Monday, February 11, 2019

December and January Book List

I am so very behind on everything blog related. I am doing well meeting goals in other areas of my life, but I failed to get the book list up for December or January. Here are all the great books I ended last year devouring and started the new year reading.

Anarcha Speaks: A History in Poems by Dominque Christina

This reimagining of Anarcha, a slave Dr. J Marion Sims operated on, experiences is breathtaking. It is best read slowly as the reader tries to digest the injustice, pain, and inhumanity of being a black woman used for experimental surgery in the 1800s by the man considered the "modern father of gynecology".

The poetry will stay with you after you turn the last page, and so will the images it recalls.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

This is the second Agatha Christie book I have ever read, and it was good. I am not as blown away by her work as everyone else seems to be, but that could be because I'm so late to the game and have heard her mysteries hyped up all my life. The pacing was solid and the story intriguing.

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Set in London after the election of Barack Obama, two couples strive to make their relationships work. One couple has children but stay unmarried as they try to balance family life with wanting more. The other is couple are married and living out of the city, neither completely happy with their current situation.

I read this one in December so am short on details, but I enjoyed it a lot. The dialogue was natural and the story moved naturally, keeping me interested to the end.

The Last Cruise by Kate Christensen

What happens when an old ship on its last cruise suffers mechanical and mutiny problems during the trip? That's what Christensen sets out to explore while also shining a light on the circumstances surrounding staff members who work on cruise ships. There is an element of mystery, though I didn't view it as a conventional suspense novel.

The characters are very well developed and it is intriguing enough to see through to the end.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

Will has lost his faith in God. Phoebe is just finding something stirring in her after her mom’s death and her misguided exploits to numb the pain. When Phoebe’s path leads her to a cult, her relationship with Will is strained as he wonders if Phoebe is capable of the acts the group is carrying out.  This book was haunting and a punch to the gut. I enjoyed Kwon’s unique approach to the topics of faith, love, and desperation.
Motherhood by Shelia Heti

How do we decide to become, or not become, mothers? What does the decision mean? That is what the unnamed narrator struggles with in Motherhood, consulting coins, friends, and dissecting her own past and present to figure out if she wants to become a mother.

The narrator’s explorations are weighty and thoughtful, and I really enjoyed this book.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

You won't know what exactly is going on in this novel until the end, but good luck guessing. It is a story of two women and the man they love or loved. I will keep details to a minimum so I don't ruin any of it, but it was a satisfying read.


1000 Books to Read Before You Die:Life-Changing List by James Mustich

I scanned this book and added some titles to my book list for the future, but it would be a great one to own. The variety of the books chosen is astounding, and any avid reader will come back to it over and over for more choices.

Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World by Deborah Reber

Reber is the mother of a child who has ADHD and is on the autism spectrum, but I honestly think this should be mandatory reading for every parent. Reber explains how being differently wired, whether it's autism, anxiety, or other issues comes with negative connotations and almost no recognition of what these unique individuals bring to life. She gives advice on how to treat children whose brains work differently than what is considered the norm, and her guidance is wonderful.

I am reading a ton of design books right now in the hopes of hitting that sweet spot between simple and cozy. This is a great resource, covering the colors, smells, and textures that help us live our happiest at home. The advice is practical and easy to implement, and I am finding it echoed in many other books I’m reading on this topic.

This is a hilarious quick-read. Having worked in a library for years, I am not a stranger to meeting the public and fielding questions about books. Campbell does a great job of capturing some of her more memorable encounters while also including experiences of other booksellers. She offers a hilarious, startling, at times scary, look at humans.

I am now one of those readers who squeals like a baby when I read Anne Lamott’s words. I love her. I have always enjoyed her work, but it speaks to me more now than it did years ago. Almost Everything is exactly the book the world needs right now. Lamott shares personal stories of learning to hope even when it seems illogical, and she now has me using my Bob Ross voice when I make a mistake, saying, "Now it's a bird." Lovely.

