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My aspirationally weekly, realistically more like monthly email of books and enthusiasms will keep your #tbr full and make sure you know what's next.


Planning VACATION Reading!

By KJ / Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Do I take a lot of trips? I do! Do I take a lot of books? HECK YEAH I have a horror of ending up on a plane without a good book. Yes, my ereader mostly should have relieved me of that problem BUT STILL. What if it suddenly didn’t really download even though I checked it three times? What if the battery goes “poop!” What if I sit on it or drop it in the seat and then try […]

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But I don’t DO…

By KJ / Friday, March 1, 2024

[fill in book type blank here] For me, the end of that sentence is “werewolf-vampire romance” and even when Ali Hazelwood (whose trio of science-y romances I have quite liked) dropped one, causing me to express incredible delight over the sheer PROPS of her, to say “want another best-selling science-y academic romance? Then publish this first, witches”—still, I didn’t think I was gonna read it. But I did, and reader, I loved it. Bride was pure solid fun from beginning to end, and although […]

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How to read 50 (or more) books a year

By KJ / Thursday, February 15, 2024

Indulge your bookworm fantasies with these 12 strategies for adding more reading to your life   HEY! Have I been reading? I have. More on that next week—because one of my very favorite writers is letting me share her strategies for reading more, and I thought you’d love it. Below is a post from Vanderhacks, a short week-daily email from Laura Vanderkam about “doable strategies for making the most of your time and your life”. I LOVE IT. So here is […]

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When the reading slumps

By KJ / Friday, February 2, 2024

I’m reading. But I’m just not feeling it. Witness, if you will, my actual bedside table. (Why am I displaying a chocolate bar? I don’t know. That’s my phone stand but somehow now it’s my chocolate stand? I’m not sorry. Possibly better to grab in the middle of the night anyway.) I’m slightly more than halfway through The Well of Ascension. I love it. I have book three waiting. (It’s Book Two in the Mistborn series and there is a reason why Brandon […]

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Starred Reads from 2023, Part Two gets even better

By KJ / Friday, January 26, 2024

I’m crap at keeping my reading spreadsheet but I did manage to use the asterisk key. Last week I offered you the starred reads from the first half of 2023 HERE. Not the “best reads” (what would that even mean?). Maybe not even my favorites. Not sure. But the reading experiences that made me want to hit a little “star” key once, twice, sometimes multiple times. I do that in the “whelm” column of my reading spreadsheet, which also has columns […]

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15 Books I starred in 2023 (not necessarily the best ones)

By KJ / Thursday, January 18, 2024

IMO Good reading experiences are better than “best books”. Part one of two I read approximately 130 books last year. That’s not a brag, it’s why you’re here, right? I zoom through the pages because it’s what I do, then I tell you enough so you’ll know if they’re worth your time and $$ and hopefully we’re BOTH happy. I’ve recommended a LOT of good stuff this past year. But what follows is essentially a partial list of my faves. […]

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Unapologetically yours, KJ

By KJ / Friday, January 5, 2024

Some books and also some thoughts… This is a weekly-ish email about books. But it is also a weekly-ish email about me, the reader and writer behind the weekly-ish email about books. If you vibe with my books, it’s quite likely, that you will vibe with, well, my general vibe. Thus, below, a bit of a riff on 2024 and what I want to bring to it. But if you’re just here for the reads, no worries, I got you! […]

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How to decode a book rec (even mine)

By KJ / Thursday, December 14, 2023

A few dirty little secrets of author life plus 4 fun holiday rom-com reads Tl; DR: Make sure your bookstagrammer has read the book! Scroll down for this week’s recs. Some time ago—long enough now that I don’t feel any worries about anyone wandering through the way-back machine and thinking I’ve dissed them—I wrote a list of books for a thing that was not this email. (Note: I have written MANY such lists over the years.) Because I felt that […]

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We all have our own ways of soothing ourselves

By KJ / Thursday, December 7, 2023

And mine may be… eccentric.. Hello, my name is KJ and sometimes when I’m anxious I like to re-read books about cleaning things. Not necessarily clean the things, although after four solid weeks of being sick (I’m bettter now!) I finally got off my sickbed and managed to do a little of that too. No, I just read some books about it, like Gretchen Rubin’s Outer Order, Inner Calm. And bought a book but didn’t read it, Minimalista. And considered re-reading Marie […]

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You get a book! and you get a book!

