Category Archives: My Book List

Summer Reads

I haven’t been writing much lately BUT I have been reading! I’m slowly but steadily making my way through the stacks of books in my library queue. There have been some misses for sure—I found The Lost Apothecary, Mexican Gothic and The Vanishing Half all overrated—but also plenty of hits.

My favorite book that I’ve read so far this year is The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. It was laugh-out-loud funny, which I find is such a hard thing to accomplish with fiction. I just finished AC Wise’s Wendy, Darling, which was so good that I put the baby to bed, stuck the toddler in front of Paw Patrol, and curled up with a bowl full of popcorn to finish it. I loved And Then She Was Gone, Disappearing Earth as well as Saint X, which was beautifully written, although I need to stop reading books about missing daughters because they destroy my heart. I don’t normally like books where the main characters are writers, but I did recently enjoy The Plot, which pulled it off! Some other good books that I was way overdue to read were The Book Thief (how it took me this long, I don’t know!), Ready Player One and The Thirteenth Tale (again, a successful example of writing about writers!).

My second daughter and I have also been flying through the Nancy Drew series. I always thought I was a stickler for the original 56, but we’ve moved onto the ones in the 100s and I think I actually enjoy them more: There’s way less sexism and racism, the bad guys aren’t as obvious, the plots are more complex and they don’t use the word “attractive” every sentence (Nancy is an attractive 18-year-old, who lives in an attractive house and drives an attractive car).

Anyway. I’ll get back to writing soon enough here, but I’m definitely enjoying making a dent in my library books in the meantime!


Book Review: A Levittown Legacy


I have had a crazy hard time reading lately (though truthfully, the baby + toddler + two more means I’ve had a crazy hard time doing anything lately), but I did manage to complete one book: A Levittown Legacy: 1960 Little League Baseball World Champions.

I’m admittedly fairly biased as my dad wrote it. The story centers around the group of scrappy 11- and 12-year-olds from the new (as of 1960) Philadelphia suburb of Levittown. As is probably obvious from the title, they go on to become that year’s Little League World Champions, defeating Fort Worth after a string of other opponents.

For me, though, the best thing about the book is getting a glimpse into my dad’s past. I’ve been nagging him to write a memoir (and would still love him to do so), and this story sometimes veers away from the Little Leaguers and into my dad’s own history. The book talks about his family, while also espousing the “Levittown Legacy”—the ingrained beliefs that success comes from hard work, high goals and competition—and how it influenced him throughout his life, from a kid playing sports, to earning a football scholarship, to getting into the world of banking and finance.

For the book, my dad reconnected with a lot of the old players and cheerleaders. He’d researched it over the course of the past two years, and often did read-a-louds for my siblings and me whenever we were together. Because of that, my daughters have also heard a lot of the book and, through it, some family history. At least enough so that when I mentioned that my grandmother had once sang with Frank Sinatra, my 9-year-old rolled her eyes and said, “I know, it’s in Chapter 2.”

Anyway, if anyone on the interwebs is looking for a read, A Levittown Legacy can be found at or on amazon. Enjoy!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane


Beyond Blueberry Girl (which my three-year-old requests near nightly), I had never read Neil Gaiman until Tuesday, when I was at the library and happened to pick up Smoke and Mirrors and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I started reading Smoke and Mirrors, which is a collection of short stories, and was obsessed with his writing by the time I’d finished the introduction. He’s a fantastic writer, and I love the way he blends realism and magic. After making my way through about half the short stories, I started reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I shouldn’t be reading it—I’ve been working on The Boys in the Boat for my book club (and it is fantastic, but I can only read about rowing so long)—but I couldn’t help it. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the story of a man who returns to his old neighborhood in Sussex, England, for a funeral, and finds himself drawn to a pond at the neighbor’s farm at the end of the lane—a farm that the 11-year-old girl, Lettie Hempstock, insisted was an ocean. It’s (as I’m learning) typical Neil Gaiman, full of magical realism, and I devoured the book in two days. The narrator notes, at one point, that adult books are boring, that they take too long to get started, and it made me realize that that’s what I love about the young adult genre—books usually get to the action pretty quickly—and that’s one of the things that makes this book great. Gaiman certainly could have rambled on (we never even learn whose funeral the narrator’s at or very much at all about his life 40 years after most of the story’s events at age 7), but it’s actually fairly succinct, which also makes it impossible to put down. Anyway, so glad I have finally branched beyond Blueberry Girl (though also a great read for little girls!) and I can’t wait to read more of Gaiman’s writing soon.

