10 books i haven’t read


Sometimes there feels like there is just never enough time to catch up. I could read all day and all night and never read all the things that look interesting. There’s so many classic books I still need to read, I wonder how I’ll ever manage to get to the new fantastic books coming out. And Twitter leads me to a hundred interesting articles before I’ve even had coffee. What’s a girl to do?!

I think I read probably more than the average person. I’m certainly no Stephen King, who reads roughly 70 or 80 books a year according to On Writing, but I generally am always in the middle of a book. But there are some books that have escaped my 20-some-odd years of reading.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I know, I know! But I just haven’t gotten to it yet, ok? I also haven’t seen the movie, and I’m not even entirely sure what it’s about. A trial? A guy named Atticus Finch? I’m the worst!
  • Same with 1984 by George Orwell. (I also haven’t read Animal Farm)
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I’ve seen the movie though!
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding. But I’m pretty sure this is about an island of boys, right? Kind of like a terrifying Peter Pan, where there aren’t any grown-ups?
  • Rabbit, Run by John Updike. I have been meaning to read Updike for years–years I tell you!
  • Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. I have read The Rum Diary, so I’m not totally hopeless when it comes to Hunter S. Thompson.
  • Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen. Although I have started this a few times, and I completely love the movie.
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Any of them. I haven’t even read The Hobbit. I’m totally failing at being a nerd.
  • The Stand. I love Stephen King. He’s one of my favorite authors and this is one of his most famous books.
  • And finally, anything by Elmore Leonard. After his death, it has re-come to my attention how much I have messed up by not reading his books. I’ve read his rules, and I’ve seen the movies. But why have I never read any of his books? I am positive I would love them. Anyone have a rec for what I should start with?

Are there any books you haven’t read that you think you should have? Please keep me from being too embarrassed and share some of your own.

the cuckoo’s calling part 2


We enter part 2 of The Cuckoo’s Calling (Kindle here, my thoughts on part 1 here) to follow our heroes while they gather more clues. I actually feel more like I am in the board game clue than in a story. If security guard was in the wash room, and the boyfriend at the club, I propose Mr. Bestigui murdered Lula Landry in the drawing room with the candlestick.

As an editor/journalist/pretend police investigator, I like gathering clues and information. But as a reader, I’d like to get all of this info as the plot moves along or as characters develop. It seems like more talking than showing, more explaining than storytelling.

“Strike would have preferred Bristow not to intervene.”  See what I mean? Telling me what’s in his head is just so boring.

But since we spent all that time interviewing and clue gathering, let’s see what we know.

  • Lula has a friend from rehab named Rochelle who met with Lula on the day of her suicide/murder.
  • Lula had an on-and-off relationship with that dumb guy who wears a wolf mask to avoid the paparazzi because, sure, a wolf mask garners less attention.
  • Mr. Bestigui is mad about 200 roses being spilled in Deeby Mac’s apartment. If those roses don’t mean anything this is the biggest, most annoying red herring ever.
  • Lula’s driver is obsessed with fame and celebs, and he was not her driver the night she died.
  • The apartment security guard was away from his post when Lula fell.
  • Tansy Bestigui heard some yelling in Lula’s apartment. The police don’t believe she could have heard anyone–they clearly don’t live in a place where you can hear things through the vents.

What do you guys think? Have any bets on who the killer is? Are their big clues I’m missing? If you’ve finished, no spoilers please! See my thoughts on part 1 here, and keep reading! I’ll see you back here next week.

(I bought this book on my own and am not being paid to write about it. But I am a part of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you buy through my links on Amazon, I’ll receive a little bit of money for it.)

the cuckoo’s calling part 1


It is a not so secret desire of mine to become a police detective. It is my back up plan, my alternate universe career, and the subject of quite a few daydreams. I can’t stop watching cop shows or reading murder mysteries. (And yeah, I know that’s not exactly how it works in real life.)

