Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m not going to lie. November has way too many Thursdays for my taste. And I am not ashamed to take full advantage of an American holiday I am at best lukewarm on to get the day off. I will leave you with this amazing edit our friend Joe did of last year’s Thanksgiving dinner. Sadly, he didn’t capture my favorites, the turkey sugar cookies and the French silk pie, but it’s still pretty impressive!

tday-dogeGo! Eat! If you’re like us, you’ll follow your gluttony up with a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity to burn off all those extra calories. (We recommend sending children upstairs to watch movies so they don’t ask any…awkward questions about that.)

Also, don’t forget that Thanksgiving is merely the kickoff to a month of indulgent eating, so tomorrow, go find your fat pants and start getting ready for Christmas!


Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, Neil Patrick Harris

The biggest problem with going on a three-week vacation in October is that when November rolls around, and I’m once again buried in pre-holiday deadlines and extra NaNoWriMo word count, I don’t feel like I can phone it in. If you look in the archives, November is traditionally my laziest month of reviews because it’s hard to hack a thousand words about someone else’s book when my own projects are keeping me up late every night! And then waking me early! When it’s still dark! It’s almost like the writer in me doesn’t realize that hibernation has officially started…

But here’s the thing – there’s a solution to what I’ve started calling the “November is hell” problem. And that solution is audiobooks. Yes. Audiobooks. Usually the bane of my existence (I have almost zero ability to concentrate auditorily), this month, the audiobook is my saving grace. I can listen while cooking dinner (or cleaning up the kitchen from a week’s worth of dinners). I can have it on while I’m in the shower or running errands or waiting to pick my husband up after work. As an added bonus, I can listen to NPH at double speed and get through his jokes in almost half the time! Seven hour book listened to in four? Win!

I suspect it wouldn’t be easy for me to pull this off with a novel, which is why I almost never listen to them, instead choosing memoirs or biographies that don’t require following a complex plot. Nothing slows down a speed read listen like having to constantly rewind to catch up on what transpired while I was multitasking. I’ve found this is especially effective when listening to books written and read by comedians, like Harris (or Fey or Kaling). I’m so used to the rhythm of his speech from years of watching How I Met Your Mother and Doogie Howser, MD that it’s more like a one-sided conversation with an old friend than a book.

It was surprising too, when I told friends I was reading it, that when they inevitably asked whether it was hilarious, I had to stop and say…well, yes. Sort of. But also, no. Which they then took to mean he didn’t successfully execute his jokes, but which actually meant that his story is set up less for laughs than it could have been. Instead, he’s sincere, and sweet, and somehow both self-deprecating and vain. Harris is witty, but also surprisingly vulnerable.

It’s possible it’s just a side effect of listening to a person’s life story told in their own voice, but it’s hard not to root for Harris, to celebrate the birth of his children with him, and to recoil in anger at the discrimination he’s experienced. The format has an empathetic effect on its listener. The fourth wall comes down, and for a few busy hours, it’s possible to be a part of his world.


For more about Neil Patrick Harris, head here.

Lock In, John Scalzi

It’s no secret that I love John Scalzi, and his books. He’s a friendly guy who is both a gifted writer in one of my favorite genres (humorous sci-fi) and an incredibly sharp political mind who has, in the last few years, used his celebrity to compose and share some of the most wonderful insights on issues of gender, race, and harassment that I’ve had the privilege to read. Apparently this makes him something of a pariah in certain circles, but since I try to avoid the trolling corners of the internet (how is it possible that all 17,000 of you are so kind? I’m very lucky), I think of him more as that wacky uncle who likes to sneak off and play videos with the kids after dinner and who probably steals all the best candy out of Halloween bags.

Due to the craziness of October, and now November’s non-stop word count battles, I ended up reading Lock In primarily in bites, ten minutes here and there, until I got about two-thirds of the way through and just plowed to the end. When I finished it, and there wasn’t immediately a sequel, I got annoyed. Then I remembered I don’t have time to read sequels this month, and I immediately felt better…ish.

I say this knowing full well you can undoubtedly appreciate the struggle between wanting (or even having) a sequel and wanting an afternoon (or a week, depending on the length or number of sequels available) when everything else can be blown off for reading. It’s the best feeling. As a child, it was easier to find the time. I would read during lessons I already understood in school, do my homework as quickly as possible, and then curl up with a book until dinner. I could happily pretend I’d already practiced piano (which I loathed and was unbelievably untalented at) if it meant twenty more minutes before bed. Now, in the twenty minutes before bed, I have to clean up the kitchen and make a reminder list for the next day and try not to fall asleep while brushing my teeth. Very little reading gets done. Even when the book is as wonderful as Lock In.

There was something especially fascinating about finding a book about disease as Ebola was entering the US. All of a sudden, the issues Scalzi was addressing seemed eerily prescient. How would we react if the world was hit by an uncontrollable pandemic? How would it change the political, ethical, medical, and social structures we’ve become accustomed to? Scalzi’s novel does an excellent job of balancing the exploration of seemingly infinite repercussions while creating characters I’m desperate to see again and again in future installments.

(Just, you know, not this month…)


For more of Scalzi, head this way.

Antebellum Awakening, Katie Cross

My friend Katie sent me the newest book in her Network Series over a month ago, and then she very patiently listened to my excuses about why I hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet (I’d planned to do it in time for her launch – one of the most important times for newish writers to get exposure – and I failed rather epically at that…).

Instead, it ended up being one of my crazy November reads, launch date long past, and more importantly (to me), long after her own site’s contest to win handmade caramels (lovingly described in the book) was over. That sounds petty, doesn’t it? Is it really so important? Getting to taste food from the book you’ve been reading? I don’t know. Personally, I’m obsessed with going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter where I can drink butterbeer and stuff myself with authentic non-muggle treats, so I’d say from my perspective, it’s pretty devastating!

It doesn’t help that one of her great gifts as an author is making her readers insatiably hungry detailing freshly baked bread with pots of butter, cinnamon rolls straight out of the oven then loaded with frosting, and hard-earned post-workout breakfasts of eggs sandwiches and thick slices of cheese. I had to stop at one point and pull out my bread maker lest I be driven completely insane.

Honestly, I think I turned into a hobbit reading the second book in her series. I ate at least six (not very small) meals the day I started it, and I harassed her on twitter about the cruelty of such beautiful food prose. This is not to undersell the rest of the story (which I love because it’s basically all women and witchcraft and learning to use a sword), but food is not easy to write well into a novel. Most writers glaze over meals, but she clearly loves good food and doesn’t shy away from the precious communal experience that comes from sharing it.

Food is a bond, an alliance that strengthens the most important relationships in her world. There is an incredible power in that, and a truth of the human experience. Sharing a meal is a sacred trust that we often take for granted, but she writes it with such purpose, it’s impossible not to be drawn to the table.


Find Katie Cross’ blog here (especially if you want to find the link to her pinterest page and get even more delicious recipes to stuff yourself with).