A 2024 announcement

Hello dear readers! I’m writing today to say that I won’t be doing the Book a Week blog in 2024. I have a few reasons why, if you’ll indulge me.

1. I enjoyed sharing my reading adventures with you, but I realized that it was affecting my book selections — and not just because I matched my nail polish to the covers! I would think “how will this work on the site” when picking my next book, which sucks some of the joy out of reading. There are also books I want to read but not talk about in depth.

2. I revived the blog to spur my creative writing again, and it’s worked. Hooray! But it’s also taking up time that I want to spend on [deep breath in] the novel I’m working on [deep breath out]. That’s not to say I’ll finish it, or that it will sell if I do, but I’ve been noodling with this idea since 2021, and decided it’s time to run with it.

That doesn’t mean book reviews will go away entirely. I’ll be including short reviews on my Notes from a Hired Pen newsletter. I recently move that over to WordPress and am going […]

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Book 64 of 52: Winterkill by C.J. Box

I was joking with a friend that I am a stereotypical Dad sometimes. When I was in England, I went to the Churchill War Rooms. Over the Christmas Holiday, I caught up on and fell in love with the Reacher TV series. And my last book of 2023 is from a very popular series with Dads: Winterkill by C.J. Box.

In this, the third Joe Pickett book, our Wyoming game warden has a battle on two fronts. First, someone kills a U.S. Forest Service employee and he (of course) is the one who finds the body. Second, the biological mother of his and his wife’s foster daughter, a girl they’ve been trying to adopt, comes back for her. The mother is part of a caravan of Sovereign Citizens who set up camp in a nearby U.S. Forest.

It gets real messy real fast. I read the book in two days.

There’s a few reasons for that. Of course, the book is good. C.J. Box knows how to write page turners. COVID is raging again, so it’s not like I’m going out. But I also took this week between Christmas and New Year’s to just…rest. I’ve been through a hell of a […]

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Book 63 of 52: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

I finally got around to Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus at the very end of the year. It wasn’t a bad book to sink into during this wayward week between Christmas and New Year’s, but it wasn’t perfect either.

It’s about Elizabeth Zott, a chemist who chafes against what it means to be a woman in the 1950s, especially a woman in science. She manages to claw her way into a job that is beneath her knowledge and ability, which is also where she also falls in love with a chemist who himself is branded a genius. As a bonus, he also understands her, and believes in her brain power at the same time seeing how unfair she’s treated.

Because the story opens with Elizabeth as a single mother, we know something happens to that relationship, but I won’t spoil it here. But that does inadvertently lead her to becoming a famous TV chef, because she applies chemistry to cooking, which she calls serious business. Which, as anyone who cooks can tell you, it is.

I enjoyed most of Lessons in Chemistry, but it all started to fall apart in the last 100 pages. There were too many coincidences, too many […]

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Book 62 of 52: Murder She Wrote, Death on the Emerald Isle by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran

Tis the end of the year, and so I dipped back into the Murder, She Wrote literary universe with Death on the Emerald Isle by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran (yes, they still giver her a bio and put the fictional character’s name on the cover, along with a picture of Angela Lansbury’s head photoshopped on someone else’s body).

In this installment, which just came out in paperback, Jessica heads to Belfast to accept an award on behalf of a writer friend who broke her leg and can’t travel. She also agreed to deliver her friend’s grandfather’s paintings to relatives who lived nearby.

As you can imagine, someone is murdered. Jessica just so happens to come across the body first (while on a bike ride — Jessica Fletcher, as always, focuses on physical fitness!) And she, of course, also helps solve the mystery of who killed him.

All of this is pretty standard for these books, but one thing stood out. I always assumed that Jessica Fletcher was British and had lived in America for most of her life. That was certainly the case for Lansbury, who fled to America in 1940 with her family to escape the blitz. […]

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Book 61 of 52: Christmas by the Book by Anne Marie Ryan

My dad gave me a copy of Christmas by the Book by Anne Marie Ryan as one of my Christmas presents last year. And while it looked interesting, the over-saturation of the holiday that I feel around about December 27 meant I wasn’t keen on reading it then. So I put it aside, and didn’t really look at it again until this month. Why not, I thought, since it once again ’tis the season.

The novel starts with Nora and Simon, a married couple who run an independent bookstore in the Cotswalds, a rural part of England. The shop, which Nora inherited from her mother, is struggling. She hasn’t told Simon how bad it is because of a recent health scare, despite everyone — including his doctor — saying he was doing perfectly well.

Simon gets the vibe that the shop is not doing well, but he shies away from asking Nora to see the full truth. But, one night in the run up to Christmas, he posts on the store’s social media pages, asking for suggestions of who could use a bit of cheering that holiday season. They’d then give away six books to six people they chose.

The rest of […]

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Book 43 of 52: Die Fat or Get Tough

People get into shape in different ways. Some like to be pulled along. Others need to be coaxed with kindness. And others want to be...
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Book 42 of 52: Eco-Beautiful: The Ultimate Guide to Natural Beauty and Wellness

That was fast, right? That's because, like Book 20 of 52, Eco-Beautiful: The Ultimate Guide to Natural Beauty and Wellnessis more pictures and large type...
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Book 41 of 52: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

My food reading journey has come around again. It started with Omnivore's Dilemma, Book 40 of 53 of the last "Book a Week" series --...
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Book 40 of 52: Vision in White

It's finally here! My article about the secret lives of romance writers is out in the June issue of New Jersey Monthly. What fun! I...
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Book 39 of 52: The End of Overeating

I've never been obese. I might have tipped high on the body fat scale from college until my mid-20s, but I was never so heavy...
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Book 38 of 52: 4th of July, Asbury Park: A History of the Promised Land

I first visited Asbury Park about a year ago. I dated someone who lived in the area, and we took a stroll on the boardwalk....
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