What I read last month: January 2018

In What I Read Last Month, I recap the previous month’s reading and shamelessly copy and paste from my Goodreads reviews. You can read previous months’ What I Read… by clicking here. Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links, but despite wanting to support writers by buying books, I get most of mine from the library.

Can we talk for a moment about how I wrote this post before going away for the weekend on the 8th, then completely forgot to publish it? I returned home to a sick child, who proceeded to convalesce from the flu for an entire week. Sometimes the non-writing/reading life intervenes…

Anyway, my 2018 reading list is off to a great start. I enjoyed all three of my January reads enough to give four stars — a rare treat in both quantity and quality.

These three books could not be more different. If you’re wondering what to read next, one of them should suit you.

Brunch Is Hell: How to Save the World by Throwing a Dinner Party by Brendan Francis Newnam & Rico Gagliano


This book made me laugh out loud more than any I’ve read recently. Both snarky and earnest, it blends practical advice with humor for a quick-reading primer on relaxed hosting.

As the authors point out, most of us set the bar too high for our dinner parties. Really, your friends don’t care how clean your house is (except the bathroom). You don’t need world-class cooking skills. You just need to gather an interesting combination of people around the table for food and conversation.

This book inspired me to say, “yeah, you know, I should really just have people over more often. Forget waiting until I finish painting the dining room.”

The current-day political and pop culture references keep me from giving Brunch is Hell five stars. I almost feel like the authors expect the book to be obsolete five years from now. They’re writing for the present moment, which is great, but I would’ve preferred a more timeless approach.

When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago


Many of my favorite memoirs take a deep look at a smaller slice (chronologically speaking) of the author’s life. When I Was Puerto Rican covers a relatively long period of time: from the author’s early childhood until her admittance to New York’s Performing Arts high school. As the title suggests, this is the complete story of the author’s identity as a Puerto Rican. When she comes to the continental US at age 13, she realizes she must leave behind the Puerto Rican jibaro and become something new.

Not knowing much about life in Puerto Rico, I enjoyed experiencing it through the author’s eyes. I also appreciated the perspective she gave on issues that seem cut and dry to the rest of us. For example, privacy (she didn’t enjoy having her own room at first, because she missed sleeping crammed in with her six siblings) and nutrition (from the Puerto Rican perspective, the US government’s attempt to “educate” people on what to eat seems laughable).

Because this book tells the story of Santiago’s Puerto Rican life as a whole, I felt the lack of deeper exploration on core issues. For example, she frequently describes dissociation: allowing her body to exist in one space while her consciousness retreats elsewhere. This implies a need to protect herself from trauma. It remained unclear to me whether this trauma was from living in a large, poor family with parents who fought frequently, or from something bigger. Did Santiago feel her trauma was greater than that of peers in similar situations? She describes her envy of schoolmates with idyllic lives, but those classmates also seem to inhabit a different socioeconomic class.

The author could have answered these questions in a book solely about her relationship with her mother. Instead, I wondered: did the author view her mother as an abusive person, or as a woman who did the best she could in her circumstances? Did she respect her, or just fear her? She describes trying to feel close to her mother, and rarely achieving it. Does she view this as an inherent trait of her mother’s, or as a byproduct of external factors? In the end, I wished I knew more about this complex relationship between the two most central characters.

All in all, I enjoyed this book because I enjoy hearing others’ stories. A reader looking for a book about something specific — a plot-driven versus character-driven story — will likely find this one unfulfilling. It’s part of a trilogy, and I get the idea the set of three may cohere more completely than this book does as a standalone. That said, anyone who appreciates immigrant stories, Puerto Rican culture, or learning about others’ lives will like When I Was Puerto Rican.

Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown


I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s one of those rare finds that comes together on all fronts: unique and vivid characters, rich descriptions, well-constructed setting, good pacing, and a nice balance between lightness and drama.

The reader can really disappear into the world of Howl Mountain, and the characters feel present and real. While I found the ending a little neat, that didn’t bother me much.

