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26 May


Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please by Amy Poehler was one of those delightful surprises you didn’t know you had surprised yourself with until you’re in the middle of it and you can’t go back to better appreciate this gift you’ve given yourself.

I have heard from lots of friends that I “absolutely had to” read this book. So I resisted, naturally. Working as a librarian I come in contact with the “IT” books all the time. You know the ones…..the books that everyone is reading right now. The book everyone is talking about. And because I’ve worked in libraries for so long I’ve learned to discern between “popular” and “good.” Some books are popular, entertaining but not really anything important. Other books are popular, life-changing, and entertaining. And even fewer still are popular, meaningful, life-changing, and full of depth and understanding of the human condition.

So when I kept hearing about this book I made the assumption that it was just popular and entertaining.

I was so, so wrong.

First things first: I read this book as an audiobook from Audible. I checked it out from the library with every intention of reading this book with my eyes instead of my ears but life being what it is, I had to listen to it.

Amy Poehler’s narration was beautiful. I loved hearing her speak her words and it gave me the sense that she’s a natural writer. Some writers don’t read their words very well as if the way they write is at odds with their true inner voice. That’s not true with Poehler. It feels like her written words are complementary to her inner voice and I love that about her.

This book came out around the time I had heard about her divorce from her husband so I had worried this was a “divorce book.” But it wasn’t. Poehler takes time to speak about her painful divorce but she doesn’t dwell on it and the reader and the book are better for it. Poehler’s love for her boys is contagious and made me want children of my own as soon as possible and her devotion to her craft was inspiring. It made me want to quit everything and write my book and do all of the things i’ve always dreamed about doing.

Poehler asks us to be kind to ourselves. To be patient and loving with ourselves. This is a book to read at any moment in your life: a happy time, a sad time, a time of transition, a time of utter boredom. For any moment. I am so glad that I was invited into Poehler’s life for just a little while and so glad she shared my commute with me for awhile.


“Your ability to navigate and tolerate change and its painful uncomfortableness directly correlates to your happiness and general well-being. See what I just did there? I saved you thousands of dollars on self-help books. If you can surf your life rather than plant your feet, you will be happier.”
Amy Poehler, Yes Please


Fic Lee

3 Jan

About a year ago I read a review of a forthcoming title by the author Chang-rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea. I was intrigued at first because I had read his novel Aloft in undergrad and had enjoyed his writing as well as the story. Then I read the synopsis that this was a novel about future America, a bleak story about a place called B-Mor which was formally, of course, Baltimore. Futuristic story, possibly dystopian? Sign.Me.Up.

Then: I tried to read this novel in earnest about 3 times. But I found the first person plural point of view daunting and difficult. Each time that I tried to read this novel I felt overwhelmed. Then there is the content: The story begins telling about Fan, her lover Reg, and the community of B-Mor. A settlement of mostly Chinese immigrants (in fact most helpers we see are of some kind of Asian descent) who were brought here to harvest vegetables and fish for the Charter communities (in other words, they make the food for the upper-middle and upper classes). I felt utterly lost in this world of community living, talking of their culture and their work in a plural narration.

Which is, now that I’ve finally worked up the nerve to push through this novel like a difficult workout, I think, exactly what Lee wanted.

Many of my favorite “dystopian” or futuristic novels do what On Such a Full Sea does which is to drop you, the reader, in to the story in media res.  The Handmaid’s Tale feels like a close cousin to this novel as we are enveloped so intimately into this world of B-Mor, the Charters, and the Counties that while the question of how and when certainly crosses our minds, Lee sweeps us into the story so that we are pulled into the current of the narrative and what will happen to poor young Fan on her journey to find  her love. The act of using the community of B-Mor to relay Fan’s story comes from what we learn is very intrusive surveillance. Deeper into the story we learn that just by logging into their devices they can find a person in a Charter and follow them everywhere they go. It’s not always clear how they learn all of the details of Fan’s life but perhaps we should be led to the hive mind as in B-Mor everyone knows about everyone and they live in a very tight knit community as a result.