This is a hard one to unpack because I really enjoyed it and also feel like I need to warn readers about a couple of things. Wilson's exploration of her anxiety and bipolar disorder are eye-opening and deserve consideration. She wrote a book that is part research, part personal journey, and uniquely her own. She encourages readers to stop looking at those who suffer from anxiety as less than or defective, and she’s right. Embracing what each of us has to offer is key, and it’s dangerous to live our whole lives trying to be the world’s definition of normal.

While Wilson does mention not going off medication without doctor’s approval and confesses to taking sleeping pills when needed, she also seems to be a pretty strong advocate for not taking drugs for mental health disorders. I can’t get on board here. Sure, my anxiety helps me see the world in unique ways, and I flourish in certain areas due to what it can sometimes offer. It also left me considering self-harm and plotting my suicide on more than one occasion, and that’s some bullshit I don’t want to do anymore.

It’s each individual’s choice on how to approach mental health issues, and I approach mine with a nice dose of fluoxetine every morning. I also do yoga, meditate, run, take vitamins, eat whole food, and sleep eight hours a night. However, I can do the latter things because I do the former. The fluoxetine helped build a bridge from where I was to where I wanted to be, and it kept me from jumping off the bridge during the transition.

This book is definitely worth reading and has beautiful insight. Just please go into it knowing what works for you, and don’t be encouraged to bail on medication because Wilson is content to do without it most days. That’s her choice. Know what works for you.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Sarah Wilson recommended this one in her book about anxiety, and I grabbed it as soon as I finished her book. I read How to Stop Time and enjoyed it, so it was intriguing to pick up Haig’s non-fiction and hear his voice in those pages.

This book covers the time period when Haig went through a deep depression. It explores how he coped and how it affected his relationships. It offers short chapters with practical information and is a very honest narrative. Haig was also averse to taking anti-depressants, but he is by no means anti-meds. His anxiety made him paranoid about medication, and he makes that clear without making medicine sound like a bad idea.

Graphic Novel

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

Full of laughs while still taking on serious issues like mental illness and if we're all truly shitty human beings, Hyperbole and a Half was a great last read for the year of 2018. The graphic novel format makes it a quick read, and the author's tales of her life are relatable.

Written in graphic novel format, Forney takes readers with her through the years she struggled to regulate her bipolar disease. She speaks honestly of her experiences when manic and the mind-numbing depression that followed. As an artist, she feared taking medication to regulate her bipolar disorder would kill her creativity, but she had to decide what she wanted most out of life when the symptoms of her condition became too much to handle.

Forney offers readers insight into her struggle to find the right medications, deal with side effects, and afford mental health care in the United States. She shares what her mental health struggles cost her as well as how much she gained. This is a wonderful book.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Most Impactful Books Read In 2018

I read over 100 books in 2018, and choosing traditional favorites would be impossible. Friend me on Goodreads to see how I rated each book.

For this list, I simply chose the books that I can't stop thinking about, the ones that made a difference in how I live my life, the ones that created scenes playing on loop in my brain. They are rich and strong and exactly what books are supposed to be. Since I have fully reviewed them in other posts, I simply tried for a quick snippet of description here.


Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong-A father and daughter learn each other anew in this tender novel.

Putney by Sofka Zinovieff-A frighteningly accurate look at what grooming looks like and the effect sexual predators have on us all.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai-A beautiful, heartbreaking novel about the 1980s AIDS crisis and its effect on a group of gay men in Chicago.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan-A shattering tale of racism in the 1940s American South.

So Much Blue by Percival Everett-An unfolding tale of marriage, friendship, and betrayal as an artist recalls his past.

Short Stories

You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld-A collection of short stories dealing with current issues and overflowing with strong, flawed characters.


Feel Free by Zadie Smith-Smith pours her unlimited talent into essays that cover a variety of topics, including art, death, and current issues.

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby-Get ready to laugh so hard you cry.

Amateur Hour: Motherhood in Essays and Swear Words by Kimberly Harrington-Both hilarious and poignant, this book of essays about motherhood is perfection.

Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture by various writers and edited by Roxane Gay-A disturbing, honest look at rape culture that should be required reading.

Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I'm Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan-A collection of wonderful stories about communicating more effectively with those we love.

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley-Crosley's latest book of essays is her best, both funny and moving.


A Book That Takes Its Time: An Unhurried Adventure in Creative Mindfulness by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst-An interactive book full of activities and articles that will teach readers the balance between being and doing.

Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide by Kay Redfield Jamison-A comprehensive exploration of why people commit suicide and what can be done to help those struggling with mental illness.

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown-Brown flawlessly teaches readers how to stand on their own while still embracing community and honoring others.

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams-A masterful, researched book about being in nature for a better life.

Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris and Jeffrey Warren-A down-to-earth guide to meditating and why you should.

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O'Farrell-A memoir about the author's brushes with death and how they have affected her life.

Hygge and West Home: Design for a Cozy Life by Christiana Coop and Aimee Lagos-A book that helps readers find their own path to creating a cozy home.

If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar-Breathtaking in topic and talent, it's a book of poetry to savor.

November Book List

I am so behind on book lists that I am just now posting November's on the last day of 2018. There were some great picks.


Small Animals: Parenting in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks

I finished this book in about a day because it was hard to put down. After leaving her four-year-old in a well-ventilated car within sight for a few minutes, Kim Brooks found herself under arrest and trapped in a system that believes every thing we do or don't do is a threat to our kids.

Small Animals is vastly researched while still being personal. It explores the sexism of most neglect claims, the statistical realities of risks to our children, and the consequences of living in a world that teaches us to fear everything all the time. Brooks' straight talk about anxiety will likely resonate with most parents, especially since it shapes our lives more than facts at times. I highly recommend.

A Big Important Art Book (Now With Women) by Danielle Krysa

I am still working my way through this one but wanted to include it. It would be a great gift for any art or book lover (I purchased it and I hardly ever purchase books). Current female artists are featured in each section, and assignments are also given to the reader to help him or her explore the creative side of life. It's beautiful, inspiring, and well written.

The Great American Read: The Book of Books by PBS

This was a fun book that I was able to scan instead of go through thoroughly. It lists and summarizes 100 books that are considered great reads for a variety of reasons. I skipped the ones I had already read and instead added more books to my list that I haven't gotten around to yet. I wasn't taken with every recommendation, but it was still a worthwhile read. It's a great reference for any book lover.

Hygge and West Home: Design for a Cozy Life by Christiana Coop, Aimee Lagos, James Carriere

The word hygge is in the title, so of course I had to read this one. Hygge and West is written by the owners of the Hygge and West company, something I didn't know existed until I read this book. They interviewed people whose homes have a hygge-like feel to find out what they value when designing a  place to live. What I loved is the advice is just like hygge in that it's specific to each person.

Some people recommended leaving all walls white while others swore by color. Some said a small home where everything is close is best while others said space was essential. Everyone was right because creating a hygge environment is about finding what is cozy and right for the individual.

The pictures were lovely, and I savored this one.

There Will Be No Miracles Here by Casey Gerald

I read this book early in the month, and it took me a while to get through. However, I never lost interest. Gerald's memoir explores his life as a gay black man growing up in the south who finds himself at Yale for college. Gerald explains the allure and trap of playing football, family issues, and  adjusting to life at Yale. Finding his way through tragedy  helps him see himself clearly, and he is wonderful when giving readers perspective on a variety of issues.

And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O'Connell

This was one of my first reads of the month, so I remember more how it struck me than the details. It was an honest, hilarious, and shattering view of motherhood when it is thrust upon a woman who wasn't planning it. It details her experiences while pregnant, how her relationship changes, and the struggle of staying yourself while becoming a mother. Very enjoyable.

Feminasty: The Complicated Woman's Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy Without Drinking Herself to Death by Erin Gibson

This book was put in my hands by a friend and I fell hard for it. Hilarious, accurate, and well-researched, Erin Gibson explores all the ways females can live in a world that offers us Mike Pence, periods, and a variety of other women-torture devices. D caught me laughing so hard at this one that I had trouble breathing, but I was also deeply disturbed by how stuck we still are in a patriarchal world.
This book is for everyone, so go read it now.