The author has a few tics — words or descriptions that recur often enough to stick out — and I got distracted by the frequency with which characters belched through their teeth or spat on the ground. I also raised an eyebrow once or twice when I didn’t quite believe our hero Rory would’ve made it through. He certainly has nine lives.

None of this substantially decreased my enjoyment of the book, though. It was well done, and one of my favorite reads in recent memory.


2017: my year in books

Every year, I look back on the books I’ve read and create a loosely ranked list. Here’s what my reading list looked like in 2017.

Random stats

My 2017 reading list was…

  • 27 books long
  • 22% non-fiction, 78% fiction
  • 7% audiobook, 93% traditional book
  • An average of 319 pages per book
  • An average of 3/5 stars
  • 90% of my 30-book goal
  • 78% Caucasian, 22% non-white


Best for listening on a long driveBorn a Crime
Most likely to get really weird: Bonita Avenue
Stood up to the hype: The Hate U Give
Didn’t stand up to the hype: The Girl on the Train
Most thankful I didn’t put it down when I wanted to: 
Winter Garden


  1. Born a Crime – Trevor Noah
  2. Hillbilly Elegy – J.D. Vance
  3. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion – Jonathan Haidt
  4. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson
  5. Make Your Bed – Admiral William H. McRaven
  6. Half a Life – Darin Strauss


  1. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  2. The Unseen World – Liz Moore
  3. Winter Garden – Kristin Hannah
  4. The Book of Catches – Robert Atkinson
  5. A Beautiful Poison – Lydia Kang
  6. Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf
  7. Room – Emma Donoghue
  8. Love Letters to the Dead – Ava Dellaira
  9. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
  10. All the Names They Used for God – Anjali Sachdeva
  11. Bonita Avenue – Peter Buwalda
  12. The Good Liar – Catherine McKenzie
  13. A Tangled Mercy – Joy Jordan-Lake
  14. Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty – Ramona Ausubel
  15. A Spool of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler
  16. Almost Missed You – Jessica Strawser
  17. World Made by Hand – James Howard Kunstler
  18. There are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce – Morgan Parker
  19. My Name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout
  20. Two by Two – Nicolas Sparks
  21. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

2018 reading goals

My biggest goal for 2018 is to read lots of good books! Aside from that, I’d really like to read more from non-white authors and/or authors from communities dissimilar to my own. Good writing transports the reader into a new world. I love hearing others’ stories, so why not make an effort to travel to worlds I don’t already know?

Plus, fiction is scientifically proven to increase our empathy. I can only imagine that reading stories about people who aren’t like us helps even more. Some of my favorite reading experiences of 2017 — Born a Crime and The Hate U Give — took me into an unfamiliar place and taught me something new. Even Bonita Avenue, set in the Netherlands and translated from its original Dutch, stretched my brain into a new place and culture.

What was your favorite read of 2017? 


What I read last month: December 2017

In What I Read Last Month, I recap the previous month’s reading and shamelessly copy and paste from my Goodreads reviews. You can read previous months’ What I Read… by clicking here. Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links, but despite wanting to support writers by buying books, I get most of mine from the library.

I finally spent some time catching up on a stack of New Yorkers. I was particularly glad not to have missed the November 27 issue. The short fiction was Will Makin’s The Lost Troop. I enjoyed it almost as much as his Crossing the River No Name, which the New Yorker published in May. As it turns out, Mackin has a book coming out in March. I couldn’t wait until then to read it, so I snagged a copy from NetGalley and look forward to reviewing it soon.

First, I have to finish the three books I have in progress!


A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake


I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

A Tangled Mercy paints a charming picture of present-day Charleston and shines a light on some little-known corners of the city’s past. Chapters alternate between 2015 and 1822. There are a few primary POV characters, and most of the 2015 content comes from the perspective of Kate Drayton. However, the POV tends to shift at the author’s convenience. I find this style distracting, but it’s very much in fashion right now. It worked most of the time in A Tangled Mercy, although every POV shift in the 2015 chapters took me out of the story.

