“Why Not Me?” Book Review and October Selection!

Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? has got to be one of the best books our little virtual book club could have picked for September. We were coming off a pretty heavy book in August and we were trying to ease from summer to fall. At the beginning of the month my sister and I took a short girls’ trip to Phoenix which is about five hours from San Diego. I signed up for Audible, cashed in one of the two free books offered, and we listened to Mindy the whole way there.

I downloaded the book at home and streamed it to my car using my Kindle Fire and bluetooth connection. 

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Mindy’s style was just like having another gal pal in the car with us. I loved the insider peek on Hollywood hair and makeup and even hearing about some of the more mundane parts of her dating life, like an “are we or aren’t we” saga with a long distance guy (okay, it wasn’t totally mundane—he was an aid to President Obama). I read Mindy’s first book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me a couple of years ago (and lent it out—if you are reading this and you have my book, give it back!) …I was happy that her second book retained the same chipper writing style and that there were lots of new things for her to say, despite the books being released relatively close together.

The final part of her book where she tackles being a role model for women of color and women with a non-Hollywood body type was encouraging to me and pushed me to work harder to achieve my goals. In the past, she famously said that she didn’t want the responsibility to speak for minorities in Hollywood, but the last chapter made me feel that she is coming around to her undeniable role. One theme that has persisted through both of her works is that if you want to achieve something, you must work at it tirelessly. It will not be handed to you. If Mindy didn’t have her characteristic drive, she would be your funny friend at work, not a writer-producer-star of her own TV show. I’ve read a few inspirational female books lately including #GIRLBOSS, but this Mindy, using humor, comes across as more authentic which owes a lot to Mindy’s writing style and, well, her narration since I was listening to an audiobook.

Serindipitous timing—Why Not Me was released as a paperback just yesterday! I really do recommend it.


51taoalah7l-_sx334_bo1204203200_For October, something a little creepier. We’re going to be reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. According to the first half of the wikipedia article (I didn’t want to go too far and read spoilers) the book is about a boy who is raised by graveyard inhabitants. It was compared to The Jungle Book in which a boy is raised by jungle animals. I think this is going to be great! I enjoyed Stardust (another Gaiman book) when I read it about 7 years ago, so I know I’ll like his writing style.

As always, you can check out Libby and Stephanie’s responses to Why Not Me at their respective blogs! And don’t forget to join in the conversation in the comments or on your own blog if you decide you’d like to read along with us.

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“The Book of Unknown Americans” Book Review and September Selection!

My sister picked this month’s book, The Book of Unknown Americans, and I was really excited to read it because it came with so many accolades—from NPR, The Washington Post, New York Times, etc. Since this is a virtual book club, we have been posting our responses online at the end of each month. You can read Libby and Stephanie’s responses on their blogs live right now!


I studied a lot about international affairs, immigration, and the like when I was in college. I’ve read so many articles about how hard it is to immigrate to the U.S. so I thought I had an idea what it is like for people who come here looking to escape a bad country or seek a better life for their family. I was blown away by the way Cristina HenrĂ­quez took issues you read about in the newspaper and attached a person or a family to the story, and for this reason I think the book is hugely important.

The structure of the book jumped from person to person, and occasionally backtracked, allowing a character to describe events that had just happened from a new point of view. I really loved this. All of the characters in this book live in a small apartment complex and have immigrated to the U.S. from a variety of Latin-American countries. One of the points of this book was to show the reader the wide variety of reasons one would leave their home country. It’s a real dose of perspective and empathy.

The Book of Unknown Americans

The main plot of the book is that the Rivera family, who applied for visas to come to the U.S. and waited years, has finally been approved. They sell or store everything from their home in MĂ©xico and arrive in Delaware in the back of a pickup truck. They move into the apartment building and slowly meet their neighbors. The Riveras’ high-school aged daughter, Maribel, has suffered a brain injury in MĂ©xico and she is the whole reason they came north—so she could be admitted to a special education school to help rebuild her short term memory and other issues caused by the accident. There is a nerdy, high-school aged boy in the complex, named Mayor: he sees himself and Marisol as outsiders and the two form a special friendship, which turns into a clunky, confused, first-romance.

Like many highly lauded books, this one has a really tragic final act, and the sting is only slightly soothed by the Latin American community coming together as a kind of extended family at the very end. What is it about humans that tragedy is often the only thing that will jolt us out of our normal thoughts and routines?

