Book Review: Refuse to Be Done by Matt Bell

Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite a Novel in Three Drafts by Matt Bell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What I love most about Matt Bell’s REFUSE TO BE DONE is its uncommon trust in the novel writer it is speaking to. I’ve never read a craft or process guide that so clearly believes in the capability of the storyteller, or so practically hands over immediately useful things. It is challenging but affirming, and synthesizes sound bytes of stellar writing advice from across the literary world with Bell’s own lived-in, battle-tested, demanding-yet-achievable process and workflow fundamentals. This book will remain a key item in my adventure pack while I journey through the first draft of my second book, and likely many more drafts to come.



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Book Review: Writing Wild by Kathryn Aalto

Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World by Kathryn Aalto

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


What a treasure of a book by Kathryn Aalto, profiling the greatest female nature writers most of us have never heard of. Immensely enjoyed the academic exploration of these important legacies, how they changed through time, and how they set work in motion that is still in progress today. I felt like I was walking with them thanks to Aalto’s companionable, evocative prose. Rigorous in its exhaustive collection of related works as well–a great reference for future reading.



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Book Review: Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I was happy to be gifted a copy of Happy-Go-Lucky, the newest by David Sedaris. I never fail to find something to impress me in David’s writing. His way of saying the world is so good at putting words to seeing the world in a particular way, during imperfect, improbable moments both banal and monumental. I feel very at home whenever I read his work. This one is no exception. Snort-laughing leading right into tears. He isn’t for everyone, but he is for me. This book is just another piece of proof that David’s a damn fine writer.



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Book Review: Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist

Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The subtitle on the cover of Tripping Arcadia says “a gothic novel.” And it is, in the most classical sense. Extreme, explosive emotions. Blending the beautiful with the obscene. Rich people who are incredibly unhappy. People whose first reaction to somebody they feel slighted by is to try to kill them. Unreliable, loathsome first person narrator. This book has all that. Less Gatsby, more Wuthering Heights or Frankenstein. It’s not supposed to make sense–it’s gothic!



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Book Review: The Lethargy of Fog by Joseph M. Lopez

The Lethargy of Fog by Joseph M. Lopez

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Joseph M. Lopez’s poetry collection THE LETHARGY OF FOG is meditative and open, a recursive journey through months and days, churchyards and forest trails, winter as the long quiet way of finding one’s way back to the beginning. I love how honest this book is.

Favorites from this collection:
◇A Comforting Sound
◇The Axe Man
◇Constant
◇Winter is a Woman
◇L.Y.
◇Saturday in the Rain



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Book Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Gabrielle Zevin’s novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a story deeply steeped in the culture of gaming that was quietly shaping reality from within imaginary spaces, starting in the late eighties and continuing until today. A hot topic these days, but rarely explored in fiction with such thorough tenderness. There’s a certain insanity that accompanies creative passion, and this is the force driving the tempestuous friendship of our two game designer main characters, who can’t live with or without each other. For different players, games are an obsession, a comfort, an artistic experience, a release, or a thin surrogate for a fulfilling reality. Zevin explores all this and more in her brilliant book.



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Book Review: I/O by Madeleine Wattenberg

I/O by Madeleine Wattenberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Madeleine Wattenberg’s poetry collection I/O is as startling as it is innovative. The imagery through-lines of coins, peacocks, plums, laboratories, dirigibles, and knives complicate a story that is the echo of myth come to rest in a 2000’s apartment kitchen. These poems whisper and lurk, confess and shroud. Anyone turned into what they never meant to be will find themselves in Wattenberg’s careful verse, burning with cold.

My favorites from this collection:
* Charon’s Obol
* Field Guide to Fission
* Imprint with Need
* The Blazing Field
* Osteoclasts
* Aphagia
* Poem for the Father Outside the Poem
* (Re)
* Except by Violence (ii)



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Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I understand the sensational appeal. Despite its sometimes outright soapy-ness, the immersive quality of Owens’ writing is nothing less than seductive. The marsh is the true unforgettable character in this book, and the relateable pull of Kya’s loneliness would tug the coldest heart. The ending was not fully realized in my opinion, but this book deserves its place as a bestseller.



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Book Review: The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Few authors have the guts to write something that is wildly, fantastically strange and dead serious at the same time. Peng Shepherd has the guts, and her novel The Book of M is a stunner. Technically audacious, plotted with clear eyes, and emotionally searing, this sci-fi epic is a new classic. From an emotional standpoint, this one was personally difficult for me to get through. (If you’ve ever been close to someone who has suffered from debilitating memory loss, there are many tough moments to swallow.) But that doesn’t make the book any less brilliant.



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Book Review: The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Isabel Cañas brings a dreamy haunted song of a story into the world with her debut, The Hacienda. Deeply atmospheric and psychological, this novel explores the costly war for the soul of one house that is both isolated from and shaped by the social unrest that surrounds it. Cañas brings us a tale that is dark and beautiful, that will make you want to light at least one candle against the late hours of the night, examine the unspoken yearnings of your heart… and listen to your walls.



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