Outlander — Diana Gabaldon; Bantam Books, June 1991

outlanderDiana Gabaldon’s Outlander series has been around nearly my entire life (the first book having been released when I was two and a half), and yet I don’t think I actually ever heard about it until Starz picked up the rights for the TV series. I wanted to see the show, mostly because I’m an unrepentant fan of The Hobbit film trilogy1, and Graham McTavish2 plays a sizable role in Outlander as Dougal MacKenzie, so I figured if I wanted to see the show I ought to read the book first.3 Continue reading

Yeonmi Park — In Order To Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom; Penguin Press, September 2015

When I was a senior in college, a friend introduced me to South Korean pop music and media, and I became so interested in the language and pop culture that I eventually applied to teach English as a foreign language there, since I didn’t make it into Teach for America and I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with myself after graduation.1 I’d never studied abroad, and the only foreign countries I’d ever visited were Canada (which is not that dissimilar to the U.S.) and Italy (which has a slightly different culture but is still a western country).

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Junot Díaz — This Is How You Lose Her; Penguin, September 2012

Junot Díaz — This Is How You Lose HerThe MIT Press and Harvard University Press have a book club that meets once a month, and in October we read This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz. I’m still the new kid at work, so I’m trying to throw myself into social and professional events at the office whenever I can, and I’ve never actually been part of a book club, so it’s a new experience on multiple levels. This month (well, December, since everyone is going to be busy just before Thanksgiving) we’re reading The Infatuations by Javier Marias, so I’m sure I’ll be writing about that, too!

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Stephenie Meyer — Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (10th Anniversary Edition); Little, Brown, October 2015

Stephenie Meyer — Life and Death: Twilight ReimaginedI have a secret, you guys.

I actually kind of like Twilight.

You know how some people watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey or Keeping up with the Kardashians, even though they know it’s totally ridiculous? (Hi, mom!) That’s how I feel about Twilight. It is delicious, sparkly, neutered Mormon bodice-ripper abstinence porn, and I find it absolutely hilarious. Does it have damaging messages about self-worth and relationships? Absolutely. I am not here to defend Stephenie Meyer’s delusions about what constitutes romance. But do I love certain aspects of it a little more than one should “ironically” love something? You bet your sweet ass I do.

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Gillian Flynn — Dark Places; Broadway Books, May 2009

Gillian Flynn — Dark PlacesDark Places is the second Gillian Flynn novel I’ve read, and I’m going to need to take a significant break before I give Sharp Objects a try, because this shit is dark. Do you want to explore the unfathomable depths of human depravity? Just go read some Gillian Flynn. She looks like such a nice lady in her author photos, but she writes such chilling, gory scenes that it makes me want to curl up in my sock drawer and sleep for days. I’m still never going to get over what happened to Desi in Gone Girl. I’m afraid, you guys. This is why I’m not allowed to watch true crime shows or horror movies. I can’t get it out of my head!

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Maria Semple — This One Is Mine; Back Bay Books, March 2010

Maria Semple — This One Is MineI’ve actually been dying to read this book ever since I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette back in the spring and loved everything about it. This One Is Mine is Maria Semple’s first novel, and it follows what is essentially the mid-life crisis of Violet Grace Parry, a former TV writer who lives in a gigantic house on Mulholland Drive in LA with her music producer husband and toddler daughter.

Semple, a former TV writer and producer, worked on shows like Mad About You, Arrested Development, and Ellen, so there is a ring of authenticity to Semple’s descriptions of lavish LA lifestyles. When you find out Violet has retired from TV writing to have a kid in her early 40s—another “can women really have it all?” narrative—you get the feeling that Semple really understands why this character would do such a thing. (Semple gave birth to a daughter in 2003, and hasn’t worked in TV since 2006, according to her IMDB page.) Continue reading