By KJ / Thursday, November 30, 2023

Not the classy book list you maybe got from somebody else Herewith, my vaguely annual-ish sort of list of books to give and get—real books, not “gift books” or “big literary books people want to have read” or cookbooks. NOT that I don’t love cookbooks. This is just not that. The rules: These are books I’ve read and enjoyed and that I think have broad appeal. If your giftee likes this TYPE of book, this is a solid bet, and […]

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How to Survive a Holiday Family Gathering.

By KJ / Monday, November 20, 2023

In which i wildly digress into a topic important to many humans this time of year… Once upon a time, I edited the parenting section of the New York Times. Back then it was called Motherlode, and over the course of my six years in the role I wrote thousands of things and and edited thousands more and also researched and wrote a book, How to Be a Happier Parent, that’s still available at your local bookstore etc, thank you very […]

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Books for When You Are Feeling Not Quite the Thing

By KJ / Friday, November 3, 2023

“Not quite the thing” is what Bertie Wooster used to tell Jeeves he was feeling when he was feeling poorly. As a general matter, Bertie was hungover, but the phrase also encompassed a few other typical Bertie states of mind, including vaguely heartbroken and actually ill and snuffly or just taken to his bed in an attempt to avoid one of his many aunts. The past two weeks have found me taking to my bed and clutching the saddest possible […]

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It’s villain week!

By KJ / Friday, October 27, 2023

In which science fiction and Sam Bankman-Fried unexpectedly collide. This week, it’s a tale of two plane flights. Let’s start with my travel to the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. I’d planned to write on the plane, and I usually do, but I’d scooped up a paper advance copy of Starter Villain from John Scalzi for take-off and landing when laptops are verboten. And then I kind of accidentally read it the entire flight because it was that good. The […]

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This book stomped my reading streak into the ground…

By KJ / Friday, October 20, 2023

It was going so well, until it wasn’t. This is NOT an email about me not liking a book. On the contrary. I like the book! It’s interesting. It’s engrossing and well written and by an author I like and I like the people and I want to know what will happen. I just don’t exactly want to actually read the book, and I’m trying to figure out why. I’m a fast reader. By October 11 I’d already finished five […]

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Must be the season (to read about) the witch.

By KJ / Friday, October 13, 2023

If you do reels or TikTok at all that song will never leave you Did you get this 2x I AM SORRY mistakes were made and it’s just me over here. Please don’t go. Meanwhile… Playing the Witch Card is finding its place in the world (If you have not yet bought one for you and one for everyone else you know do so HERE) and thus it is time to discuss… OTHER WITCHY/FALL READS. This week: Part one of … who knows? […]

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People (and these 4 books) are a good use of time.

By KJ / Thursday, October 5, 2023

A small diversion into life musings and 4 books that transcended worries Personal travels crashed hard into book travel this September. That meant that I often found myself staring at a trip I genuinely wanted to take and cursing the person who’d planned it—which was me, every time. And now, after a month that included 7 states (eight if you reach just a teensy way back into August) and so, so many people that I love and don’t get that […]

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Hey can i ask a favor?

By KJ / Tuesday, September 12, 2023

It’s not bad swear As you know, Playing the Witch Card comes out… Tuesday. September 12, to be exact. It’s my third novel and I love it. I wrote it at a moment when I needed to be reminded that people you love do what they do and you have to let them do it—and even magic can’t stop them. I also wrote it to have fun—because who can resist something that starts with It’s all fun and games until your mom shows […]

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Last chance to prove you adore me madly

By KJ / Friday, September 8, 2023

You do don’t you? also you get a cool THING TL;DR: It’s all fun and games until your mother shows up with your ex in the trunk of her car. You know you want to read that, right? Last chance to preorder and get a signed copy with fabulous unique bookmark! Signed Copies Barnes&Noble Amazon. Playing the Witch Card comes out… TUESDAY. So, big day for me. But for you, here’s the thing: if you’d like a signed copy with a handmade limited edition Tarot […]

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I know I’m not supposed to love this place but..

By KJ / Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Oh how I do. TL;DR: you need to shop in a big bookstore sometimes or you’ll never stumble across anything new and SOME OF YOU HAVE NOT YET PRE-ORDERED Playing the Witch Card so DO. Signed Copies Barnes&Noble Amazon. No one could love their indie bookstore more than I do. I’m afraid to ask, but I’m pretty sure I’m their best customer. When I order a book, they just stick it on the orders shelf with a note that says “KJ!”—unless they decide to […]

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The first chapter of Playing the Witch Card!!!