I appreciated the treatment of 1822 Charleston’s young women: their horror and inner conflict over slavery, and their relative powerlessness in society. I found it interesting that the young Emily Pinckney didn’t have a mother figure. We don’t see many adult women at all in the historical portions of this novel.

The modern-day storyline ends up a little feel-good for my tastes, but the story kind of earns it with the dark events that get us there. I have conflicting feelings about the writer’s race. On one hand, I don’t want it to matter. On the other, I struggle with the idea of a white author writing a story like this one. Specifically, I’m not sure if it’s our place, as white writers, to seek forgiveness and unification after a tragedy like the Emanuel AME massacre.

Race is (obviously) a constant presence in the 1822 chapters, but often fades to the background in 2015. I didn’t know each character’s race the moment I met them. Given the importance of race to the story as a whole, I imagine this as a reference to — or a hope for — our unity as American people.

The ending felt a little movie-neat, yet still satisfying enough for me. At times, the mystery elements felt heavy-handed. I wonder if the book would’ve benefited from a third timeline, to show Kate’s childhood directly, rather than through telling and flashbacks. We see a lot of Kate’s struggling and wondering and pining, even before we know her well enough to feel invested in her journey.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read with lovable characters and a beautiful setting. I would’ve loved to have seen a book like this written by a person of color, but I also think it’s valuable as a white author’s reckoning with several deep issues, old and new. Not to mention a sometimes-humorous portrayal of a white Bostonian trying to navigate Southern culture. The message in the end — that we all belong to each other — is a good one, and the author manages to pull healing out of tragedy.


What I read last month: November 2017

In What I Read Last Month, I recap the previous month’s reading and shamelessly copy and paste from my Goodreads reviews. You can read previous months’ What I Read… by clicking here. Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links, but despite wanting to support writers by buying books, I get most of mine from the library.

Here’s what I read:

Surprisingly little! That’s how it looks, doesn’t it?

In reality, I spent a lot of time reading for my writing group. I think I did more than a novel’s worth of reading and critiquing. Even though I can’t tell you about what they’re writing or share a link to it yet, I promise you’ll hear from me the moment that changes. My gratitude for this lovely group of talented writers is off the charts.

Between critiquing others’ work, assembling the Order from Chaos ebook, and spending over a week out of town visiting family, November zipped by with only one completed novel. Plus, our family has been feeling under the weather. I’ve been too tired for my usual late-night reading sessions.

My goal for December is to enjoy more magazines — something I’m already doing — and make more time for pleasure reading.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading, and how you’re making time for books and writing during the busy holidays.


The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie


I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

This book feels like it’s trying to straddle the line between thriller and drama. I actually think it would’ve been stronger going all-in on the marriage/friendship drama, with a side of suspense. Naturally, we want to know what’s going to happen in the end, and the plot has a few twists and turns, but that’s secondary to the deep emotional story at the heart of the book.

In making this a plot-driven novel, we lose a little bit of character depth. Not only that, Cecily’s ‘big secret’ pales in comparison to Kate’s, yet both are treated somewhat similarly. And in the end I felt the POVs conflicted with one another a bit. It definitely feels like Cecily’s story, but Kate’s POV is really strong, even though those chapters are written in close third person instead of Cecily’s first person.

There’s a lot of heavy stuff in this book. I love the questions the author asks, and the characters she creates. However, I would’ve liked to have seen better character development, especially around their motivations at key points in the story. Information is revealed slowly, to create suspense, but the timing of these reveals doesn’t always feel natural for the POV, which can break the spell for the reader. This also creates distance between the reader and POV character. I didn’t always understand why a character felt the way they did, or feel like I knew them well enough to believe their actions.

