KJ

#IfYouLiked: Wandering in Strange Lands

By KJ / Saturday, September 12, 2020

Caste is the read of the moment, and with good reason. I learned so much history that I wish had been a fundamental part of my education, especially growing up in Texas and Kansas, where there was a focus on American expansion. That said, it’s anything but dry. There are so many personal stories contained within it. It really is a #mustread—and I’d put Wandering in Strange Lands in that category as well. As a much more personal history, it’s an […]

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If you liked: Zero Punches-Pulled Memoirs

By KJ / Monday, November 16, 2020

I’m going to diverge from the norm and NOT compare this to Maybe You Should Talk to Someone–although it’s a fair comparison. But The Group, while it absolutely is about therapy, has a raw, tell-it-all, scraped to the bone quality that I didn’t find in Gottlieb’s book (and that it didn’t need, that’s not a critique). If your kind of memoir is one that pulls zero punches and never lets up, this is for you. One note–I’d hesitate before I […]

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If You Liked: Settings That Made the Story

By KJ / Thursday, January 21, 2021

What do these three books have in common? A setting that really makes the story (I literally found myself missing WHERE I was going as I read the Shergill sisters as much as I missed the Shergills themselves). Complex characters that you have to be a little patient with as they grow on you, and people with some enviable opportunities making bad choices. The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters has all the disastrous family travel of The Jetsetters in […]

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If You Liked: Marriages Interrupted

By KJ / Sunday, January 24, 2021

Stay With Me is the unexpected story of a marriage invaded–by family, by expectations, by culture–and a second wife, intended to provide the offspring wife number one has failed to produce. But no one has the full story (do they ever?), and even the people who claim to be playing by the rules aren’t. This book surprised me in many ways–the plot kept me guessing, and the characters were uniquely themselves. Like Outlawed, it’s a consideration of what it means […]

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If You Liked: Fascinating Books Unlike Any Other

By KJ / Saturday, January 30, 2021

Outlawed is the Reese’s Book Club January pick–a driving, fast-paced story with a fascinating woman at its heart that’s–as Reese Witherspoon said–not really like any book I’ve read before. But there are echoes of The Giver of Stars, with some women protecting and empowering each other and others giving in to societal pressure to conform and betray, and some of the intensity and desperation of Scribe in its alternate history and in the way the circumstances and the rules of […]

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If You Loved: Gossip-y Vibes

By KJ / Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Two super-fun, juicy, all-the-people-behaving-badly multi-narrator treats that will absolutely keep you turning pages. They’re not a total read-alike match, but they’ve both got a chatty, filling-you-in-on-all-the-gossip vibe that I loved and I think you will too.  

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If You Liked: Grabby Premises

By KJ / Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Big Door Prize has one of the grabbiest premises I’ve ever seen–a machine that promises to read your DNA and tell you “what you’re meant to be” appears in a quik-mart in a small town and upends everything and everyone–but underneath that flashy promise is a story with deep heart and lovable, fallible heroes trying to find their own places in a world that’s not been kind or easy. Multiple narrators tell an intricate story that still lands close […]

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If You Liked: The Journey to Get There

By KJ / Friday, February 5, 2021

Sometimes you want a fun romp with a happy ending, and when you do, none of these authors will fail you–and they also won’t fail to keep you guessing and appreciating the smart characters and the powerful things that drive them both together and apart. Romance or no, I want more from a book than just “how will they get together” and these three books deliver with smart, fun stories about characters doing much more than just finding their way […]

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If You Liked: What Happens Next?!

By KJ / Monday, February 8, 2021

Could. Not. Stop. Reading. All the Birds in the Sky gets wild–witchcraft and tech, parents who want their children to be something they’re not, environmental disaster looming and an overarching question–is Earth our planet–as in humans–or is it our planet in a larger sense. But don’t worry, there’s a mad, fast, oh-gosh-what-happens next story in here too, and two fascinating protagonists who tell an alternating story that’s unpredictable and gripping. If anything I’ve said here sounds fun, trust me–you’ll like […]

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If You Liked: Books That Satisfy

By KJ / Thursday, February 11, 2021

A love story in the past, a main character who’s never really had a love story in the present and a curse–the “second born sisters” in this family never, ever find happiness. The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany made me happy, it made my mom happy, it crossed all its i’s and dotted its t’s and nailed the landing. Basically, this book satisfies–everything it promises in the description it delivers. A January @BOTM pick, which means you can grab it next […]

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If you liked: Historical Fiction

By KJ / Friday, November 13, 2020

A round robin of a piece of historical fiction, from a moment before it was generally assumed that any literary person in pursuit of a proper English vacation would make a pilgrimage to the home of Jane Austen. This had a lot to love–village life, romance, Hollywood, people learning to take chances and stand up for themselves and to trust one another. I’d say you could safely give this to absolutely any book lover on your list.  

