Recent Reads Vol. 9 (+ a BIG Announcement)

It's been quite a few months since I've had enough to share here, as my reading pace has been s.l.o.w.—when I've been reading at all. Here are some of the titles I've spent time with recently...

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This book took me a while to get through, but that's the fault of my schedule—not the book. I loved it. I wasn't expecting the book to open how it did for the first 20% or so, but I really enjoyed Pi's early life in India. I loved all the spirituality and religious components and appreciated my small background in and understanding of Hinduism, which helped me follow along better than I think I would have maybe a year or so ago. The writing is beautiful, clever, crisp, and creative. I highlighted a LOT, and I was actually really pleased with some of the takeaways. I definitely consider zoos a little bit differently now than I did before I read this, for example. My heart broke into a thousand pieces in the last 10% of the book, but I knew why it had to so I didn't much mind it.

Recommend? — Very, very highly.

Atonement by Ian McEwan
I can't remember when I last picked this book up, but I know I at least started it sometime in the last 27 years. I'm not sure I ever finished it. I forget all narrative details within 15 minutes anyway, so it was basically an entirely new reading experience from page one.

So I hit a wall with this one about halfway through. I wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen—I wasn't ready to abandon it—but I also didn't want to pick it up at all. It was boring in a weird way. The writing is beautiful, pure poetry, but the plot moves frustratingly slowly. I get that the first half is just really not supposed to be plot-driven, but it may not have been a smart choice for me at the time in that case. I was almost unshakeably irritated by some of the characters and kept reading mostly because for whatever reason I was actually desperate for the resolution.

Recommend? — If you have the urge. But I don't think your life will be missing anything if you skip it.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I requested this from the library a few weeks ago when someone mentioned it (again) but was waiting on hold forever. Funnily enough, it came available for me the same day I have a long and emotionally exhausting conversation with Erin about my goals as a professional writer and her final point was basically: ALYSSA YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK. So I pressed play on the audiobook and within a half hour was thanking Erin. That's all it took for this book to start turning my wheels and cranking my gears.

I put down Eat, Pray, Love in less than 50 pages—I don't think because I didn't like the book, but because I needed something different at that time—so this is my first full read of something by her. I found her conversational style really accessible, and her humor just right for this type of book. And in the end, the whole point of this book was to inspire BIG MAGIC within myself. By the end of this post you'll learn exactly how this book accomplished that. This book changed me in a very real way. I took notes while reading it as if in lecture again. I refer back to them nearly every day right now. Read this book.

Recommend? — Absolutely yes.

How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz
I went audiobook on this one, and picked it up mostly because it was available from my library and I needed something for four 1.5-hour drives over the course of four days. I liked it well enough, and to borrow the phrase from Steph, it passed the time just fine. The timeline jumps were a little confusing, but it may well be because I wasn't paying close enough attention to the audio.

I wasn't sure if it was going to build toward something or if just the whole story was going to be rolling hills of tension and relief, which isn't necessarily bad. I think it's a side-effect (at least, for me) of audiobooks when I can't feel or easily see while I'm reading what point I am at in the book and how much is left to come. In the end, it was an enjoyable read.

Recommend? — I think this would be a great beach or plane read, but the physical book is probably the better way to go.

Head by Yve Chairez
Full disclosure: I edited this book. I also edited the author's collection of short stories a few years ago, which you should check out. Also full disclosure: This is not for everyone. It can be triggering for abuse and assault survivors. But it is an incredibly moving, well-written, intentional, whole story. It is violent and upsetting but not for the sake of upsetting readers with violence—it serves a purpose that is clear and meaningful and present every step of the way. The characters feel and just are SO real, and I can find myself physically in every setting this book weaves and wanders through, so rich is the detail. Of course I am biased, but this is also my completely honest opinion.

Also, I highly recommend checking out this blog post by the author.

Recommend? — If you can handle it, unequivocally yes.


In the truest spirit of the phrase "Show us your books," I have some news. I already spent most of my words on the thing I'm announcing, so without further ado... I wrote a book, and you can buy it today.

