Oct 26 2016

It’s raining…grab a book

I have a bookshelf on the way to the guest room. You only get a spot if you’re a book I want to re-read and re-read and you’re a book I want everyone else to read.

The other day I caught someone taking a picture of it so they could have all the titles immediately available on their phone.


I’m always on the lookout, but lately a book I truly love has been hard to find.

Homegoing tells the story of two sisters and their lineages through 300 years of African and American history. It’s really good, but the very device of moving from generation to generation (which is so brilliant and well done) ultimately kept me from fully investing in any one character.

The Nightingale is yet another novel about the french resistance, but way better than most. It’s a really exciting and compelling, a little romantic, and also an easy read, perfect for a wintry day.

The Nest is about inheritances…or rather the inherent danger in waiting on inheritances. It’s a very smart read that entertain, pays off, and makes you think…

All good reads, but only one book this Fall earned a spot on the shelf:

You may have guessed, but I loved The Cursed Child. I can’t talk about it without crying, I was so moved. This review in the NYTimes says everything that’s in my heart, but so much better…Here’s to the boy who lived to middle age and to the writer who so vividly brought him to life!



Oct 24 2014

This book is so good

I’m about half way through The Silkworm and I’m liking it even more than its predecessor, The Cuckoo’s Calling.

Robert Galbraith (or J.K. Rowling) has created such a likeable leading man in Private Detective Cormoran Strike, that I love spending time with him regardless of the mystery he’s working on (but the mystery is pretty great too!)


– Jen



May 2 2014

Thoughts from my reading chair

Recently I have read some books that I didn’t really like:

No Book but the World

You Should Have Known

All Our Names

A couple good mysteries that resolve nicely:


Her Husband’s Secret

But the main thing I want to tell is that I read a sweet little story about a sad, misanthropic bookseller whose life and outlook change through a series of events that add up to a good life.

1) Super easy to read

2) Funny and sweet

3) Hyper-literate characters who talk in the language of people who love books. You will enjoy all the references as a side benefit to a lovely story.

– Jen



Mar 5 2014

Book Review: Orphan Train

An historical novel set in the early part of the 20th century, Orphan Train is based on the thousands of orphans that were taken by trains from New York City to the midwest to be placed in new families. I had no idea this happened and for that I’m so glad I read the book.

Cutting back and forth between a modern day foster teen and an Irish immigrant orphaned after arriving in America in the 1920’s, it’s terrifying and inspiring and sweet and heartbreaking. It’s a quick and easy read that sticks with you (in a good way, not in the weeping on the floor in the fetal position way!)

– Jen


Dec 10 2013

Book Review (and gift talk)

I just finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and I feel very happy of myself. It was over 700 pages and full of literature…not a sex scene in sight!

I read her famous first novel The Secret History in college and was a bit obsessed with it at the time. I’ve heard that it doesn’t really hold up. But, for me, it was still one of my favorite reading experiences. So I was excited to read her new one which got rave reviews. The story of a 13 year old boy who loses his mother in a terrorist attack and then lives his life burdened both literally and metaphorically with guilt sounds like a real downer…and to be honest it mostly is. Very easy to read and filled with all sorts of great characters and vividly drawn scenes that are completely entertaining, it’s ultimately it’s one of those books I’m glad I read, that is still filling a huge portion of my thoughts even days later, but not a joyful read.

I was asked by @alimcderment on Twitter for gift recommendations…

For the teen in your life, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell:

For the adult in your life looking for a good time and a list of “Ron Donald Dos”, Party Down on DVD:

For the adult in your life looking for psychological intrigue and insanely good acting, Top of the Lake on DVD:

For anyone on your list stuck in 2007, a Dillon Panthers t-shirt:

I would assume I have missed some categories of persons on your list. Feel free to send specific requests!

– Jen




Sep 3 2013

But I’m not done with my Summer reading yet

I just looked up and realized kids are back in school today. Which means it’s officially Fall (a time that usually heralds more serious books on my nightstand.) But I didn’t get to The Shining Girls, Eleanor & Park or The Interestings, so they’ll just have to carry over.

Along with The Bone Season (which is getting all sorts of hype as the first in a planned series of 7)

At Summer’s end, here’s where I stand:

I got through The Son (Phillipp Meyer), Sisterland (Curtis Sittenfeld), Big Brother: A Novel (Lionel Shriver), The Burgess Boys (Elizabeth Strout) and The Language of Flowers (Vanessa Diffenbaugh)

But the only ones I liked enough to recommend were Big Brother and The Language of Flowers.