All that aside, I did connect with the characters enough to keep reading, and their world felt very real to me. The best reading experience, for me, is to be invited into another person’s life. I felt like I was part of this book, and remember it as though I saw it all myself. I just think it would have been stronger with a more character-driven approach, since the issues at stake are so deep and complex.


What I read last month: October 2017

In What I Read Last Month, I recap the previous month’s reading and shamelessly copy and paste from my Goodreads reviews. You can read previous months’ What I Read… by clicking here. Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links, but despite wanting to support writers by buying books, I get most of mine from the library.

Here’s what I read:


I sampled a variety of literary magazines online: LitMag, Necessary Fiction, and a few more from the Baltimore Review. I also got way behind on my New Yorker short fiction and have a big stack sitting next to my couch.


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


Homegoing is a fascinating novel. Being a sucker for a deep, character-driven novel, I worried I would struggle with the structure of this one. It begins in 18th-century Africa and follows the descendents of two half-sisters, neither of whom knew the other, to present-day United States.

The novel starts out rich and engaging, and I was sad to leave the original characters behind. As I read, I had to make peace with the fact that some characters, I would never see again. There is a built-in lack of closure here, and it would’ve left me wanting more if not for the way everything gets braided together in the end.

That said, by necessity, more characters pile up as the book goes on. In the beginning, it’s easy to see the connections between them. As we near present day, the author must resort to exposition that feels heavy-handed for a close-third POV. For example: in my head, I never think, “my father, John, worked for several years as a truck driver for a nursery in Pennsylvania.” It’d be more like: “I thought back to the years my dad spent driving trucks for the nursery.” But in the context of an epic story, you need to know his name, so you can say, “oooooh, okay, this is John’s daughter we’re meeting here.”

When bits of exposition and connecting details are inserted this way, they can pull the reader out of the zone. We become aware of the fact that we’re reading, as opposed to staying immersed in the POV character’s experience.

In the case of Homegoing, the plot is king, and the story here is really incredible. I loved seeing how everyone’s story played out, and how these two parallel sets of ancestors built upon each other.

I’d also never read an account of slavery, Jim Crow, and beyond that felt quite like this. While we’re occasionally taken out of the story to be told how a new character connects to the ones we know already, we’re also drawn back in by the vividness of their lived experience.

All in all, Homegoing is an important book, and one I had trouble putting down. The ambitious structure required a little bit of flexibility on my part, but I was well rewarded in the end.

Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser


Almost Missed You is pretty heavily plot-driven, and therefore not the first book I’d usually pick. However, after seeing the author speak at several Writers Digest conference sessions, I just had to give her book a read.

I was fascinated by her choices in writing this book. She gives Finn, the runaway husband, several POV chapters. Not only that, his wife Violet is ostensibly the main character here, but she ends up feeling almost secondary to the supporting cast. The plot revolves around her, but we experience her story most vividly through the perspectives of her husband and best friend. The story, really, is both hers and Finn’s.

And isn’t that the case in every marriage?

Because I love uncovering people’s stories, I loved how Almost Missed You’s plot unfolded over time. Strawser reveals just enough in each chapter. In fact, she reveals an entirely natural amount of information given the point of view, so the exposition doesn’t feel clunky. We move from one character to the next, putting the pieces together little by little, until everything comes to a head.

I especially appreciated the somewhat-ambiguous ending, which manages to avoid feeling contrived or insulting to the reader.

My biggest criticism is that many passages feel heavy on telling vs. showing. I would’ve preferred a little more rich detail showing the characters’ internal reactions, and a little less outright telling what characters were feeling. On many occasions, the author doesn’t trust the writer quite enough, and hands us too much straight information.

Even so, I’m glad I read the book, and will probably read Strawser’s second novel as well.

All the Names They Used for God: Stories by Anjali Sachdeva


(Note: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review)

This collection provided everything I look for in a short story: a world that draws me in at once, and a character who takes me on a journey. With each story, we experience a transformation. The writing is what I’d call speculative fiction, but it’s incredibly seamless. Every world the author creates feels like it could exist alongside our own. Sometimes the story’s place in time is clear (e.g. Carnegie’s steel mills). Sometimes it feels like it could be pre-industrial or post-apocalyptic.

