For Abigail, year two

I’ve spent all week thinking about what I want to say this year. Something about loss and love and family and all that good stuff Hugh Grant mentions at the beginning of Love Actually. The problem is…loss is such a fucked up thing to deal with. There’s no right or wrong way to cope, no manual (unfortunately) there’s just a day later and then a week later and, miraculously, a year later and then suddenly, two.

I have twenty-six years of Abigail stories. Some of them I’ll share willingly: days at the farm, nights in college, hospital rooms. Some will end up blended into fiction—anecdotes, quotes, quirks—you can find them already if you know where to look. Some stories I’ll never tell.

But here’s one I will share and it’s important so pay attention:

In November of 2014, Abigail texted me asking if I had Snapchat. I responded I didn’t—memory is such a weird thing because for absolutely no reason I remember that exchange very clearly—I typed out my response and thought to myself, “I should call her.” I didn’t. And I wouldn’t get another chance.

I think about that at least once a week.

I didn’t have anything important to share, not that it mattered. I don’t know if Abigail would have told me how bad things were (I doubt it) but still. I didn’t call.

I hate talking on the phone and I’m even worse at responding to texts and emails. If I don’t answer immediately, it’ll be at least a week…if ever. I’m not the only one. We remind ourselves and it just doesn’t happen and we understand when others do it to us because we’ve all been there. The world, in all its cruelty sometimes, continues spinning and life goes on.

So, here’s the thing: if you’re thinking about calling someone, reaching out, do it.

Call your friends. Your aunts and uncles and cousins. Definitely call your parents. Absolutely call your grandparents. Shit, call your enemies just to confuse them. There will be a last time, a last chance. You’ll look back and think, “Why didn’t I just call?” and you won’t have a good answer. Even if you don’t know what to say, tell them that—“I don’t know why I’m calling”—I guarantee you’ll find something to chat about. Text, if that’s your jam. Swamp their inbox, their snapchat, their Instagram, their Facebook, who cares. Just do it.

I am 400% not the role model for dealing with loss but I’m learning in fits and starts. So take a lesson from me: pick up the phone.

And I Darken by Kiersten White


Ahhhhh, finally. Historical fiction as it was meant to be done.

And by that I mean taking a well-known figure like Vlad the Impaler and gender bending him. This novel is the first in The Conquerors Saga.

Lada is vicious, slightly mad, and has a weird dependence on her little brother, Radu. The novel spans a good few years, beginning with her trade to the Ottoman Empire in exchange for her father’s obedience. Lada struggles to look out for her brother in an unfamiliar place in a time when being a woman was already a strike against her. Lada has to watch out for conniving mothers, unknown love triangles, asshole fathers and, you know, being a teenager.

White’s novel hit all my interests: Transylvania, boys pining for boys, war, girls hating pining for boys, detailed descriptions of torture, horses.

I love a girl with a body count.


Favorite quote:

So…I sent And I Darken off to my mom so quickly I actually forgot to write down a quote?

But it’s definitely the part where Lada climbs to the top of the peak and looks out over Wallachia and is all like, “This bitch is mine, just you wait.”

I’m paraphrasing but that’s how I remember it.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Oh, Simon. You precious little pancake.

High school sucks, that’s a given. And when you’re being blackmailed because one jerk found out you’re gay and decides to threaten to out you…the weeks can last literally for-ev-er.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda hits that perfect spot between heartbreaking and hilarity. Simon is able to take everything with a grain of salt and a sarcastic and sardonic “What the fuck.”

I love Simon and we must protect him at all costs.

Side note: Does anyone else think Taylor Metternich has two dads?


Favorite quote:

If she thinks me drinking coffee is big news, it’s going to be quite a fucking morning. (page 162)

The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey



If you loved Good Omens and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you’ll love The Everything Box.

An angel sent to wipe out flood survivors loses his doomsday device: humanity happens.

He spends the next few thousand years looking for the Box.

Coop (reminiscent of a very put-upon Arthur Dent) gets swept up in a mystical tug-of-war for the Box he recently lifted from a fancy estate. Impervious to magic, Coop surrounds himself with criminals (capable of clouding people’s minds, breaking locks), a poltergeist, and best of all, his ex-girlfriend.

