A Handful of Book Reviews

I’ve been traveling for work, and that means plenty of time for audiobooks, hooray! Here’s what I’ve recently read:

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo | This is the sequel to Six of Crows, which I thoroughly adored. It was great to be back with Kaz, Inej, and the gang as they sought revenge and justice after the events of the first book. The characters are just so layered and complicated, something I admire and appreciate. This novel was a little harder for me to get into than its predecessor, probably because the heist didn’t seem apparent to me at first. Another difficult thing was having so many narrators to the audiobook. There were at least six, and while I LOVED some of them, there was one I couldn’t stand. And they all pronounced things differently, which, in a fantasy novel with unique names of people and locations, was especially confusing. All told, I did love it though and think Bardugo is brilliant. I am plot’s antihero, and I so admire writers who master it

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold | I absolutely adored Arnold’s debut novel Mosquitoland. I’d honestly never encountered a character voice as unique as Mim’s. Then I was on a panel with the author and he is just a lovely, hilarious, amazing person, which permanently made me a fan. Kids of Appetite was great, somehow both tremendously ambitious but also simple and straightforward. How Arnold managed the paradox, I’m not quite sure, but he did it well. This is the story of a boy named Vic who falls into step with a group of misfits and together they set out to accomplish Vic’s late father’s final wishes. There is mystery, romance, and GREAT imagery. The novel covers just one week, but it’s not unrealistic to see just how much Vic’s life changes in that short time. Very well done

Tell the Truth Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta | My favorite author, all time, hands down, as regular blog readers know. This is her first book in four years, so I was pretty much salivating for it. Although Marchetta most often writes YA, this novel was an adult crime novel. Let’s be honest: adult crime novels are not really in my wheelhouse. But Marchetta is, so there was no doubt I’d read it. It. Was. Masterful. Of course it was, she is the queen! At its core, this was still a novel about family, her trademark. And it was perfectly executed and I love the characters and it made my head spin and inspired me and intimidated me. And OH how relevant it is for right now. The story is about a British inspector named Bish (Bashir), whose teen daughter was on a bus when it was bombed in France. His daughter is shaken but unhurt, and all fingers immediately point to a girl on the bus whose grandfather was accused of terrorism. Bish gets pulled into that family’s life as he attempts to figure out who was really behind the bombing. The characters, you guys. I’m so in love. I would honestly read this woman’s grocery lists.

All In: Ideas & Writing

This is my guiding principle this week.

Spending it all,


I try to take this quote of Annie Dillard’s deeply to heart as I write fiction:

“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

If I have a great idea, and if it fits into the…

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Bread of Angels

Tonight I was thinking of the creative process, how when I go big picture, my brain collapses beneath the weight of writing a book. But when I take it day by day, short assignments, bird by bird, the work gets done.

It made me think of manna.

So I reread Exodus 16 in scripture, where God provides bread for the people of Israel every morning. Manna was said to be flake-like, fine as frost, like coriander seed, and tasted like wafers made with honey.

They were to gather each morning just what they needed for the day. All leftovers (except on the Sabbath) stank and had worms. The people had to learn to trust that their needs for that day would be taken care of that day . . . And the next day, there would be new bread and new mercies.

I need to remember this as I write. Today I had the creativity and courage for today. Tomorrow I will get a new batch for my next pages. Man does not live by bread alone after all.


It’s OCD Awareness Week 2016!

Check out the IOCDF page for ways to join in this week, including pre-written things to share on social media.

If you live in the Twin Cities, please join us for our OCD Mini-Conference on Monday night. Details are here. We will have local OCD experts leading sessions, plus the OCD Twin Cities staff (including yours truly) will be leading a roundtable discussion.

Every week I hear from sufferers who still don’t know there is a treatment for OCD. Every week I see the stigma of mental illness still so strong in our culture. OCD Awareness Week moves us one step closer to fixing both of those problems.


Dear Diary: Thoughts from the Couch

A photo by Amaan Hai. unsplash.com/photos/nqz4WOGDo4AHi folks! I’m typing on my laptop keyboard, something I haven’t done in a while, since I use an ergo keyboard at home and at work. Unfortunately, my home office desk chair is broken, and while I thought I could make due with another chair, it’s murder on my back. So instead I’m sitting on my couch with my laptop, how and where I wrote Truest.

I can’t believe my baby has been in the world for over a year now. It’s also crazy to think that I’ve written two other manuscripts since finishing Truest! My broken chair and my work schedule have put a kink in my writing rhythm as of late, but these things happen. Life goes on.

I’m feeling especially share-y tonight, so maybe I’ll just address a few things below. Skip anything you’re not interested in.


Wrist Issues

I’m reading a book called Pain Free at Your PC by Pete Egoscue, and he addresses how hand/wrist pain can’t be blamed only on the hands and wrists. The exercises I’m doing are actually more related to the hips and have made me think I need to ask my chiropractor to measure my legs and see if they are still different lengths like they were in elementary and high school. At first my left leg was just 1/4″ shorter than my right, but they assumed it would correct itself. However, when I was next tested for scoliosis, my left leg was now 1/2″ shorter than my right. To be honest, I’d forgotten about this, since the only time it was ever really noticeable was after a full day of intense walking (like a day at an amusement park, for example). But reading this book has made me wonder if this might be the root of some of my injuries.

Salt Novel

My gosh, I’m so close to finishing this draft, you guys. But I think that is sort of freaking me out and I’m self-sabotaging a little bit, scared to show it to my agent and editor, knowing that it is still very flawed. I need to find the time and drive to just hammer through it and turn it in. The sooner I get feedback on it, the sooner I can correct those issues. I went through a brief time in my life (post-undergrad) where critique didn’t faze me. I realize now that that was because the critique was all from peers at that time, whereas before that it was from professors and after that from publishing industry professionals. There is for sure a power imbalance (perceived or real) that affects that. Also, I’ve realized that I need to take into account the culture differences too. The difference between Minneapolis and New York City is far more than just 1,200 miles.


I sleep with no sleep aid now. I’m so, so, so grateful to not have to rely on anything but good ol’ Circadian rhythm to sleep.


Halfway through Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom right now. Next up will likely be David Arnold’s Kids of Appetite, although Jennifer Nivens’s Holding Up the Universe just came in the mail this weekend! I also have a book by Cheryl Klein that I really want to start, The Magic Words. It’s about writing for children and young adults.


I can’t wait for it to be over. Seriously, what a mess. I consider myself an advocate for the marginalized and will vote with that in mind.


I paid to have my home deep-cleaned this weekend. I recognize that is a privileged statement, and I’m grateful to have the means to do so. Honestly, it felt like something that needed to happen in order for me to move forward with so many of my other goals. Next weekend, I have a handy man coming to the house to fix up odds and ends and my desk chair, and then I’ll truly be poised for success.


I honestly feel so grateful to be part of such a beautiful community. Right now I am especially loving the current writing majors and recent writing grads. It’s such an honor to be part of their lives. They are so talented, thoughtful, generous. They care so much about words and story and beauty, and they make me better person.

Your turn: a) What have you read recently? b) What are you looking forward to this week? c) What thing or person has added value to your life lately?