Most of all, though, each story stands on its own as a complete journey. While there seems to be a trend toward vignettes and character sketches in modern short fiction, I found these stories refreshing. No story ends on too neat and tidy a note, but neither are we left feeling like we haven’t traveled anywhere. Each story hits the perfect balance with pacing, plot, and character arc.

This book was a delight to read, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good short story collection.


What I read last month: September 2017

In What I Read Last Month, I recap the previous month’s reading and shamelessly copy and paste from my Goodreads reviews. You can read previous months’ What I Read… by clicking here. Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links, but despite wanting to support writers by buying books, I get most of mine from the library.


The new Tin House arrived in my mailbox in mid-September. Yay! I’m trying to ration it so it lasts.

I also read a few stories from Bodega and The Baltimore Review.

I secretly love well-written television, and will consume content about television writing at any opportunity. Despite being notoriously snooty about excessive television-watching, I tore right through the New Yorker TV issue. The piece about Jenji Kohan, creator of Weeds and Orange is the New Black, was right up my alley.


Winter Garden


Well, shoot. I’m unsure how to rate this one. I almost feel like I need to evaluate the first and second halves of the book separately.

I have to admit, I wished I could put this book down for at least the first half. A lot of things tripped me up: frustrating main characters, who kept hurting good people who loved them. Clunky exposition shoved into characters actions that conflicted with the close third POV. Unnatural-feeling dialogue. Whole sentences summarizing what a savvy reader could easily learn from the surrounding prose.

These trip-ups appear in many, many successful books. And indeed, there’s a reason I kept reading this one. After reading two of her books, I think Kristin Hannah’s special power is creating characters that pop. Even when I felt frustrated with them, the characters felt real enough to me that I couldn’t walk out on them. I had to know what happened.

In this case, perseverance paid off. The first-person chapters are especially powerful. The final half of this book feels like a different story. I couldn’t stop reading. The pacing was spot on, emotions were intense, and the end was totally unexpected. I’d normally say it was too neat, but the neat ending worked for me this time.

I’d give the final act of this book a much higher rating than the beginning, which could use some work. Overall, the average experience for me still balanced out to three or four stars.

Bonita Avenue


I’m not sure what to make of this book.

On the one hand, it is a truly impressive debut novel. Well-honed, and the writing pulled me right in. The English translation reads wonderfully. Despite its considerable length, especially for an author’s first published novel, I read Bonita Avenue rather quickly.

That said, all this skilled writing hangs on a plot that I struggled to find believable by the end. The one major aspect I found lacking in Bonita Avenue was contrast. As I read on, it seemed every character had something outside the norm going on: schizophrenia, a secret multi-million-dollar porn site, sociopathy (though, as depicted, Wilbert is hardly a believable sociopath, which makes his outcome in life feel overblown), a weird fetish.

This is a consistent pet peeve of mine: books that offer a full slate of outlier characters when one rarely finds that in real life. One might believe the (step)daughter of a university president could have become a secret millionaire from the porn site she ran with her boyfriend. That, in an of itself, is a great plot set-up. But from there, every single circumstance we encounter is extenuating. The POV shifts, though they work well for the book, exacerbate this issue by bringing in backstory and side plots from multiple angles.

Bonita Avenue was well-written enough for me to let this go as a form of abstract art. However, the end of the book really brought this contrast issue into focus for me. The final chapters are troubling and intense, but somewhat dulled by everything we’ve seen thus far.

Without revealing any spoilers, there are also some significant reveals toward the end. These are left mostly unresolved. The end of a book shouldn’t wrap up every plot thread neatly, but neither should the reader be left hanging. It’s a delicate balance. For my taste, Bonita Avenue stopped just short of giving me everything I needed to feel like I could close out my relationship with its characters.