By KJ / Friday, August 25, 2023

I’ve been aching to share this one and now I can! Have I read anything excellent lately? Yes I have. BUT FIRST: Playing The Witch Card (Chapter One) 225KB ? PDF file Download It’s here! For you! And we are only days away from you being able to get the whole dang thing. Okay, weeks. September 12, people. It’ll be here sooner than you think. Or at least sooner than I think. This book is special. Letting my witch flag […]

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You’ll never read hist fic or regency romance the same way again.

By KJ / Friday, August 18, 2023

Can a steamy regency change your entire perspective on women’s history? Maybe. Stay with me here. Maybe you don’t read regency romance (I hadn’t since high school, until this year). Maybe Jane Austen’s not your girl (I forgive you) and the Bronte sisters feel like homework (kinda with you there). But I read a light-hearted, joyful, delightful steamy regency romance last week that ALSO managed to make me re-think everything I’ve read from the era, whether it was written at […]

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The right number and kind of books for the trip

By KJ / Friday, August 4, 2023

Vacation reading planning is important. I will read on an e-reader. I’ll even forget it’s an e-book pretty quickly, sometimes to my detriment when I’m wandering the house looking for my book and not remembering that it and my iPad are one and the same. Especially for a long trip that involves a flight, digital books are key. But I’m still gonna pack a paper book or two or more, depending on mode of travel, duration of trip and plans therein. The […]

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A comfort read for all the former kids who were saved by books

By KJ / Thursday, July 27, 2023

Oh, my. this one’s a snuggle.. My reading gift to you this week: The Wishing Game. In short: the author of a wildly beloved series of puzzle-filled children’s books, who loves with his illustrator/the son he never had on an island off the coast of Maine, had retired—but now he’s written one more book, and he’s giving the only copy to the winner of a contest he’s devised for four of his biggest kid fans (now adults), all of whom […]

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I don’t read horror except when I do…

By KJ / Friday, July 21, 2023

A few books to brave–and why they’re safe, I swear On the one hand, bookstores are the best. On the other… when you’re NOT in the bookstore, you’re not limited by where a book is shelved. Because here’s the thing: I don’t think I ever would have tried these books if they’d been sitting under a big “horror” label (although more and more, you’ll just find these under “fiction” and this is why… But what is horror, anyway? Scary creepy […]

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Can anyone still use the constraints of Austen’s world?

By KJ / Friday, July 14, 2023

There aren’t many societal limits on behavior any more–except here I adore Jane Austen. I’ll try nearly any variation on her work, including the delightful mysteries from Claudia Gray, who can’t write fast enough for me (The Murder of Mr. Wickham and The Late Mrs. Willoughby) and The Other Bennet Sister (Mary Bennet’s story, and she’s not at all what you think and I love her now.) But many modern retellings of Austen struggle with the lack of constraints in modern society. Many of […]

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7/7 the all-important airplane book

By KJ / Friday, July 7, 2023

Picking a book for a flight is just different Airport bookstores are different for a reason. When you’re getting on a flight, you need a book that’s pretty much a lock—one that’s going to have you turning pages, oblivious to your surroundings and the slow passing of time and even your neighbor’s back-of-seat screen showing the latest Marvel movie. What kind of book that is differs. Some of us want to be caught up in Malcolm Gladwell-esque non-fiction full of […]

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Books that make me want to do the thing

By KJ / Friday, June 30, 2023

Reading about cleaning, writing or getting organized is EXACTLY the same as doing it, right? Ok. Reading about getting organized—or being a better parent, or being more creative, or ridding my life of things that aren’t working, is way easier than actually doing it. And often way more enjoyable, because it comes with the free fantasy that when I put the book down, I will be a better, stronger, more improved me. I love books that allow me to imagine […]

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A book Instagram doesn’t think you’re interested in

By KJ / Friday, June 23, 2023

and some it thinks you are In addition to this email, I also have a #bookstagram (@kjda). It consists almost entirely of very short videos and shouts of delight for books I adore, tarot cards and occasional farmcore featuring the various dogs, cats, chickens, mini-ponies and horses who live around here. Here are some amusing, totally anecdotal random factoids about said bookstagram: my reels (which Instagram pretty much decides who sees) get way more views when my hair looks good. […]

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Help! i want a book just like that one i just loved

By KJ / Friday, June 9, 2023

read-alikes and weekend travel guarantees (and hey, welcome!) Only a real reader knows the distress of putting down a book you loved, one where you savored every page and slowed down to keep from getting to the end. Not to mention the horror of taking one (1!) book on a trip and realizing, one chapter in, that you have chosen … poorly. I got you! And also, HEY HOWDY. A bunch of you are new here (thanks to Booksweeps, and […]

