Books I’ve Liked Lately

Don’t ask me when I lasted updated this section of the blog (poor neglected blog!), but I have some serious control issues with your reading interests, meaning YOU NEED TO READ THESE BOOKS. (Also, wow do I have…eclectic…tastes.)

Tell the Wolves I’m Home

It’s 1987 and June’s beloved uncle just died of AIDS, and it turns out he had a few secrets.

I could tell you more, but it will be better if I don’t. I will warn you that this book will make your eyeholes leak like nothing else. Like, more than Fault in Our Stars sort of sobbing.

I think I cried through every chapter. It’s beautiful, and beautiful written, and compelling. I haven’t read something YA that’s this well-written in years. There are a few very, very minor issues I have, but they’re so minor and the writing is so beautiful that I didn’t really care. It reminded me in some ways of To Kill a Mockingbird. 

The Day the Crayons Quit

I don’t usually recommend children’s books, which is dumb, because I’m a librarian that knows a lot of children’s books. This picture book is cute and funny and we read it three times in a row the first time we got it from the library. Love love love. Holds up after multiple readings, with many different kids.

The Signature of All Things

This book is a bit meandering, but it’s still a beautiful, if long, novel, about God, feminism, sex, marriage, love, sisterhood, evolution and…moss. Yeah, really. It grows on you. (Ha.)

Help, Thanks, Wow

This isn’t really a book. It’s more like a…long pamphlet? Still, it’s a nice little book on prayer, but get it from the library instead of buying it, because you’ll be done with it within the hour.

The Plan

This is a romance novel that reminds me in all the best ways of Christina Lauren and Alice Clayton. Super fun romance.

We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves

This is a story of a girl whose siblings mysteriously disappear, and it just gets stranger and stranger as the story progresses. This is another one of those, “The less you know, the better it will be when things are revealed” novels.

I think that’s all for now…Well, I have lots more kids’ books I could recommend, which prompts this question: would you like me to do a post on children’s books? I have SO MANY suggestions. (I miiiight work as a children’s librarian now. Maybe.) (Shhh! Let’s not talk about work!) Anyway, would you like suggestions? SO MANY?

 

Books I Read in September

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Hey, remember when I said I couldn’t read anything because I was writing so furiously, so I was watching TV and movies?* This pathetic list proves I was not lying. I MISS YOU, BOOKS. No giveaway this month because I really cannot recommend any of these books that much.

84. Call Me Irresistable by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Someone told me Phillips was like Jennifer Crusie. This was fine, but not Crusie-esque.

85. Sometimes It Lasts by Abbi Glines

This book convinced me I cannot read Glines any more. I do not like saying negative things about authors or their books, because, hey! Personal! Ouch! But criticism is necessary sometimes, and I can say that while I think Glines is very good at attraction and seduction and all of that, her female characters need more depth and her male characters need less….I don’t know, fewer erections? That would be a start, but I suppose that’s THE POINT. Thusly, done with this romance writer. I did really like her Vincent Boys series, though. Ah well.

86. Beautiful Bombshell by Christina Lauren

Exactly what you would expect from Christina Lauren. If you like them, you’ll like this. If you do not, you won’t. Et cetera.

87. Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Basically, I was looking for good solid not super smutty romance novels that were available on the kindle through the library and with strong female leads, and this is basically like asking for a pumpkin to turn into a carriage. Which is to say that this has a strong female lead and a romance and you still shouldn’t read this book.

88. What I Did For Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

What I said in 87, but with the caveat that this book was good after the first half or so. A very broody romantic male lead that developed nicely, but geez did it take time.

I’m a few weeks from being completely finished with LOST AND FOUND and then I’M COMING FOR YOU, BOOKS.

*I have watched more Sherlock, though, and that is EXCELLENT, and also some New Girl. I like Zooey now. I am only human.

I also watched the first season of Hart of Dixie, with heavy skimming because all I really care about in the episodes are two characters: the teenage girl Rose (wonderful actress) and Wade. WADE. Goodness, what a nice gentleman.