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

I just finished Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and couldn’t put it down. It’s written in 1938 and tells the story of a young, unnamed narrator who, after a whirlwind romance, follows her new husband back to his estate, Manderley. There, she learns more about his first wife, Rebecca, who has been dead not even a year and to whom she feels she can never measure up against. It’s thrilling to watch as the second Mrs. de Winter, young and naive, finds herself fighting a ghost and her imagination for her home, sanity and love. I love the narrator’s imaginative tangents, I love the evocative language, the sensual descriptions that allow me to almost smell the azaleas and see the English mists, and above all, I was captivated by the mystery surrounding Rebecca’s death. Highly recommend!

The Giver, by Lois Lowry


Every now and then, I want to reread some of the classics from my childhood. Last year, I reread A Swiftly Turning Planet; this year, I picked up Lois Lowry’s The Giver. I think I read it in middle school, but remembered almost nothing. This is an incredible story. It’s a dystopian future that follows a boy named Jonas, who is chosen to become the Receiver of Memory for his community, a place that values sameness at the loss of color, feeling and memories, both happy and sad. There is a lot that I’m sure went over my head when I read it before, but it deals with so many intense themes—death, grief, war, suffering—that I’ve been thinking about it since I finished it yesterday. It’s a remarkable story, and one of those young adult stories that resonates more now than it did the first time I read it. Highly recommend, even more so for adults than for children!

Immersion, by MJ Prest


Author MJ Prest reading from her novel Immersion.

Last weekend, a friend invited the family and me to a book event for one of his friends. We accepted the Facebook invite and, noting that it said that anyone dressed as a merman would get a free copy of the book, I spent most of last Friday making Jason a merman cape (which involves felt fish and seaweed—I had wanted to get a trident, too, but this was sort of last minute!). Anyway, I’m a little embarrassed to say that I knew nothing about the book when we arrived at Mellow Fellow, an excellent little dog-friendly tap room with an outdoor patio, on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. Fortunately, the author, MJ Prest, was wonderful—we talked about her Young Adult novel, Immersion, which is a retelling of the story of Atlantis (complete with, as she put it, “a ripped merman”), as well as about self-publishing, audiobooks and marketing. It was great to connect with another writer to learn a little about the next step, and to celebrate her accomplishment. She treated us all to Mermaid’s Tail Ale and cake and did a reading of the first chapter. It’s the first book in a trilogy, and I’m very excited for Jason to get his copy (he was, believe it or not, the only person dressed as a merman). Click here for the ebook to immerse yourselves in a fun read! Big congrats to MJ; learn more at

E-book Happiness

I admit it—everyday I fall a little bit more in love with my iPad! I’ve had a list of books that I’ve wanted to read for awhile now, but I couldn’t find any of my choices at the library or at Grassroots Books, which is my favorite used books store in Reno. I’m such a sucker for print books—I love the feel, the smell, flipping the pages—but when I received a Kindle gift certificate for my baby shower, I decided to bite the bullet, download the Kindle app and try out an ebook. I ordered The Things They Carried (I’d recently seen author Tim O’Brien speak and so this title was on the top of my list) and I may now be an ebook convert! I finished the book in just a few days, and in the meantime, managed to check out The Paris Wife, my next book club book, digitally from my library. I had no idea that was even possible! Seeing as I haven’t read much lately beyond In The Night Kitchen and Counting Fun with Elmo & Friends (two of Nora’s current favorites), being able to download real, adult books may be the highlight of my month (at least until baby arrives!). I heart you, iPad.