The story is simple and it is in this simplicity that the difficult themes can be thrust into young Fan’s path. Fan is 16 and she leaves all that she knows behind to venture into the wilderness on a path alone to find Reg, the man she loves. Through her trials and her adventure we see the world outside of B-Mor. We see the dangers, the way people live without the money and protection of the Charters. And we see the way the upper-middle and upper class live in fear of cancer, of the outdoors, the sun (It’s not stated outright but it seems obvious global warming and other environmental factors have caused rates of cancer to increase), and food. But where B-Mor citizens live constantly monitored and watched, with little money and no hopes of rising in life, Charter citizens are wildly rich, even buying on credit to live their rich lifestyles. These Charters exist in constant anxiety. The punishment for crimes or for losing one’s job can mean banishment to the unprotected land of the Counties.

Fan makes for a compelling character, especially being a 16 year old woman of very small stature–she is often mistaken for a young girl of 11 or 12 (though, spoiler: she is pregnant).  She is a woman alone in the wilderness journeying without direction or knowledge of where she is going or how she is going to get there, making her way on her own terms. Many times one fears for her around men. But Lee always allows Fan to come out of the situation either by her own strength or through the relationships she forges by being a decent human being to those who are otherwise treated as “other” in this world.

This was a difficult novel–one that reminded me of a mental workout or some kind of long distance run though it was only 352 pages–but one that I am happy to have read though the ending is going to haunt me for a very long time.

“For sometimes you can’t help but crave some ruin in what you love.”
Chang-rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea

“For if there is ever a moment when we are most vulnerable, it’s when we’re closest to the idea of the attained desire, and thus farthest from ourselves, which is when we’ll tread through any flame.”
Chang-rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea

“You can be affected by a person because of something particular they said or did but sometimes how a person was, a manner of being, that gets most deeply absorbed, and prompts you to revisit certain parts of your life with an enhanced perspective, flowing forward right up to now.”
Chang-rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea

“And while it’s easy to say this is a situation to be avoided, isn’t this what we also fear and crave simultaneously, that some internal force which defies understanding might remake us into the people we dream we are?”
Chang-rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea

Fic Robinson

1 Jan

Happy New Year!

This year, as inspired by a friend of mine, I’ve decided to make a goal for myself to read 50 books. I’m not at all worried about the goal–I’m in 2 personal book clubs and I run 2 book clubs for work at libraries. What worries me is being able to fit in so many books I’ve been wanting to read for so long. So I made sure to get a head start yesterday and starting reading the novel “Housekeeping” by Marilynne Robinson.

I’m technically reading this for a work book club but I sometimes, not often, choose titles on my to-read list for us to read. I’m not sure many of the members will enjoy this novel–it’s very somber, a little difficult to follow in its construction, and without a happy ending–but I don’t care.

Robinson’s first novel is poetic. Sometimes when I read too many entertaining books I forget how lovely it is to read a good, challenging novel with language that reminds you as a reader why you read. This is that kind of book for me.

The story is simple: two young girls are raised by their Aunt after their Grandmother passes away. Their Grandmother had been raising them after their Mother committed suicide after leaving them on their Grandmother’s porch.

Throughout the novel Ruthie (who tells the story) and her sister Lucille are in a state of transition. First they lose their mother, then their Grandmother, and then they are thrust into care by their Aunt Sylvie, a drifter who has not had a home in many years. Ruthie and Lucille constantly run to the woods and to the lake to escape their home and to escape school.

What made me think of their grief is the constant running to the wilderness which drives much of their lives before adolescence. By being unable to understand how to process their grief and their worry of losing their last caregiver–for Sylvie is flighty and prone to walking away for hours at a time–they are unable to cope properly and skip school to spend time idly in the woods. What else would two children alone in the world do?

Reading Robinson’s words is a treat:

“But the deep woods are as dark and stiff and as full of their own odors as the parlor of an old house.”

“And then the library was flooded to a depth of three shelves, creating vast gaps in the Dewey decimal system.”

“Her head fell to the side so oddly and awkwardly when she reached to fasten up the hair at her neck, as my mother’s had done. That was not mysterious. They were both long and narrow women like me and nerves like theirs walk my legs and gesture my hands.”

