#me(ow)too

The cats aren’t going to take it anymore. Not the videos of them riding the Roomba. Not the photos of the “cute” hats that you put on the internet. Not the silly baby talk or the way you answer their pleas with a spoken “meow.” They are preparing for an uprising, and Claw the System is their manifesto.

Packed with more cat poems from the man who brought us I Could Pee on This and You Need More Sleep: Advice from Cats, Claw the System is the logical follow-up and the beginning of the revolution. Have you noticed your cat giving you more side-eye than usual? Is he spending more time staring at the wall? Has the depth of her ignoring you deepened lately? Your cat may too be preparing for the upcoming revolt. Read the book and be armed with the knowledge of what’s coming!

Claw the System, like Francesco Marciuliano’s previous books, is another adorable volume that allows readers a glimpse inside the feline mind, in the most entertaining way. The poems are heartfelt and filled with sweet surprises, and the adorable photography that accompanies the poems just make it all that much better. I highly recommend Claw the System for all cat lovers, cat parents, and those who need to buy cat related gifts for the cat lovers and cat parents.

Galleys for Claw the System were provided by Andrews McMeel Publishing through NetGalley, with many thanks.

100% entertained, 70% convinced

If you’re an ABC News person, you probably know who Dan Harris is. He’s been everywhere throughout the news division. Good Morning America, Nightline, World News Tonight, and anywhere else he could be. His reporting is smart and sassy, and he covers topics ranging from the religious to the political, from hard-hitting interviews to personal interest stories.

And then he broke down on the air. While reading the news, he suffered a panic attack on live television, and then he went looking for answers. To help deal with his anxiety, he tried therapy, talked to religious leaders, and eventually stumbled into meditation.

In 10% Happier, Harris tells the whole story, from the drugs he took to deal with the stress of being an international journalist to the panic attacks to the long road to mindfulness. And he doesn’t hold back. He says what he really thinks, and in beautifully constructed sentences filled with the kind of words you usually only see in SAT study guides. He shares about his relationship with Peter Jennings. He confronts cheating pastors about their very public sins. He reads Eckhart Tolle so that you don’t have to. He tells of his entire 10-day no-talking meditation retreat, from keeping an illegal apple in his room to crying uncontrollably while trying metta (a compassion meditation) to having a moving one-on-one moment with a hummingbird.

He wasn’t won over into the meditation world in a day. It took him years to come around, and his skepticism feels so genuine, I feel like he’s now a friend. I’m not entirely on board yet, but I see the benefits. As someone who also suffers from anxiety, I see how it can help. I may never want to try the 10-day retreat, but I may try to meditate more consistently. And this is an excellent introduction.

10% Happier is also a fascinating look at news journalism. The stories of his early days read like an alternative script to Broadcast News, and the insider peek behind the cameras made this more than worth my time, even when some of the meditation talk got a little thick for my taste. And for this, especially, the audio version that Harris reads himself is pure gold.

The whole title of this is 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in my Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works—A True Story. And that’s what it is. But with fascinating stories, humor, intelligence, honesty, and more than a few Jewish Buddhists. And it’s completely worth your time.

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recently finished: I only have another 40 minutes of Dan Harris’ 10% Happier to listen to, so I’m counting it. I’ll finish tomorrow.

currently reading: Along with twisty new thrillers An Anonymous Girl and The Au Pair, I’m also reading No Mercy. It’s Joanna Schaffhausen’s follow up to last year’s The Vanishing Season. It comes out Tuesday, and so far it’s fantastic. Highly recommended!

up next: Hark, a satire of the relaxation and mindfulness industry that Dan Harris talks extensively about in 10% Happier (spoiler on the Harris book: a satire of this industry would not break his heart).

a genius . . . on ice

Chilly da Vinci is not your ordinary penguin. Always thinking of making a penguin’s life easier, he tries to invent contraptions that will bring his visions to life. But when his latest invention, a flying machine, crashes into the iceberg, separating Chilly and his friends from the rest of the penguins, he’ll have to think quickly to reverse his mistake.

Chilly da Vinci by J. Rutland is an adorable picture book filled with colorful and charming illustrations of Chilly and his friends. The themes of perseverance and believing in yourself are always good medicine for readers of all ages,

That being said, at times it felt like this book skipped over important parts of the story. I wish that they had taken more pages to tell the story more completely, and so that we could get to know Chilly and his friends a little better.