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If You Liked: Super-Satisfying HEAs

By KJ / Saturday, November 7, 2020

A true feel-good, multi-generation rom-com with serious emotional heft. An exhausted MBA consultant-type in London is sent on a forced sabbatical and trades places (literally, not Freaky Friday) with her grandmother, recently divorced from her no-good cheater husband and mainstay of an entire village. Our MBA will take over her grandma’s volunteer and village work while her grandmother tries out online dating from the MBA’s apartment in the city (with her roommates). There’s a lot going on and so many […]

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If You Liked: Modern Adaptations

By KJ / Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Modern Jane Austen adaptation? Yes please. Set in the world of restaurants with a dash of reality TV competition? Tell me more. In Edinborough? With a much more self-aware and confident heroine than Persuasion’s Anne who shows everyone exactly what she’s made of? I am so there for that. Dont let the unfortunate coloring on the cover of this one (It says “All Stirred Up”) make you pass it by, it’s an absolute delight in a season when we need […]

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#IfYouLiked: Total Escapes

By KJ / Thursday, October 1, 2020

This is my current total escape. There is absolutely nothing about this book that will remind you of anything real. It makes zero statements about anything. It has no overarching theme (well, ok: hubris is not good). Here is no work deciphering beautiful language or high-faluntin’ POVs. You just kind of open it, dive in and come up later, refreshed and ready to tackle 2020 again. (Ok, that’s a lot to ask of a book. But it helps.)

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If You Liked: Fun October Romps

By KJ / Wednesday, October 7, 2020

A fun October romp in the “millionaire makes a game with prizes everyone wants” vein, with wildly atmospheric scenes and a “found family” that will make you want to have a beer with each and every character. Even the villain. A very careful beer. Tuesday is a protagonist with issues, but also one who does have control of some elements of her life–think Transcendent Kingdom rather than Writers and Lovers–and that makes her fun to follow as she tries to […]

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If You Liked: Finding One’s Self

By KJ / Saturday, October 10, 2020

The truth about why I ALMOST put both Writers and Lovers and Queenie down? I have a hard time with protagonists who don’t have their external shit together. If you’re stabbing yourself in the foot by cutting off all your friends, ruining your love life, struggling with your family–I’m there. If you’re sabotaging yourself by screwing up your education or career, I have less patience with you (“You” being the protagonist in the story). Transcendent Kingdom has many of the […]

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If You Liked: Strong Heroines (and mild horror)

By KJ / Tuesday, October 13, 2020

I have to put this out there for your October reading pleasure. Imagine a stronger Austen heroine, like Emma, trotting off to a supposed gothic manor a la Catherine in Northanger Abbey but determined to believe none of it–and then caught up, like the women in The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, in a gruesome-but-real horror story she can’t evade. It’s MILD horror though. No nightmares. Promise.

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If You Liked: Halloween-y Feels

By KJ / Saturday, October 17, 2020

Bunny… is a WEIRD BOOK. Very Halloween-y. Think Heathers only with characters who can–I don’t want to ruin anything–use very strange powers to do very strange things in search of the perfect companions. It’s very much in the these–young-women-might-be-okay-if-only-they’d-never-met vein, with a lot of rather clinical gruesome stuff that doesn’t really touch anyone for most of the book, with an out-of-place narrator in a fancy-school setting that might be why I stuck with it. If you read it tell me […]

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If You Liked: Books with Consciousness

By KJ / Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Don’t take the title too seriously. The “Shame” here is the narrator’s general, omnipresent shame at how her life has turned out: traditionally gender-roled marriage, kids that take all she’s got, farm that she can’t see is itself enviable to others… so, she’s looking for something, anything to get herself out of her own head and she finds it in an internet influencer whose Brooklyn life seems infinitely better than hers. BUT—this is a literary, stream of consciousness, amazingly voices […]

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If You Liked: Maid

By KJ / Friday, October 23, 2020

If you’re in for a story of a young single mother trying to find housing, figure out the system and build a future for herself and her child–a la Maid–then Lauren Sandler’s This Is All I’ve Got is a #mustread. It’s not a memoir, and Sandler is acutely aware of the problem with her (a successful white journalist) telling this story–but it’s not a story that the person who is living it is going to be able to tell in […]

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If You Liked: Feeling Happy!

By KJ / Tuesday, October 27, 2020

When I put this book down I felt… happy. I don’t know about you, but 2020 has been a rough year for happy around here. For a minute there I didn’t even recognize it. It was glorious, and all I want is to repeat it as often as possible. I should maybe have popped some Kristan Higgins into that comparison, or Jenny Colgan or (for those of you who are suckers for a good yarn shop romance as well as […]

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If You Liked: Changing Traditions

By KJ / Friday, October 30, 2020

His Only Wife has a literary feel, while The Ties that Tether is straight up glorious rom-com, but both explore the weight of (different) African culture on a new generation of women who want to honor and embrace their heritage–and please their mothers–while also finding their own way. Maybe it’s too obvious a comparison, but if you’ve begun to explore the African immigrant experience through novels (see also the amazing Transcendent Kingdom), The Ties that Tether offers a light-hearted, escapist […]

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#AmReading: Interior Chinatown

By KJ / Sunday, February 14, 2021

Full disclosure: I’m very, very leery of books that an English teacher might force me to read in some imaginary English class that I haven’t been in in decades. As a general rule, you say “literary” and I say “leaving now.” I’m afraid, and I’ve been burned, by protagonists who won’t learn, entire books peopled with characters I wouldn’t even get a sip of beer with and writers who seem to have entered a competition to see who can create […]

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