So I like a good detective story. I feel like I am reading about my imaginary colleagues. And though solving a mystery in a book isn’t at all like solving a mystery in real life, I’m pretty good at it. (Well, I’m not the worst at it.)

I have just finished part one of The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith J.K. Rowling (Kindle here). I can’t say I never would have read this book if it didn’t come out that Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for Rowling (that secret didn’t last long, did it?), but I can say I didn’t hear about the book until that story broke. So I picked it up, along with thousands of others.

Continue reading “the cuckoo’s calling part 1”

boy’s life by robert mccammon

boy's life by robert mccammon

Last week, when I was walking to work, I saw people putting leaves on trees. There was someone on a ladder, someone in a raised platform, and someone on the ground, and they were all using wire to put fake leaves on a tree that had none.

When Cory, the narrator in Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon (Kindle here), is riding on a train with a man who looks suspiciously like Frankenstein’s monster, Cory thinks, “Were these three insane, or was I?”

That’s how I felt.

Cory lives in the small town of Zephyr, Alabama, in the 1960s, and he tells the story of the year he turns 13. His town is full of wonderful absurdities, his adventures are plentiful, and his love for his family and friends is strong and true.

I love a lot of things about this book. But the thing I love most is Cory’s voice. A lot of books use children narrators–children can ignore danger and logic in a way that adults can’t–but adult attitudes, vocabularies, and thoughts tend to sneak through. Cory’s voice is consistently strong and interesting, and he tells stories the way kids see them: big and real and exaggerated and in your face. “Writer? Author? Storyteller, that’s what I decided to be,” Cory says. And a storyteller he is.Continue reading “boy’s life by robert mccammon”

past favorites: unbroken by laura hillenbrand


I think I have recommended Unbroken to everyone, whether they were asking for a book recommendation or not (Kindle here). Even though I read this a few years ago, I often still think about it and the incredible spirit of Louis Zamperini.

Unbroken is a story of how Louie, an Olympic-qualifying runner, became lost at sea and a prisoner of war and lived to tell the horrific tale. His plane crashed, leaving him afloat on raft for 47 days before washing ashore a Japanese island, where he became imprisoned.

So, in case you thought being lost at sea for 47 days–with two other soldiers, no food, and man-hungry sharks–wasn’t bad enough, he was also captured, starved, and tortured in Japanese war camps. Just wanted to make sure you got all of that.

But the thing I remember most about this story isn’t the atrocities. It’s the spirit and love that Louie embodies in spite of everything he goes through (it is also the terrifying sharks). The vignettes of hope–like a duck the prisoners take on as their mascot, or Louie’s friendships in unbelievable circumstances, or the back-to-life party doctors throw for Louie–are what make this book one of my favorites.

I first glimpsed Louie’s strength when he was adrift on a raft after his plane crashed. Eight of 11 men on the plane died, and Louie and the other survivors were lost at sea for a very long time. There is an incident on the raft that I still cannot think of without getting knots in my stomach. And when they finally reach land and you think they might get some relief, the land is Japanese.

Louie experiences unspeakable cruelty when he is taken prisoner, especially from a guard they call the Bird. The Bird focuses on Louie, I think, because he couldn’t beat Louie’s spirit from him. But Louie and the men consistently fight back however they can: “To deprive the Bird of the pleasure of seeing them miserable, the men made a point of being jolly.”

In one of many instances where Louie shows he is stronger than this cruelty, the Bird forces Louie to hold a heavy beam of wood and tells Louie that he cannot let it fall.

“He felt his consciousness slipping, his mind losing adhesion, until all he knew was a single thought: He cannot break me. Across the compound, the Bird had stopped laughing.”

Louie was beaten as he was holding the beam, and then he collapsed and was taken to the hospital. Louie had held the beam for 37 minutes.

That spirit and holding onto his dignity are what keep Louie alive during his time at sea and his imprisonment.

“Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it. The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty. In places like Kwajalein, degradation could be as lethal as a bullet.”