Between a stint in a mystical prison, a trip to Jinx Town, and his sudden recruitment by the police, Coop’s inability to hold things together while simultaneously trying to run away ends in world-saving and shenanigans.

Honestly, I could have read an entire novel about the Cladis Abaddonis Lodge and the Caleximus cult pulling pranks on each other.


Favorite quote:

The priest said, “A boar would be the equivalent of a metric ass-ton of corn chips. Did you buy a metric ass-ton of corn chips?”

“No. Just the one bag.” (page 49)

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for Irene

If intricate world building is your kind of thing, A Darker Shade of Magic is for you. Set in a kind of Victorian London, a magical Victorian London, a scary Victorian London, and a place no one talks about, there’s a world for everybody.

Kell is an Antari, one of few who can pass between London’s and adoptive son of the royal family of Red London. He serves as their emissary between the London’s, along with some under-the-table smuggling. It’s a dangerous job, especially when the rulers of White London not only have their own Antari but are looking to complete the set (not to mention, they’re insane.)

Lila Bard is a badass fingersmith who has dreams of being a pirate (if not the means) who stumbles upon Kell. And then she stumbles back upon him. And then he stumbles on her again. And finally they decide to team up because trouble is quick on their heels.

The descriptions are intense (but necessary) and the dialogue is quick, quippy, and will make you laugh out loud despite all the horrible things happening to everyone. All the time.


Favorite quote:

It seemed like a good plan, or at least, like the best of several bad ones. (page 116)

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


Nebraska author? Check.

Set at my Alma mater? Check.

Hardcore fangirling? Double check.

I have been accused once or twice of being obsessed with something (this is a lie, my husband tells me on the daily). Therefore, I identified pretty strongly with Cath, our novel’s protagonist. Cath’s happy in her fictional world with Simon Snow but accepts (grudgingly) that moving on to college is a necessary evil. Despite joining a high-level writing class, Cath keeps herself isolated. Her twin sister Wren takes the opposite approach to college, joining the party scene with gusto.

Their college experience has it’s ups and downs: learning the dining halls, parties, midterms, jerkface English majors, manic dads, hands-off moms, roommates.

Cath is the uncertain, shy, awkward kid in all of us who just wants to read and be left alone. Honestly, I would have totally understood if by the end of the novel she was like “Nah, I’m gonna stay with Simon” but it wouldn’t make for very compelling storytelling.



Favorite quote:

Smiling is confusing, she thought. This is why I don’t do it. (page 208)


“No. Because they remind me that we live in a place where you can still get away with, even get excited about, Ugg boots. In fashionable places, you have to pretend that you’re over them, or that you’ve always hated them. But in Nebraska, you can still be happy about new Ugg boots. That’s nice. There’s no end of the innocence.” (page 256)

(as a Nebraskan, I endorse this message)

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

carry on

Magic! Vampires! Boyfriends! Dorms! References to past adventures! Victorian dresses! Platonic friendships! Catacombs! Wizard School! Goblins! Pigs! Magic spells! More vampires! Swords! Rats! Fancy estates! Parties! Horrible pining! Frenemies!

If you read one book this year, make it Carry On. This novel is perfection.


Favorite quote:

I swear he gets less ruffled the more that he’s threatened. (When I’m the one threatening him, that’s infuriating. But it’s kind of cool now.) (page 332)

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

me before you

Let’s talk about books I shouldn’t read on airplanes.

The flight from Omaha to Denver was fine. Louisa was positively adorable. Her boyfriend was a dud. Nathan was a sweetheart. Will was an asshole.

Everything was smooth sailing. Louisa and Will were slowly falling in love. There were ups and downs and horse races and movies. Ridiculous outfits. Treena being snippy. Dinners. Concerts. Tattoos. Love it.

Denver to San Diego…was not fine. The world is horrible and I ended up sniffling on the plane to the point where I’m sure the two giant dudes in my row thought I’d been dumped. Even hours of plane travel couldn’t stop me from finishing the book that night.

I just love ripping my own heart out.

And even better, there’s a sequel! Which I’m sure is lighthearted and fluffy. And I will read it when I emotionally recover from Me Before You.


Favorite quote:

“I just…want to be a man who has been to a concert with a girl in a red dress. Just for a few minutes more.” (page 166)