Are You There, God? It’s Me, Cha

You know what’s really hard to do? It’s hard to recommend a book to my daughter. I was an avid reader growing up. Read what are now some classic authors, but back in the 80s, were just books. Beverly Cleary was a go-to. Cynthia Voight. And, of course, the one and only Judy Blume.

Over the years I have tried in earnest to convince my kid that these are books and authors she should read. They are great books. But, here’s what I learned pretty quickly: I am NOT COOL, therefore my book recommendations are also NOT COOL.

I did manage to sneak a few things in. I read Freckle Juice to her out loud at the right age (still such a great book!). We listened to part of Henry and Ribsy on a car ride down to Portland once. I also learned to acquaint myself with some newer, hipper books so I could try to be, at the very least, hip to the past century.

This has resulted in a few successes, most notably Kate DiCamillo and Rebecca Stead (I try not to brag, but I read “When You Reach Me” months before my kid did, begged her to read it, which she wouldn’t. When she finally did and agreed it was a good book I did not “I told you so!” her too bad)

I now know I just need to leave her be and she’ll read who she wants to read. She liked Harry Potter, but she LOVES Percy Jackson. Has begged me to read the full series, all three of them (THREE??). I’m two books in, after two years.

She read another book titled Ban This Book, used that junior fiction novel to learn about a whole slew of books that had once been banned, THEN went and reserved or borrowed a whole bunch of other books from the library. And that’s how we ended up here:

Are you there, God? It’s not me, it’s my kid!

To my surprise one day about a month ago, I was alerted that Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, was ready to be borrowed from the library.

Readers, I was honestly nervous. She was going to read about PERIODS. Which, now that I think about it, why was I so nervous? She had just finished The Hate U Give, is a much more powerful story. I am unsure what made me so nervous. Maybe that this book seemed like something my mother wouldn’t have wanted me to read. As a mother, was I supposed to shield her or something?

She read it in an afternoon. And she liked it, thought the bust exercises scene was hilarious (also confirmed with me that it doesn’t really work), and then went on with her day.

I decided a few nights later to tuck into it (read it in about 90 minutes. I remember it being much longer!), and I need to say this … Margaret still slaps!

The cover of Are You There, God?
as I remember it, back in the 80s

The friend drama is as real today as it was back then (Nancy is still a mean girl), as are the crushes. I had actually forgotten one of the biggest controversies of the storyline, where Margaret researches different religions and tries to figure out who/what she is. This blew me away, as I feel like it could be very representative of where my family stands today.

Blume also updated the references to the sanitary napkins. I remember her descriptions even back when I read it being dated, so I was glad to see she took the time to make this relevant, decades later. And, to be honest, like, what a sneaky way to let girls know how to use a pad. I see what you’re doing, there, Ms. Blume, and I 100% approve.

The kid has already moved on from this book to her next thing (rereading her Baby-sitters Club graphic novels, thanks to the recent Netflix series). But this book has stayed with me for a little longer. My kid is growing up. She will start middle school next year, and at some point my relevance and importance in her daily decisions will diminish. It is a hard pill to swallow. Perhaps this is why I long for us to connect with books.

Guess it’s time to crack open that third Percy Jackson.

My favorite books of 2015

According to Goodreads I read 64 books in 2015. Here’s my Goodreads link.

It was a strange year of reading, where I read some stellar books in January and then again in December and a real mixed bag in between. If you told me that among my favorites would be an 800-plus Stephen King book that I started with two days left to go in the year, I would have laughed. But there I was, 3 a.m., finishing up what I’ll put at the top of my favorite books of the year (Trying to arrow it down to just five)

11/22/63 by Stephen King11/22/63 (read in December, published in 2011) I was into a big time travel kick. Prisoners of Azkaban has long been my favorite Harry Potter novel because of Hermione’s Time Turner as part of the plot. I did also read and enjoy “The Chronos File” series, and as a result of some other books I picked up (but didn’t love), Amazon recommended a Stephen King novel to me. Wha? Really? I hate horror, but well, okay. I got on the wait list at the library and a few short days before we left for our Colorado Christmas, I got it. I started it on the plane ride home. 2 days and more than 800 pages later, I finished it. I haven’t read a Stephen King novel since I picked up The Stand (in an airport, for a trip home during college). I can only read the non-horror King, and this was such an easy read, with a surprising love story alongside a fanatastical historical fiction around a time traveler who goes back to the the 50s/60s to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating JFK. Much of the time I was more enamored with the Jodie, TX storyline than the following Lee around DFW, but both were compelling and a supremely easy read from an old hand. Great timing to finish this one, as the TV mini series will be coming out in February on Hulu.