Overall, the reading experience was something I definitely don’t regret, but I had higher hopes for the eventual resolution.

Other stuff

I’ve spent some quality time with Writer’s Market and Guide to Literary Agents, both of which have helped me organize my fiction queries.

I also attended the Baltimore Book Festival with my four-year-old. I had to pass up the opportunity to wander for hours in the used-book tents in deference to my travel companion, but I did snag a free copy of Towson’s Grub Street magazine.


Support my book on Kickstarter!

As I gather up my monthly roundup of exciting reads, I’d be remiss not to mention my very own: my book is on Kickstarter!

My blog, The ADHD Homestead, is expanding to include its very first ebook: Order from Chaos. Order from Chaos features my signature combination of book-smart know-how and real-life experience, and it’s not just for adults with ADHD. It’s for anyone who’s struggled to get organized.

That’s right: if you’re currently struggling to organize your life, and you want to feel less frustrated and alone, you need this book.

Help me make it happen by supporting the Kickstarter today. If you can’t pledge any cash, you can still support this project by spreading the word to your friends. This is a unique book, part self-help memoir, part quick-start guide, and all the things readers love about The ADHD Homestead. And you can be part of its creation!

Have questions? I’m hosting a live Ask Me Anything Q&A on Thursday night. Click here to sign up for updates, or to submit your question ahead of time.


What I read last month: August 2017

In What I Read Last Month, I recap the previous month’s reading and shamelessly copy and paste from my Goodreads reviews. You can read previous months’ What I Read… by clicking here. Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links, but despite wanting to support writers by buying books, I get most of mine from the library.

August was a bear of a month. I was out of town for 16 of 31 days, stretched over three different trips. That’s a lot of time spent packing, unpacking, visiting, and traveling to and fro, not to mention my WDC17 prep and followup.

Despite the harried pace, I was lucky enough to find some great reads. I give mostly three-star Goodreads reviews, and August gave me two five-star books.

Here’s what I read:


I read the summer issue of Tin House on the beach, starting with Daniel Wallace’s Sea Girls. I also polished off the previous issue, which included Leslie Jamison’s un-put-down-able essay about Amy Winehouse.

Catching up on a big stack of New Yorker short fiction, I found myself most transported by Will Mackin’s Crossing the River No Name and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Show Don’t Tell.


The Unseen World


This is the rare book that I finish and think, “there’s nothing I would’ve done differently.”

The Unseen World is a clever, well-executed novel. The characters are compelling and their lives are set against a delightful backdrop.

There are some plot developments I anticipated (and was glad when they finally arrived), and some surprises that made for lovely Easter eggs at the end. I was about to call the ending too tidy, but the epilogue completely made up for it. Just like Moore’s previous book Heft, I recommend this to just about everyone.

World Made By Hand


When I got around 85% of the way through this book, I realized it wasn’t all going to come together in a big bang at the end.

I’m going to spend some time chewing on this one, and considering why the author did these things the way he did.

In the meantime, I’ll say I enjoyed the setting and the world-building was good. This book reminded me why I think post-apocalyptic fiction is so neat. I love seeing writers ponder what humans would do if the world as we knew it came to an end.

The book could’ve used a little more resolution at the end, re: the different factions, how we should feel about them, and how they might work together (or not) going forward. We spent a lot of time learning about the various folks living around Union Grove, and sometimes I wondered to what end.

Perhaps the biggest issue for me was the female characters. I’m not sure why the end of the modern age resulted in all the women reverting to traditional gender roles. Many of the cult members came from the military, but they couldn’t have included any women who had formerly served in the military? There weren’t any gay people at all, or women who did something other than tend the home and support the men? I’d buy it if many, or even most, of the women did this. However, it would’ve been more believable to have a token woman vying for her rightful place within the town leadership. Or even a man who rejects the new (old) mountain-man lifestyle. As it was, the characters were too divided into types for a book released in 2008.

