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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

5 Things I Liked About Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine (and why I have THOUGHTS about the marketing of this one) 1. The main character. Main characters who do not understand how “normal” people interact and are actively trying to work that out are like catnip to me. Let’s don’t think too hard about what this says about my personality. 2. The story progression. Lots of things happen, but they’re all regular things. It’s the person they’re happening to that […]

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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: Life and Other Inconveniences

5 Things I liked about Life and Other Inconveniences and why writers should take note: 1. Truly multi-generational. There are POV chapters in here from teen to old and every one works—and while I haven’t experienced the symptoms the oldest character does, I found the way they played out very believable. 2. Sensible characters. This isn’t a book that relies on people misunderstanding each other, or even making dumb choices, and that’s hard to pull off. 3. The mother-daughter relationship. […]

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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: The Bromance Book Club

5 things I loved about The Bromance Book Club and why you should put it on your #toread list—and why writers should take note: 1. Scoops you right in. By the third page you’ve got a good idea of what to expect—and that it’s going to be a fun ride. 2. Whole characters: all the mains and secondaries in this one have full stories, reasons for what they’re doing and something to offer the reader and the protags. 3. The […]

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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: Nothing to See Here

5 things I liked about Nothing to See Here and why you should put it on your #toread list—and why writers should take note: 1. Genuinely funny. Too often, when something that’s more “literary” fiction is described as funny, what people really mean is bitter, or snarky. There are tones of that here, sure, but it’s also got the kind of humor that comes of a sense of possibility. 2. The protagonist’s voice and attitude. This isn’t someone who knows […]

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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: Ghosted

5 Things I liked about Ghosted Watcher beware! There aren’t spoilers per se in the book chat, but there might be enough detail to make spoilers easier to spot—because this is a twisty book, and I have thoughts about those twists. But nothing even spoiler-ish in the text. 1. The premise. Love at first sight, a week of very well-created, believable connection, and then the guy disappears off the face of the earth. Her friends tell her he’s just not […]

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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts

5 Things I loved about Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts 1. Tuesday Mooney. She had bad things happen in her life but she pulled her shit together, man. She’s got issues but they’re the issues of someone who CAN get everything under control and therefore, once all the things start happening, will probably grow and change and once again get things under control. 2. The friends. For someone who keeps everyone at a distance, the people around Tuesday Mooney were […]

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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: Separation Anxiety

My original 5 Things I Loved About This were lost in a tragic IGTV incident, but let me do my best to recreate them here. Because I DID love this book–and it’s the perfect book for its horrible, anxiety filled moment (and yet still distracting!) 1. the loopy premise. Sad-for-good-reasons, blocked writer starts wearing dog in sling and then can’t stop. It’s so crazy it just might work–and it does, for the protagonist and in the book sense. 2. the […]

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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: Minor Dramas and Other Catastrophes

Five Things I Adored About Minor Dramas and Other Catastrophes: 1.) The juicy insider setting. I love glimpses of other worlds in general; behind the scenes at a total hothouse of a school full of crazy parents, and you’ve just sprinkled catnip on my Fancy Feast. 2.) The there’s-a-reason-she’s-too-good-to-be-true main protagonist. There are plenty of characters and POVs here, but the primary one, a teacher determined to give her privileged students an ability to see beyond their bubble, seems at […]

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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: Would Like to Meet

A wanna-be Hollywood agent tries to convince a famous but blocked screenwriter that the meet-cutes in romantic comedies do work by acting them out on her own. 1.) The Hollywood insider angle. Truth is, screenwriting is not my jam. But books about people who do something I do not do—and in particular, books about characters who are assistants and just need to grab their chance and move up to the big leagues—yeah, I’m in for that. So I loved all […]

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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: Love Lettering

5 Fun Things About Love Lettering #bujonerds, rejoice. The protagonist is a professional letterer and journal-maker in Brooklyn, where people pay her to design their planner pages. I love a really good fantasy career. Like every good protagonist, this one needs to have the scales pulled from her eyes so she can see herself clearly—but I’ve not seen this particular problem done like this before, and the way we learn why she is the way she is really works. It’s […]

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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: Red, White and Royal Blue