Carry On by Rainbow RowellCarry On by Rainbow Rowell (read in December, published in 2015) Just before picking up the above, I finished this story, which I found incredibly clever from my favorite writer of last year. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl featured Cath, a young college student who spent her younger years writing fan fiction for a Harry Potter-type series. Carry On is, in my imagination, the fan fiction that Cath wrote (or perhaps Rowell intended it to be the actual book and not the fan fiction?). Rowell is another writer who I feel like just gets into a rhythm and writes with such a great flow that it’s tough to put down. I also love that she has made a career of being so versatile. I was hooked with the first YA novel i read by her and was delighted to find she also wrote adult novels. I read a lot of series and following several authors and many have a formula that they don’t stray from. This was so fun to read, a great magical break.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrAll The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (read in January, published in 2014). I’m not one to jump on the prizewinner bandwagon. Often my taste is a little bit less cultured.  After reading and hating The Goldfinch I wasn’t sure if I should pick up another Pulitzer Prize winner, but I did pick up ATLWCS and I’m so glad I did. Historical fiction that has a lot of history and a fantastical connection between a young soldier within the Hitler’s army and a young blind girl struggling to make it through the war alive. Another long one, engrossing and heartbreaking, even suspenseful at times. Sometimes the award winners are worth it.


We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew ThomasWe Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas (read in February, published in 2014). This I picked up because I discovered I knew the author from college. It started somewhat slow for me, which was concerning because of its length (I’m more of a quick read kind of gal, which might be obvious based on the sheer quantity of books I go through every year). But it bloomed into an incredible story of one family’s struggle with early onset Alzheimer’s.




If You Only Knew by Kristan HigginsIf You Only Knew. I mentioned earlier that I have a small number of authors that I always read, often because they are formulaic and I know what to expect. But reading something new from them can be like a burst of fresh air in a stale hot yoga room (seriously, Rose from Modo Yoga does this and it’s A-MA-ZING). IYOK is that from Kristan Higgins. It’s like a transition piece, actually. Part of the books is typical slapstick/girl-meets-boy stuff, and the other part is heartbreak/angry woman finds out husband is cheating sadness. It was just different enough that I have to say, having read all of her novels, this stood out to be my favorite by far.

Some favorite passages, as I feared I’d not have enough to write about a rom-com (though apparently I do). You’ll see KH is just a funny kinda gal. Not to get too stalky, but I’d like to have coffee with her some day. I think she’d be hilarious.

I clear my throat. “So my ex-husband and his perfect wife have invited me to a dinner party in the city, in the same apartment where I used to live with him. Want to come? Should be a fun little freak show.”

“Hell, yes.” Leo smiles, and his face goes from tragic empathy to wicked, and I’m filled with relief. Back on safe land. “When is it? Doesn’t matter. I’ll clear my schedule. I’d miss dinner at the White House for this.”

Also this:

“Classical piano?” His voice implies that an unstable woman such as myself has never heard classical piano. He’s almost right; aside from what I hear at weddings, I tend to veer towards things written in this century.

“As a matter of fact, yes,” I lie. “I love classical piano. Beethoven, and uh … those other guys.”

“He cocks an eyebrow. “Name two pieces.”

“Um … ‘Piano Man’ by Billy Joel.”

“Oh, God.”

“And ‘Tiny Dancer’ by Elton John,”


Anyhoo. My goals for 2016 … is not to read more books. If anything, my new commute has made it harder for me to read, believe it or not. The Firm shuttles me back and forth to work in a bus that has wi-fi and I find myself cramming in a few more minutes of work instead of reading like I did when I took the good ol’ city bus. Except today. Today I’m finishing this blog post.