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When genre is good it’s very very good

By KJ / Friday, June 2, 2023

a mystery for Austen-ites and a real ripped bodice, Ok. I take it back. A closer look at the cover of the delightful, satisfying, this-is-like-a-pint-of-your-fave-ice-cream When a Scot Ties the Knot reveals that her bodice is secure. And because this is a deliciously modern romance, our hero would never—NEVER—rip it unless she consented. Sober, and in full possession of her senses. You know I love a good rom-com. And I’ll dabble back in regency rom-com, too. But (probably like you) in adulthood […]

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If you love writers behaving badly

By KJ / Friday, May 26, 2023

possibly my favorite trope–and the best book I’ve read yet this year, Give me ALL the writers behaving badly. Stealing, plagiarizing, stalking, stabbing one another in the back—in books, mind you, not in my real life—and I will read them, savoring every shadenfreudian moment. (Apparently that’s not a word but it should be and I’m leaving it.) If you, as I did, loved The Plot, Who Is Maud Dixon?, The Writing Retreat, Dear Committee Members and countless other stories in which writers go to extreme […]

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For me and not for me,

By KJ / Thursday, May 18, 2023

that is the question… that should help me not drop $28 on a hardback from an author I usually love! It’s taken a while. Ok, I still mess it up. But there are book plots, tropes, topics, even structures that are just not for me. Doesn’t matter if they’re well done. Doesn’t matter if everyone else loves them. Doesn’t even matter if the author is a friend. For me, some things are non-starters, and if I want to insist on […]

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2 fun reads, 1 small triumph

By KJ / Friday, May 12, 2023

I’m a fall BuzzBook! So, there’s this industry email. That, ok, often generates FOMO, or something like it…because it’s all the new book announcements for books you didn’t write! And deal announcements for movies and TV and foreign sales! And prizes and buzz and awards and you can see where I’m coming from, I presume. But once in a while you get to be on top of it, and that’s why we get it. Because we LIKE sticking our heads […]

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If you love the bookish life

By KJ / Friday, May 5, 2023

Of Nina Hill… I have TWO recs for you!   The Bookish Life of Nina Hill was fun… and also thoughtful. A coming of self more than a coming of age, a chance to hang out in someone else’s head—with just the right amount of found family and romance to satisfy. If you felt that way too, I have two suggestions for you this week! And not just because of the title echoes… honestly there are many, many books that […]

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I bought 6… so far

By KJ / Thursday, April 27, 2023

Future you called, they need a book to read and THERE IS A SALE!   Imagine this: you’ve just turned the final page of a fantastic book. Perhaps it was The Bandit Queens, or Murder Your Employer. Or How High We Go In the Dark (in which case, go take some deep breaths, it will be okay) or Georgie All Along. You had so much fun!! And now you have to pick a new book. I have lots to say about what one should […]

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Letters and diaries as page-turners… why?

By KJ / Friday, April 14, 2023

I don’t want to read your diary. Or your letters. But these I want to read… I don’t like the idea of a novel written as letters (or emails. or texts. or What’s App posts). But somehow, I often like the execution. I might not even click on a novel in that format. Or, for that matter, a memoir done as a diary entries. But again—when it’s done well, not only do I really like it… I somehow can’t stop […]

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For the con artist junkies among you.

By KJ / Sunday, April 9, 2023

If you binged Dirty John or Inventing Anna, I have a book for you.   The two POVs in The Fake slowly revolve around an unheard third, coming closer and closer to the truth about the young woman who’s entered both of their lives… but not, in classic con-artist thriller fashion, with any particular ill intent. She will not murder them or steal their identities or ruin their lives, exactly. Not dramatically, anyway. In fact, she’ll make things better. For a while. […]

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Judge my book by its cover… REVEALED!