What was your best read this Summer?

– Jen

*Clarifications on the picture above: 1) Only Jason read The Monuments Men, which he loved. (It’s the true story of the squad sent into Europe to save the world’s art  from Hitler) Neither Knightly or I read anything so highbrow… 2) The nasal spray is to make Jason stop snoring…he’s still snoring…

Jul 26 2013

Happy Birthday S.E. Hinton

I read The Outsiders when I was in 8th grade. I immediately moved on to Rumble Fish, Tex, and That was Then, This is Now. I vivdly remember finishing the 4th book while standing at my locker between classes. I began to weep because I was 13, a major drama queen and all I could think was, “I’ll never find another book as good as these are.”

It was years later that I found out S.E. was actually Susie Hinton and she wrote The Outsiders as a 16 year old high school student riveted by fellow students, know as The Greasers, walking the halls of her Tulsa, OK high school. That she was a girl and close to my own age gave the book an even higher standing on my bookshelf.

She turned 65 this week, celebrating quietly in Tulsa where she still lives. I was lucky to be able to interview her by phone a few years ago and she mentioned that she’s very happy with the movie. She was actually on the set each day with the director, Francis Ford Coppola, giving input and making sure he got it right. I know the book has fused together in my mind with the movie and I’m no longer sure which quotes come from which medium. But the Robert Frost poem, the Stevie Wonder song based on the poem, and countless moments are still with me.

I often still yell, “We’ll do it for Johnny” when we come up with a fun plan for the weekend.

If a few people come with me on an after-dinner walk , I might yell out, “Ain’t no one gonna call the fuzz in this neighborhood.”

When I happen upon someone eating cold leftovers in the morning, I like to mutter, “Beer for breakfast there, Two-Bit?”

This is poster I had on my wall:

But the most lasting legacy is the poem. I have rarely been in the middle of rare and perfect life moment when I didn’t think to myself, “Nothing gold can stay.” And then get a little weepy and be grateful for the moment…something I learned from Susie Hinton when I was just a kid…like Dallas.

– Jen

Jul 17 2013

Feels good to return with a book review

I just read The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls and loved it. It’s the story of two sisters (around 11 and 14) trying to make their way alone when their mother basically abandons them. They are great little heroines, funny and brave and admirable. Of course they encounter some villains, but the book stands resoundingly on the side of good…the idea that most people will help when they can.

One of my favorite books of the year so far. (Also, if you haven’t read her memoir, The Glass Castle, I highly recommend it as well.)

– Jen

Apr 25 2013

Warning: these books are SAD

However, they are really good and sometimes I’m in the mood for sad. But be sure to give your loved ones a warning: I shall be melancholy for the next few days (for some reason I apparently like to give this warning in a psuedo-Madonnaesque accent)

Fever by Mary Beth Keane

This is a novel based on the life of “Typhoid Mary” and if you can put yourself in a time where the idea of being “asymptomatic” didn’t make any sense to a young uneducated woman, then you will feel huge sympathy for her even as she continues to cook for children!

Sidenote: Recently a “letter to the editor” of the NYT Book Review took exception to the use of the word “quarantine” in their review of this book. The letter writer felt that the correct word should have been “isolation.” Apparently there’s a HUGE difference?

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

A novel centered on the mass murder (many would say genocide) of the Armenian people by the Turks during WWI. It’s a love story and a history lesson perfectly combined.

Keepsake by Kristina Riggle

A novel about a woman whose hoarding becomes so out of control that CPS threatens to take away her child if she doesn’t make drastic changes. The protagonist (like many of the real Hoarders we see on TV) is not likeable, but as the story unfolds you see how hoarding comes from pain and is often triggered by a tragic event that gets hidden beneath all the piles.

Each of these stories gave me a little more knowledge and a little more sympathy, so I’m glad I read them, even if at times they broke my heart.

– Jen

Feb 28 2013

Book of the Month (one day early)

I just finished it. I only started yesterday. I couldn’t put it down. Now I’ve poured a glass of wine and I’m just sitting here a little weepy, in the best possible way.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

I know I’m always cagey with the plots, but I so desperately don’t want to spoil anything or say the wrong thing that will keep you from reading it. I can say that it’s set in NYC in 1986, it’s a book to remind you that your wrongs  may be irreparable but they are most definitely forgivable.

– Jen