So my goal is not to read more books, but to write a review of every (okay, most) books I read. I’m already behind on that one. (KH released another book that I finished New Year’s Day). But I’m gonna give it a shot.


These a few of my favorite books (of 2014)

In my head I have a bunch of posts that I want to write down and get out there. One of my unofficial new year resolutions, if I still did that kind of thing, which I don’t, because, seriously, who needs that kind of pressure  … is to post more. Not just blog more, but, you know, try to get myself out there a little more. I like to write these little ditties and share this little bit about me, but the truth is, I don’t. It’s scary. So I don’t share my posts socially (well, I do, but only on Twitter and Google+, where I have about 30 followers total). I “discourage” search engines from crawling me (that sounds a lot creepier than it is). And why? Because while I like to blog, I don’t want people reading my blog posts?

I’m like the anti-blog blogger. Who’s ever heard of such a thing.

I hate rejection. I hate attention. I am bad at individual sports, prefer the team thing. But you know what, who doesn’t like a little encouragement from others every once in a while. A little validation that you are a-ok. A few “likes” on their FB pics, or a “+1” in that work email … So let’s change it up, shall we? Just for a little bit, let’s see if anything detrimental comes up if I let you in on the secret that’s not really secret, I like writing. In the meantime, you’ve caught me on a good night. I’m finally writing about the best books I read in 2014.

The only book I gave 5 stars to on Goodreads in 2014 is this first one. Not because I read a lot of crap books last year (although I did read some crap books, starting with the first book I finished in January 2014, “Allegiant” aka “Don’t Bother”). I think it’s more because I rate books very hard. I am a difficult reviewer, of books, of things, of surveys, of people. So, Jojo Moyes, congratulations. You received the sole 5 stars for Me Before You. 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, via GoodreadsLet’s face it. I’m a sucker for romance books. I like the funny ones (See: Kristan Higgins). I indulge in some of the regency on occasion, and I’ve read a few Nora Roberts when I just needed to get through a plane ride. Me Before You (2012), which I read in gloomy October, is like the anti-romance, in the same way I am the anti-blogger. You root for the main characters, that they both get to accomplish what they want to, and all the while you know, in the back of your mind, there’s a very good chance it is not going to end well. And then the tears. Plus, she’s British. I love her colloquialisms. Oh, and I’ve already slammed the gauntlet down in 2015 with this writer. Her latest novel? One Plus One, the first book I read in 2015? 5 stars. So, get to it, other books. Who’s going to join Jojo?

By the way, when I read other people’s reviews, be they on Amazon or Goodreads, one of my least favorite types of reviewers are the ones who provide a summary before getting into their review. If I want a summary, I will read the summary provided by the publisher. I don’t need you to waste your time providing one. That is why I’m not providing one. If you’d like to learn more about these books that are obviously quite good, click on the links and learn a little more. Otherwise, just deal with my broad, general strokes about these novels.

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell via GoodreadsMoving on.

2014 was the year of Rainbow Rowell. I finally got around to reading Eleanor and Park (2013) in April, soon after it was announced that DreamWorks had bought the film rights to this book. When I finish a young adult book that is so emotional, gripping, beautifully written, something that bring me to tears (hmm. more crying), I often wish I had these books when I was a teen. I read a lot of crap back then. I wish I had something of more substance, that spoke to me. The scene that had me bawling into my pajama shirt (because this was most definitely a stay-up-late-to read book) was centered around Park’s mother, a Korean immigrant who, in the middle of a grocery store, suddenly realizes who Park’s girlfriend is. What she is. And is so affected by it she can’t continue her trip. I’m not spoiling anything by explaining this scene. Maybe it takes experience and maturity for it to hit you and that’s why, at 39, I’m overwhelmed. I wonder, what scenes are overwhelming to the younger set?