Everything's Trash, but It's Okay by Phoebe Robinson

Phoebe Robinson made me a fan after her first book, You Can't Touch My Hair. She brings research and humor, true stories and knowledge. No subject is off limits, from money to sex to racism, and she uses her comedic abilities to tackle hard topics with perfect results.

My friend said, "Phoebe is challenging me. I don't want to just say I'm a feminist. I want to be one and do the right thing according to that." It is so hard to write work this funny, so the fact that it has such a strong impact as well is nothing short of a miracle.


Those Who Knew by Idra Novey

When we know someone has the ability to be violent, what is our responsibility? That is the question at the center of Those Who Knew. The death of a young woman who knew her former lover leaves Lena wondering if she should have made known what he did to her years ago or if it would have made a difference.

This book was captivating and hard to put down, but the ending felt anticlimactic. The whole book felt like it was building towards something, but I guess I didn't feel as satisfied as I expected when I turned the last page. I felt the same way about Severance, and I would still recommend both books because they were great stories.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Taking a myriad of pills prescribed by the worst psychiatrist in the world, the narrator of this story decides she needs some time to herself. She has the money to hibernate until she makes it through whatever it is she's experiencing, so she attempts a year of drug-induced rest with frightening results.

Set in 2000, this book offers a personal story of discovery in the shadows of the last pre-9/11 days. It's a hard book to categorize, but I enjoyed it.

Graphic Novel

This is a hard book to review because I loved it and also feel unqualified to explain why because I am so unfamiliar with philosophy. This was my introduction to Hannah Arendt and, in true book overlap style, I have now started running across her name everywhere. 

This graphic novel explores her life in three parts and breaks down her beliefs, their genesis and evolution, for those of us who didn't major in philosophy. I am excited to read books by her and further understand how he she thought. This book does a great job of illustrating her life and all that she offered to the world.


If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar

Poetry has a way of opening me up and then slaughtering me. Asghar's book is a great example. It's beautifully written, female-focused, and shattering. I sat on the front porch one night and tried to absorb the words, needing every intake of breath just to make it through.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

There's a Tree In My Backyard: What Persevering Looked Like in December

December does whatever the hell it wants, thank you very much. It's such a complicated time of year for me and has been for years. Two of my children entered the world in December. One almost left it during December. This December has brought birthday parties and time with loved ones as well as the death of two friends I went to school with from kindergarten to graduation. They were 39.

I can't ever tell if December wants to hug me or punch me in the face. Anyone else?

The tree in our backyard apparently has no idea what to do in December either. After shedding most of its leaves and being named the naked tree, I woke up last week to new buds on the ends of the branches. I went into the backyard and yelled, "NO, NO, NO!" and then remembered I was talking to a tree. Besides, it didn't know better. In Texas the weather is so weird it's hard to tell, are we in a season of blooming or dying? Are we hibernating or clinging to that 60 degree day in hopes of new life?

I don't know. I may never know.

This month I persevered in what author Brooke McAlary calls the wobbly balance. I celebrated and I mourned. I enjoyed planning parties and indulging in cake while simultaneously wishing for my old woman routine to return and my pants to fit. I had spurts of creativity followed by days of wondering if I even wanted to be creative. I enjoyed looking at Christmas lights and eating cookies while also hating the fact that illness kept us from extended family this year. I lit Advent candles for two days before just totally giving up because I didn't feel like it anymore. Wobbly, just all super wobbly. I'm trying to be okay with it. December, for me, is always wobbly.

Regardless of if you are happy the holidays are over or are already entering the post-Christmas slump, know that the balance usually returns. Embrace what you can when things are off. Right now I am behind on book list blogs, procrastinating on work, and generally just trying to find a routine again. We'll get there.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Favorite Things 2018

There will be a separate blog post for my favorite books of 2018, but here are a few other things I really enjoyed this year.