But Chilly da VInci is still a very likable book and a likable penguin. I do recommend it, just not whole-heartedly.

Galleys for Chilly da Vinci were provided by NorthSouth Books, through NetGalley, with many thanks.

a glitch in the matrix

Shelley Stone is the CEO of a major tech firm, a startup that is creating the Conch, an earpiece that constantly offers the user helpful tips and reminders. She’s a workaholic as well as a wife and mother of 2, and she’s constantly on the move to keep up with her own ambitions.

But as busy as she is, as chaotic as her life is, she’s happy. This is the life she wanted, the one she planned for herself after she was struck by lightning as a young adult and given a second chance at life. And now that she has it all together, it starts to slowly unravel on her.

A chance meeting with her younger self leaves Shelley stunned and uncertain. But as she keeps moving forward and figuring out what’s happening, she finds her way back to the self she’d been burying under constant movement and chaos.

The Glitch by Elisabeth Cohen is a witty satire of our tech culture and the busyness that tends to run our days. With smart writing and sassy characters, Cohen has created a world where anything seems possible.

I was really excited to read this book, as I love a good humorous novel, and this idea has so much potential. But it felt to me like it lost its way somewhere in the middle. Once Shelley meets her younger doppelganger, I couldn’t tell what was coming next. Was this about time travel? Was it turning into sci-fi, with parallel dimensions melting into each other? What was going on? Once Shelley figures it out and heads toward the resolution, it starts making sense again. But that middle? It made it difficult for me to stay on board until the end. I did, but barely.

Is The Glitch worth reading? Absolutely. There are a lot of likable things going on here. But I can’t say that I love it as much as I wanted to.

Galleys for The Glitch were provided by Doubleday through NetGalley, with many thanks.

from burned out to on fire

Zachary Kermit has been teaching for a long time. He’s in his last year before he can take early retirement, and he’s just cruising with his giant coffee mug until June, when he can finally hang it all up and live a life of leisure. But the school’s superintendent has different plans for Mr. Kermit. He’s still mad at the cheating scandal that embarrassed him all those years ago, as it was Mr. Kermit’s student who masterminded the whole thing. So now, he’s trying to get Mr. Kermit to quit before he can take early retirement. And he figures he’s got just the group of students to send him running—The Unteachables.

The Self-Contained Special Eighth Grade Class at Greenwich Middle School, aka The Unteachables, is a class of eighth graders who other teachers haven’t been able to reach. Between the emotional outbursts, the reading issues, and the general lack of social skills, these are kids who have slipped through the cracks and have been dubbed the worst in the school. But they’re just kids. And in this funny and touching novel, you get a chance to meet them all and hear their own stories of how they got where they are.

Gordon Korman has written a charming story of a teacher who desperately needs the right kids to remember why he fell in love with teaching and the kids who need a teacher to see them, listen to them, and help them find their paths. Written in alternating points of view, the story of a school year gone right is uplifting, sweet, smart, and it draws you in from the very first chapter. I highly recommend this book for anyone who struggled in school, who felt like a misfit or an outsider, or who wants to remember what a gift a truly caring teacher can be. The Unteachables is not to be missed!

Galleys for The Unteachables were provided by HarperColins Publishers (Balzer & Bray), with many thanks.

shades of hitchcock

The Woman in the WIndow by A.J. Finn is a twisty modern retelling of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. A woman, trapped in her home by agoraphobia, witnesses a murder.

Or does she?

Anna Fox, former child psychologist, is a broken woman. Trapped by anxiety, swimming in a morass of prescription pills and wine, she spends her days rewatching old movies, dreading the visits of her trainer, and trying to help other agoraphobics in an online forum. And spying on her neighbors. Separated from her husband and daughter, she struggles with her inner demons by keeping the world at arm’s length.

But then the world, or really just the new neighbors, knock on her door. When she opens the door to let them in, she exposes herself to a danger she couldn’t have imagined. But as the day slip by, as the drugs and alcohol mix badly in her system, she’s no longer certain of what is real and what isn’t. Did she see a woman get murdered? Or did she just get really mixed up?