 

Books I Read in August + Book Giveaway (contest closed now)

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Like last month, I’m going to give away one book to one commenter from the list below, so tell me which one you’d like.

I was going to write something funny after that but I’m all out of pun. No, seriously, ran out yesterday and everything today is the unfunniest. Plus I wrote the word “gouda” on my arm for a video I was making and the video was awful and now I have “gouda” written in permanent marker on my arm for absolutely no reason, which is why your parents will tell you to be anything, dear God, anything, besides a writer.

Pick of the month:

73. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I was given this book at BlogHer because I gushed about my love for Eleanor and Park, and the marketer took pity on me and told me to stuff it in my bag and hide it because they weren’t giving them away until the next day. THANK YOU, ST. MARTIN’S BOOK MARKETER, YOU’RE THE BEST.

Another marketer in the booth tried to describe this book to another person later, when I was standing nearby and totally non-creepily eavesdropping, and the description she gave (which is accurate) was not so good. It does not do it justice. This book is fun and ridiculously romantic and very well-written. You’ll like it. (It doesn’t come out until Sept. 10th, so if you pick this one, you’ll have to wait, as I sent my copy to Elizabeth.)

74. Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck

This is a self-help book but it’s a really excellent, non-cheesy self-help book that is also realistic and at times bleak, which is better than, “Think this thought and MAGIC WILL HAPPEN.” It’s better to be shaken about the shoulders and told that you’re going to fail a lot, and the only way to succeed is to keep trying, in every way you possibly can, and then to hold on tight. Not kidding when I say it changed my life.

75. Every Day by David Levithan

This is about a person who wakes up every day in the body of someone else. And then one day, s/he falls in love, and tries to get back to the person he loves. Quantum Leapy, right? But actually very deeply focused on identity and gender issues, too. Really, really good.

76. The Redemption of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorenson

No.

77. Wait for You by J. Lynn

Entertaining romance novel in the “broken girl finds solace in incredibly attractive boy” crowded subgenre.

78. Keeping Her by Cora Carmack

I really enjoy Cora Carmack’s romance novels, but be warned, this is really, really, very, extremely short. Blink of an eye short. It does say “novella” on there, and it’s cheap, so it’s not a shock, but it’s still a bummer when you want MOAR and don’t have MOAR.

79. I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

I did not care for the Shopaholic book when I read it years ago (because….shopping is kind of boring), but this was light and quirky and funny. I do wish the main character was a little bit more confident, but she was plenty intelligent, just acted dumb. Still, very entertaining.

80. Into the Deep by Samantha Young

I don’t know. Maybe? Sideways thumb.

81. Seduction and Snacks by Tara Sivec

No.

82. Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

I hate to say I didn’t love it because I think Bet Me is the best romance novel ever ever ever written, but this was just not my thing. Perhaps it’s because it’s about ghosts, and ghosts scare the tar out of me. (These weren’t even SCARY ghosts, though, so I have no excuse.) It’s still well-written and Crusie-esque, just seriously one of those, “not for me” books.

83. Here Without You by Tammara Webber

Sideways thumb.

So, tell me which one of the linked books you want and I shall send it to you! Maybe!

* Not lying:

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I also patted my face with a slice of cheese. My life is rich and varied.

Books I Read in July and Monthly Book Giveaway (Update)

First, the giveaway thing: I really don’t like owning a lot of things. I have a house with no closets. I like to use the library for books BUT I also want to support writers I love.

So! From here on out, I’m going to give one of my favorites for the month to a random commenter. If you want me to send you a book, leave a comment with which book you’d like of the ones I linked, and I shall Amazon-shazam it to you, or maybe Powell’s it. Okay? Okay.

Now, the reviews.

My favorite for the month:

63. The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Emily was kind enough to ship this all the way across the country for me to borrow instead of waiting for the library queue. She declared it “very meh,” and I would second that and add that this book was just…ugh, I don’t understand what happened. I know people complain about Dessen’s last few books but I’ve still loved them (with the exception of Lock and Key), but this…this book would not get published if it weren’t written by a heavy hitter. It wouldn’t. It was boring.

64. Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan

Romance novels, I can’t quit you.

This was cute and sweet but played too much into stereotypes, and so was kind of sexist in that way that you don’t see until the end. Like, the hero was a doctor and a smart guy, and his smart ex-wife who was a shrew, but the heroine was kind of sweet and dumb, so completely un-shrew-like. Smart women = bitches? There were smart women who weren’t bitches, but they were ugly and childless. Of course.

65. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (reread)

After 64, I was like, “Are all romances like this?” So I went to Her Lord and Savior of Romance Novels, Ms. Crusie, and the answer was a resounding: no. Still awesome on reread.

66. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

This was very good, but it was no Cinder (the first in the series). It didn’t leave me salivating for more like Cinder, but the character of Wolf was fantastic. Very Four From Divergent-esque. I am really sorry for those of you who do not read YA and to whom I sound like a crazy person on the street using these terms. Plz ignore. Am just regular crazy person, not on a street, because I’m scared of people.

67. Left Drowning by Jennifer Park

Okay, see, her novel Flat-Out Love was one of my favorites last year and convinced me of the self-published industry. This actually isn’t self-pubbed, but I felt like she was trying to write a novel that would be popular rather than a novel that SHE would write. Which just depressed me. It wasn’t bad, but I couldn’t get over how it didn’t seem at all like her voice. It seemed like someone blander, and like she was trying to put a lot of sex into it. I’m not a prude (fine, I’m a huge prude), but honestly? Too much sex. TOO MUCH SEX. Sometimes a girl just wants to snuggle up with her laptop and watch reruns of The Mindy Project, you know?

68. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

The less you know about this book, the better. BUT IT IS SO FANTASTIC I LOVE IT AND AM GOING TO HAVE ITS BABIES.

(Also, this guy has the best book bio I’ve ever read.)

69. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Awhile back I had a twitter conversation where I said I almost always like books that are happy happy happy and depressing books are just not for me.

I cried reading most of this book (on a plane) (my seatmates loooooved me). And I loved it. So. I guess I was wrong.

That doesn’t sell it, but if you love love stories? THIS is a love story. A great one. (It’s not ALL depressing.) (Lies.)

70. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (reread)

Okay, this was my third time rereading this. I wanted to see how funny was done. Except on rereading it, I…didn’t like it that much? And it used to be my favorite novel? Huh.

71. Beautiful Bitch by Christina Lauren

I am apparently going to read all of these books even though I don’t like them that much.

 

And I totally forgot about this book that I read in one sitting:

72. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Funny and self-effacing and a quick, great YA read. (If you’d prefer that one, you can leave a new comment and I’ll delete your old one.)

 

Books I Read In May

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I know there are a few days left in May, but my anxiety and depression are on HIGH ALERT lately and that makes for not so much in the way of calm book reading, so I think this will be it for the month.

May was a month of books I downloaded in the hopes of escaping from my own brain. There was a lot of romance, but I think I’m becoming immune to that type of escapism. I’m going to have to find a new genre to absorb because all the tropes are getting eye-rolly (totally a word). It’s not because the tropes are BAD, mind you, just that I’ve read it too much and in too quick a succession, making something I really enjoy something I really hate (like too much chocolate). Despite that, there *is* some good romance in it.

40. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Oh, this is so sweet and as my friend Josie put it, “Ridiculously romantic.” I really love Rainbow Rowell’s style and can’t wait until her new book in September.

41. Down London Road by Samantha Young

I don’t know. It was very enjoyable and yet I was also wishing for it to be a little bit better. Like a writer who you know could be really great but isn’t pushed enough? Still would recommend it, but only if you’re really into romance already.

42. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

I don’t know. I mean, yes, this was great. Diaz is dynamic and evocative and a great writer and yet also too quiet in some ways for me. It read like a memoir even though it’s fiction and I still have a hard time thinking that it’s not Diaz talking about himself, which means he’s either a really great writer or a really transparent one. Maybe both.