This is not only the story of housekeeping–a family not only trying to keep their physical house but their symbolic house as well–but of what it is to live with family and without. How to keep a family standing when much of it has perished. And it is about being a woman without a mother. The older Lucille finds for herself women to model herself after, to become the woman she would like to be despite not having her mother. She is strong and capable of doing anything she likes. But younger Ruthie is unable to do the same. A dreamer like her Aunt Sylvia, Ruthie is constantly drifting through life without a sturdy mother figure to re-align her when she gets off course. By the end of the book it is unsurprising the life Ruthie allows to take hold of her and it is difficult to understand how it could have been different.

Grief and the loss of a Mother and Grandmother shifts us and changes us as women in ways that we do not always feel until much later.

So glad that I read this book and that it touched me so deeply.


The Last Policeman

10 Aug

Over the weekend I finished the last installment of Ben H. Winter’s “The Last Policeman” trilogy. Since beginning my long commute I have been reading more audiobooks as I have mentioned and mysteries are one type of audiobook that I find I listen to best.

We started the first title of the trilogy last year on a road trip to Missouri. My husband doesn’t usually listen to audiobooks so I knew it was a good pick when we found ourselves lingering in the car to finish just a little bit more of this book.

What it’s about: 

An asteroid, nicknamed Maia, is hurtling toward Earth and will kill everyone on the planet when it strikes. Upon hearing this news it’s only natural that the citizens of earth lose it. Most people simply walk away from their lives or their work to fulfill “bucket lists.” This series takes place over the last 6 months just before the asteroid hits. Panic ensues, infrastructure fails, and soon people are running out of food, gas, and options. Suicide becomes so prevalent that eventually there is no need for detectives to sort out the “whodunit” but instead the need for enforcers rises. Hank Palace, our last policeman, is a new detective, recently promoted, who is called to the scene of a suicide. Because of his natural inclination to solve crimes, Palace of course notices right away that this is not a suicide.

The trilogy follows Palace as he hunts down suspects like a dog. He is unrelenting in his quests. Palace is one of the small percentage of humans left that will simply not quit. Being a detective IS who Palace is. It’s what he does. So, naturally, as the asteroid gets close to earth so too does Palace to the killer. The second installment is a missing person’s case—one that reveals society’s further collapse. Palace’s sister, Nico, is involved in a conspiracy group trying to save the earth by blowing up the asteroid. And in the end of the trilogy we find a broken and battered Hank with his ever faithful bichon, Houdini, still at his side solving crimes. This time looking for Nico and in this book we get the finale we’ve been waiting for.

Why this series is great: 

We’ve had a lot of post-apocalyptic stories recently. A flood of them, in fact. Viruses, zombies, unnamed catastrophes. But we are always given the story of after. Winters instead looks to the just before. What would it really be like if we were given the news that a 6.5 km wide asteroid will hit Earth in October, giving the world the news in January? What would a person do with that information?

Through Henry’s investigations we see many different responses to the asteroid:  desperation, suicide, conspiracy, obsession, religion, and even manipulation. Because Hank—Henry as we come to know him—is so thorough we see the world’s destruction through his eyes. Henry is a good man, one that wants to solve the crime. But he becomes increasingly confused and we learn that his parents died when he and his sister were young causing him to become, as one character suggests, a sort of Bruce Wayne. He is a man who is trying to save the world but in this time of Maia the best he can do is solve a case and do what is right.

Henry is a man guided by his own moral compass and one that is both honest and dogged. He is obsessed with his job but loves his sister, Nico, to the point that even in the final hours she is on his mind. He has charged himself with watching over her and he never gives up on keeping her safe.

This series is great because not only do we receive from Winter’s a complex main character we receive from him an enticing story. Knowing that this series WILL end a certain way makes the story even more desperate and even more intoxicating. Why does Henry Palace even care? We find ourselves following him wherever he will take us, even to the end of the world.

The Last Policeman series by Ben H. Winters:

  1. The Last Policeman
  2. Countdown City
  3. World of Trouble

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

30 Jun

The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman

A while ago I was reading an article about the progression of the series on SyFy called “The Magicians” that would be moving forward in production. Hey! I thought, I read that! That would make a great series!

I decided then that it was time to finish the trilogy in order to be fully prepared for, what I can only imagine, will be a magical and wonderful television series.

The Magicians:

In the fall of 2012 I was living in a new community, had just graduated library school, and I was looking to get involved with my local library. I was in luck because they had just introduced a sort of “books on tap” kind of book club and the first meeting was the next month. The title the librarian chose was “The Magicians” a book I had only sort of seen but not really heard of. I knew that I would love it because I enjoyed Harry Potter and I like stories with magical realism inserted into the plot.

