Book Reviews of 2023

Book Reviews of 2023

Tom Lake

Ann Patchett

I love Ann Patchett but had a hard time getting into this. In fact, by the time I met with my book club to discuss it, I was only half way through! I finished it two days after that and wondered if it was actually better to read the book after some spoiler-filled discussion. I’m not sure why this book felt a little flat. The premise was great. A mother of three grown daughters, telling the story of how she once dated a famous actor and how she ended up living on a cherry farm. The present day takes place during the pandemic and has a heaviness you would expect when it feels like the world is ending. Nothing so terrible happens in the past. I describe it as A Star is Born, only in reverse.

The Secret History

Donna Tartt

Half way through this book I realized I may have read it before! It was written in 1992, way before one of my favorite books of all time, Tartt’s The Goldfinch. The Secret History felt like it was more of a freshman effort. It did have some meaty content. Self-indulgent college kids living privileged lives yet being neglected by their parents. A worship of academia and resulting disconnect from reality. But then much of the book was devoted to explaining how even the best of people are capable of heinous acts and its unraveling of the mind. 

The Covenant of Water

Abraham Verghese

This was the second of the book club picks. It was long. Ultimately I didn’t love it. I even abandoned it at one point but curiosity forced me to finish it. I did like that it was set in India and chronicled much its history. I like the many female characters and multi-generational drama that unfolded. Some of the writing was artful and lyric, but some of it felt dry, and the style and tone seemed mismatched. Some horrible things happen, some of them to children and it was hard to read that.

The Overstory

Richard Powers

Oh boy. So much good stuff in this. And I have a thing for trees, so, yes. But much of it left me feeling that the world was ending which was so devastating that I couldn’t finish it. It would seem people either love this book or hate it.

Art Is Life: Icons and Iconoclasts, Visionaries and Vigilantes, and Flashes of Hope in the Night

Jerry Saltz

My fellow art student/best friend/sister gave this to me as a gift. I loved the introductory essay in this book of art critiques. It was some of the best writing I’ve ever read. Art is Life. It is everything. And it’s ridiculous. And I couldn’t live without it. And so, so, so much more. I still haven’t finished the book but thought I’d include it here.


Hello Beautiful

Ann Napolitano

You know how I said I’d never join a book club? Well, I joined a book club. And I like it. This was the first book we read. Hello Beautiful is a a modern day Little Women that explores so many relatable challenges — mother/daughter conflict, sibling rivalry, family secrets. On the surface, it just seemed like family drama, but this book had a slow burn. It wasn’t until I’d finished it that I realized how sneaky it actually was. The symbolism and deeper meanings only became completely clear when I heard others share their impressions and their personal related experiences. It gave me a lot to think about. Like about how few people really love us for who we are, about how painful, debilitating, and misunderstood depression is, about how amazing forgiveness is. A solid read.


Cloud Cuckoo Land

Anthony Doerr

The author of All the Light We Cannot See did not disappoint in this epic story inside a story inside a story. It was everything I wanted: rich, wordy transcendent descriptions, layered characters, time-hopping, mythology, history lessons, fantasy, and science fiction. Oh my gosh. It was so gripping. There are a multitude of protagonists defined by their time and life stories, all threaded together in a common fantastical tale: Cloud Cuckoo Land, a place you only get to by transfiguring yourself into a bird. The absolute best book of the year.


The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett

Identical twins who run away from home at 16 and then are separated from each other when one decides to pass as white, inventing an entirely new life. I was drawn into the historical fiction aspects of living in the south in the 1950s, where races, and their various shades, are segregated and subjected to to harsh criticism and judgement. The characters are all beautifully drawn and delineated, revealing their pain, motives and secrets that keep them isolated and are then ultimately revealed. The construct of race as well as gender identity are so artfully explored. I found myself fully sympathetic to each flawed woman and her relationships with the others.

Lessons in Chemistry

Bonnie Garmus

I’m reading this now!



I used to joke about people who made their own granola, then I became one of them.


