each character was teased just enough that I missed a further connection. I wanted to know more about the billionaire funding the study- Brenda Acklen, and her granddaughter. I wanted to know the troubled emotions of several of the couples, and what made them react the way they did. I wanted to know more about the children's lives. This could have made a good series. I'd recommend to anyone who has wanted a little extra help as a parent, enjoys good writing and innovative plots.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017


Published by Penguin UK, 2016. Hardcover, 288 pgs
Goodreads Description

       Who doesn't want to live a better life? While the philosophy of Hygge still feels broad and abstract after reading, I like the idea of it being adaptable to your own definition. The plethora of ways different cultures adapt this in their homes and community was enlightening. I would have liked a bit more on how this shapes politics and world view, but this might be harder to explore because of the intangible quality. 
       It corrected some of my misconceptions about being an introvert. Introversion doesn't necessarily mean an aversion to people, introverts can still be social! It's the large group setting that is not preferable. That alleviated some of my fears that I was abnormal:-P This is a cozy little book, even if a bit vague and predictable. A great coffee table edition to your house.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Published by Quercus, 2014. Paperback, 406 pgs
Goodreads Description

         Particularly upsetting in Donald Trump's America, I feel he would love implementing parts of this story in our country. It's terrifying in it's implications, and feels eerily plausible. If you found Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale bothersome, this is the Young Adult version. O'Neill somehow manages a similar premise while making a wholly redesigned world. That is no small feat, as Atwood's book is iconic, and the temptation would be strong to cherrypick details here and there. That was most impressive. While I wouldn't want to visit any dystopia, this wins the worst....think I'd even take my chances in The Hunger least there's a small chance of viable life. 
       I was more sickened by this novel than Atwood's. The male chauvinism is a given, but the depths which the females undercut and manipulate each other, instead of banding together in any form of solidarity, was heartbreaking. While teenage gossip and bullying is common in our real world, the relentlessness in this story was draining, and acutely made me feel the broken spirit of these "designed" girls. All of O'Neill's cover designs for this book are perfect. 
     The gruesome tone was particularly set by the ominous countdown to the "Ceremony" where each Eve is assigned their lifetime role as one of three, all-terrible options. References to Organized Recreation, their sleeping arrangements, Expiration date, and drug use added richness to an already horrifying world. I was able to see where the ending was headed, and was proud of O'Neill for sticking to the tone of the story instead of adding a bubble gum ending.


Published by Reaktion Books Ltd, 2009. Hardcover, 128 pgs
Goodreads Description

      Chocolate and coffee. My two ride or die, definite inclusions if I were stranded on a desert island. While this slim volume doesn't encapsulate all the information on this DELICIOUS delicacy, it provides a cliff notes version, which is sufficient for this gal. The Edible Series is a beautiful collection of the culture and history of one type of food or beverage. I would also read the ones on Breads, Ice Cream, and Wine, but pass on ones such as Lamb. Carbs are my weakness. I digress.
         I was unsurprised to learn that cacao nuts were so valuable that they were often treated as a form of currency, and also buried with loved ones. The cultural meanings of chocolate to gender go back a long ways...especially as it was women who often prepared it. Of course, chocolate's history is steeped in slavery and unethical treatment. Hated those necessary parts, but found the evolution interesting. Enough with this review. I have to go make myself a hot chocolate.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Published by Penguin, 2016. Paperback, 222 pgs
Goodreads Description

"We seem to know far too much about how love starts, and recklessly little about how it might continue."

