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Book Review – A Gambler’s Anatomy

Well, I finished my first book of 2018 this week! This was another Book of the Month selection, this one curated by Anthony Bourdain. The book is A Gambler’s Anatomy, by Jonathan Lethem.

A Gambler’s Anatomy tells the story of Anthony Bruno, a gambler who is incredibly skilled at backgammon. Wealthy folks from around the world want to try their hand at a game with him, and he kindly lets them…then takes their money. Our story begins on a trip he’s taken to Germany. He meets the lovely Madchen on a ferry on the way over, and then proceeds on to his game. However, the visual distortion he’s been having for months proves to be more than a “blot”, as he’s called it — he passes out and has to go to the hospital.

Bruno finds out that he has a very serious condition, but can do little about it. As it stands right now, he’s completely broke. His last game out for his game-pimp Edgar Falk didn’t go so well, and Bruno’s chance to make everything up to him is fading fast. Instead, he reaches out to a high school friend named Keith Stolarsky, who happens to be particularly wealthy, albeit annoying. Keith flies him back to Berkeley to see the only doctor that might be able to save Bruno’s life.

Once he’s returned to his hometown, he has to navigate a totally different life — connecting to his past, losing his identity, and regaining parts of himself he’d tried to push away. Alexander Bruno has to figure out who he is and who he isn’t, and decide from there who he wants to be.


When I started this book, I began making assumptions about where I thought the book might go — but it had me guessing every step of the way. I hadn’t really read an in-depth synopsis of the book, and figured from a few chapters in that I knew what type of story it was. I was completely wrong. I had no idea what to expect from one chapter to the next. On the one hand, I was thrilled that the book could pique my interest. But on the other, I was sometimes left slightly confused, and unsure whether or not the narrator was reliable.

The more I think about the book, the more I like it. I struggle with wanting more story on Alexander, but maybe that’s a good thing. It means Jonathan Lethem has done a good job of creating a character — in that he feels real enough to me to believe that there is more of a story to tell. (But it’s kind of Bruno alone — the other characters, in my mind, seem to orbit him like a sun. Madchen, Stolarsky, Tira — they’re all a bit confusing to me, just in a way that I don’t quite understand their motivations or their humanity.)

I do recommend the book, it’s a solid read — but be aware ahead of time that this may not feel fully satisfying when you complete it. If you’re okay with that ahead of time and want to read just for a very complex story, then pick this guy up!


Book Review – The Wonder

Today I’m reviewing the book I finished just at the end of last year – The Wonder.

The Wonder was my first Book of the Month subscription book, and I was excited to check it out. I’m not sure I would have picked it up off the shelf in a bookstore, but having had it directly recommended to me from the BOTM curators was a big help. Once I read the synopsis, I couldn’t wait to dive in.

The book starts us out as English nurse Elizabeth (Lib) Wright arrives in Ireland. She’s been tasked to keep watch over a young girl named Anna O’Donnell, who has been rumored to have taken no food in several months. Lib and a nun will split shifts to make sure that Anna is monitored 24 hours a day for two weeks.

Still recovering from the recent Potato Famine, the devout Catholics in the small Irish town are ready for a miracle. This includes Anna O’Donnell’s family doctor as well as the local priest. Any ties to religion Lib once had were lost after her tour in Crimea, so she maintains a healthy suspicion of the holy child. Lib’s aversion to religion causes a pretty solid level of suspicion from the O’Donnells in her direction, as well.

We follow Lib as she documents Anna’s every move, wards off the press, and navigates life in a small town. And as we follow the story, we trust her judgment when things start to take a dark turn.

This story is basically a mystery, so the reader begins in the same place Lib does — trying to determine whether or not Anna truly is living off “manna from heaven”, as she calls it. And things are revealed to us as they are revealed to Lib, though there are some small hints. As a reader, I’m not sure if there was an opportunity to figure out entirely what was going on before the author tells us, but I don’t find that to be an issue. I sure as hell love my foreshadowing, but there’s something to be said for being surprised.

I enjoyed this book. I was happy with the ending, though it was rather unexpected. In general, it was unlike any book I’d read in a long time, but I’m really happy I read it. The story is very character-driven, and they’re well rounded and interesting. It was an easy read, smooth, and not difficult to comprehend. Though — it’s not so glaringly obvious that you’ve mentally laid out the plot-line before you get all the way through. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good mystery story, and is okay with not figuring out the solution until the author reveals it.

Grab the book and sail through it — would love to hear your thoughts!

Books, Shopping

Holiday Gift Guide – Book of the Month

I’ve already started Christmas shopping this year — and in fact, am nearly finished — so I’m pretty happy to have gotten the jump on gifts this time around. But, if you’re like me every other year and are still trying to decide what to get the people you love (or like, or…well, let’s hope you’re not getting gifts for someone you don’t even like; that sounds awful), I’m going to be sharing some gift guides over the next couple of weeks.