Coco-nutty granola

  • 3 cups coconut flakes
  • 2 cups almonds, cashews, or pecans, chopped roughly
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tablespoons brown rice syrup
  • pinch of coarse salt, sprinkled on top

Preheat oven to 250° F. Mix all ingredients in a bowl, and spread evenly on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden, turning halfway.


How These 4 Women Are Learning to Love The Skin They’re In

How These 4 Women Are Learning to Love The Skin They’re In

I interviewed 4 women, at different stages of life, to find out what they do to feel their best. Here are their responses.


How do you feel about your body?
I think my relationship with my body is constantly changing. Depending on factors such as weather, time of my cycle, and even when my life isn’t going great. I often find myself wishing it looked different but I think overall I try to love it as much as I can.

What diet works best for you?
The diet that works best for me includes three smaller meals and some snacks throughout the day. I try to pick a healthy choice if possible but I find that trying to restrict can lead to unhelpful habits forming.

What’s your favorite kind of exercise?
I love running more than anything. It helps me sort my thoughts and makes me feel amazing. But any kind of high-impact I enjoy.

How do you overcome negative thoughts?
Some tools I use to overcome negative thoughts are retracing my steps and writing about them. By retracing my steps I mean thinking about what I’ve eaten or what I’ve done today for my body and it makes me feel like I’m doing the best that I can. Writing also really helps me unpack how I’m feeling.


How do you feel about your body?
Past or present? That’s a huge question. I have a sort of interesting relationship with my body. When I was young, I was very skinny and I wished I was curvy. When I developed in my teen years, I felt better about my body, partly due to having a great boyfriend. I was always active. I danced and liked to go for walks. When I was 17, I went to Spain to study and fell in love with the food. When someone close to me said I looked heavy, I abruptly stopped eating and became almost anorexic. l lost 30 pounds!  When I came home to the States, I was able to go back to a carefree relationship with food. In my 20s, I felt at ease and empowered. Now, in my 50s, with perimenopause, the main feeling has been, my body is good to me. I feel strong and attractive. It has helped that the men in my life have found me beautiful. As I’m facing getting older, I feel like my body is not my body—I gain weight much easier, I have a different shape—but I’m trying to make peace with it. I’ve gone from awkward to empowered, discomfort to peace.

What diet works best for you?
I feel best when I’m eating a high-(lean) protein diet: chicken, fish, and then vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. When I do that I feel clean and energized. But I know I definitely have a sugar addiction. And I love French bread. And chocolate. And cheese! I don’t eat red meat. I was a vegetarian for years and only added fish and poultry when I was pregnant. I think I would benefit from eating more meat, but I can’t really bring myself to do it. I guess I eat mostly a Mediterranean diet.

What’s your favorite kind of exercise?
I really love dance. In an ideal world, I’d still be going out clubbing. Dancing all night is a great workout. I walk and do yoga but I really love Jazzercise. I need to exercise. It’s how I stay sane. I used to do the gym, the Nautilus. I used to run a lot. Actually, I’ve been a runner for probably 30 years. But now it hurts my hips. I want my workouts to really count, I want them to be challenging. I like to get them done quickly!

How do you overcome negative thoughts?
If I’m having negative thoughts about my body, it’s because I’ve done something unhealthy, like eat too many sweets or eat a bunch of food when I’m not even hungry. Those thoughts are there for a reason. I don’t want to overeat, so I try to recommit to myself to doing the things I know are good for me, I’ll go for a walk, drink water, do meditation, bring myself back to the present moment. I have learned to be gentle with myself. With aging and my changing body, it’s a process to change how I view myself and how I not relate to my partner. Now, when I’ve have negative thoughts, I will actively disrupt my thought patterns. I’ll say, “shut up!” Haha. Not very gentle, but it works. Then I’ll turn the thoughts around and focus on the positive.


How do you feel about your body?
I feel relatively good about my body. I’ve always struggled with my weight and body image but with age am getting better at giving myself grace.

What diet works best for you?
I’m a volume eater. To keep my portion sizes under control while still feeling full, my meals are usually at least 50% veggies or leafy greens. I always include a protein and I try to avoid dairy. Other than that, I don’t restrict myself to a particular diet. I think everything is fine in moderation.