I hated it. What was also going on in my life was that my Mother was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like I had time to read “frivolous” books about magic. I needed real big L literature. I went to Madrid for a visit while my husband worked and then, a few months after her diagnosis, my Mother passed away.

But this book kept needling me. It had all of the elements of a book that I would love. And I should have loved it. I ran an experiment: If I read this book a second time and still hate it: well,  I tried. But if I read it a second time and loved it, it would be proven: sometimes we aren’t ready for a book.

I loved it. Quentin was just moody enough and I was just old enough to love this. I was grieving the loss of my Mother and I got it, Quentin. I understood you. I understood what it means to be waiting for something more to happen.

The Magician King

For this title, I knew that I didn’t have a lot of time to read. I ordered the book used (and scored a used library copy at that–treasure!!!!) so I tried reading it on e-book. But it wasn’t working for me. We hear more from Julie and Quentin is getting older and I just had a hard time reading it. I was busy with a new job and I knew that I was going to really enjoy this book! I didn’t want to rush it.

So I took a chance and downloaded the audiobook. And that is the moment this series became special to me. Mark Bramhall’s voice at first appeared a little off for me. To narrate this story I had always assumed a young voice in my mind. A twenty-something young man’s voice full of sarcasm and wonder and maybe a touch of naivete.

But as the story darkened and as Quentin grew into his own I knew that this was the perfect choice. Bramhall’s voice makes it. The sparkle of wonder at being in Fillory is rightfully shadowed in a dripping sardonic tone that often colors the story much sadder than I think it would be if I were reading it on the page.

We get to know Fillory much more intimately and following Quentin is a pleasure–even if sometimes it’s so very difficult to see him flounder. And the introduction of Julia and her trials and tribulations make this story so much more real than Harry Potter could ever be–because this is a story about growing up. Harry Potter is so much more about what it means to be a child and what it means to tell a good story with characters written with the complex depth reserved for children’s literature. Here, with the Magicians trilogy we are privy to real human characters and what it means to long for one’s childhood. To long for something more–and to realize that even when you get that “more” you may not always be happy with it.

The Magician’s Land:

Because I was so transfixed with Mark Bramhall’s narration I decided to finish the trilogy on audio. I cried many times and I sat in my car on more than one occasion just to finish the chapter. Here Grossman’s talents really shine. He is able to sculpt the story into one that will become (or SHOULD) become a classic. This trilogy allows its characters to make mistakes and to grow from them. Quentin starts this story as a moody teenager who takes love and life and magic for granted. We watch him grow into a man who knows his limits, knows who he is, and understands that even with all of his failings: he matters. He struggles with his failings but he knows in his heart that while he can’t fix everything and he can’t make it right, he can make it good.

This story spoke to me in a such a very real and awe-inspiring way. Much like Harry Potter is to so many readers, this story awoke in me a passion and nostalgia for the story as I closed it’s final pages. I found myself feeling what the characters were feeling and that is a powerful way to immerse oneself into a story.

I know that I will revisit Quentin and his friends soon. I hope that you do, too.

The Bees by Laline Paull

17 Apr

I’m notoriously picky about books so the fact that after reading the delightful and incredibly wonderful novel “The Word Exchange” by Alena Graedon I picked up ANOTHER lovely and engaging book can’t be coincidence. I think this is another year for great debut novels. Especially inventive debut novels.

Before I write this review let me get something off my chest: I’m not afraid of bees and I don’t usually run away from them when they approach but I don’t exactly find them cute or cuddly. After reading this book I’m so excited about bees I had to remind myself it isn’t prudent to start beehives while living in an apartment.

So: “The Bees” by Laline Paull.

What it’s about: A hive. Literally a novel about a particular hive and a particular bee named Flora 717.

What I thought it was about: Not bees. I sort of thought there were be a twist at the end or in the middle that was like JUST KIDDING it’s really about PEOPLE! I’m so glad Laline wrote this book and not me.