The Haunting Of Hill House

I don't like to be scared. I don't like plastic snakes on the floor or people sneaking up on me. I don't go to haunted houses. That's why I wasn't enthusiastic when D recommended we start this show. However, Shirley Jackson wrote the book and I love her work, so I agreed to give it a try.

We finished all ten episodes in a matter of days, binge watching until 3 am the last night. The writing is tight, the casting is perfect, and the haunting is both more harrowing and real because of how the story unfolds. Real life nightmares collide with ghosts, and the outcome left us talking about this one for weeks. Sometimes when I'm feeling spicy, I turn on the soundtrack and wait for D to walk in the room and try to figure out if our house has turned on us.

The Man in the High Castle

The third season is the best so far and draws from scenes in the book with astounding results.


We binged this one as well, and I loved it. It was funny and smart, and I can't wait for the next season.

Panda Planner

I was a hard core Erin Condren follower until a friend introduced  me to the Panda Planner. I will never go back. The positive psychology approach and thoughtful organization has helped me complete projects, figure out when I work best during the day, and prioritize the important things in my life instead of feeling like everything on my list is urgent.

Full disclosure: this is not a yearly planner. It's more like a quarterly planner. For some that is a deal breaker, but I will pay for this one multiple times a year for the benefits.

They are huge, which can make it difficult to fit more than one or two in a lunch box, but I love them. We use them for storage and for travelling snacks, and we have cut way down on how many plastic bags we purchase and trash. We also haven't lost any, and that is a small miracle in this house.

Insight Timer

I wanted a free meditation app to help me stay committed to the practice, and Insight Timer delivers. I love that you can choose how long you want to meditate and what your intention is, such as dealing with anxiety, trying to sleep, or focus. The kids like this one, and we meditate almost daily.

All Things Flow

I had never heard of Flow Magazine or any of their publications until March. Now I am a straight up crazy fan who knows when anything they produce is coming out. A Book That Takes Its Time was nothing short of lifechanging for me, and I draw in 50 Ways to Draw Your Beautiful, Ordinary Life weekly. I am going through challenges in Creativity Takes Courage, and I like to just go to bookstores and touch their magazines.

Flow is all about living well, living simply, and being creative. Their next book is out in 2019, and I can't wait!

An Electric Pencil Sharpener

Why did a pencil sharpener make the list? A variety of reasons. We have managed with hand held, crappy pencil sharpeners for too long, and I homeschool. Plus, my kids draw about 400 pictures a piece a day, and you can break your wrist trying to sharpen with those hand held ones when that is what you're dealing with.

I finally splurged and bought a $25 pencil sharpener. Every time I hear it being used, I smile.

Our Current Phase

We have our challenges, but I really like that I don't have toddlers anymore. I loved them when they were toddlers, but I was tired. The kids are currently very easy to transport and full of hilarious stories. They're fun people. They also fight and scream and threaten to poop in a water jug (long story), but this phase seems a bit easier for the most part.

She found a skull in an owl pellet. Science!

Exactly one person was excited about posing for this picture.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Persevering In November

In some areas, I did a really great job in November. There were other areas where I set out to do particular things and didn't consistently succeed. That's how it goes. It was still a good month and I was able to focus on progress as opposed to only final results.

Waking Up Early

If you have read this blog before then you probably know I am constantly dealing with sleep issues. I am a natural night owl with children who don't want to sleep in, ever. I tried to get up early this month so the start of my day would be peaceful, and here's how that went:

I woke up at 5 day. It was great. It happened one day.

I revised this plan so I will get up around 5:45 and go from there. The kids have to stay in their rooms until seven, so that at least gives me some time. I am working on it. I like silence to be the first sound I hear. I like bathing without someone asking if they can see my boobs or rub my soft mom belly. I like putting in an hour of writing time before the day takes off. I like coffee and if this works, coffee will likely deserve all the credit.

However, I still hate going to bed early, and I need seven hours of sleep. It's tricky business.

Anyway, I woke up at 5 am one day. It's not exactly an exercise in perseverance, but I did it.