As a quick note, this post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. But I wouldn’t recommend something if I didn’t think it was awesome and totally worth it!

First up, Book of the Month.

I subscribed to this for the first time 3 months ago, and am in love. I adore subscription services, but really only have a select few that I’ve stuck with. This is one of the boxes I’ve really connected with. Though I write fiction, I tend to read mostly non-fiction via either Kindle e-book or Audiobook. And the truth is, I’ve missed reading great books, and I’ve missed that awesome book-feel you get when you turn paper pages.

I think part of what can feel daunting about finding new fiction books is that I’m not sure what books will be good. Most of the stuff I’ve read in the last five years was either an author I’m familiar with (a la JK Rowling) or a recommendation from a friend. And that’s exactly what Book of the Month is like — a recommendation from a friend.


This is my first-ever BOTM box. Cute tote, a box of mints, The Wonder, note from the curator, and a bookmark.

Book of the Month has curators who find the best books suited to a few genres, and then they decide based on your preferences what you might like. (They also do guest curators — last month I chose a book recommended by Anthony Bourdain, and this month Abbi Jacobson selected an option!) Then every month, you get to check out the 5 recommended options — and if you want to choose something different, you can. You know you’re going to end up getting a book that’s interesting to you (or, if you’re not feeling any of the selections, you can skip — but I haven’t done that once…in fact, this month, I ADDED two books to my box). If more than one of the books look great, you can add them on for a small fee.

This month, they recommended Swimming Lessons By Claire Fuller. But after reading the synopses for the rest of the books, I added in You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott and The Sun is Also a Star By Nicola Yoon. Since I added books, I could ship the box now instead of waiting for the 7th. I should have plenty to read over the holidays!

These are the gift options they provide:

❄ 3-Month Gift Membership: $44.97
❄ 6-Month Gift Membership: $83.94
❄ 12-Month Gift Membership: $143.88
(I also want to note that I love this pay-ahead subscription model. You’re not going to get some random charge on your credit card that you forgot about. You just know when it’s time to go back and re-up.)

For the quality of curated hardcover books you’ll be getting, these prices are pretty solid. I highly recommend this as a gift for the readers in your life. Or even for yourself, if you’re considering a fantastic New Year’s Resolution like reading one new book a month😉. If you get a gift subscription for someone else, you can get a one-month free trial for yourself! Because let’s be honest, you know some of the shopping you do in December is for yourself. I totally picked up a few gifts for myself. It happens.

Hit me up on social media if you have any questions about my experience with it or if you just want to talk about the books you’ve received. Always happy to talk about a good book (and take book recommendations!)!

Books, Life, Writing

Wedding Planning & “Our Perfect Marriage”

Folks have been asking me basically since the day after we got engaged how wedding planning is going, and my answer has been pretty much the same for the last couple of months: “Umm…we have the list done?” How soon are you supposed to set a date, anyway? What comes first? Colors? Time of year? Venue? Date? Invites? I don’t think anyone really knows, and if they say they do, they’re either a liar or a professional wedding planner.

Which comes to my main point: we’re going to hire a professional wedding planner.

And no, we haven’t found one yet. We have a place we found on Yelp that we’re planning to meet with, at least. But we don’t have a date to meet with them. Damon wanted to make one but I was sick for like 2 weeks and demanded that we not meet the wedding planner while I was coughing all over the place.

This place we found will even make you your own binder with all the deets inside, so I’ll have that to consult when people ask me questions. BOOYAH. As long as I can give off the appearance of knowing what the hell I’m doing, I’m happy.


In related news, today our pals’ fantastic new book comes out today: Our Perfect Marriage.


One of the many driving factors behind pushing forward with our wedding planning (other than actually getting married, of course) is how much fun Damon and I are going to have sitting down to fill this thing out afterward. The book is basically a mad-libs style fill in the blank journal that you can have forever and ever. The quizzes are hysterical, and I’m not sure I’m going to allow D to fill out the “My Most Annoying Habit” section, unless he wants my most annoying habit to become taking this book away forever.

However, I am pretty stoked to see what he sees in the couples’ Rorschach test, because I already looked at it and they’re all baby animals or demons. Hope he gets those right.

And — if you were thinking about getting this for us for our wedding, please do. We already have a copy but I forsee me wanting a new one when Damon gets his messy handwriting in it or I see what he put down about my kitchen chore habits. Also, if you’re getting married any time soon and want to invite me solely for the purpose of getting this book as a gift: done and done.


Wedding planning updates to come as soon as I have ’em. In the meantime, go get this book and have some fun with your husband/wife!

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