43. The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

Someone recommended Higgins to me on twitter when I was looking for another romance, and the library had this. It was…fine. I might try another one of her books, but this was too predictable.

44. The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Oh! I have SO MUCH TO SAY about this book. It has a great premise and a great plot, but at other times it drags and is too expository and it feels like Grossman was off in pacing. And then, boom, you’re right back into a great part. Very uneven, but very interesting and a great theme. I keep thinking about it. I heard the sequel was terrible, though, and I am usually not a fan of sequels (and I hated how the book ended), so I might stop there and keep good thoughts about Grossman instead.

45. Twisted Perfection by Abbi Glines

No.

46. Rock With Me by Kristen Proby

No.

47. Second Chance Boyfriend by Monica Murphy

No.

48, Beautiful Stranger by Christina Lauren

No.

49. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This isn’t the type of book I’d normally read (suspense/thriller, because I am too thin-skinned and too experienced in the “these things actually happen” part of life, so I cannot read about rapes or murders or what-have-you), but it was SO POPULAR that I wanted to try. But: no. I know an author does not have a duty to create likable characters, but rather an amazing story that makes your brain explode. The story was great; the writing was great; the characters were just AWFUL HUMAN BEINGS. So, the author doesn’t have a duty to tell a story with likable characters, and it certainly didn’t hurt the mass appeal of this book to write about despicable people, and yet? I hated it despite her skills. No.

50. Why Can’t I Be You by Allie Larkin

This just wasn’t my thing.

51. Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie

I normally love Crusie, so I’m going to blame my incredibly depressed mood in May on really not liking this book. But: no. She’s done better.

 

Books I Read In March

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You guys, it is a sad day when I admit that I think I am done with pulp romance for a while, especially the self-published stuff. My brain needs some quinoa and organic kamut, or what have you. This month was…not so good. Not so good at all.

(I’m only linking to books I liked, FYI, from here on out.)

23. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle

I loved the beginning and the end of this book. The middle was weird, and with all fantasy, I find myself looking at all the plot holes, unwilling to suspend disbelief. It’s a good thing the end was so great. I am still thinking about the metaphor of the Black Thing. Lovely.

24. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I started reading this book and was like, “Hey! This is funny!” And then I was like, “Hmm, this is really familiar.” And then I was like, “Wait, I’ve totally read this book already, haven’t I?” I had. It was still good.

25. The Rock Star in Seat 3A by Jill Kargman

I checked this book out of the library because I wanted a romance and I’d heard Kargman was a great writer. She has a fantastic voice and great writing skillz; it’s too bad she wasted it on this complete shit for a book.

26. Faking It by Jennifer Crusie

I cannot remember reading this book, or anything about it, but I do remember enjoying it.

27. Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie

This numbered list is really out of order, because THIS is the last book I read in March. Like I’m going to renumber them? No. Anyhow, basically the perfect feminist romance. Okay, not perfect because it was too short and the romance was a little underdeveloped but GOODNESS she’s so fun and good I’ll overlook that any day.

28. Losing It by Cora Carmack

Oh, wait, this was a pulpy, self-published book that was fantastic. It was FUNNY. It was WELL-WRITTEN. All the best to this author. She’s got talent.

29. On Dublin Street by Samantha Young

Why did I read this?

30. The Siren by Tiffany Reisz

I would rather poke my eyes out than reread any of this book. People RAVED about it, but I have to remember: 1) I do not read erotica and so, er, this was a little much for me, and 2) OH MY GOD ARE YOU SERIOUS WITH THIS PLOT WHAT THE HELL I NEED THERAPY. Ahem.

31. Reckless by S.C. Stephens

This was the last in the Kellan Kyle series of books, and while I didn’t quite enjoy the first two, I was still somehow hooked. If this book were first? I would have been unhooked. It was just…oh god, SO BAD. Not as bad as The Siren, but WOWZA. BAD. I feel like all these self-pubbed authors that get picked up by publishing houses are being steamrolled, or the publishing houses have the shittiest editors in the world. The voice and all the action was sucked out of this book. There was no hook. There was no conflict. There was absolutely no motivation to turn the page.