Reading Poetry

I started the month with a beautiful book of poetry, and I tried to read poetry daily. I didn't succeed, but the mornings I did read it were wonderful. I grabbed four new books of poetry at the library and am going to give this another shot.

Riding Ripsticks

How we ended up with three ripsticks in our home, and how the two males in our house who can't stand up on roller skates learned to glide down steep hills on boards with two wheels that will not even stand up on their own, is a long story. However, we are now a ripsticking family, and this has kept us at parks in all kinds of weather daily.

Playing Games

The children have been introduced to Clue. Now they are using deduction skills to solve problems while also trying to figure out how someone kills a person with a candlestick. We have them thinking about reasoning and murder. Good for us?

Adios Social Media

I don't use social media on the weekends, and this morphed into me taking all of Thanksgiving week off. It was awesome. Now I am sporadically checking in maybe once a week. I don't hate social media or think it serves no purpose, but life spent off of it most of the time is more enjoyable for me when it's possible.


Sitting at my computer writing about how anti-technology November was is hilarious, I know. I am not anti-TV or social media or any of that, and my approach this month wasn't planned. I just decided the kids would get to watch TV one, maybe two, days a week, and otherwise it wouldn't even be turned on.

We already had limited TV time and my kids don't have their own devices, but we were at parks or homeschool events or working on actual homeschool so much that even the little bit of screen time we tried to squeeze in felt like a pain. So from Monday through Friday, my kids know not to even ask about playing video games or watching TV. I thought it would be a big deal, but it hasn't been at all. No one has really complained, and I feel like there is a calmer vibe in our house.

Celebrating My Mate

D finished his Master's degree and also put a comic into the world this month. He wrote it and secured an amazing artist to do the art, and you can find it here.  He also learned to ripstick with his kids. I got lucky with this guy.

We also mourned Beto's loss but did not forget to celebrate all he 
accomplished and all he still has left to do.

Monday, November 5, 2018

October Book List + A Bonus Fall Reading List

I grabbed a couple of mysteries and crime novels in October because it felt appropriate. Plus, they were on my list and available at my library.


Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

The unreliable narrator technique has to be used wisely to work, and Feeney does that with this novel, letting readers know in the title that lies are going to be told.

Amber can't speak or move but is cognizant of her surroundings. She can't remember how she ended up in the hospital, but she fears her husband had something to do with it. As we hear both Amber's thoughts and conversations between the visitors in her room, including her sister Claire, the story comes together in a surprising way that led to an ending I did not expect. This one was hard to put down and kept me up at night.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

I love Lippman's ability to write a good crime novel while still making the characters more of a center than the crime. She understands human motivations and instincts, and this makes her exceptional at crafting work that doesn't feel contrived or forced.

Polly flees Delaware to escape her life, and she meets Adam. They begin what is supposed to be a summer fling, but with both the emotions and the secrets between them, what will happen when summer ends? When a mutual acquaintance dies under suspicious circumstances, questions have to be asked about how well each knows the other. I really enjoyed this one by Lippman.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Wren had to read this book for book club, and she asked me to join her. I always wanted to read it and already had a copy, so we set out to see who killed Sam Westing and where his seemingly sinister game would lead.

This was a fast-paced, enjoyable read. I was guessing until the very end, and it was fun to read it with my daughter.

Mrs. by Caitlin Macy

Moms of children who attend a posh school in New York have secrets to hide and a lot to lose in this novel by Caitlin Macy. We learn specifically about three different women, their marriages, their pasts, and what happens when secrets are spilled.

"Mrs."  has been described as possibly the next "Big Little Lies", but I didn't connect with Macy's characters the way I do with Moriarty's. The book deals with important issues and is intriguing, but when I turned the last page I felt like I was viewing the characters and the plot through a tunnel instead of being engrossed. I don't regret reading it, but I wasn't blown away by it either.

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Margaret's dream life is derailed in an instant after a tragic accident, and she has to figure out how to survive in this thoughtful novel by Katherine Center. Trapped in a hospital with her estranged sister, a very cranky physical therapist, and a kind-of fiancé, Margaret goes through the phases of grief while coming to terms with family secrets and her new, unexpected life.