“The Bees” is great because it’s an entire beautifully written story about a worker bee (sanitation to be exact) who is sort of different. She can talk and she can think when really every other bee in sanitation doesn’t do that. She’s also curious. And she wants to be near the Queen so badly she does whatever she can to get there. I know it sounds weird that this is an entire book about bees but Paull’s able hand pulls it off. I forgot I was reading about insects and felt like I had been transported into a world where bees were anthropomorphic and looked like bee-people or something. The entire first half of this book I kept thinking of Pilar from “The Year of the Flood” by Margaret Atwood–how she loves the bees and talks to the bees and cares for the bees. 

Not only does Paull create an entire bee culture (which I will wager comes from extensive research) she makes it convincing. The language she so beautifully engages the reader with draws the reader in for more so that even when there is a violent battle between wasps and bees you don’t want to miss a single word this woman has written. The description is lovely. Some books I enjoy because the story, characters all come together. Some I love because I become so engaged with the story I can’t stop reading. This was one of those books. I look at flowers differently now, I want to smell the world like a bee (maybe just for a minute). Flora 717 is a strong female character who is full of resolve to do not only what’s right for Flora 717, but what’s right for her beloved hive and her children. 

Fans of dystopian lit and fantasy will eat this up. GO READ THIS! 

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

8 Apr

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this incredibly satisfying book before it was published!

“The Word Exchange” follows the story of Anana as she tries to locate the whereabouts of her recently disappeared father, Doug. Anana works with her father for the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL) which is about to release the final print edition. Final? That’s because most print is dead. Everyone relies on their Meme for information. Their Meme, a tablet like device that not only gives users text and information but also orders taxis when users think they need one, diagnose user’s maladies (doctors are almost all out of work now), and other (unsettling) features. Anana, like most everyone else, loves her Meme. Doug, and his colleague Bart (who happens to be in love with Anana–but she doesn’t know it) don’t. In fact, Doug still uses email!! And still has pens and paper! While Anana searches for her father, a global pandemic breaks out: people are forgetting how to speak and depending more and more on the popular “Word Exchange” program that, for a fee, will define words for you.


This book was awesome. “The Word Exchange” belongs alongside “Super Sad True Love Story” by Gary  Shteyngart and “Lexicon” by Max Berry. Equal parts secret society mystery and commentary on the nature of language and the future of society if we continue to depend on our devices to interact with each other and the world around us. This book was thrilling! The character of Anana is the type of female character I enjoy. She’s flawed, does all the things you know she shouldn’t (so many times I just wanted to scream at her for not listening to instructions!!) but because of her decisions takes us on a wild ride. Bart (or Horse) is a character that speaks for those who are in love with the written word, those who are reluctant to accept new things just because they are new. In the end, the characters in Graedon’s book are familiar to all readers and lovers of the written word. Anana and Bart (Bartleby–a great and useful reference in the book) both contract the word flu and through them we experience what it would be like to slowly lose language. Both narrate the book in different chapters (each chapter is a letter of the alphabet and is accompanied by a definition which relates to the chapter) and the breakdown of their language becomes apparent very quickly. It was fun to highlight all of the “nonwords” that they both start using but scary at the same time. The Word Exchange is a program that I could easily see becoming a reality in the far future–so many people seem convinced that words can change meaning when and how they want. Even if a word flu isn’t possible–the ultimate dependance on smart devices and the demise of print (even email!) is a sobering concept and this book will surely light fires in readers everywhere. A smart and entertaining book, I will be purchasing my own physical copy to read and enjoy again.

2013-A year in review

6 Jan

I resolved to read 55 books in 2013 and I surpassed that goal by reading 56! Here is my list of favorites and not so favorites:

Favorite book of 2013: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

Least favorite book of 2013: I’m just kidding. I used to be the kind of reader who was so selective that I read like 2 books a year and loved them. Now that I’m no longer a student I have time to be both selective AND a prolific reader! I generally like everything I read because I try to find something good in everything I do read. I’m in 2 book clubs and maybe I don’t like everything we read but I try to find redeeming qualities in everything I put into my brain—as much as I can….I am sad to say I can never “unsee” that Doctor Who movie made in the 90s….

Top ten of 2013: since I’m writing this in Jan 5 my list will be slightly different than my Twitter Librarian faves list that I published in December.

1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I loved this sweeping history of Theo Decker’s youth and I’m only putting off reading this a second time because, like Jane Eyre, I want to savor it and savor it.

2. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

I put this one off because I thought it was about baseball. How naive!!! Probably one of my favorite novels I’ve read in a long time and one I still lovingly remember whenever I pass it in a bookstore or at the library.

3. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

I read this novel soon after my Mother passed away and, more than a post-apocalyptic novel, this is a novel of a man grieving the loss of not only his old life but his wife who also died during the epidemic. I found this book both healing and lovely and the images of his solitude and then new life with other humans was beautiful.

4. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Dear Mr. Sloan: WRITE A SEQUEL NOW. Please?

5. Toward the Gleam by T.M. Doran

After you read this you will always know Lord of the Rings should be shelved in Nonfiction as History.

6. Harry Potter by JK Rowling

I finally finished reading the Harry Potter series and I can’t wait to read more by Rowling. She is clearly a force to be reckoned with.

7. Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood

Atwood cleverly weaves together three books about the end of the world. And while doing so successfully shows us what our future could hold if we are not careful.

8. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman, if I ever meet you I will probably lose all ability to speak.

9. How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

A little more graphic than I’m used to, I felt like this was the novel I was searching for in college. So glad to have read it.

10. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

This was my guilty pleasure this year. I really enjoyed the story and I can’t wait to read the next book.

Halloween reads for the rest of us

13 Oct

I have a small book club–literally a total of three people–and two of the three LOVE the horror genre. I’m the kind of reader who is usually up for anything (let’s leave my past bookish snobbery for another post) and I pride myself in trying to at least give something new a chance (but let’s be honest–you’ve read one Nicholas Sparks book you’ve read them all). However, when my dear friends want to choose certain books (IT, The Shining, anything by Stephen King) I have to politely remind them I will slowly die on the inside from the nightmares I’m worried I’ll have. Call it an overactive imagination or call it the inability to grow up, I have a hard time reading horror. I’m slowly getting better and I think someday I’ll be able to read something scary–but I will never be able to WATCH it. Because of my aversion to all things scary I’ve had to get creative when it comes to reading books in October to get me in the spirit of the season.

Here is a list of books I’d like to recommend for those readers who love Hallowe’en as much as I do but really don’t like the part of Halloween that involves serial killers that hide in your house ready to attack you while you’re watching a movie and eating a snack wearing only your skimpiest nightgown (because hey, it’s laundry day):

1. The Graveyard Book : I just finished reading this for the first time and I think it’s going to become the book I read every October. Like Hocus Pocus (the classic film from my childhood I will love until I die) there is enough ghosts, ghouls, and witches for me to feel in the Hallowe’en spirit. Please give this book a chance—though Gaiman wrote this as a children’s book and he won the Newbery Medal, remember that he also won a Hugo and when it comes to Neil Gaiman’s writing–reader’s of all ages will appreciate his epic storytelling. Nobody Owens will soon be your favorite graveyard friend.

2. The Bone Season: I will write more about this adventurous read about a clairvoyant living in an alternate future London in a different post but this book is perfect for the season. There are creatures that behave more like Vampires than humans, mysterious monsters that bite off arms and legs in the dark, and of course, people who can talk to ghosts and hurl spirits at other people. While all of this might sound scary, the scary moments aren’t psychologically disturbing enough to keep you up at night. Shannon’s writing, however, will.

3. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly This book follows the story of David who is a young boy mourning the loss of his Mother. David so hates his new stepmother and the baby she bears that he makes a deal with a mysterious man to take the baby. David travels to the mysterious storybook land in the forest behind his house in search of this man who wishes to make David king. Full of fairytale allusions and great adventure–this is a great book to read around the last campfires of the year.

4. Toward the Gleam by T.M. Doran This is a smaller publication but one that I love dearly. A friend of my father’s wrote this book and I can’t recommend it enough! The story is this: a man is recovering after between the two world wars in the countryside when he falls into a cave during a storm. Almost losing his life the man discovers a box that is mysterious in construction and language and the man concludes it could be the treasure of a long lost civilization. With allusions to The Lord of the Rings and adventure stories of the classics, Doran takes us on a mysterious journey following John Hill, the box he finds and the language he tries to translate while trying to piece together the death threats he receives and the conclusions he ultimately makes. A real page-turner!!

