Tuesday, March 27, 2018


March--in like a lion, out like a lamb
March Madness
"March is the month God created to show people who don't drink what a hangover is like."

(That last one is by Garrison Keillor, of Prairie Home Companion, who is a fellow Minnesotan and clearly knows EXACTLY what March is like in the Midwest.)

It's been lion-like madness at my house. I've been laid up for almost a month with pneumonia. I hardly ever get sick, and I'm not sure I've ever been so ill that I couldn't read a couple of books a day if I was stuck in bed. But pneumonia turned my brain off. I spent the month in bed watching all five seasons of Breaking Bad--a show which held absolutely no appeal to me at any other time in my life, since I prefer my crime slapsticky and sweet-talking, like White Collar or Castle or Chuck, not grim and gritty. And now I'm scouring message boards from five years ago to discover what everyone thinks of the series' twists. Because I am both timely and relevant!

March in Colorado is glorious. This morning was winter wonderland gorgeous, except that the roads are clear and the sun shining, and it will all melt by tomorrow. And I'm working towards grocery shopping without needing a nap immediately. SPRING IS COMING.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Mondays Need a Good Book: Rosato & DiNunzio

Exposed (Rosato & DiNunzio, #5) 
Mary DiNunzio wants to represent her old friend Simon Pensiera, a sales rep who was wrongly fired by his company, but her partner Bennie Rosato represents the parent company. When she confronts Mary, explaining this is a conflict of interest, an epic battle of wills and legal strategy between the two ensues—ripping the law firm apart, forcing everyone to take sides and turning friend against friend.

THE SCOOP: This is a solid installment in a series I really enjoy. I love mysteries and thrillers, but I don't especially love cozies, and too many suspenseful books seem to be written for men: the characters are cardboard, the women are all anxious to bed the hero, etc. So I LOVE LOVE LOVE finding talented women who don't fall into those old tired tropes.

I liked a few of John Grisham's books, but Lisa Scottoline blows his legal thrillers out of the water. Her characters are nuanced and interesting, she manages to write about law (*cough*boring*cough) without putting the reader to sleep, and her legal situations are always fascinating. This is a GREAT series. I also think she nails the different women's voices. I think she does such a great job with Mary, the timid and religious widow who could become a caricature but is instead strong and interesting.

THE VERDICT: Love it. You can read these out of order, but they might be more fun in order.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Caught My Fancy Friday: Book Club!

 My book club just finalized this year's list! I've only read about half of them, so that counts for a great year. I love reading books I would never have chosen. It's part of the fun of a book club! I'm probably most excited to read A Gentleman in Moscow, because both my husband and my daughter have read it and pushed it on me.

The War that Saved My Life Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The Book of Unknown Americans Cristina Henriquez
A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women's Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870 
        Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Summerlost Allie Condie
Bel Canto Ann Patchett
My Lady Jane Cynthia Hand et al
A Picture of Dorian Grey/The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City Matthew Desmond
Beartown Frederick Backman
Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us about Who We Really Are  
        Seth Stephens-Davidowich
The Little Paris Bookshop Nina George
A Gentleman in Moscow Amor Towles

Monday, February 19, 2018

Mondays Need a Good Book: AMERICAN STREET

American Street 
THE BLURB: On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?
THE SCOOP:  Here's my hint: read the author's note at the end of the story first. It was so interesting, I wish I'd started out with it! She discusses what she tried to accomplish with the story, and she does. 

I loved this book. Really, really loved it. The magical realism was perfect. It felt real to me. Fabiola is such an interesting fish out of water desperately trying to swim.

My only complaint was that I wish the sbook had been a bit longer to flesh out the story more, especially the romance story line. 

THE VERDICT: Although it's YA, it's definitely for older teens, as there is sex, violence, and lots of strong language in it.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Caught My Fancy Friday: My "Other" Website

I try to use this space mostly for talking about writing young adult literature, but I wanted to mention another project I've been working on. My undergraduate and graduate degrees are in the humanities, which means the intersections of all the interesting things in life: literature, art, philosophy, music, architecture. I've taught introductions to art history off and on for years, and in the last few years I've become interested in contemporary art from my religious tradition. I think the way we see moral stories from either scripture or contemporary situations colors how we interpret those tales. I've been spotlighting painting over here at my other blog. Take a look if you're interested!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Mondays Need a Good Book: CALVIN

As a child, Calvin felt an affinity with the comic book character from Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes.

He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib; and he even had a best friend named Susie. Then Calvin’s mom washed Hobbes to death, Susie grew up beautiful and stopped talking to him, and Calvin pretty much forgot about the strip—until now. Now he is seventeen years old and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Hobbes is back, as a delusion, and Calvin can’t control him. Calvin decides that Watterson is the key to everything—if he would just make one more comic strip, but without Hobbes, Calvin would be cured. Calvin and Susie (is she real?) and Hobbes (he can’t be real, can he?) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track down Watterson.
This is a short and quick read (which is how I talked my husband into reading it). And it is sweet. Calvin and Susie on an epic journey across frozen Lake Erie, facing Calvin's daydreams from the cartoons and wondering about the meaning of life, our minds, and God? Delightful. 


Despite the homage to a hilarious comic strip, the tone of Calvin is nothing like Calvin and Hobbes. It's gentler and grown up. I teared up several times while reading, which is uncharacteristic for me, and found myself wanting to slow down the quick pace of this short book to savor the ideas. Very sweet. Very hopeful.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Caught My Fancy Friday: Reading in 2017


So this was my year . . . 200 books under my belt. I haven't read that many books since I started recording things on Goodreads several years ago. Usually I read around 120, 140.

I can account for it!
  1. I went on three international trips last year (also a TERRIFIC first that I doubt will ever be repeated). I read a book or two each day on vacation, usually, and more on a plane/train/car/boat to drown out motion sickness.
  2. I voted for the Whitney Awards for the first time last year, and so I read 40 books in about a month. It was the first time in my life that I've ever been sick of reading.
  3. I read a lot of YA and middle grade fiction, which tends to run shorter than adult fiction.
  4. I was down in the dumps for a lot of 2017. Books are my coping mechanism.