And when the war ends, and Louie can begin his trek home (not a spoiler guys, he is alive and interviewed for the book), he keeps that spirit–though not without difficulties and dark days.

“Seeing a table stacked with K rations, he began cramming the boxes under his shirt, brushing off an attendant who tried to assure him that he didn’t have to hoard them, as no one was going to starve him anymore.”

When Louie was given orders to fly out, he asked the doctors to keep him longer so his mother wouldn’t see him so thin. The doctor agreed, and also threw Louie “a welcome-back-to-life bash, complete with a five-gallon barrel of “bourbon””–a hodge podge of Coke syrup, water and whatever booze they could find.

These bright spots alone are worth the read. But Laura Hillenbrand’s voice and research are fantastic. Unbroken is beautifully written and easy to read–save for the horrific subject matter at times. And Hillenbrand’s extensive research includes even documenting newspaper interviews of prison guards years after they were assumed dead and then resurfaced. She interviews Louie and his family and treats the material with the same dignity Louie himself exhibits. Her footnotes are a good read in and of themselves, but the heroism throughout Unbroken is what makes it truly amazing.

(I bought this book on my own and am not being paid to write about it. But I am a part of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you buy through my links on Amazon, I’ll receive a little bit of money for it.)

in cold blood

in cold blood

Our book club book this month was In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Have you read it? It’s a really amazing, in-depth account of a horrible murder of a family in Western Kansas in 1959.

I’m an editor, and I actually interned at the Kansas City Star, which comes up often in this book. I can’t seem to ever turn off my editor brain, especially when I’m reading nonfiction. And after some recent controversy came up doubting some of Capote’s claims, my editor brain was all over this novel.

Please don’t misunderstand me. The amount of research that went into this book is astounding. I am confident 95% of it is right on the money and expertly and beautifully presented. It’s the other 5%–the nonexistent attribution for conversations Capote couldn’t have been present for, or describing expressions when he wasn’t in the room–that sparks a teeny tiny bit of skepticism from me. These details probably won’t matter to most people. He makes his claims based on days–months probably–of interviews and years of research. So even if he was assuming how someone’s face looked when they got bad news, he likely assumed correctly. But if you’re claiming your novel is 100% accurate, then I think you should be able to clearly say how you know these things are true, even the little moments and expressions that don’t matter much to the whole tale.

We talked about this in book club, and most of the people who weren’t journalists didn’t sweat this small stuff. But we did talk about how he got his information, and journalistic standards and ethics. My book cub notes are here:

in cold blood notes

Like how close is too close? Did his relationships with his subjects color his account? My issue isn’t with the writing (how could it be, it’s incredible), it’s with transparency. Having more transparency may not have made this book a better story. But I do think it would have made it a stronger journalistic piece. And if you don’t want that–if you’d rather it be a gorgeous piece of writing that’s 95% accurate and blurs the lines of truth here and there–then I’m totally cool with that. Really. As long as you tell me that’s what’s happening so I can read it with that in mind.

The structure of this novel is brilliant. He twists the victims’ and the killers’ stories so that they really only meet toward the end–once Dick and Perry are caught and are telling their tale. I read that Capote was one of the first to do this kind of nonfiction novel. He made it popular, and, when he was writing, footnotes and strict record-keeping weren’t really a thing yet. I understand, but I do wish they were there. Because I’m a big nerd, and I like to read them. And also because if they were there, it would be easier to dispute/support others’ claims of inaccuracy.

One of my favorite themes in the book is perceptions versus reality. The killers eventually confess, but do you believe every word in their confessions? Their personalities can seem sweet or callous, depending on circumstances, so who are they really? Sensitive and charming? Or manipulative, cold-blooded killers? The Clutter family was well-off and lived in a big house and took care of big business. The killers believed they were rich, but found next to no cash in their house. What’s real? Does reality or perception even matter when the end result is a dead family?

What do you guys think?

(I bought this book on my own and am not being paid to write about it. I am not affiliated with Word; I’m just a fan.)