How to be Single: A beach read

I wish I had saved my beach read for when I get to Old Orchard Beach later this week, but I just needed to know how to be single, I guess. It couldn’t wait.

I heard the movie (which I haven’t watched yet) wasn’t great and if you read the feedback for this book on GoodReads it’s next level negative, but for a book that has “single” in the title, I thought it was pretty good. I liked the ending, which I won’t spoil for you but isn’t the neat and cozy ride-off-into-the-sunset finale. I think any book with a satisfying ending can be a satisfying read.

It’s by the author who co-wrote He’s Just Not That Into You, which I consumed as a single woman and applied to my life like gospel; Gospel of Liz Tuccillo.

IMG_2853[1]This book could be a little depressing but I loved the interesting characters (maybe bordering on caricatures) and the whirlwind world tour of singleness across cultures, including a trip to Hobart, Tasmania, where dating is worse than anywhere else in the world (which explains why I didn’t do much dating when I lived there for my study abroad semester).

It was a fun book without being too light. Obviously, it’s not Tolstoy but for a book that is chick lit to the core, it has some particularly dark and intense moments, which is just how I like my beach reads: light and dark in equal measure!

Samantha, Daughter




Dashing Through the Snow: A book about the holidays

IMG_2795[1]This was an easy read. It was funny to read a Christmas book in the backyard while trying not to melt in the summer heat. I don’t think I would necessarily read another Debbie Macomber book and Mom: if you want to read this one as a book your daughter doesn’t like (#1 on this reading challenge) I wouldn’t oppose it.

It wasn’t “bad” but it wasn’t my kind of book. For what it was, it was perfect: predictable, light, and a happy ending. It was something I could (and did) read in a single evening after work. It was exactly what a Christmas book should be and even though it wasn’t my thing, I will still be watching the movie on the Hallmark Channel.

Mom: We might not like the same kind of books, but we both love those over-the-top, so-bad-they’re-good Christmas movies!

Samantha, Daughter


The Rainmaker: A book set in Tennessee

I have never read John Grisham, until now. Well, I started reading Skipping Christmas (more commonly known as Christmas with the Kranks) twice, but I never got very far into it. The Rainmaker, which became a 1997 Matt Damon + Danny DeVito blockbuster, was my first Grisham read.

First of all, the fact that the movie came out nearly twenty years ago makes me kind of sad. 1997 was almost twenty years ago! I still remember seeing the soundtrack to this movie on those Columbia Records 18-compact-discs-for-one-penny promotions.

I read some of it at The Whitney a couple weekends ago while taking a lunch break from my intensive morning-afternoon art exploration. It probably isn’t the type of book most people read at The Whitney but it wasn’t bad. I like watching legal/financial thrillers and that’s basically what this was in book form. And I use the term “book form” loosely because it felt like reading a movie. It was very cinematic.

I liked the Memphis, TN setting. I’m a sucker for the South. Think: Hart of Dixie. This was a curious setting for a legal thriller but I think that’s what I liked about it.

I watched the movie on the weekend after I finished this book and even though the book was very much written like a movie it was still a lot better than the movie. The movie started about halfway through the book. But it wasn’t bad. The trailer basically covers the entire movie in two and half minutes so if you don’t have two and a half hours to watch the whole movie, just watch this trailer and say you did!


Samantha, Daughter


The Marriage of Opposites: A book set on an island

Beautiful, sunny St. Thomas seems like the setting for a fun beach read, doesn’t it? It sounds picturesque and tranquil. That is not the story that Alice Hoffman tells in The Marriage of Opposites. There is forbidden love and great passion, which sounds like a neat little Harlequin tale, yet Hoffman spins a story that is painful, dark, and somehow amid the political, religious, and racial injustice whispers promises of hope, goodness, love, and ultimately the rising up of what is right.

Like any island based novel, there was the everyone-knows-your-business element. There was the longing for Paris and wanting to escape. As someone who grew up on an island (not tropical St. Thomas, sure… Newfoundland has a different kind of charm), I could relate to the way they portrayed island life. The dynamics between people and the complex relationship between the characters and the island rang true.

My book club did this book last night and finishing it before book club started was a struggle. I didn’t start it until the end of last week and then since we were in Hershey, PA for commissioning fitting in quality time with my book was a little tough. Plus, there was a really awesome gym at Hershey Lodge so it was even harder to focus on reading. I finished it without a moment to spare before book club.