5 Things I liked about Red, White and Royal Blue I know. I know. You’ve either already read this rom-com about what happens when the first son and the second prince fall for one another, or you’ve decided it’s not for you. If you’re in that latter category—let me encourage you to think again. Here’s what’s to love about this book: 1. ) OOOh believable, insider-y looks at The White House and Buckingham Palace. I love a good look at […]

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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: The Giver of Stars

5 Things I Liked about “Giver of Stars” 1. You’re in such good hands with JoJo Moyes. She’s a pro, and you feel it on every page—there are no moments of noticing the narrative or questioning a character. You’re just in it. 2. She created a less obvious protagonist. This is the story of rural traveling librarians in 1930’s Kentucky, and there were plenty of “outsiders” there—but by adding in a real outsider, a young woman from England who really […]

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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

5 Things I Adored About The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet 1. Wait! Maybe you don’t think this genre is your thing—but give this one a chance. If you like thoughtful books about the ways individuals struggle to understand one another, this is your jam. 2. Or maybe you don’t read in this genre, but you’re willing to watch—in that case, you’re in luck! The arc of this story is in many ways more like a video series […]

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A book that will get you out of your head, and one that won’t.

Sometimes my own head is a cruddy place to be. It’s noisy, for one thing. And really very—close. Like a hall of mirrors all parroting my least appealing inner voices back at me. (Let’s just say they aren’t all waving little “Yay” flags and singing “THIS GIRL IS ON FIYYY-RRREEE.) I mean, it’s not like that all the time, but when it is, or when I really need some serious distraction, there’s no better cure for being too much all in my headthan the chance to spend a […]

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Wanna Be Happier? Go Rube. (Works for Kids, Too)

There are worse things than tapping an oak tree your first time out. Like never making syrup at all.

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Writing for Listeners

It wouldn’t be quite accurate to say that KJ Dell’Antonia and Jessica Lahey are winging it. Both women pull out pages of notes as they meet in a hastily tidied upstairs office in Dell’Antonia’s sprawling, well-appointed farmhouse to record the latest episode of their podcast. Both, too, are distinguished writers who know their way around an interview.

Still, there’s a sense of breezy spontaneity in the room, a feeling that unrestrained curiosity is in the driver’s seat, as they chat via Skype with Ruth Franklin, author of Shirley Jackson, A Rather Haunted Life, on a recent Friday afternoon.

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Why I Didn’t Answer Your Email

I’m 47 years old. Two days ago, you sent me an email, which I did not answer. I didn’t answer it, in part, because I am 47 years old.

I appreciated your email. You are a person, who has written an email, and I am a person, who should reply to that email. However, your email arrived on Wednesday afternoon, and just as I opened it, my 16-year-old son came in. He wanted to describe to me an app he is in the process of developing. Then he showed me a funny article someone had sent him, and I showed him a funny article someone had sent me, and then I explained that I had work to do, that I needed, in fact, to respond to your email, and also to write 3,000 words in the next 36 hours. “I’ve only written 300,” I said.

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Happier Parent Mantra: What you want now isn’t always what you’ll want later

This one is really biting me in the butt lately.   What you want now isn’t always what you’ll want later.   That’s one of my 10 Mantras for Happier Parents*, and it is killing me.   Honestly, I’d really rather just give in and make my child happy right now—on whatever it is. Lately, it’s been biggish stuff (hello, report card season), but it’s also been a pile up of all the stuff. Come back here and put your […]

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Sometimes Happier, Sometimes …

If you had your crystal ball handy yesterday, and chose to peek in at me and my three younger kids around 3:30, you would have judged us all pretty harshly. One was on the floor, surrounded by a mess of their own making, kicking another, who was nastily mocking the mess and the sibling and anything else. Another was wildly defending some earlier transgression. As for me, I was yelling mightily at anyone in sight. They were horrible people, all […]

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For Happier Family Holidays, Recite This: Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

  Bracing yourself for family visits and family travel over the holidays? Me, too–and I’m prepping my kids as well. Happier family holidays means balancing expectations and planning for, well, pretty much whatever went wrong last year and then some. My tips, below (with my favorite bits highlighted in red). Know why you’re going Not everything about a family holiday trip might be precisely a dream vacation for parents or teens, but if we hold our reason for going close to […]

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