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

I’d been hearing how wonderful this book was for forever, so I finally picked up at copy at Reno’s Sundance Bookstore. The story of two twin brothers born to an Indian nun and a cold, British surgeon father in Ethiopia, the book is told mostly from the perspective of Marion, the older of the pair by just a few minutes.

The mother, who hid her pregnancy from everyone, dies in childbirth; the father, Thomas Stone, disappears immediately afterward, leaving the twins to be raised by Hema and Ghosh, two other doctors at Addis Ababa’s Missing Hospital. Written by a doctor, Abraham Verghese, the story chronicles the happenings at the hospital, which occur as Ethiopia is on the brink of revolution, and to New York City, where Marion eventually moves to pursue medicine.

It’s a well-written and intriguing plot, though I did have some problems with the story. There is a lot of detail in the operations, which is wonderful, but some that seemed totally unnecessary. For example, Marion discovers that Ghosh is getting a vasectomy, which he wants to keep secret from Hema. I kept waiting for that to play into the plot—maybe Hema mysteriously gets pregnant? Maybe she wants biological children?—and was disappointed when it apparently led to nothing. My other major problem was that Verghese saved much of the “big reveal,” aka, the mystery behind Thomas Stone, for the very end. I suppose that was the only place where it made sense, but there were so many new characters and other information saved for the final pages that it drove me a little crazy.

On another note, I liked that he didn’t make the love story end nice and clean. That particularly thread is instead messy and unfulfilled, which, although it may seem a little disappointing, is one of the truest to life ways to end a fictional romance that I’ve ever seen.

My take? An engrossing read that is definitely worth picking up!

Room, by Emma Donoghue

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that has stuck with me quite like Room. It’s the story of a five-year-old boy named Jack, whose mother was kidnapped and held in a one-room backyard shed. This book particularly struck home with the recent discovery of Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped from South Lake Tahoe in 1991. To Jack, who knows only what he’s learned from his mother or seen on television, Room is the world, where he still breast feeds, and resents the near-nightly intrusions by “old Nick.” This is an incredibly powerful story that combines childhood and innocence, captivity and brutality, hope and fear. I can’t recommend it enough!

Freedom, by Jonathon Franzen

I found myself totally engrossed in Jonathon Franzen’s Freedom, and then almost unable to finish the last 30 pages. As an editor, I have to say I think it went about 200 pages too long, and I almost went berserk when yet more characters and family dynamics were being introduced at the very end, when I was ready to start wrapping things up.

Overall, very enjoyable. I liked reading about Patty’s college days, and in fact I think that was the most interesting part of the story, between her stalker and her relationships with her future husband, Walter, and his badass best friend, Richard. I thought it was well written from the various viewpoints—Patty, Walter, their son, Joey, and Richard—and dealt with some interesting family, social and political dynamics. The theme throughout, as evidenced by the title, is the idea of freedom. For Patty, Franzen seems to equate freedom with free time—as a housewife, she spends her days looking after the kids and baking cookies for each birthday on her block. When her kids have grown up and begin to look down on her, she has plenty of free time, but no ambition or goals to accomplish anything. She begins to hate Walter, and seems to hate her own freedom (i.e., free time), and only begins to seem happier when either having affairs or working a gym job.

Richard finds success and squanders it. Joey, a college student, somewhat ridiculously finds himself negotiating contracts for tanker parts and makes a lot of money selling bad parts. Walter eventually discovers the affairs, and seems to free himself from Patty. Empowered by this, he falls in love with a Bengali woman named Lalitha and pursues his dreams of nature habitats for birds until Lalitha conveniently dies and he winds up back with Patty. For the life of me, I cannot understand the appeal of Patty, so I was bummed that Franzen killed off Lalitha. My read? An engrossing story, but a lot of unnecessary storylines that didn’t add anything to the overall tale.