The protagonist is lovable and the story works well. I enjoyed this one.

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

I have a confession: I unfairly and harshly judge all books in the romance section. I know, it's gross and elitist, and it's fine for people to enjoy the bodice ripping, hunky male cover books as much as I absolutely don't. Luckily, "Ghosted" was not what I imagined a stereotypical romance novel to be, and I feel like it didn't really even fit in that section (general fiction, maybe?)  I enjoyed it thoroughly and had to question all of my previous judgments of books based on genre.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they hit it off during the week they have together. That makes Eddie's disappearance even harder for Sarah to grasp. Did she imagine the whole experience was more than it really was? Did she slip up somewhere without knowing?

What we don't tell people is just as important as what we do, and as Walsh reveals the story of these lovers, we learn about their pasts and why they might feel the need to hide the details. I was intrigued and surprised until the very end.


No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol

I spent a couple of years as both the youngest and the only unmarried trainer in Texas for a major bank. A manager came to me and explained that as travel demands picked up, I might notice I was receiving more travel assignments than other people in my department. He went on to explain that this was because of my situation. "You have no people like the other employees." In his mind, unmarried and childless meant no people.

MacNicol addresses this attitude, the one we often have towards those whose lives haven't taken a conventional or expected direction, in her beautiful memoir. She talks about the death of her mother, the relationships she's tolerated, her career breakdown, and the realization that her life can and is enough.

I was particularly struck by MacNicol's ability to kindly point out sins we're all guilty of, even those of us who were victims of them in earlier stages of life. We expect the single, child-free people in our lives to take care of us, to arrange the showers and the parties and the events, because whether or not we acknowledge it, we all easily slip into the you-have-no-people mentality. We forget that every person needs care, and no one's choices or situations are subpar.

This is a great read for anyone, especially those in midlife, no matter your marriage or parental status.

My Favorite Fall and Winter Reads

I pick these books up again almost every fall or winter because it feels like the right time to live in these worlds. Most of them have some darkness or rough edges, and when the sun starts setting at 5:30, it feels appropriate to settle in with something on the ominous side.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

This book takes readers across the globe as a young woman reads through letters addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor" and tries to figure out whether or not to go on a journey to find her father. The writing is beautiful and the story will send chills down your spine. Think vampires, Vlad the Impaler, and suspense that will keep you up all night reading.

Rich in history, love, and darkness, I am drawn to this one almost every year in November, and though it was optioned for a movie, I'm glad it wasn't made. I don't want the images in my mind replaced with anything else.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Maybe it's because Hogwarts is the backdrop for most of these books, but I always feel the need to pick them back up in fall when school starts. I reread all seven, and I usually end up finishing by the end of November.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson

Dark is a great way to describe this series, and I still can't believe I made it through three books that are this gruesome in content. The story is addicting, and I read them all when the sun started setting super early and I was left up alone in the house nursing an infant Sam. Lisbeth kept me company while she kicked ass.

Child 44 series by Tom Rob Smith

I didn't now if I was going to enjoy this book because the death of children is not a super fun topic. However, Smith weaves an intriguing tale of murders in Russia that aren't being investigated because the government refuses to acknowledge that they are murders. When Leo decides to investigate, the full picture comes together, and this is one that will have you looking behind you checking for strangers while you turn the last pages.

The next two books in the series are just as riveting and should keep you busy for a bit.

FYI-Do NOT see the movie. All the great acting couldn't make up for a crappy script.

Ariel by Sylvia Plath

I feel like fall is a great time to commit to reading poetry. As an artist friend of mine said, you can't rush poetry. You need to see every word, sometimes read it out loud, let it all settle. A quiet house with a cup of tea when the sun has fallen early is a great backdrop for this slow, measured exercise.

I love Plath's work and I always come back to her. Ariel is probably her most popular collection of poetry, and poems like "Poppies in October" and "Letter in November" make it a particularly appropriate collection for this time of year.