The main thing that I took away from the book was that you become your mother. Literally every character eventually morphs into their mother as the novel goes on, for better or worse. At book club, the main character, Rachel, wasn’t necessarily well received. What I liked about her was that even though she was a hardened character that wasn’t overly friendly or endearing, but she was complex and real.

13450941_10154912388788032_1510679900059120738_nThere were moments of great sensitivity from her that were more powerful than if she was a softer character. She took in a donkey as a pet, which was very strange on the island at the time. When she eventually ended up too poor to support another mouth, she had to take this animal up the mountain and reintroduce him into the wild. When he didn’t understand that he couldn’t come home with her it made react as emotionally as she did. Perhaps it’s because I read this book on the last weekend of my own pet’s life (RIP Hershey) and I get it; losing a pet means you’re losing part of your family. Other characters in the book didn’t understand why she cares so much about this animal but I understood that more than any other emotion in the novel. Pets find a place in our hearts that break though even the most hardest of characters.

Perhaps losing Hershey on Tuesday may also be why one quote toward the end of the novel hit me particularly hard. I’ve cried my mascara off more than once in that past couple days. Deep into the novel, Rachel says: “… and my tears brought me back to life.”¬†That simple piece of prose was, to me, entrenched in poignancy. Because I’m a wordy person I feel the need to delve into why that line is packed with power, but the line does better on it’s own. And my tears brought me back to life.

Samantha, Daughter


Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York: A book that has a place in the title

I seek out a book to satisfy #19: A book with a place in the title. I came across this book listed online when I was hunting down some research material for a novel I’m writing called Ghosting. It’s all about haunting and being haunted and is set in none other than New York City. So, you really can’t find better material to help contextualize than a collection of essays about being haunted by New York, which is essentially what this book was all about: the idea of being a writer in NYC, the build up, the perception, the failure of leaving or the release of escaping.

The thing I really liked about this book was reading a book about writers made me want to write more, with more passion, determination, to apply more gusto to the craft. Another thing¬† I really liked about it was the irony from one story to the next. Some writers romanticized the grim and squalor while others were disenchanted by it. For some the crumpling of the glitzy illusion of New York, literary center of the world, was devastating. For others, disillusionment wasn’t an option. Escape wasn’t an option. It was like the idea of New York trapped them and they could never truly exist anywhere else.

When I worked on cruise ships I had a banner from Urban Outfitters that said Home is where you are and I would put it up in my cabin wherever I moved. I thought that was comforting. You don’t need to be in a place that you have always identified as home to be home. You are home wherever you go as long as you make it home. Reading some of these essays in Goodbye to All That made me feel almost claustrophobic because it was like they were confined to Manhattan indefinitely. Even when things were ugly and hard, they still held fast to the idea that they needed to be there. Home is where you are doesn’t apply to everyone, I guess. And in the words of Sheryl Crow, “if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.”

The back-to-back-to-back recounting of September 11th made it feel sometimes like the book was more about 9/11 than writers loving and leaving New York but I guess that’s par for the course in our post-9/11 world. You can’t have one without the other.

As in any collection, some stories are better than others. That might be why it took me a while to read this book in it’s entirety. We’re naturally drawn to some stories and writing styles more than others. Some stories required me to take a couple runs at them before I came down on the other side, while there were quite a few twinkling gems that left me wanting more, which is what a short story should do: satisfy you but leave you wanting more!

I loved Minnesota Nice by Cheryl Strayed; perhaps because I feel like New Yorkers tend to see any politeness I exhibit as a Canadianism. No one likes to be stereotyped. There was another story about taking off for New Zealand by Ruth Curry that I loved because it reminded me of my own journey to that hemisphere. The juxtaposition between beautiful landscape and an inability to feel the happiness you seem responsible to feel when you’re somewhere to close to paradise, it really hit a cord. I love reading books that are sentimental because life is sentimental, even if you pretend to be super jaded and nonchalant – it’s just the way it is, but (somewhat counter-intuitively) I don’t like to read works that seem cheesy or cliche. There’s an impossible sweet spot between sentimental and cheese, which is exactly where this story fell on that spectrum.

There was also a quote in the book from Lauren Elkin, which was so poignant it required instagraming, as exhibited below.

There were a lot of great stories in this book. There were some good stories. And others I didn’t like at all. I think that’s the point of an anthology. If it gives you a good mixture of perspective you aren’t going to relate to or like all of the essays, but that just means it’s appealing to a wide demographic (because someone else is reading it loving the ones you hated and hating the ones you loved). You’re pushing yourself outside your reading comfort zone a little and that’s right where you are when you discover new things you never knew you would like.

