I read because I must. It's like breathing to me. And I love talking about books. But I'm also an Arsenal fan, a wine drinker, a music lover and weirdly obsessed with pop culture. I mostly blog about books, but sometimes about things I'm thinking or doing. When I'm not on the blog, I'm managing software implementations.

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Recent Posts

  • Keeping Track, Keeping Fun
  • Big Little Lies
  • This Morning, I Held an Urn
  • The Girl On The Train
  • My Sunshine Away

Keeping Track, Keeping Fun

Posted on 12 Mar 2015 In: Reading

Books in progressI do love reading and writing reviews. And although I’ve been doing this since 2010 (wow!) I still get a little thrill of flattery when an author or publisher asks me to review their work.

There’s all kinds of things to consider with a review request.  First and foremost, for me, is stating clearly  in my review policy that a request for a review does not guarantee a positive review.  But things like review policies are only the tip of the iceberg.

What’s become challenging for me is keeping track of review requests and managing them in a timely manner, while still reading and reviewing books just for fun.  Although I’ve created a separate email folder and label for review requests, I’ve found it hard for me to always stay on track and complete reviews in a timely manner.

I’ve been thinking about this for several days, and I’ve decided to make better use of the fabulous calendar I have from erincondren.com.  Yes, I’m old school and still like a paper calendar although most things are also tracked electronically.

I’ve decided I need to treat requested review reading a little bit like homework. Select a date for review publication, mark it in the calendar, then plan around that due date to read the book and write the review.  Only one thing about that worries me.  Reading is FUN!  I adore getting lost in a book, staying up late because I have to know what happens next, reading as fast as I can.  And I don’t want that thrill to go away.  I want to be able to revel in a book that just catches my eye.  That means I can’t have this process be too regimented, or reading and blogging becomes a second, unpaid job.  So, I think I am going to change my review commitments, and agree to only two reviews a month.  That should give me the balance I’m looking for, and give the authors and publishers who ask me to consider their books for review the attention that they deserve.

I’m curious to know what authors, publishers, and other bloggers might think of this approach. What works for you?



Big Little Lies

Posted on 2 Mar 2015 In: Reading

Big Little Lies The Husband’s Secret was one of those books that took the women’s fiction world by storm- lots of buzz about it. I read it and I liked it. I wanted to read more by Liane Moriarty. Big Little Lieswas the next one I chose, and I listened to the audiobook. This is one where I looked for more opportunities to listen, because I wanted to know what happened next.

Big Little Lies is set in a seaside community in Australia. The local primary school is the central setting around Madeline, Celeste, and Jane. Each of these women has children starting kindergarten. Madeline is fierce and loyal and is struggling with her ex-husband and his new wife, as well as with her teenage daughter who suddenly seems to prefer her father to her mother.

Celeste is that “perfect mom” – stop-and-stare beautiful with longed-for twin sons and a handsome, successful husband.  But sometimes, the price for perfection is high, and Celeste has to decide how much she’s willing to pay.

Jane is a young single mom, new to the community. She fiercely loves her son but also fears what he may be.

Big Little Lies explores relationships between friends and families, but also the lies we tell ourselves about our own lives.

Liane Moriarty is a good storyteller.  She creates relate-able, authentic characters. She tells a compelling story in a way that engages and entertains readers. More than once in listening to Big Little Lies, I found myself indignant on behalf of the characters; wondering what I might do in their situation; scoffing at the high-school-like behavior of some adults.

Big Little Lies reveals those parts of ourselves we often try to keep secret. The pieces we may share with our therapists, but may not tell even our best friends.  I like this one, and highly recommend to anyone who enjoys good fiction, and especially women’s fiction.

This Morning, I Held an Urn

Posted on 28 Feb 2015 In: Thinking

Today I held an urn in my lap. It was cold and unyielding, but it contains what little pieces of you remain on this earth.  It is not the same as a hug from you- a hug I’ve missed for many months now, but it is the closest I can get.

And I felt, strangely enough, a bit of peace as I held your urn.

I am wearing one of your rings.  The one you bought in Hawaii when I took you for your birthday in 2007.

Tonight we will melt dark chocolate on saltine crackers.

It’s your birthday. You aren’t here to share it with us, but we will still celebrate you.

The Girl On The Train

Posted on 16 Feb 2015 In: Reading

The Girl on the TrainThis is the book the everyone is talking about right now. The one that has a “twist like Gone Girl” and has 910 (at the time of writing) five-star reviews on Amazon; an average 3.96 rating on Goodreads with over 27,000 ratings.  And it was good.  But I guessed the twist. So that makes it slightly less awesome for me.

That being said, if you liked Gone Girl or you like books like Gone Girl where you know things just aren’t quite what they appear; if you like fast-paced reads that do make you wonder if what you’re guessing is right, then The Girl On The Train is definitely one you should check out.

From Amazon:

“Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.”

This was a quick, enjoyable read.  I don’t know that I agree with emotionally immersive in the way the Amazon synopsis means it, but I will say the most intriguing part of the book to me was Rachel’s struggle with her own demons.  And I did keep turning pages, wanting to know what happened next. This was a terribly fast read for me, encompassed largely in one day, so I was not at all bored by the story.

But I guessed the twist (and so has everyone else I have talked to who has read the book), so I can’t quite give it five stars. But I can tell you this:  for something engrossing, engaging, and highly entertaining, The Girl On The Train is one you will want to add to your reading list.

My Sunshine Away

Posted on 9 Feb 2015 In: Reading

screenshot203LOVED M.O. Walsh’s My Sunshine Away. I’ve struggled with this review because I loved every moment of reading the book- even the uncomfortable parts- and I want to do it justice and I want you to read it and love it like I do.

From the Amazon Summary: A debut novel, My Sunshine Away “unfolds in a Baton Rouge neighborhood best known for cookouts on sweltering summer afternoons, cauldrons of spicy crawfish, and passionate football fandom. But in the summer of 1989, when fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson—free spirit, track star, and belle of the block—experiences a horrible crime late one evening near her home, it becomes apparent that this idyllic stretch of Southern suburbia has a dark side, too.

In My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love. Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and page-turning debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive.”

Walsh’s writing style is what really drew me in and kept me turning pages.  I simply like the way he writes- honestly, and without melodrama. And the picture he paints- you see Lindy, you see our narrator, you feel as if you are there, watching it all. I don’t think a word is wasted in his narrative. He tells a compelling story that allows you to feel the emotions of the characters tempered by the perspective that maturity, distance, and growing up would provide.

And these characters are real. The plot is authentic. Anyone growing up in the suburbs in the timeframe of the novel will recognize the environment, the families, the stories.

The parts of this I most want to share with you are the parts you simply must read for yourself.  I don’t want to give anything away. I want you to savor it yourself, but at the same time itch to read faster because you just are that immersed in the story.

In a way it’s a shame I read this book in January.  It’s set a high bar for all the other books I read this year.

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This is one you want to be on the  early side of. Entertainment Weekly just blurbed about it in the issue that arrived on Friday.  My Sunshine Away is being released Tuesday, February 10, anywhere new release books are sold.