The Hate U Give


Every once in a while, I come across a book I want to read slowly, but can’t. The Hate U Give was one of those books. I knew I was cutting my time with these characters short by devouring it so quickly, but I couldn’t help myself.

From page one, the main character, Starr’s, voice is so on point and compelling. There’s no getting-to-know-you period, no slogging through act one to get to the action. I was hooked from the very beginning. The narrative sucked you straight into the world of the story, and I experienced everything vividly, right alongside the characters.

This is a really important book, and it’s pulled off superbly. I want to go tell everyone to read it. We need more books like it, to bring us out of the hashtags, the generalizations, the racist talking points around privileged white dinner tables.

I saw another reviewer criticize the character Hailey — a white friend of Starr’s who claims she isn’t racist, but reveals over time that she actually kind of is — as an unrealistic caricature. I wish that were true. The Haileys of the world grow up with no requirement to develop empathy or deep understanding of people who aren’t like them. Successful contemporary fiction like The Hate U Give could change that.

Though this book is billed as YA, it holds nothing back. So, buyer with a younger YA reader beware, and The Hate U Give is every bit as valuable and relevant to adults as it is to YA readers.

My only substantive criticism is that a few of the longer chunks of dialogue started to lose the voice. It’s easy to slip into a little monologue in service to the message and have it come out not quite how the character would say it. But, all things considered, this effect was mild, and offset by the excellent flow in most of the book’s dialogue.

All in all, The Hate U Give is an important and compelling read, and I highly recommend it to just about anyone.

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World


This is such a fast read, you have no reason not to read it.

Unlike David Allen’s Getting Things Done or Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this book won’t give you a full action plan to improve your life. It’s more like a compass to point you in the right direction.

Of course, given its length, the author really can’t get into detailed how-tos and action items. If you’re looking for that, go with a longer book like those I mentioned above.

However, this book gives a nice kick in the pants and a reminder of what’s important.

Other stuff

I also grabbed a copy of Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat from the library and I’m in love. The illustrations are delightful, and Nosrat’s tone and style make the subject matter super approachable. I’m not finished yet, but I already know I’ll need to buy it for my kitchen shelf. I’ve renewed it the maximum number of times and don’t feel I can go on without it in my life.

Enough about me. What are you reading? Shoot me your recommendations in the comments!


Books of 2014

Ah, the new year. Time to refresh my Goodreads reading challenge!

Even though my blogging efforts are focused primarily on The ADHD Homestead, I plan to use this space for news, announcements, and fun stuff — like a review of the books I read last year.

While I fell short of my 30-book goal for 2014, I still feel good about completing 19 books, including some meaty non-fiction reads. As any nursing mother of a newborn can attest, I had lots of built-in reading time in 2013, so I sailed through 28 books. I had to learn how to make (and protect!) time for books in the year that followed.

For 2015, I’m challenging myself to a very manageable 20 books. Hopefully I exceed that goal. In the meantime, here’s a ranked list of my 2014 reading. I can’t claim too much precision, but I can promise that the top four or five books in each category are well worth your time.

What should I read this year? What were your favorites from last year?


  1. The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak
  2. Etched on Me – Jenn Crowell
  3. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands – Chris Bohjalian
  4. Landline – Rainbow Rowell
  5. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick
  6. Sudden Flash Youth: 65 Short-Short Stories
  7. The Painted Girls – Cathy Marie Buchanan
  8. The Kitchen House – Kathleen Grissom
  9. The Hundred-Foot Journey – Richard C. Morais
  10. Boys Like You – Juliana Stone
  11. Veronica Mars – The Thousand Dollar Tan Line – Rob Thomas
  12. The Newlyweds – Nell Freudenberger
  13. The Signature of All Things – Elizabeth Gilbert


  1. The End of Night – Paul Bogard
  2. Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East – Scott Anderson
  3. Difficult Conversations – Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton,  & Sheila Heen
  4. Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, and Abortion
  5. Create Your Writer Platform – Chuck Sambuchino
  6. Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules – Jo Frost