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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.


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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Books for both or neither.

By KJ / Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Whether you love Valentine’s Day or loathe it, I have a read for you. To me, the child of an elementary school teacher (later middle school and then administration), Valentine’s Day is mostly a holiday for sticking adorable paper hearts in varied colors of red and pink to things and also, candy. I like candy. Also chocolate, absolutely, big fan. I have zero strong feelings about who gives me said chocolate and will happily buy it for myself, but I […]

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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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#AmReading: Who is Maud Dixon

By KJ / Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Go ye into the world and grab this booky writery thriller. If you loved The Plot, this is a great place to go next (and vice versa)–everyone in this book is fascinating and disturbing and behaving badly, much to the delight of the reader. To sum up: Maud Dixon is the pseudonym for anonymous author of a Crawdads-like success, blocked for her next book. She hires an assistant, a wanna-be writer herself, who then wakes up in the hospital after […]

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If You Liked: A Touch of Magic

By KJ / Monday, July 19, 2021

If you’re a fan of magical realism, small towns, families struggling to accept one another and happy endings, Karen Hawkins’ Dove Pond series is for you. I was lucky enough to get an advance of this one, so I was able to sink in for another visit to this little town where there’s a touch of magic, sure–but the real magic lies in the ability to foster forgiveness and help newcomers to open up to the prospect of love and […]

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#AmReading: Embassy Wife

By KJ / Saturday, July 17, 2021

Really, really enjoyed this kinda uncategorizable novel. The trailing spouse (and family) is a fascinating fixture of diplomacy, and I was absolutely in for the story of the Auntie Mame-like genius that is the experienced wife taking the newbie under her wing. And when things started to get thriller-esque, I was very happy to be along for the ride. There are so many stories in here, and I mean that in the best way–a critique of diplomacy and the Peace […]

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If You Liked: Hollywood stories

By KJ / Thursday, July 15, 2021

Ok, confession: haven’t read Daisy Jones yet. (#TBR). But I loved, loved, loved Malibu Rising, a complicated, mulit-POV family saga that takes place in one day in ’80s Hollywood but moves around in time to show how everyone got there. So much happens, and yet in a sense the whole thing could easily be summed up in two words, one of which is a spoiler–but that’s the best kind of book. Sprawling narrative, tight core. A go-to beach read.  

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#AmReading: No One is Talking About This

By KJ / Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Yes yes yes. The first half of this is stream of consciousness combined with social media interaction of the loopiest kind, the sort of thing you follow people for, random musings, clever asides, deeper-than-they-seem one-liners. And then, life forces itself in, as it will, and the rest is sort of fictionalized memoir of a terrible tunnel of tragedy that the author and her people couldn’t side-step with the clever half-present tricks of online life. The contrast is a jolt, and […]

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If You Liked: Books About Bookish Things

By KJ / Sunday, July 11, 2021

Oh writers and editors. You know us so well. It’s true: put book, read or bookstore in the title and if nothing else, I’ll pick it up to read the cover copy. Sound fun? Have good blurbs (even though I know how the sausage is made I still like a good blurb). I’m in. I was in for this story of a blocked romance writer using the sparks that still fly between her and her ex to spur her to […]

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#AmReading: Where the Grass Is Green and the Girls Are Pretty

By KJ / Thursday, July 1, 2021

Lauren Weisberger’s take on the college admissions scandal? Yes please. Three POVs–the kid whose too-helpful parents pulled the scam, the wildly successful morning show anchor mother and the mother’s very judgemental not-so-successful sister are part of what makes this fun–we see the antics from all sides. There’s a touch of white savior that’s mildly problematic, so be warned (it’s not super germane to the plot but it’s there) but the book is overall extremely fun and the ending satisfying. Another […]

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If You Liked: Smart at Books But Not at Life

By KJ / Wednesday, June 30, 2021

“Smart at books and work, not at life?” Any protagonist who meets that description is a protagonist for me–even if they books and work aren’t at the level of the MC from Transcendent Kingdom, I love a book about someone who thinks they have it all together–because they can feel and clothe and support themselves–but has to learn that that isn’t really living. The Butterfly Effect is also a sibling story (brother/sister–that’s kind of unusual) and a midwestern story, a […]

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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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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: 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: 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 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: 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 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: 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: 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: 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: 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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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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