I highly recommend this book to anyone, and I probably wouldn’t hesitate assigning it to a college class (the topic is on my mind since I work at a school and have seen my fair share of freshmen on the edge of adulthood this week). I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but over the past three years I’ve been making a great effort to read books written by non-whites from a variety of countries (the U.S. and abroad) and it has been so, so, rewarding. Not only do publishers need to continue the breadth of their author pool, reading those authors has been expanding my world in a way that makes me feel like I know so little (but in a good way).

Virtual Book Club


Next up, lighter fare. So happy that we are going to read Mindy Kaling during my birthday month! Buy Why Not Me in a physical copy or kindle version and join Libby, Stephanie, and me the last Wednesday of September when we discuss on our respective blogs.

Mindy Kaling

“We Should All be Feminists” Book Review and August Selection!

It’s time for my monthly virtual book club post! After reading my response (or before, that’s fine), hop over to see what Libby and Stephanie thought of this pick. 

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We should all be feminists.

The first thing that stands out to me in this essay (mini-book) is how that statement, so basic and true, can be so difficult to utter confidently, without feeling the temptation to add any qualifiers. The beginning of the essay says as much, with Adiche describing her journey into claiming the noun for herself. The term does have negative connotations. It can lead to uncomfortable, complicated conversations. It’s at the same time convenient and inconvenient. Her path towards claiming the word reminded me much of my own, which I wrote about in the past for Libby’s blog. Since my early days where the most I could say was that I was an “egalitarian,” I have really shifted into advocating for my fellow women and calling out sexism where I see it.

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At the risk of touching two hot-button topics in one post, I want to point out the passage above. It is so simple and eloquent and also holds up a mirror to the “Black Lives Matter” vs “all lives matter” movements.

Let’s go back to the title for a moment. We should ALL be feminists. All oppressed people need allies. Women, while not overtly oppressed in the way we have been for centuries, still get the short end of the stick when it comes to safety, job opportunities, sexist media coverage, etc. It is crucial to loop men at all levels into this conversation. My husband will tell anyone willing to listen why he is a feminist. He raves about how many members of upper management in his company are women. His journey has been inspiring to me and makes our life journey together stronger.

What a day to tackle this post. Hillary Clinton has just become the first woman to be nominated as a Presidential candidate by one of America’s two major parties. (Notably, the Green Party and others have had female candidates in the past). Not having a major candidate has frustrated us (women) for years, yet the political pipeline is still lacking in volume of qualified candidates. Bit by bit, this is changing. Women who were in high school and college during the heady “grrl power” days of the 90s are hitting a good stride in their political careers. We are seeing more women at various levels elected office. This trend must continue!

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I’m going to keep this short since the source material was short. Instead of reading my thoughts, read the mini-book (it will only take about 3o minutes) and let me know your thoughts in the comments. If you’d rather listen instead of reading, you can listen to the TedxTalk (which was closely adapted into this book) here on YouTube.

Truly, I feel like I covered most of what I think about gender roles (and lack thereof) and feminism in the piece I wrote for Libby this spring. I’m still proud of it and I will still talk anyone’s ear off about how my husband is a feminist and what it’s like to be in a feminist marriage.

Our b11bookhenriquez1-master180-v2ook for August will be The Book of Unknown Americans which has been on my “to-read” list for probably about a year now. Over the past two years I’ve been making a concerted effort to read highly reviewed books by writers of color so I couldn’t be more ready to tackle this. This NYT review from two years ago sounds like it could have been written today. So excited Steph suggested it! As always, you’re invited to read along and discuss your thoughts during the month or at the end of the month on one of our respective blog posts!

“The Secret Life of Bees” Book Review and July Selection! 

It’s the best part of the month—book club time! I’ve been having such a good time reading along with Libby and Stephanie, and you if you’d like to join. If you’ve ever read this book (even if it wasn’t this month) I’d love for you to join in the discussion in the comment section! Our club has been all over the place in the last three months. Paranormal, then sci-fi, and now a touching civil rights-era story set in the South.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is one of those books that I’d always heard buzz about (yes, I just went there) but I literally had no idea what it was about or when it was published. We democratically decided that it sounded like a good choice, and I zipped over to the used book store and grabbed my copy without so much as looking at the back. So, that’s how I blindly jumped into this month’s read! I was not prepared to be so inspired! As the main character, Lily, runs away from an abusive father and discovers her new, empowered, free, self in the home of three strong, loving women, I was inspired to be the person (like the Calendar Sisters) reaching out and raising up those younger than me in need. I work with college students and I am always trying to encourage them to think about their career goals when faced with dumb and mundane college-related decisions. I also try to encourage students to be their independent, best selves. Hopefully my reassuring words have stuck with a couple of them!