      Hands down my favorite book of this year, and maybe last year. What an utterly wonderful story- with a wholly unique insight and structure (half novel, half textbook). The prose is poetic and tender, and still manages to provide tough love and some therapy- for whatever stage in your relationship. It's greatest gift is providing insight into behavior, thus promoting understanding of your spouse- and even more importantly, yourself. I found this through a suggestion on The Book Depository website when looking for another novel. This is unusual, as most of my recommends come from bookish YouTubers or podcasts. I will have to utilize this feature more, because this is a gem!
       The most common question most couples receive is "How did you meet?" or "How did you get engaged?" This is also the general focus of many contemporary romantic novels. Even if the novel chronicles their life, it is more event-based. In this, we have a constant focus on the mechanics of longterm relationships. This story charts the beginnings of infatuation for Rabih and Kirsten, but mainly chronicles the long haul of life....ever after, children, philandering, a section titled "beyond romanticism", and mature love.
        A section of particular significance to me was "The Romantic vision of marriage stresses the importance of finding the 'right' person, which is taken to mean someone in sympathy with our interests and values. There is no such person over the long term. We are too varied and peculiar. ....The partner best suited to us is not the one who miraculously happens to share every taste, but the one who can negotiate differences in taste with intelligence and good grace." This really helped me, as I often wish I could be more interested in the bands or entertainment that my husband enjoys, even though he could care less. I know it shouldn't matter, and even though he has told me (repeatedly)....somehow reading these words was a revelation- no exaggeration.        
       Another italicized note from the author: "It may come fast, this certainty that another human being is a soulmate. We needn't have spoken with them; we may not even know their name. Objective knowledge doesn't come into it. What matters instead is intuition: a spontaneous feeling that seems all the more accurate and worthy of respect because it bypasses the normal processes of reason."  They are things that you know to be true- but most of us would have a hard time articulating. I found myself saying "That's it!" to many of these.
        The author has an uncanny ability to use dialogue, and also explain underlying intention in an evocative way. "When, on their last day together Mrs. McLelland remarks.....what a pity it is that Kirsten never sang another note after her father left home.....she is- as much as the rules allow- asking Rabih not to ruin Kirsten's life."     
        I'm really befuddled why I haven't heard of Alain de Botton before. The average ratings are high on Goodreads. I agree wholeheartedly with The Daily Mail and Evening Standard's blurbs on the back cover....that it should be compulsory reading for anyone entering or already in a marriage, and that it may even save some marriages. In any case, I am extremely happy to discover him and can't wait to read more. If you've read others by him, drop me a line and let me know what to pick up next. In any case, I would recommend this to all human beings. You'll be a better, more empathetic person because of it.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Published by Orbit, 2017. Hardcover, 614 pgs
Goodreads Description
      This book overwhelmed me a little. I loved it, but it felt like work. There's hardly a topic that isn't addressed- whether it be global, financial, cultural, ecological, or political.While highly intelligent, my main issue was the characters. They felt like secondary props to Robinson's mission of warning against our current societal behavior. It was frustrating because I wanted them to bolster this message, not seem like flimsy examples of the the main point (Example: shallow hedge fund manager who might not be so awful...but really just annoyed the heck out of me through most of the book). The setting of New York City was perfect for this scenario, and the message was spot-on- the story to exemplify this simply felt problematic because it lacked emotional connection. 
        While this sounds negative, it doesn't detract from the fact that this is an extraordinary work of science fiction. It's so inventive that the detailed description of the boats, infrastructure, and new technology was hard for me to envision. 2140 put me in mind of my Seveneves experience (by Neal Stephenson). I'd love to hear about Robinson's writing process, and wonder how long this story simmered in his brain.
      We follow many narratives, with one perspective simply titled "that Citizen". This allowed for additional facts about life after the Second Pulse....such as a bird's eye view of the new economy, and the perils of global warming. It's clear Robinson has expertise and passion in this area. I agreed with his arguments entirely, and his observations felt eerily plausible, with references to our rate of pollution and the 2008 Financial crash. And what if sea level rose an additional few feet due to a storm surge?
       If you struggle with books that are preachy, be forewarned. He doesn't hide his intention to drill these points into your brain. A sample quote from "that Citizen":
"Because life is bigger than equations, stronger than money, stronger than guns and poison and bad zoning policy, stronger than capitalism, Because Mother Nature bats last, and Mother Ocean is strong...."
          This is a sweeping saga about the ramifications of a changed world, and how we must keep carrying on and trying to do better, even in the face of hopelessness. History is everchanging, greed only takes people so far, and sparks can create revolutions. The section on the success of non-violent civil resistance, either in the form of protest marches, or even more influential, financial resistance (stop buying the things) made it feel especially pertinent in light of our recent Presidential election. This book is meant to hit close to home, spark thought, and hopefully help convince you to change a behavior or two.
     I'll probably buy a copy of this book, as this is on library loan. Weighty words, and what do I know, but I have a feeling this could become a classic. And also terrified it might come true.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Published by HarperCollins Great Britain, 2001. Paperback, 592 pgs.
Goodreads Description