In conclusion, which I use to preface this final paragraph, because like a long sermon I’d like to get your attention back in case you’ve been skimming… This was the perfect book to satisfy #19: A book with a place in the title because the place wasn’t just in the title, the place (New York) was so expertly dissected, developed, dreamed, deconstructed, and deliberately explored in this book. There was just a place in the title, this was a intentional and contemplative study of New York.

Samantha, Daughter


House of Cards: A book that was based on or turned into a TV show

When it comes to guilty pleasure TV, House of Cards ranks pretty highly on my Netflix queue. It can be a little (okay, a lot) crude and gritty. Nonetheless, it’s a very compelling TV show. I’ve never met anyone who has watched any of House of Cards without watching all of House of Cards.

house of cards
Oh hey, Mom, check out who it is! Our old friend BAU Section Chief Strauss! Calm down, Hotch is yet to crossover to Netflix. (Pinterest, 2016)

So when I considered this objective on the year long reading crusade (#13 – A book that was based on or turned into a TV show) the choice was a no-brainer. It was nothing the show but it was exactly like the show at the same time. I know, that makes no sense, but it’s truly how it felt to read it. To start, it’s set in London versus Washington, so that creates an initial glaring difference. The American political system is very different from the parliamentary British model. It went beyond a structure difference of the political landscape. The characters differed by name (Francis Urquhart becomes Francis Underwood in America. Michael Dobbs’ Mortima becomes Claire. Mattie Storin, ironically a blond bombshell in Britain is Zoe Barnes, a mousy brunette for American television. Henry Collingwood, Prime Minister, is Garrett Walker, President… You get the picture). But the differences are more than skin deep. Peter Russo, one of my favorite characters in the Netflix series seems to be created from the ashes of Roger O’Neill and, to a certain extent, Charles Collingwood. Doug Stamper, Chief of Staff, and (until Season 3 with Rachel) another of my American House of Cards favorites, I can’t quite place in the of cards 2

I know, that mini-analysis is incredibly boring and reads as nonsense if you haven’t consumed both forms of House of Cards. To generalize, while both are very different in terms of character and plot, the creators of the Netflix series somehow captured the spirit of the novel. Both leave you with a dark and disturbed feeling. You don’t want to put the book down or stop binge-watching the show, yet the further into the abyss you delve the darker it gets… It’s a compelling dissonance that haunts you in both works. No matter how they differ in their design or execution, they tell the same story.

I need to get the next two books in the series, To Play the King and Final Cut. What I’m most looking forward to is, hopefully, and eventual demise for the corrupt leader in both the literature and the TV series. Also, I’m hoping that Mortima (read: Claire) will be developed more in future books. There’s a deliberate machismo and chauvinistic sub-current carrying the story along and *fingers crossed* Michael Dobbs is going to begin to swim against that tide in the subsequent books! Further reading is required, I couldn’t possibly comment.

Samantha, Daughter


The Good Goodbye: A book published this year

I don’t understand how a book published this year for the first time is published as an international bestseller. How are you a bestseller before you were printed to be sold, The Good Goodbye?

That confusion aside, this is a book worth reading. It’s like Gillian Flynn for people who can’t handle the grit of Flynn or at the very least need more than The Grownup, which Flynn published at the end of last year and could be read front to back before your coffee gets cold.

I didn’t know what was going to happen until the end. It’s a whodunit without any kitsch or “cozy mystery” categorization. The nonlinear weaving of the narrative between characters was ambitious and interesting. I liked to dislike Rory and yet at the end (sans spoiler) it broke my heart. I had so many questions and I love a book that makes me question the foundation of the characters, relationships, and mystery. It made me race through the pages trying to figure it out. I fell asleep on Thursday night with the book in my hands and woke up to a sock as my bookmark (courtesy of Rob) and I picked up where I left up, not moving on Friday morning until I finished it (Good Friday, I wasn’t late for work or anything).


Carla Buckley, cannot wait to read more of your books! I hope they’re all this good. And I’m looking forward to the movie because this is so obviously going to be a movie…

Lesson of #9 – A book published this year: A book doesn’t need to be old and enduring to be good. A new book can tell just as fascinating and tell just as interesting a story as an enduring classic.

Samantha, Daughter