The rest of the review contains spoilers and a couple of them are a bit depressing, but I think I found the light at the end of the tunnel: 

One thing I noticed when reading was that I was always holding my breath waiting for something big and bad to happen. This gave me an uneasy sense of suspense for most of the book, instead of soaking in the warmth of the Calendar Sisters and the pink house. This should not have been a “suspense” novel! Honestly I want to reread this soon so that I can savor it more the second time, since I now know what is coming and when. May’s suicide and the arrest of Zach definitely qualify as “big, bad” things, but I’d psyched myself out so much, expecting the worst (I pictured Zach getting beaten to death for spending so much time with a white girl) that the bad things that actually did happen in the book didn’t really shake me. And I think this is a commentary on the extremism of books and movies, and media for that matter:

Devastating things happen in TV and books, and in real life on a regular basis—so regular in fact that some of them have a hard time registering as a blip on the radar. (Oh, only a couple people died? Not 20?) This reminds me of May, who felt everything so deeply that she had to take it to the wailing wall. I find myself somewhere in between praying the common prayer, “break my heart for what breaks yours,” and frequently shutting down so I don’t get overwhelmed with the state of the world. Hate crimes, terrorism, poverty, and the like are so prevalent and with the internet we have an unending source to read more and more about terrible things. Like an IV of tragedy. At some point it needs to be shut off before we, like May, can’t take anymore.

I think that is where supportive groups of people come in. I don’t strictly mean “support groups” although that is one form of important community—but any close circle of friends where you can get “real” without feeling like you are going to freak people out. This can be a church or social group, online community, family, or it can take another form. In the book this took the form of the eclectic, lovely Daughters of Mary. What I learned from the Daughters of Mary is that community can help pull us through whatever the world may have for us, whether it’s something that affects us directly, or if it’s general despair and helplessness about current events.

Oh, and during the part where August tells Lily everything she’s been dreaming of hearing about her mother? The good and the bad? Cut to me silently weeping next to a stranger on an airplane. And when the women stand up for Lily so that she can stay at the pink house? I was beside myself. I’m so glad that the book ended on an “up” note and not on a “down” note. Sometimes we really need those happy endings in life.


Virtual Book Club

Shakespeare and Company

Next month we have selected a really short one: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Despite the low page count I am sure there will be lots to unpack during the last week of August. Please join in!

* In order to work incrementally towards my start-up, I have decided to start using Amazon Affiliate links in some of my posts. Thanks for understanding. *

“Ready Player One” Book Review & June Selection!

YES! I haven’t read a book that pulled me in and kept me turning the pages like this since The Hunger Games. Now, I realize that is a bold statement to make, so I’ll work on backing it up without giving too much away.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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There are a few things that I love in books that are all present in Ready Player One, including:

  • Friendship amongst youngsters
  • Taking place in the future
  • Adventure and strategy
  • David vs Goliath themes

Ready Player One

So, the premise of the book is that the world of the future is such a horrible place that everybody spends the majority of their time in a free-to-access virtual reality world called OASIS. This VR world began as a gaming console then expanded to include socializing, school, and shopping. As a result of this, the inventor of the system became the richest man in the world– and also an eccentric hermit. When he dies, he reveals that there is an “easter egg” in the OASIS that will reward the first finder with the whole inheritance. To find the easter egg, it’s like a scavenger hunt with 80s pop culture as the clues. Oh yeah, and video game battles.

I’m not a “gamer”in the way that actual gamers would give me the title, but I’ve had my toe in geek culture enough to really get into this book. I know enough people that have been into D&D and WoW that I get the concept, and I’ve played a fair amount of Final Fantasy in my day. This said, I don’t think that the heavy amount of geek culture and 80s references will come as a roadblock to anyone who tries to read this book—it is accessible even if you don’t get all the “secret language.”

The most compelling part of the plot, and I think many would agree with me, is that the main character, Wade, and his VR best friends (who he’d never met in real life) are essentially racing against a giant corporation whose sole purpose is to find the egg so they can control—and begin charging subscription fees to—OASIS. Especially considering the current political landscape of, well, the world, this theme really grabbed me. As the race to find the egg ramped up, so did my impatience to finish the novel and I stayed up late on many nights to finish it. The themes of us little people vs. large companies, and that of close friends that have never met in the real world, are ones I think a lot of us can connect with in this age where we spend so much time online. Perhaps the OASIS is not as far-fetched as it sounded at first…

I would LOVE to read your reaction. Libby and Stephanie will be posting their reactions too so make sure to find out what they thought! Have you read this or are you planning to? Please leave a comment!