     I'm finally back in the world of Hobb! This is the third trilogy in her vast Realm of the Elderlings books. The first Farseer trilogy is best series I've ever read, so I'm thrilled to be back with some of my favorite characters. This installment follows up with beloved (and not so beloved) characters fifteen years after the conclusion of the Red Ship Wars. Peace has finally been attained, but is unsurprisingly tenuous.
         I do not recommend reading the descriptions on the back of these books! Go to the Robin Hobb website and search for her books in order. For example, the "errand" in question isn't addressed until page 200 (in this edition), but is told in general terms on the back cover. The first half of the story is getting back into gear with Fitz's thoughts, emotions, and general relationship status over the past decade and a half. I enjoyed this due to my extreme love of the character-based study, but concede some might it tedious, too long, and dragging out the eventual mission.
       Hobb is such a gifted storyteller, especially detailing inner turmoil and setting her characters to the proverbial fire. The rarity of having fleshed out characters, a masterful/intricate plot, AND award- winning writing continues to blow my mind.
        Ironically, I've been slightly avoiding this set of books because I've heard from every single reader friend on Booktube that it is emotionally taxing- even from usual bookish non-cryers. Eek! I was wary how she would address certain animal situations....and she was sensitive and perfect, as always. I truly don't know how she consistently maintains this intricate world, but I'll read all her words! Obviously, two thumbs way up.


Sunday, March 19, 2017


Published by Pegasus, 2015. Hardcover, 336 pgs
Goodreads Description

    A nice little collection of essays I found while "browsing" in my library. Ha! While I know nothing of Michael Dirda, I liked his bookish observations. He recommended reading this in small chunks instead of straight through. I didn't listen, but don't feel like it affected my enjoyment.
      My favorites? His small press recommendations, odes to more obscure titles, and adventures in thrift stores. There was even an essay titled "Charlottesville"- which was an extra delight since that's my hometown! The conclusion of this book felt satisfying and complete, like you'd been on a journey with him in his time with The American Scholar publication: "I just metaphorically saunter along, whistling a happy tune, and hope that my effusions turn out to be mildly entertaining." They were.


Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. Hardcover, 181 pgs
Goodreads Description

     A tiny little book, I enjoy picking up stories about portraits of marriage. There were parts that gave me appropriate empathetic pangs...."And that phrase-"sleeping like a baby." Some blond said it blithely on the subway the other day. I wanted to lie down next to her and scream for five hours in her ear."      However, the format was too disjointed for my liking, even though I appreciated the observations. It felt similar to poetry that is a struggle. I was left wanting more, especially from a book that has been touted by some of my favorite literary websites. Offill writes candidly and well, but I don't think I'll find it memorable in a couple weeks.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2017. Hardcover, 224 pgs
Goodreads Description

    I'm not sure what it says about me that my first thought upon seeing this Book of the Month selection was, #goals? Although I would need a library and Starbucks. And showers. And stealing would spike my anxiety level through the roof- so the whole endeavor would be for naught. Suppose I'll settle for a one or two room cabin in the country- legally- upon retirement.
      Anywho, hermits are a primal fascination, and Finkel tells a riveting story filled with all the details you'd crave if you picked this up in the first place. If walking into the Maine woods one day with little more than the clothes on your back and staying for 27 YEARS doesn't make you "Whaaaaaaa???" I don't know what will. From the extensive surveillance of the Game Warden, to the hidden and impressive camp set up, to Christopher Knight's reacclimation into normal society, the truth is more bizarre than any fiction novel one could read.
      The inability to categorize this individual, combined with Finkel's research into other hermits honor codes/concepts of solitude, make for a fast-paced sociological thriller. I'm very interested in picking up the books that Knight found intriguing, as well as the ones Finkel used to further his own understanding of the lifestyle.
      The ingenious way Knight covered his tracks, the resident's reactions in the area, and items that corroborated his assertions of disappearance almost three decades previous- were bonkers. I whipped through this in an afternoon, and while I would have read a 500 page account, I appreciated that Finkel didn't unnecessarily draw out the story. Highly recommend to any non-fiction lover, or any person who's had an inkling to get in the car and get away from it all from time to time.