Why is it the year of Rainbow? Because I also read Fangirl, Attachments and Landline this year, and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. She does adult romance/fiction/relationshippy stuff just as good as the YA stuff. It’s not often I can read that many books by the same author and feel good about all of them. Excited to see what comes from this movie, and will try my best not to put it up on some pedastal only to be somewhat disappointed because it doesn’t live up to my higher-than-high expectations as a film (see: TFIOS)

I’m sort of cheating here, because while I planned to limit my list to four or five books, I’m actually bringing up a lot of titles that I enjoyed last year. The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters, via GoodreadsSo that’s why it’s okay, for this next selection, to include the entire trilogy. I was at first leery of receiving this recommendation, because the person who recommended it, well, I just don’t see us having the same taste in books. But then he told me that he read this series because so-and-so recommended it to him, and I DO see eye-to-eye with so-and-so, and plus the premise was just one I couldn’t resist, so I picked it up (or, rather, I put the digital copy on hold at the Library, then clicked and downloaded it when it was finally ready).

The Last Policeman (2012) takes a murder mystery concept and places it during a time, not too far in the future than today, when everyone on Earth is well aware of when the world will end. That’s all I’ll say. The series has a very satisfying ending, which does not happen all that often, in my opinion. It takes a simple premise and turns it on its head with the setting and environment. Love it. (The first two I read in late August/early September, and the final one, released this year, I read in October, only because the waiting list at the library was so darn long).

I have a few others in mind, but I think I’ll end this list with a couple of authors I know I mentioned last year. About five years ago my work spouse introduced me to a few urban fantasy writers to help get the taste of Twilight out of my brain, and I’ve never looked back. For serial novels (is that what they call them?), it’s always fun when you enjoy something so much you go back and reread previous books in the series. I remember when I was reading Harry Potter as they were being published, I loved the books so much I would reread the previous books in the series because I couldn’t get a big enough Potter fix.

Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews via GoodreadsAnd so with the Kate Daniels series. Magic Breaks came out this year, and immediately after finishing it (August), I reread one of my favorite books in the series, and then, last week, once I had finished my Goodreads Challenge, I reread Magic Breaks. The writing duo of Ilona Andrews loves their fans (see: Clean Sweep, which I also read this year, and enjoyed, and paid for, even though they offered it on the Interwebs for free, because they are awesome). After a buildup of 6 prior books, MB is the one when the main character meets her creator, so to speak. I’ll probably add this series to the list next year, too. It’s that good. (Here’s my one complaint this time … I can have one, right … the unnecessary sex scene that was tacked on near the end. Seriously, really could have gone the entire book without it, but it was almost as if the editors said, no you need it and so you just kind of pinned it on. Really?)

Speaking of writers who love their fans, and somewhat related, fans who love their writers, but not in that Misery kind of way … I would be omitting another favorite if I didn’t mention Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs. Mercy Thompson is another urban fantasy series I love (Night Broken came out this year and I would add it to the list but I didn’t do the reread like I did with Kate Daniels and so it gets the mention not the picture and listing) and Shifting Shadows is a series of short stories that take place in the “world of Mercy Thompson” … meaning our fearless writer has provided background and additional insight into side characters and stories that didn’t get the attention in a books original setting though you wished it could. So fans of the series geek out and devour every morsel handed to them. It’s like DVD extras, only way better. Thank you, for allowing me to geek out.

To sum up the last three paragraphs: If you looking for something weird and different I would definitely recommend one of these series, start with the first one and just go from there: Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews, Moon Called by Patricia Briggs (hello! Local author alert! The series takes place in the Tri-Cities!). I may re-recommend these next year too, along with The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.

Here are the 2014 honorable mentions: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie S. King (I read a lot in this genre, female protaganist, historical times, with or without a husband/partner of some sort. Point of Honour was also good one in this genre, and I can thank my work spouse for introducing me to these as well); Slow Getting Up by Nate Jackson (not going to win awards, but was fun to read during post-nfl withdrawal), The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

And here are a couple of ones I wished I hadn’t: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, The One and Only by Emily Griffin, The Giver by Lois Lowry. Life would have been just fine had I not picked up any of these.

This was a long post. I don’t think I’ve written a post this long since my last best books of the year post. I think it counts as two posts. I’m going to take it easy, then.

Join me on Goodreads, where you can check on my annual Reading Challenge to read 60 books in 2015.