What’s your favorite kind of exercise?
I love running. I have a hard time meditating so I find long runs to be both good for the mind and body! Recently, I joined Orange Theory for some cross training and it’s awesome. Since I started, my mile time has dropped significantly. Plus it’s a great way to socialize with other people who love fitness as much as I do!

How do you overcome negative thoughts?
I struggle with this one. Staying active helps to keep my mind at ease. I also like using the boxed breathing technique. You inhale for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 4 seconds, and exhale for (you guessed it) 4 seconds. It helps to center me when I’m extra stressed or feeling negative.


How do you feel about your body?
I love it! I’m super grateful for it. I love that I enjoy it, and value it. I will say though, I would like to be physically stronger, like, build more muscle mass.

What diet works best for you?
I eat mostly organic greens, and vegetables, and focus on eating a high protein/low-fat diet. I get most of my animal-based protein from dairy.  I really love Greek yogurt. I sprinkle cinnamon on it which tastes almost sweet!

What’s your favorite kind of exercise?
Pilates. I need to do it more! I also like yoga, dance, and tai chi.

How do you overcome negative thoughts?
I practice positive self talk. I read books or internet articles about positivity. And practicing healthy habits really helps. Exercise helps! Someone once said, “Move a muscle, change a thought.”

My Health & Fitness Routine

I want to let you know that you’re beautiful. Just. the. way. you. are.

Is anyone else questioning this fact? Do you look in the mirror and ask, what can I do to be thinner? or just more toned? Or immune to gravity? I do. More than I’d like to admit. I analyze. Critisize. Then I tell myself, I am my perfect weight. I love my body. I love what it’s capable of. And I don’t need to change a thing.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time and can’t decide how to approach it. Fitness. Exercise. Diet. Body Image. Women feeling judged for how they look, not for what they do. And how we’re passing these messages on to our children.

I’d really like to have all the answers, and then package them up and give them to you. But I decided instead that I’d take you along on the journey. I don’t have all the answers. I do have a lot of the questions.

I will share what I do to be healthy. I’ve developed a few good habits over the years. You might not agree with me but that’s okay. Some thing might be triggering. I could say something wrong. I just going to go ahead anyway. Besides, I think only 5-10 people will read this.

I’m also going to share with you what works for other people. I have some friends who are willing to share their own health and fitness practices. I think it will be a good cross-section.

I’m excited.

April Showers

I recently learned that rainy days aren’t so bad if you have rainwear you love. Last year I bought a new raincoat and I’m excited when I get a chance to wear it. I had a raincoat but it’s not very waterproof — kind of necessary for a raincoat.

My original coat is from J. Crew from Spring of 2019 and I still like it. It’s the shorter of the two. A cotton-nylon blend. I love the dark moss color. It’s lightweight and fairly stylish. You could even wear it if it’s not raining. It’s cute.

The new coat is by Joules which I bought on Amazon. It’s polyester-cotton with a cotton-nylon lining that has a very pretty floral pattern. It really repels water and definitely keeps you dry. The hood even has a little visor.

Now, rain boots. I have a pair from J. Crew that are very minimal, black rubber in a sort of chelsea boot style. They’re not terribly comfortable, like I wouldn’t want to wear them all day. But they get the job done.

Then I have a classic pair of tall Hunter boots. Remember when people decided those were cool? I got some about 10 years after that, second-hand. They are great when it’s just bucketing down. But if you’re not slogging through puddles on a country walk with your dog, do you really need them? I say no. You definitely don’t want to wear them for long or drive a car in them.

If it’s wet but not aggressively raining, I will wear my green rubber gardening clogs, because, you know, clogs. They’re by a brand called Nora.

I also have my Doc Marten‘s which are not for rain, but won’t get ruined if it’s a little rainy. They have that really stiff, shiny leather.

If I were to get a new pair of boots, I’d get these from Everlane. They look really cool. I would replace the J. Crew ones with them. But for now, if it rains, I’m all set.