Friday, March 3, 2017


Goodreads Description
Published by Running Press, 2013. Paperback, 256 pgs

      Sincero drops serious knowledge in this book. Unapologetic and direct about the excuses we all make, she manages to make you feel empowered and good while reading- instead of guilty (which most of us are, but anyway). Anyone who has read a self-help book or two would expect a few repeat items, but her twist on suggesting behaviors (yes, that we should already have the intuition to do) was incredibly entertaining and insightful.  
       We are all weirdos, and she highlights actionable steps needed to silence the naysaying voices deep in our subconscious. The general idea being: it takes the same (or less) amount of energy to honor ourselves vs. critiquing the mess out of our lives. Do we really want to spend our one life in "The Big Snooze" or really go for it? I wish all self-helpy books felt this good to read. Her humor and candor about successful people who decided to get over themselves and live a life they were destined for was truly inspiring. One of my favorite sections was "Self-Perception is a Zoo". We are generally unsurprised when those we look up to do something amazing, but somehow imagine ourselves doomed to failure for attempting anything close.
       Who doesn't want to live with the gusto that a small child or animal has when discovering something unfamiliar? Pure joy and exploration are their impulses, and somehow we become imprinted with social norms and comparison past a certain age. The section on ingrained fears about money- whether having too little or too much- was also eye-opening. The whole book is essentially a wake up call.
      I adored how the end of each chapter was the reminder to Love Yourself, with a differently worded reminder of how to do so. No matter what, all the time. This must me constant. Sincero leaves you with a great reference section of further reading/some of her faves, so take notes! This book is not getting donated, as I know I'll return to it multiple times for inspiration. I have a feeling you will too if you give it a chance. This is a book for all humans- no matter what age, gender, or background, or ethnicity.    

Thursday, March 2, 2017


Published by Headline (an Hachette UK Company), 2011. Paperback, 341 pgs.
Goodreads Description

       I'd heard of this book in passing, and was utterly delighted to receive it in a blind book order I placed with Brittany from the Etsy shop Under the Radar Books. After reading this, I'm honestly surprised at the one and two star reviews. Even if this isn't your favorite read, the writing alone deserves praise. Winman uses quirky and wonderfully drawn characters to tell this coming of age story. Love is present in many forms, and the title derives from little Elly's rabbit who she names God- unintentionally upsetting many with her "blasphemy."
      I appreciated the astute observations Winman gave her young protagonist. Kids notice everything.
" 'What a lovely house' said my mother, with not a jealous thought coursing through her mind. She was always like that: grateful for life itself. Her glass was not only half full, it was gold plated with a permanent refill." As with any novel that spans decades, tragedy does strike. The characters were distinct-so realistically grieved differently. There was also an emphasis on appreciating our health, which most of us take for granted.
     I don't think this book was just "ordinary". I will remember these characters. It reminded me in ways of another beloved book, Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. This was more serious and less slapstick, but I can see the characters being friends....parents and kids alike. From Eleanor Maud's relationship with her brother, parents, Jenny Penny, Arthur, Ginger, Aunt and many others as her life evolves, the reader goes on a beautiful journey of her life.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Published by HarperCollins, 2017. Hardcover, 368 pgs
Goodreads Link

   This novel was enticing due to the cover, Liberty Hardy's recommendation from Book of the Month Club, and the general premise- a freaky private service that allows grieving individuals to visit with their dead loved ones through employed "bodies" who take a lotus pill.
       Unfortunately, I found myself disconnected with the characters, even as I sped through the book. It bothered me that I didn't care what would become of the two leads. While both were unlikeble, I usually still enjoy if character development is present. The narrative felt rushed and surface level, similar to watching a thriller movie with a low level of thrill.
      There were some cool flourishes from time to time, and interesting-enough insights into the employees who would accept this type of position. Told to a staff member by a client: "Working around people who are grieving must make you so aware of needing to cherish the moment." This was certainly just okay, but there was some indication that this might turn into a series? Perhaps development will improve along the way. Looking forward to fellow book lover's opinions.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Published by Tyndale House, 2012. Paperback, 272 pgs.
Goodreads Description

