Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Nine Perfect Strangers

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A very unexpected book! I picked this one up because it was available at the library and I was generally aware it had gotten some attention. The beginning had me thinking it was good but pretty far outside my normal reads; not in a bad way, just a leisurely meander of a character study. But the second half pulled the rug right out from under me!

The first half is a great character study. Every perspective feels different, and allows us to see the character’s inner thoughts and motivations as they participate in the health resort. Teasing out their reasons for attending was interesting without being laborious, like a slow walk on a cool day. It was a nice change of pace.

Then things got crazy…

I’m glad I picked this one up. It’s good to get to know a perfect stranger, sometimes.



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Review: Turtles All The Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A magnificently well done look out of the eyes of someone with mental health concerns. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I picked up this book—I grabbed it based on vaguely knowing John Green was a YA author and because there was an underlying murder mystery. But I’m so glad I did. The teen-girl parts and the mystery were both interesting, but this book shines in its treatment of mental health. Everyone should read it, to see how to empathize with others, to try to understand.



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Review: Happiest Baby on the Block

The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was one of the few books my hospital recommended. I read it before the baby arrived (and I’m glad I did). It provides practical solutions to at least one early parenting trial: how to calm a crying baby when you have no idea what to do.

I’m not sure I love the tone of the book, which can be a smidge patronizing, but that is forgiveable for the incredible usefulness of the practical tips. I think there’s also some “noble savage” assumptions at the root of this concept, but the tips are based on real situations and examples.

In practice, I can say the “5 S’s” do really work! It’s great to have an approach to help soothe a very young baby who can’t express his needs. Plus it reduces my stress to have something to DO when baby is so very upset.



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Review: The Testaments

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I picked up my copy of the book at a Margaret Atwood live event, during which she talked euphemistically about the book and why she wrote it and about her opinions on the world as a whole today. That undoubtedly colored my perspective as I read this book: I had heard Atwood’s motives and insights from her own lips, how could I be a fresh reader now?!

Of course, I loved seeing Atwood speak. She is charming, and effortlessly brilliant, and cute as a button. Her talk also convinced me that she really had written The Testaments because she wanted to, not because some TV exec had twisted her arm as I had feared.

I was not the kind of fan who desperately wanted a sequel to Handmaid’s Tale; I think the story stands up exceedingly well on its own. But will I welcome more writings by Atwood, now that her work has captured public attention? Obviously!

The Testaments is a different story; start with that. It is set some years after Handmaid’s Tale, when Gilead is firmly established and hardening in its ways, showing cracks. Handmaids are barely in the story at all, kept to the fringes of polite society. We follow three characters, including former villain Aunt Lydia. The other two offer contrasting looks at youthful views on Gilead, from both within and outside, which is an interesting comparison.

Testaments fleshes our Gilead—perhaps too much. I’m disappointed in that I anticipated all the twists and big reveals. But the book is still captivating and gives me much to think about. Atwood’s writing is inherently poetic and enthralling. And you have to wonder: facing serious hardship, is there a chance YOU would be an Aunt Lydia? Or are you meek and accepting? Or just a loudmouth teenager who has never faced real adversity?



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Review: Sword and Pen

Sword and Pen by Rachel Caine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


An end of all things. The culmination of the attacks on The Great Library of Alexandria—drama all around.
The stakes are high, and the group of former students is in the middle of it. The stakes were a little too high for me. Maybe I’m just in the wrong state of mind for this book, but it was overwrought and I kept wondering where the adults were. Maybe that’s the curse of YA, or maybe it is just me.



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Review: Damn Fine Story

Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful NarrativeDamn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wasn’t able to attend the DFW Con writing convention this year, where Chuck was the keynote speaker, but I did get to read this book, so I still feel like I got to have a good long conversation with him.

The book is both light-hearted and zippy and meaty and something you’ll ponder. It took me a long time to get through because I kept ruminating. Which is the point! Thank god this was a different kind of writing book! There is no torture over adverbs or controversially short memory devices; Chuck leaves all that to King and the plethora of his imitators. Instead, this book is about the overall shape of a story. That’s a mushy, hard-to-define topic, which Chuck handles with movie story examples, quick jokes, and great illustrative metaphors.

You’ll have something to think about, and you’ll damn well like it, young man!

(Seriously though, I just want to watch TV with Chuck. He has excellent nerd taste.)

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Review: Camino Island

Camino IslandCamino Island by John Grisham
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Sorry, Mr. Grisham, life is too short for me to keep reading this one. I got two chapters in and nothing grabbed me, and the bookish theft plus independently wealthy indie book store owner who is kinda an asshole already deterred me from continuing. Maybe it picks up? But I’m not willing to stick it out.

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Review: A Hat Full of Sky

A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld, #32; Tiffany Aching, #2)A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a warm, cheery hug. Tiffany Aching is ready to start to learn to use magic and become a Real Witch, but it means leaving home for the first time and staying with a rather odd witch named Miss Level, who is frustratingly not very witchy at all! Tiffany is a bit homesick and irritated that magic seems to be mostly helping ungrateful villagers and not a lot of swishing magic wands about. But danger has followed Tiffany, and, with the help of the Feegles (see: Wee Free Men) and a few other witches, she learns how to tap the true power of a witch.

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Review: The Wee Free Men

The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30)The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Superbly charming, Pratchett at his best. Tiffany is a young girl living on the Chalk, which sensible witches know is far too unstable to create a witch. And yet… and yet, Tiffany shows all the characteristics of one. She’s very clever, thinks things through, and, above all, cares. Plus there’s the fact that she knocked a fairytale demon right back out of a stream and has been talking to feisty little fairy men.

It was so good that I blazed through it and immediately grabbed the next one, which I also finished off in a blitz. A perfect vacation read. The Tiffany Aching books are officially YA, and certainly would be a riot for a kid reader, but I didn’t find it too different from the general Discworld populations, and of course adults should enjoy it, too. Give it a read, ya scuggin!

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Review: Like a Mother

Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of PregnancyLike a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book up on a whim because the pregnancy book I had wanted to read was on backorder at the library. I’m glad I did! Like a Mother is one part memoir (focused on the author’s pregnancy) and one part Weird Science Facts. I now know far more about what a placenta looks, feels, smells, and yes, tastes like than I ever expected. I also know what it does.

Honestly, it was such a fascinating and frank look at pregnancy that it shouldn’t be slated as “just” a pregnancy book. Anyone interested in the human body and biology could benefit from reading it.

That said, it feels like every pregnancy book features vignettes about the author’s birth experience, which… I don’t know, I see a value in it, but that wasn’t why I was showing up to the book, and I found those sections a little too personal and intense for me compared to the Weird Science Facts.

I also thought the book had some good discussions of the feminism of pregnancy in general, and it was reassuring in a Hell Yes I’m Not Alone kind of way to know that there are other people out there pushing against the standard pregnancy mantras.

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