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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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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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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#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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#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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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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5 Fantastic Things about “The Authenticity Project”

By KJ / Thursday, July 2, 2020

Fun but not a romp. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good romp. But this is deeper fun. And deeply satisfying.

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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

By KJ / Friday, April 10, 2020

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

By KJ / Thursday, April 2, 2020

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

By KJ / Thursday, April 2, 2020

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

By KJ / Thursday, April 2, 2020

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

By KJ / Thursday, April 2, 2020

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

By KJ / Thursday, April 2, 2020

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

By KJ / Thursday, April 2, 2020

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

By KJ / Thursday, April 2, 2020

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

By KJ / Thursday, April 2, 2020

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

By KJ / Thursday, April 2, 2020

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

By KJ / Thursday, April 2, 2020

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

By KJ / Thursday, April 2, 2020

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

By KJ / Thursday, April 2, 2020

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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