     Ever since renting a gorgeous cabin from Amish proprietors for a weekend getaway, I've been wildly curious about the Amish lifestyle. Unfortunately, this was a little letdown. I loved the sections detailing day-to-day life, religious tenents, relationships, and history of the old order Amish.
     Most of the story focuses on Wagler's struggle to remain in this rigid community. Wagler was commendable in admitting his faults as well as espousing the virtue of many Amish people. I liked how he retrospectively assessed the situation and didn't smear people for a better story.
     However, I think this might have been better suited as a novella or essay. Most of the pages focus on his departures and returns to the community. Rating this book is difficult since Wagler's story mainly consists of back and forth traveling, but I found it slightly tedious. Even when he was in the regular English communities, the sections were vague about his actual experience. Long hours of work and little free time could have been the reason for this- nothing to tell if nothing happens. Overall, I appreciate Wagler's glimpse into a rather secretive community, and it sparked my interest to further explore this culture. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Published by Flatiron Books, 2017. Hardcover, 320 pgs.
Goodreads Description

       I couldn't read this fast enough. It was my Book of the Month selection, and PERFECT beach read. I was intrigued, and felt challenged by the included bookmark, which had the blurb "You won't figure it out. I promise" from the judge who chose this selection. Well, by golly, I really wanted to figure it out. I didn't.
         Excuse the overused comparison, but there are similarities to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The deliciously unreliable narrator, crappily behaved man, and annoying "other" woman all form the epitome of a convoluted love triangle. There is even a diary. Don't let that dissuade you. There are fascinating differences even with the similar setup. You vaguely realize certain elements will be key to unlocking part of the mystery behind this supremely disturbing marriage, but the extent is sufficiently difficult to guess. I hope this review has been enticing and vague. You're in for a treat! Don't start late at night.


Published by Riverhead Books, 2016. Hardcover, 278 pgs
Goodreads Description

    This was my first of two wonderful vacation books. The husband and I traveled to Mexico for an Avett Brothers at the Beach event, and I was craving quick, contemporary reads that also had substance. Quite the buzz was made about this last year, and I was happy to see it become available at the library. I was impressed with Bennett's debut, and quickly gobbled up this novel. I liked her choice of telling Nadia and Aubrey's story- interspersed with the collective history and story of the "mothers" of the church.
      Trigger warning: the topic of abortion is present. I applaud Bennett's bravery for tackling such a controversial issue. I was pleased with her handling. Facts were laid out, and the characters deal with the fallout and emotional repercussions over their life. I've never read a story that discussed the male's grief portion, and found that psychological study interesting. An beautiful story of friendship, betrayal, love, loss, abuse, acceptance....this will strike a chord with any female who has nurtured someone over their life, or simply had a close relationship.


Saturday, February 4, 2017


Published by Grove Press, 2014. Hardcover, 300 pgs
Goodreads Description
    An extraordinary, poetic look at the natural world- and how we often use it as a mirror for ourselves. In this case, Macdonald trains a temperamental Goshawk (Mabel) after her father's sudden death. Notoriously difficult, they are the most vicious hawk predators.
      I haven't heard a single negative thing about this memoir. What luck since I wanted it for the cover art regardless! I read this right before Macdonald came to speak locally at a convention center in Huntington, West Virginia. There is that extra joy in reading when you know the author is touring, and it's a rare occurrence for this area. I even took my little girl, Natalie.
       Entertainment Weekly's back cover blurb proclaims "One of the loveliest things you'll read this year....You'll never see a bird overhead the same way again." I heartily agree. Nature writing, while often containing violent facts of life, has a soothing effect on me. Similar to the positive vibes I receive when petting my own animals, there is a comfort that this world contains animals to make life BETTER. Even though we are vastly different, which, as Macdonald discovers, is both comforting and unsettling....but always beautiful.
       The reverence for nature is wonderful: "Goshawks resemble sparrowhawks the way leopards resemble housecats. Bigger, yes. But bulkier, bloodier, deadlier, scarier, and much, much harder to see. Birds of deep woodland, not gardens, they're the birdwatchers' dark grail. You might spend a week in a forest full of gosses and never see one, just traces of their presence...Looking for Goshawks is like looking for grace: it comes, but not often, and you don't get to say when or how. But you have a slightly better chance on still, clear mornings in early spring, because that's when goshawks eschew their world under the trees to court each other open sky."  Besides the beautiful commentary on Goshawks, her description of the habitats are just as evocative..."The air reeked of pine resin and the pitchy vinegar of wood ants."
        I must confess that I grew slightly bored of her psychoanalysis of T.H White, whose book The Goshawk fascinates and influences her interactions with Mabel. However, our search for meaning and instruction after loss takes many forms. Therefore, while I didn't connect to White's sections as a reader, I understood why Macdonald found this crucial in her understanding of Goshawks. The T.H sections occasionally felt tedious, so it was through sheer talent that this author was able to pull off such an extensive back study. From blurbs, I assumed T.H White was mentioned a few times, but mostly in passing.
       I would recommend this to anyone who has experienced a loss, or who simply loves nature or animals in any way. There is so much goodness to be had here. I treasure this book.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Published by Counterpoint Berkley, 2017. Hardcover, 271 pgs
Goodreads Description

