Books: Girl, Wash Your Face

I wasn’t going to read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. Something about all the hype surrounding it turned me away. Then I spotted it on a shelf near the children’s section of the library while on my weekly visit with the girls and seized the moment.

It was a quick read, which, in all honesty, is about the only reason why I finished it. Some of the chapters were somewhat relatable and enlightening. Some of them made me strongly dislike this woman. When Hollis writes about real, hard-hitting topics like suicide and serving as a foster parent, the message is compelling. When she writes about “achieving the goal” of purchasing a $1,000-handbag, she seems petty and clueless.


At the beginning of the book, she attempts to lay out a platform of lifting other women up instead of tearing them down. That’s a concept I can definitely rally around, despite the fact that I’ll admit I’m kind of tearing her down right now. I’m aware of that, but I also believe in expressing my honest opinion of the things I read. They can’t all be the best thing ever!

A few chapters into the book, I was feeling beaten down by her for enjoying Diet Coke and getting a little winded running a mile on the treadmill. She hasn’t had a Diet Coke in years (never mind the fact that she slams non-fat lattes like they’re going out of style) and she runs marathons. I have nothing against lattes and marathons, but Hollis makes it sound like her way is the only way.

At the end of the day, this book didn’t live up to the hype. In fact, most of it kind of annoyed me. I wanted reading it to feel like chatting with a good friend, but it didn’t feel that way at all. I still do not ever feel that time spent reading is wasted. Even if the book isn’t great, or doesn’t uplift or intrigue me, I still believe it is worthwhile to have read someone else’s thoughts, ideas, and stories.





Books: Educated

Educated was another book I grabbed off the shelf at my local library when I was there with my kids. I read a few pages right away that evening and was instantly hooked. Tara Westover grew up in rural Idaho. She never attended school and didn’t have a birth certificate.

Despite the odds stacked against her and parents who are adamantly against higher education, established medical care, and any government involvement, Westover obtains a decent score on the ACT and gets into Brigham Young University. Rather than being proud of her, her parents try anything they can to keep her away from her pursuit of higher education.

Westover describes the tragedies that come from her parents’ views against established medicine. She details her father’s paranoia over Y2K and his preparations for the end of days. Her ability to overcome her background is shocking and powerful.


Westover’s story of overcoming great odds to obtain a doctorate from Cambridge is inspiring. Her success is not without sacrifices. She reminds us that sometimes the people we want to love us are the ones who hurt us the most.

I kept going back to the fact that someone who had little to no education up until the age of 17 could not only write a book, but could write a book as amazing as this. Westover’s writing is, at times, so painfully honest and thought-provoking. This is one of the best books I have read this year. It would make a great book club read.






Books: The School of Essential Ingredients

Lately my reading material choices have been pretty deep. I needed to weave in something lighter. Weekly library visits have been a favorite treat for my daughters lately, and on one such trip I grabbed The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister on a whim. It is nearly a decade old, but I had never heard of it. It was a delightful, light surprise.


Bauermeister introduces us individually to the students in a cooking class as well as the class instructor, restaurant owner Lillian. I am not afraid to admit that I love food. Bauermeister’s descriptions of the food being prepared and enjoyed by the characters (the smell of pumpkin, the crispness of dry white wine) added a interesting touch to the story.

The book is short which means a lot of the story lines could have been further developed, but it also fit the bill for a quick read that I could devour during a few lunch breaks. Bauermeister wrote a sequel to the book called The Lost Art of Mixing. I plan to pick that one up next time I’m in the mood for a light, fun read.


Books: The Great Believers

I first heard about The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai on NPR’s Here & Now with Robin Young. I was instantly moved by Makkai’s passion for telling stories of the 1980s AIDS crisis and her commitment to conducting solid research as she wrote the novel.

I pre-ordered the book on my Kindle and immediately dove into it when it was released late last month. It is the best book I have read this year, maybe the best in a long time. The characters were relatable and the view of this piece of history both moving and educational.

While writing and researching, Makkai spent time in an abandoned hospital that had been site of an AIDS ward during the early days of the epidemic. This dedication to really feeling what her characters must have gone through is apparent in her beautiful, yet hard-to-swallow writing. In one very moving scene, Makkai has the protagonist visit his ex-boyfriend on his death bed, having gone blind and unaware that his estranged ex was there. In one last, loving move, the protagonist uses a small sponge to provide water to the dying man.

Amidst tragedy, the agony of awaiting test results, and the other events of the day, Makkai creates a story filled with hope for the future. Hope for a cure. Hope for a world where we care for one another no matter what.


(Image from


Books: The Lonely Hearts Hotel

I’m back after a bit of a blogging hiatus! If you’re in the mood for some good summer reading, I highly recommend The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill. It’s not necessarily a light, summery, beach read. It’s dark, but beautifully written.


The story centers around two orphans who meet and fall in love despite a plethora of sad circumstances in Montreal in the early 20th century. They try to make a life for themselves in the world of performing arts in the 1920s and 1930s. O’Neill creates moving dialogue and imagery.

I have loved historical fiction since I first began reading as a young child, and this booked paired a great and different love story with a trip back in time. This was the first piece I have read by O’Neill, and I’ll definitely be checking out more of her work. Pick this one up and throw it in your beach bag.


Books: The Girls

I love reading debut novels. There is something so fresh and ambitious about an author’s first piece of major published fiction. The Girls by Emma Cline was a great read. It provides a vivid and very believable account of a cult in the 1960s.

In graduate school I spent a lot of time researching on cult leadership. I have often asked how a cult leader with bad motives can secure a large following of loyal cult members. Cline’s novel gives us a detailed example of how this happens. It follows Evie, a teenage girl living in California in the 1960s. She seeks love, belonging, and someone to notice her.


Then Evie notices fascinating people in the park one afternoon. From there, she becomes involved in a group lead by a charismatic man, and soon, horrific events occur. The story of cults isn’t a new idea, but Cline’s writing makes this book stand out as something special.


Books: The Art of Mending

After enjoying the 2017 One Book South Dakota, which I wrote about here, I decided to read another OBSD selection. I read the 2004 selection, Elizabeth Berg’s The Art of Mending.


Berg’s powerful use of imagery when it comes to recalling those memories brought the story to life. She writes beautifully about everything from the sound of scissors cutting fabric at the fabric store to holidays and family vacations.

The narrator is torn between her sister and her mother when terrible allegations surface. Her struggle of wondering what to believe is detailed throughout the novel. I loved the writing and how the story is told from an unexpected point-of-view. It causes us to ask ourselves if our childhood memories are accurate, or just our own perception of what took place.