“The Graveyard Book” Review and November Selection!

Hey pals! Coming at you one week late with the October virtual book club review.

book-club

What a fitting book to read on Halloween. I really had fun reading Neil Gaiman’s spooky The Graveyard Book, the kind of fun I had when I read Ready Player One earlier this year. I suppose that tells you what kinds of books I can really get sucked into—young adult adventures with a dash of alternative reality. I mean, I do read all kinds of books: I purposefully force myself to read a wide variety of genres, but this is the kind I quickly devour.

Not sure why I put off cracking The Graveyard Book since I knew from the inside flap description that I was going to like it. The story follows a young boy from toddlerhood to adulthood (older-teen-hood?) as he grows up in a graveyard, raised by ghosts. His family is murdered when he is a baby (no spoiler there; that is the opening scene) and he toddles to a graveyard where two old ghosts by the last name Owens decide to raise him. They name him Nobody, and he goes by Bod for short. While growing, Bod learns life lessons not unlike a normal boy would learn, but just in a different way.

The Graveyard Book

Bod’s other guardian is a man named Silas. Silas is a mysterious person whose true nature is revealed bit by bit until the climax of the book. Something I liked about this book was that instead of spending a lot of time providing background information, details, and nitty gritty on things like, “What makes ghosts and ghouls different? What is the layout of the graveyard? What kind of trees are there?” (Think Harry Potter, and the encyclopedic fictional knowledge the reader comes away with) the reader is just dropped down into the story and things (concepts, creatures) just are. And it doesn’t detract from the story, in fact it makes things move along much more quickly, hoping the reader doesn’t get distracted by not knowing specifics on something.

Yes, the book takes place in a graveyard, and the majority of supporting characters are ghosts, but I wouldn’t call it a scary book. There are a few creepy (maybe even scary) parts, but each chapter is pretty short. I don’t know how 10 year old Staci would have reacted, but Younger Me read some books with some scary parts and I turned out just fine. Knowing that it was loosely based on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book adds a fun element to the reading experience as well. I haven’t read The Jungle Book but I saw the Disney animated movie (I know, not nearly the same thing), but I was able to draw at least one connection to the movie—Bod’s caper with the ghouls definitely reminds me of when Mowgli gets kidnapped by King Louie and the apes.

I read Stardust, by the same author (aaaages ago, before the movie came out) and zoomed through it. I guess it’s a safe bet that I’d like other Neil Gaiman books, so I will definitely have to see what else my local library has.

somedaycoverThis month, another shift of gears. Our book club seems to be jumping around from genre to genre each month, and that is one of my favorite things about it, I think.

Thanks to a circumstance of “right place, right time” (the book is on sale currently on Amazon for 1.99) we chose Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham. You might know Lauren Graham better as Lorelai on Gilmore Girls! I was looking for something lighter since Unknown Americans was really heavy and The Graveyard Book was kind of creepy, and November has the potential to be a busy month, and the book literally fell into my lap inbox  via a BookBub daily email. Oh, and don’t forget… the new Gilmore Girls episodes come to Netflix on Black Friday!

“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. (This saved data and my iPhone battery). 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 Henríquez 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 México 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 México 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, ligher 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