What I'm Reading
For a period of time (circa 2021), I was reviewing everything I read on my website and publishing it all right here. I even included a helpful (or unhelpful?) rating system. Because of my fluctuating schedule, that got hard to keep up with and eventually stopped. But I've kept reading and keep track of it all on Goodreads.
Below are my past reviews and ratings. Above are my recent updates on Goodreads. Check out the site itself for all my updates. If you even care...
Stay Salty: Life in the Garden State
by Various Authors
I'm not biased because I have an essay in this anthology and also have lived in New Jersey my entire life, but I will tell you that this is the greatest collection ever published in the history of literature... Talented authors, poets, artists, and photographers contributed to this anthology, and it provides readers with a number of different perspectives on the Garden State. Also, my name is spelled wrong in the first printing, so that gives it some bonus points for creativity.
My rating: A pork roll sandwich.
Something is Killing the Children
by James Tynion IV
Great comic read around Halloween. James Tynion IV uses diverse personalities to give this horror story a bit more realism. I read the first three volumes, and toward the end of the run, there is an important twist. I was enjoying the story up until that point, but once more info comes out about the "something" that is killing the children, that's when the story really grabbed me.
My rating: A spooky forest.
I think I'm slightly biased, because I started this book thinking it was horror, and it is not. I tried to take it for what it is (general fiction/science fiction/fantasy/horror), but there were only about three stories from this collection that really left a lasting impression on me. Joe Hill's works are always well written, as were the stories in this book, but if you choose to read Full Throttle, don't go into it thinking it's just horror. It's not.
My rating: A bicycle.
by Joe Hill
I find it amazing how James McBride is able to incorporate so much about his life and his mother's in this short book. He uses few words to convey so much information and emotion. It's a compelling, gripping memoir, covering themes of identity, introspection, racism, and family. Even though it was published more than 25 years ago, it's still poignant today. There are chapters dedicated to the mother's past spoken (written) in her own voice. Overall one of my favorite reads of the year.
My rating: 10 gallons of spring water.
The Color of Water
by James McBride
In the Tall Grass
by Stephen King and Joe Hill
An Independent Bookstore Day pickup. In the Tall Grass is a very quick read that could be finished in a couple sittings, or just one if you have enough time. The experience is better if you read it outside in the sun and the heat, maybe even lying in the grass. I didn't try the latter, however, so I can't confirm. It's a solid story and keeps you interested throughout, but when I think of my favorite King and Hill stories, this doesn't make the cut. But if you need a quick dose of either writer, this will certainly suffice.
My rating: Crabgrass.
Author, lawyer, and Rutgers professor of law Pam Jenoff weaves historical elements and strong characters to craft an emotional, heartbreaking story. The Orphan's Tale follows a teen kicked out of her home and a Jewish woman hiding in a German circus in the midst of World War II. Both protagonists come to lean on each other during their precarious journeys. They are flawed and determined and real. The two drive the plot forward and offer a powerful view of a share of the struggles and heartache caused by the Nazis. The story is interesting and well written and offers the occasional mild twist that draws you in even deeper. This is an important read for historical fiction fans. I'm excited to read more of Jenoff's work.
My rating: A lone theatrical aerialist.
The Orphan's Tale
by Pam Jenoff
by Thomas Eugene Coffman
Dragged into the Light follows an online cult led by Sherry Shriner, a random woman from Ohio with a wild imagination and a penchant for manipulation. In the years that she was active on Facebook and her own blog, multiple members were killed or committed suicide. That's probably the tamest way to put it, because the members that Tony Russo wrote about take readers on a bizarre ride filled with evil reptiles, demon aliens, and rocks with super powers. There are numerous layers to the cult, its leader, and the troubled members, and Russo does his best to explain it all for those of us who are completely ignorant.
My rating: A stack of orgone rocks and the alien emoji.
Dragged into the Light
by Tony Russo
Thomas Eugene Coffman does not consider himself a poet. He writes mostly science fiction and a bit general fiction, as well. However, you wouldn't know that from reading his second poetry collection, Mostly Pensive: An Author's Final Collection of Poetry. I finished the book in two sittings but easily could've finished it in one. The collection features a creative mix of blunt, straight-forward ideas and other symbolic pieces, giving readers more textures for their palate. It has a less serious tone than Today I Don't Care, Coffman's first poetry collection, and it makes me upset that he has no plans to publish any more poetry. (So let's bug him with fan mail until he does.)
My rating: A flock of friendly birds chilling on a telephone wire.
Mike Birbiglia's humor in Sleepwalk with Me is just as smooth as his standup. His comedy is matter-of-fact and on the slower side, allowing you to really soak in what you're reading--but it's by no means a grueling read. I actually flew through this book. I started cracking up right from the beginning when he wrote about pooping in his backyard as a young kid. Birbiglia didn't hold anything back from this collection and unapologetically shares his most embarrassing stories with readers. A quick read for comedy fans.
My rating: Both laughing emojis, the sleeping emoji, and a colorful unicorn poop emoji.
Sleepwalk with Me
by Mike Birbiglia
Flashback Girl is the true life story of Lise Deguire, who suffered third-degree burns on 65 percent of her body when she was four years old. The following decades of her life offered more tragedy and trauma. Despite this, Deguire is able to share countless life lessons and positive outlooks in the tale of her life. It's not a light read by any stretch, but it's fluid and interesting. At times, I had to close the book and step away to digest what I had just read. Deguire has been a Doctor of Psychology for a number of years now, so not only does she describe her struggles and hardships, but she dissects them for the reader. Overall moving read from a talented independent author.
My rating: Three sharp stars and a gold medal.
by Lise Deguire
I'll admit, I mainly picked up this book because I am a huge Office fan and knew how significantly Mindy Kaling had contributed to the show behind the scenes. So I had a good feeling I would enjoy this book. Although it didn't have me rolling on the floor, Kaling is still as hilarious on the page as she is on screen. Her stories are interesting and engaging, and I'm looking forward to reading her second book.
My rating: The Empire State Building, the Hollywood sign, a doughnut, and an anti-cupcake.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
by Mindy Kaling
Anna Quindlen's writing is phenomenal. It's so crisp, descriptive, and moving. This is the first book I've read of hers so far. It's a heavy narrative, inspired by a time in the author's own life. It's so much more than a daughter taking care of her dying mother; Quindlen covers themes of death as well as relationships, family, independence, and feminism. This should be mandatory reading material for fiction readers and writers, because Quindlen offers so much in this novel.
My rating: Six blue stars and a fountain pen emoji.
One True Thing
by Anna Quindlen
The lessons in this book are mostly lifted from Dave Barry's own experiences, but he uses his dog Lucy to show how she consistently makes the most of her life, as if she's been following these lessons for years. A lot of Barry's advice is obvious, but most of us still haven't followed it. Hopefully with Barry putting it into perspective here, doused in laughs, readers (I) will listen better.
My rating: Three cool doges and a laughing cat.
Lessons from Lucy
by Dave Barry
I always enjoy David Sedaris's stories and humor. This was another hilarious collection, largely focusing on family and getting older. I love that his accounts are never monotonous or difficult to follow; he's always clear, interesting, and funny. I definitely recommend this book. (Me Talk Pretty One Day is still my favorite, though.)
My rating: Four solid smiley faces, a laughing emoji, and a pepper.