Now, I can announce the June book choice—The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. This has been on must-read lists for over a decade… Libby and Stephanie and I were talking about how none of us had ever read it. So, by the end of June, I’m sure we’ll all be able to cross it off of our reading list! Please read with us? Join our little club?

“Her Fearful Symmetry” Book Review & May Selection!

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April’s book was a strange, strange read, for me. I was caught up in it, I read it at a nice speed… but perhaps we should have kicked off our book club with something a little more… normal?

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Have you ever tried cooking something that sounded like it would come out great? Like, all of the ingredients, when listed together, seem like they could make something really delicious? But… when you plate up the dish, something is just off? Honestly, that is how I feel about Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. The topics: London, Coming-of-age, Romance, Sisters, Ghosts, these are all things I can get behind, and sound like they’d come together to make something great. But, for some reason the book didn’t grab me the way I thought it would have.

I knew I had to finish the book by the 25th because Libby and I agreed upon today to post our reactions. After the three-quarters mark I was kind of reading the way that you’d watch a scary movie, like with one eye shut and kind of through your fingers. I had my hunches on what was about to happen, and wasn’t sure if I wanted to find out if my hunch was correct or not. Is that the way Audrey wanted us to read it? I suppose when ghosts are involved, there’s always the chance that uneasy feeling was intentional.

Each of the characters were interesting in their own way, but I found myself more pulled to the supporting characters and less involved in the main characters, the twins. I suppose considering the twins were the focus of the book I found them a little underdeveloped. I think my favorite story arc was that of the OCD neighbor Martin and his personal trials. Maybe we connect ourselves to the characters we can relate with the most? I do not have OCD, but I can relate to irrational things preventing me from taking risks or even causing me to procrastinate on everyday things.

One of the major themes I saw emerge, which I liked, was the concept of one becoming two, and/or two becoming one. You saw this in the romance aspect, the life and death aspect, and the twin aspect– the fact that the girls’ mother was one of an estranged pair of twins, and that the daughters were a very close pair of twins threw that into stark contrast. The romantic involvement with Robert– him separating himself from Elspeth and getting involved with Valentina made me think about how hard it is to be single after being in a long-term relationship, and how your body and soul crave a new connection after the first one was cut off.

The ending seemed dragged out but abrupt at the same time. Is that possible? I’m not sure I have an opinion on the way things turned out. I’m glad I finished. If I wasn’t committed to reading this as part of the book club I may have fallen off and not finished. So, I feel satisfied with that. Maybe that’s the best part about leading being part of a book club anyway!

I’m not going to tell anyone that they “must read” this book, but I’m glad I was a part of reading along with Libby and I’m looking forward to hearing what you thought about it, if you read along with us.  Please write a little something in the comment area or paste a link to your thoughts on your blog or to your goodreads review or something. I think since it was such a strange and possibly polarizing book it will make for better discussion!


The great news is that I can announce our May book choice — Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I’ve been seeing this book pop up time and time again lately, especially since it was announced that a movie is in production with Steven Spielberg directing … so I placed a request on it at the library. I think it’s going to be more fast-paced, it’s described as a “thriller,” and it has to do with virtual reality and video games, so I am totally in.

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I love futuristic dystopias like 1984, Minority Report, The Hunger Games, as well as the movie Tron, so I hope this lives up to my ideals in the genre. Please, join us reading Ready Player One this month and come back at the end of May for another discussion!

Book Club announcement and April selection

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As I wrote about a month or so ago, I’m trying to make reading a bigger part of my life this year. I’ve arranged my unread library and am almost done with two of those books, so I’m feeling accomplished about that! My friend Libby at XOXO, Lib reached out to me about starting a virtual book club and I was totally down. Although the book we’re going to read wasn’t already part of my to-be-read pile, I’m eager to get on it and the ticking clock is going to help me make it a priority!

Her Fearful SymmetryShe’s selected the first book, Her Fearful Symmetry, which I actually had not heard of until it came up in our conversation. When I found out with was written by the same author as The Time Traveler’s Wife I was sold; I really liked that when I read it a few years ago. Reading the synopsis, I got excited. I like the way TTTW wove supernatural factors into a normal universe (as opposed to a fantasy or sci-fi universe) so I think this one’s going to be really good.

Please, join in! At the end of the month Libby will be writing a response to the book, as will I. If you’d like to write about it publicly, I’ll link to your blog post. If you don’t have a blog but want to start one, that would be awesome! If you’d like to write a review on GoodReads I can link to that, or if you’d simply like to have a conversation in the comments, I’ll really look forward to doing that too.