32. Flat Out Matt by Jessica Park

Flat Out Love was one of my favorite books of 2012, so I REALLY wanted to like this. I did not like this. Not even one little snippet of it. It was short, it was unenlightening, and the reader would be better off never having read it.

I’M SORRY. I hate that I hate so many books TOO. I want to clap and be happy for every author ever, but you know what? I’m kind of an asshole. BUT I’m an asshole that reads a lot of shitty books so you don’t have to.

 

Jonathan Franzen Loves

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Hi! I’m on vacation right now. OK, I’m actually just struggling with luggage and dog kennels and a kid with an ear infection, busted teeth and a swollen mouth. And I get to get on an AIRPLANE with him. I’m so lucky.

Please enjoy this post I wrote a while back. I won’t be around to answer comments or emails, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t LEAVE comments or emails, as I will likely read them while hiding in an airport bathroom, alternately sobbing and wondering who will pee on me on the airplane. (And they say that motherhood is tough. Bah!)

My friend sent me an article on J. Franz (that’s Jonathan Franzen to you, but I think he’d appreciate being called J. Franz more, don’t you?) and his many hates. She knows how I adore his books. In addition to believing the ebook is killing society, he also hates smartphones, facebook, the Internet in general, and cats. Oh, and puppies, rainbows, love, world peace and happiness.

But none of this is surprising. The real question is: what does J. Franz LOVE?

 

1. Admiring His Art

“Perfect!” he’d exclaim (but only in the privacy (that’s pronounced the British way, “priv-uh-see”) of his own home).

2. Proving His Art Is Better Than Others’

3. Admiring Other Forms of His Art

And I believe that’s the exhaustive list of J. Franz loves. But enough talking about that.  Now tell me what YOU love about J. Franz.

Notes from Gandalf the Grey, My P.E. Teacher

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The rope climb:

Go back to the abyss! Fall into nothingness that awaits you and your master!

 

 Dodgeball:

War is coming. The enemy is on your doorstep. As steward, you are charged with the defense of this city. Where are Gondor’s armies? You still have friends. You are not alone in this fight. Send word to Theoden of Rohan. Light the Beacons.

Basketball:

This is no place for a Hobbit!

Waiting for me to complete the minimum one chin-up for the Presidential Fitness Test:

This will be the end of Gondor as we know it. Here the hammer-stroke will fall hardest.

One Mile Run:

Run, Shadowfax. Show us the meaning of haste.

Handing out tardy slips:

A wizard is never late. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.

The locker rooms:

But the air doesn’t smell so foul here. If in doubt, always follow your nose.

The High Jump:

I will not say do not weep. Not all tears are evil.

When asking to sit out due to faked lady problems:

Fool of a Took!

Hot yoga:

It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till.

Soccer goal-tending:

Authority is not given to you to deny the return of the king.

Handing out report cards:

You shall not pass!

The Future of Us, Because Apparently Nothing Else Matters

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Oh, hey, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a book review. That’s probably because I’ve been reading good books. But boy do I have one for you today.

It’s The Future of Us by Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher. (Its cover is a bunch of 0s and 1s, because you know, that’s how programmers work, right? They just…type out zeroes and ones.)

Asher and Mackler have both written some really good books in the past, collectively. So they got together, I’m assuming, in an attempt to suck more as writers.

The first thing you need to know about The Future of Us (besides that is obviously going to suck) is that it’s set in 1996. Here are things that I, who LIVED through 1996, did not know about 1996:

1. Phones look like this:

2. Rollerblading is really hot!

3. These things are not in wide use yet: anything faster than dial-up, caller ID, reasonable parents who give a frack about their children, homework required to be done on a computer, dental care, medical intervention that does not involve using leeches.