A.J. Finn’s thriller is a seesaw of emotions as secrets are revealed and truths come to light. Finn’s smooth writing style and the slow unfolding of the true story kept me turning pages until the end. I loved the references to old movies and the red herrings that threatened to take me down so many wrong paths.

I read this during a time when I was having trouble focusing on words on the page, so I tried the audiobook. It’s narrated beautifully by Ann Marie Lee, but I found the audiobook to be paced a little slow for me. I listened to about a third of it and then gave up and just read the rest. By that point, I was too deep into the story to be diverted. So I highly recommend the book, and recommend the audiobook with reservations (like, if you like a slow narration or have no problem speeding it up to listen).

This is a book that’s gotten a lot of hype. I say it’s worth it. I look forward to seeing the movie they’ll be making of it.

Galleys for The Woman in the Window were provided by HarperCollins thanks to Edelweiss; the audio version I bought myself thanks to Audible.

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recently finished: The Wife Between Us, a year late. The authors have a new book coming out Tuesday that I will be reading soon. But their first is an amazing twisty thriller that I (along with everyone else) highly recommend. And watch for their new book Tuesday, An Anonymous Girl.

currently reading: The Unteachables, a super-fun book about a group of 8th graders who no one wants to teach and a teacher who has lost his way. I love it, love it, love it. Also listening to Dan Harris’ 10% Happier, a perfect book for the New Year. Also, in a New Years tradition, I’ve been rereading Bridget Jones’ Diary, just for fun. I highly recommend reading it (or rereading it) this time of year.

up next: An Anonymous Girl (see above) and The Au Pair, another twisty tale that people will be talking about very soon. It’s a whole new year with whole new books. Let’s do this!

black is the new black

Anya St. Clair is living her best life. She has the job at a fashion magazine that she always wanted. She has a wardrobe to die for. All that’s missing is making fashion superstar Sarah Taft her bff.

Sara is one of those women who always looks her best. She is the princess of social media, never taking a bad selfie. She has the best of clothes, the best of friends, the best of everything. And Anya wants to be in her inner circle.

The problem? Anya doesn’t naturally fit in with Sarah and her crowd. So she has to work extra hard. And that is stressful. And sometimes she has to ease her stress through sessions with her therapist and brutal workouts that leave others battered and, occasionally, dead.

Amina Akhtar’s debut novel #FashionVictim is a hearty helping of obsession, aggression, and fabulous shoes. This snarky, darkly comic Heathers meets The Devil Wears Prada story is a wild ride of designers, parties, and blood with a hearty helping of insider info on fashion and the magazines that make it. I highly recommend this for its darkness, its chill, its setting, and its freaky main character. Anya St. Clair is the fashionista I’d love to be!

Galleys for #FashionVictim were provided by Crooked Lane Books through NetGalley, with many thanks.

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recently finished: Lies by T. M. Logan. Very twisty. Highly recommended!

currently reading: The latest mystery starring Lady Hardcastle, T. E. Kinsey’s A Picture of Murder. And Anne Lamott on hope, sharing Almost Everything she knows.

up next: still no idea. There is so much going on these days that I have almost no organization

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recently finished: Claw the System, a book of poems for the cat uprising. It’s adorable, and a must-have for all the cat fans out there.

currently reading: Lies by T.M. Logan. It’s a really well written thriller and I’m enjoying it a lot. I just need more time to sit and get through it. It’s a fast read for someone who has going on than I do these days. Also, still reading Anne Lamott’s Almost Everything. It’s beautiful and uplifting, and everything I need right now. Both of these are highly recommended.

up next: Excellent question. I got nothing. I mean, I have stacks of books. I just don’t know which one I’ll grab next.

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recently finished: I’m only about 30 minutes from finishing #FashionVictim, so I’m counting it. It’s a crazy ride through the craziness of the fashion magazine industry, and when I say “craziness,” I mean actual mental health issues. The main character, Anya, has issues with a capital I, and being inside her head is a trip.

currently reading: Anne Lamott’s newest, Almost Everything. Claw the System, a revolution for cats to stand up for their rights as the rulers of all they survey. And I just started T. M. Logan’s Lies, a bonkers thriller that I’ve heard everyone talking about.

up next: No idea. Things are a little crazy around here, and that’s going to go on for a while. We have a serious family illness to deal with, and that will take precedent over everything else. I’ll try to keep reading and posting, but we’ll have to wait and see how things shake out.