     Takeaway: Expending tons of energy on worthless pursuits/destructive behavior, coupled with pretending not to care about anything, is an exhaustive way to live life! While the writing was good and I was mildly curious about the character's outcomes, I found this average. There was a lot of meandering- which ended up feeling pointless since there was no real change or realization upon conclusion.
      Searching for meaning in your 20's is certainly a legitimate thing! The reality that we often make cyclical bad choices is also a truth. Vapid and self-centered characters are often engaging, but I didn't think this crew was entertaining enough to pull off these traits successfully. I ended up wishing there was a plot since the character study was so-so. This might be conducive to a readathon, as it does read quickly and is relatively short. However, I would recommend checking it out from the library.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


Published by St. Martin's Press, 2017. Hardcover, 287 pgs

PLEASE READ THIS BOOK. There. Putting it first in case you don't read the rest of the review.
    Where to start? I expected this to be a quiet, charming little novel about an older lady who reflects on a changing New York while strolling around New York City. I wasn't expecting a character so fully realized. Intensely intelligent, and genuinely interested in meaningful connection, Lillian starts conversations with bartenders, limo drivers, constructions workers, bodega owners, homeless people, young artists, and criminals alike in the same manner. There is no prejudice or distinction. The beauty in this can only be experienced by reading.
      I had tears in my eyes during some of these chapters. You ask yourself, could I do that? Her encounters often start out mistrustful or downright hostile, assuming Lillian is a condescending old lady- based on obvious appearance and demeanor- before giving her a chance. The eventual realization that she is speaking intently and beyond the normal superficial exchange route (how's the weather? are you having a good day?) changes the entire situation. And it happens again and again in the most natural way- often with a hearty handshake and asking of the person's name. However, Lillian is not perfect. There is that side of the story too.
       Fiction based on the real life of Margaret Fishback, who was the highest-paid female advertising executive in the 1930's due to her work for R.H Macy's, the author could not stop thinking about what her life might have been like and put pen to paper. New York City is a common bookish location, and particularly fit this narrative due to the variety of interactions that present themselves, along with the contrasts of gritty Subways/danger, beautiful parks, and famous literary/artistic venues.
      As walking is the way Lillian makes sense of her professional and personal life, here is a great excerpt of her reminiscing on the origin of her walks for work: "I always took my walks on lunch breaks. That, in fact, was when I'd written most of the book. For me, a peaceful atmosphere devoid of noise and distractions is absolutely the worst place for poetry, likely to wind me up in a doomed attempt to stare down the blank page. My funny old brain, like those of many poets, has always done its best work sideways, seeking out tricky enjambments and surprising slant rhymes to craft lines capable of pulling their own weight. Taking to the pavement always helps me find new routes around whatever problem I'm trying to solve: phrases on signs, overhead conversations, the interplay between the rhythms of my verse and the rhythm of my feet."
     Hands down my favorite Book of the Month selection so far, I could say you should read this if you like poetry, advertising, anecdotes about interesting people, or New York City. But that's not good enough. If you're alive and capable of social interaction, you should read this. An ultimately hopeful book about humanity, this could not have been published at a more important time given our political situation. It is easy to be enveloped in a culture of fear and avoidance. This is the best book I've read in a long time. It's profound, surprising, and even through the sad bits, somehow leaves you feeling uplifted. While only January, I'm sure this will make my best of 2017 list.