Also, we had just started to recover from the Black Death and Shakespeare was really, really big. Oh, that cad, I remember when I went to high school with him and he used to do Jell-O shots. Never change, Will!

Anyway, the premise of The Future of Us is that two teenagers get a CD-ROM for AOL (ha!) and when they install it, it gets them to FACEBOOK. IN 2011. Fuh-reaky!

Here is where I expected it to get ultra awesome, revealing future worlds or magical powers or the fate of the universe or something life altering.

But…but…

 The only thing they do THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE BOOK is find out who they’re dating or married to, and then see if little changes they can make will alter this future.

THAT’S THE ENTIRE BOOK.

Well, there’s a side plot where the boy likes the girl, but she’s such an idiot because all she cares about is who she might be married to, so I don’t know why. There might be some longing glances thrown in to indicate feelings or something.

THAT’S IT. I can’t write more, because I wrote the entire book.

I guess books in 1996 were more simple. Ah, the good old days. I think I might call ole Chaucer and see how he’s doing.

Sisterhood Neverlasting

I like YA books. They’re usually quicker reads and more plentiful and less depressing than adult versions of the same thing. So it’s probably no surprise that I read the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares. Actually, I loved it.

So when the last book in the series, Sisterhood Everlasting, was released, I was super duper extra luper excited.

That was a mistake.

First, we find out that all the main female characters, Bee, Tibby, Carmen and Lena are pretty much losers. They used to be goal-oriented, reach for the stars girls. They attended private, expensive, limited admission schools. They had impressive internships. You’d be proud to have one of them as your daughter. That’s all you really need to know about the previous three books, because, well, because they’re not really the same characters any longer.

[If you have any desire to read this book (you shouldn't, but I can't mind control you yet), stop reading now. Spoilers ahead.]

Bee graduated from an Ivy league and was an excellent soccer player, but now she lives with her boyfriend and mooches off of him while she stays home and bakes cookies.

Lena wanted to be an artist and after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design and having some success in gallery showings, she’s…destitute and teaching part-time. (OK, this one is kind of accurate for an artist.)

Carmen wanted to be an actress and—wait for it–IS. She went to Williams and starred in lots of plays. Now she’s successful and on Law and Order but it’s not called that for whatever reason. She’s on Fake Law and Order.

And she’s engaged to some random rich network TV dude! Which is a step up because in all three of the previous books, they never really talk about Carmen with much in the way of romantic prospects. My theory on that is it’s because she’s a little bit round and also half Puerto Rican. You know how men don’t find Hispanic women attractive ever, right?

Oh, but even though Carmen is successful, she’s miserable. Her fiance is a douchebag, her job is really boring, and she’s basically lost her soul and only thinks about her career. How awful!

Oh, and Tibby? She wanted to be a filmmaker.

Now she’s dead.

But that’s OK! Because before she died, Tibby got married! And had a baby! And…what? Do you want more from her? She succeeded as a human being, clearly. She was the best off of the four! Sure, she didn’t have a job and she died mysteriously, possibly from a suicide, but listen. SHE HAD A BABY. And she married a rich man! That’s all it takes for a woman to be happy, right?

That’s clearly the thesis of the novel, because this is what happens to Bridget, Carmen and Lena by the end of the book:

No, seriously, that’s the end of the book. Bridget is pregnant and engaged to a (rich) lawyer. Carmen has lost a good job but met a man with babies (He speaks Spanish and so does she so it was clearly meant to be! That’s seriously all they have in common.) on a train and is in love. Lena gets engaged to a (rich) businessman and paints in a hobby sort of way.

What more can a woman want? Oh, and they have their BEST FRIENDS! Womenfolk to surround them and help raise their babies! Awww!

Now, you, dear reader, can go out and ditch your career and your aspirations and find yourself a rich businessman/lawyer or, if you’re not white, anyone who speaks your language. You’ll be happy you did, ladies!

Thanks Ms. Brashares, for the insights, and for obliterating the message of your previous three sort-of-feminist books.