5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde This book creeped me out. The film that was released a few years ago does the book justice and was great to watch after reading this book. I highly recommend picking this one up (or, picking it up again) during the month of October. You will never look at a painting the same way again!

6. After Dark by Haruki Murakami Granted, this one doesn’t have anything to do with ghosts are ghouls, but like “The Picture of Dorian Gray” I’m including it for the creep factor. This novel takes place in Tokyo at night. Always at night. The novel follows those who don’t sleep, those who can’t sleep, and those who have been sleeping for a long time. 

7. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis A book about the correspondences between a devil and his novice nephew, this book isn’t just for Christians. Just keep reminding yourself who’s doing the writing!

8.The Magicians by Lev Grossman I think in the beginning of the book the season is fall or autumn so I will always think of this novel as a good October book. Plus, it’s about magic being real! Bonus: Harry Potter for adults–it doesn’t get any better than this, unless Grossman ever writes #3 in this trilogy!

9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern This is one of those books probably everyone has already read because it’s just so enchanting and begs to be made into a film ASAP. If you haven’t read this one yet get to it–it’s about star crossed lovers who are in a magical competition against each other–a dual to the death led by their teachers who refuse to tell them much of anything except that they will die when it’s over. READ IT NOW. Morgenstern is a magician herself with imagery and I felt lost for days longing for this to be a real thing.

10.Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger This is a good book to read before or after “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman as Neil himself (ha, get it!) consulted with Audrey on graveyards. This is a spooky read about twins and their aunt who is a master manipulator in death as a ghost. The plot is just too good to care much about there being ghosts and it won’t leave you feeling creeped out because of them–just creeped out by their awful aunt.


Bonus: John Dies at the End by David Wong and Touch by Alexi Zentner

The Color Master by Aimee Bender

11 Sep

In college, undergrad, I had a professor who, after reading a project I was working on, recommended I read some of Aimee Bender’s short stories to get some ideas on form. From the moment I started reading “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt” I was hooked. Who knew a short story could be so magical? So lovely? So full of truth even at its most outlandish. Certainly not me at 22. 

So I’ve followed Aimee Bender’s work and I have read everything I can get my hands on. When I was looking ahead at books to be published in the fall I almost cried from delight that Bender had a new book out. I couldn’t wait to read it! I was lucky enough to get an ARC from NetGalley.

Another lovely addition to the Aimee Bender library. After “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” it was hard to say if what I wanted to read was more short stories or more novels from this magical author. 2013 does seem to be the year of the short story so I’m glad that it was short stories Bender offers to us and I’m glad she chose these. A little bit of a departure from her myths and fables I love so much, many of these stories offer to us the myth and magic of real life. The magical situations we are placed in every day that we take for granted. “On a Saturday Afternoon” a woman asks two of her closest male friends to spend an afternoon doing whatever it is that she tells them to do. From here, Bender sticks to reality and in this story we are given a peeping tom’s view of what happens when two men are asked to do things they never thought they could do. In “Faceles” a boy is incapable of seeing faces and people, which is close to a reality that many people live with today (known has face blindness). Here we recognize how lost we are without being able to see the whole picture, how we cannot rely only our eyes to see the truth of what it happening in front of us.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a collection of short stories without some myth and magic. “The Color Master” is one of those stories I never want to end. A story I want to climb into and live with for awhile. “Tiger Mending” written after a painting ( by Amy Cutler is so vivid and so precise, it feels like a true story. My favorite is “Americca” a story about a family who starts to notice every day items being duplicated and left in their home–reverse robbed. 

These stories, and the others I have not mentioned, share themes of a failure to feel a sense of belonging, or the sense of loneliness and the sense of seeing what others, we think, cannot also see. Bender weaves, as if she were the Color Master, a string of the color blue and the image of the moon following us throughout many of the stories making the reader feel as though these stories were collections of narratives spoken to Bender in her dreams or, maybe our dreams. Bender shapes for us a world where facing our deepest fears or deepest desires turns out to be less dramatic than we hope and more profound in us when we accept that everything is going to be as okay as it can be. Here we learn that even in the extraordinary so many of us will react ordinarily, as if this sort of thing happens every day.

I suggest that if you haven’t started reading Aimee Bender’s work, you do now. Here is an excellent place to begin.