By KJ / Sunday, April 2, 2023

Purply darkness revealed… I’m gonna need to up my eyeliner game. It is perhaps true that even I, who love all things fall and Halloween, am not exactly ready to launch myself into that distant season just yet. It’s been a long-ass winter (and there’s reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last…*) and I am very much not wishing away spring and summer just yet. BUT This fall will bring the release of Playing the Witch […]

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Feelings are hard and I’m not good at them…

By KJ / Friday, March 24, 2023

  I’ve just had the extremely strange experience of being happy when a book broke the spell I was under and revealed itself to be a book. I’d already begun an adversarial relationship with this book—How High We Go in the Dark, a novel in short stories about a pandemic that begins with the release of a virus through melting permafrost. I was lured in by the promise of black humor in the idea of an amusement park for plague-ridden […]

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One bonkers book

By KJ / Friday, March 17, 2023

“And a—kinda—’Writers and Lovers’ read-alike.” A joy of my writing life is the opportunity to read books before they come out into the world. The advent of bookstagram means that many readers know about “advance reading copies” or ARCs—which we usually see as much as six months before a pub date, or the practice of sending some readers an early copy in the weeks right before publication—but in case you don’t, I’ll lay it out for you—especially because it’s a […]

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Double score!

By KJ / Friday, March 10, 2023

Two books I’d love to read again for the first time. It felt like a particularly lucky reading week when I realized I’d inadvertently landed on two of what I call my “starred reads” for 2023 within a matter of days of each other. I can’t wait to share these with you—especially as one of them is suited to reading with partners who skew more thriller/whodunnit (or gifting to same, or possibly to becoming a family road trip audio book […]

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Not everything has to be awful.

By KJ / Friday, March 3, 2023

It’s not all Very Serious Sad Literature, even when it’s about serious things in unfamiliar places. Ok, so here’s the thing: for lots and lots of people, places that are “other places” to me (as in, very other, where things on the surface appear very different to my eyes) are quite familiar. And ordinary life happens in those places, as it is wont to do. But as a U.S-based reader, so much of what I’m offered to read that takes […]

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Don’t be mean, and give your future self a present.

By KJ / Friday, February 17, 2023

Maybe we don’t always have to call everyone out all the time.   I was listening to a conversation recently where someone who’d been doing more yoga and exercise said she thought of it as “coming home to her body” which, she said, seemed like a really warm and pleasant approach to her. Well, the other person responded, maybe—if you’re lucky enough to have good associations with “home” and “body”. But a lot of people don’t. And… that is indeed […]

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While waiting for the tow truck..

By KJ / Thursday, February 9, 2023

What would 1990s KJ do? The wheels off of my plans this morning—literally, although not in the plural. The wheel came off the car my kid was driving to school (happily, on a small rural road). He and the friend he picked up had to walk back to the friend’s house and find a ride. Me, I had to call three auto shops to find someone with time to figure out what went wrong, and as I write this, I […]

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Technically I do in fact have time to do all this, but I would rather read.

By KJ / Friday, January 27, 2023

  First up today: me making a pretty typical me mistake. Next: a book that’s totally vibing with the view out my window right now and that I loved, plus one chock-full-of-weird-reading-experience—so skip down to that if that’s what you’re here for! Conceded that it was a long list. But I want to do—and be—a lot of things. I want to speak other languages fluently, to be able to draw the things I see and imagine, to stay connected with […]

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I was afraid of this book, but I loved it.

By KJ / Friday, January 20, 2023

It was fat and literary and difficult and daunting. But I finished it and now I’m eying all of its friends in the #tbr pile because I want more.   I know. You want to know what book I’m talking about. I’ll get there, but first: I think of myself as a pretty light —but decently educated or something like that—reader. Like, I can handle Jane Austen, but you can keep Nathaniel Hawthorne. Trollope yes, Melville no. So when it […]

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Please just distract me with your glorious pages.

By KJ / Friday, November 18, 2022

A serial book abandoner’s plea. Rough week around the old couch-and-bedtable reading homestead. I started and dumped no fewer than 6 assorted books. There’s only one thing to conclude at that point. I’ll spare you the meme, but… It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem. It’s me. I just wasn’t into them. In my defense, five of the six were advance copies, which I don’t pay for and am therefore far more likely to take a flier on. I could probably […]

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There’s a Hole in the Bucket

By KJ / Thursday, July 30, 2020

I can’t think. Every day finds me standing in one room or another, asking any human or animal within the range of my voice important existential questions: Why am I here? What was I thinking? Why am I holding this spoon? Usually I do manage to sort that out (someone once told me that if you go back through the doorway you just came through, it helps you remember what you came for, and it absolutely works although I do […]

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5 Fun Things About There’s a Word for That

By KJ / Thursday, July 2, 2020

An unpleasant alcoholic famous producer father? A sister who hates the biz and a niece who wants in so bad she can taste it? Hollywood behind the scenes, and I want more.

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5 Things I Adored about The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

By KJ / Thursday, July 2, 2020

Boring 90s Southern surburb-y moms go Buffy? I’m in.

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