Since 2010, I have been writing essays and flash pieces and micropoetry when the mood has struck. For the past few years, I have toyed with compiling them for a book. And so finally, I did. The essays and pieces within the pages of my first (very short) book are all non-fiction, though some take more license than others. I decided to publish this (very short) book under the very new Hellbent Publishing imprint with the help of my friend Yve, to keep one hundred percent of this book true to its purpose and intent. And as of today, it is for sale on Amazon for Kindle or the Kindle app for iOS and Android. Introducing:

essays, etcetera

Cover art is by the absolutely brilliant Chelsea Tauzin.



  1. ALYSSA!!! That's just incredible!! Am I understanding this correctly, I have to have an ereader to get your book? I'm old, and old-fashioned when it comes to books. I still don't own an ereader. But, I'm soooo proud of you!!!
    There is a quote from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry about books finding us a the right time (standby, let me find it)...
    "Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." Gabrielle Zevin
    I think that is exactly what happened with you and Big Magic.
    My heart is swelling for you!

  2. Yay!! How exciting I'm so proud of you! I'm checking it out now!!

  3. You wrote a book! You wrote a book!
    That is so stinkin cool. off to check it out now! xoxo

  4. Omg, I read this this morning and I'm just now getting over but congratulations!!! Way to kick ass secretly, and then astonish us all. I knew you were working on a book, but had no idea you were anywhere close to finishing. Will definitely be picking up a copy. :D

    I'm listening to Big Magic right now. Hopefully it inspires me to do something exciting, too.

  5. 1) that's amazing!!!! congrats!!

    2) i LOVED life of Pi. it took me a long time to actually read it; i kept picking it up, putting it down and then one day while at a friend's cottage for the weekend, it was there, so i picked it up and finished it the next day.

  6. um.... so do i have your permission to buy your book? because you know i have to ask you before i buy things!
    ps screw it if you say no, i bought it.
    big magic is on my list. i am one of the few who actually liked eat pray love - i read it at the perfect time in my life, i think. it was what i needed. i listened to it, as well, which was read by her i think and i thought it was great. i will make sure to get this one.
    atonement was one of the most mind numbingly boring books i have ever read. well, i think the start is boring. but honestly, the whole book was just.. eh to me. and i've read it twice hahaha so clearly i'm smart.
    life of pi though - yes. it changed my views a bit on zoos as well, though of course i don't think all zoos are like that.

  7. Congrats on your book! That's so amazing! I felt the same way about Atonement! It moved really slow and I wanted to like it more than I actually did because it was so beautiful.

  8. Yay, congratulations!!!

    I loved Eat, Pray, Love but did not like (somewhat follow up) book about marriage from Gilbert so I haven't tried anything else by her. Glad you enjoyed this one.

  9. Whaaaat? congratulations-- sooo excited for you & more excited to read it myself! I've heard so many good things about big magic and almost got it as an audiobook this month, but I keep putting it off for some reason. I read how to start a fire and still found the time jumps really hard to follow or keep up with, so I can't imagine listening to it and trying to keep everything straight.

  10. Congratulations on your book! I can't wait to read it!!!

  11. YOU GO GIRL. I just bought it. Congratulations!!!!! I can't wait to sink my teeth into that soon.

    I dropped Atonement in 20 pages and Life of Pi is actually that book that most of the world liked that I have no desire to read or even consider reading. For no real reason.

  12. Congratulations...I am absolutely going to buy your book and read it ASAP!! So proud of your accomplishment. And you've also inspired me to read Big Magic someday!!

  13. Congrats on your book! That is so awesome! I can't wait to read it. I was also a HUGE fan of Big Magic. It was just what I needed to read too.

  14. Congrats on the book!

    I loved the movie Atonement, but don't know if I would feel the need to pick up the book after watching it.

  15. I read The Passenger by Lisa Lutz and really enjoyed it, and this one sounds pretty good too! I also think I need to check out Big Magic. And say whaaaaaat?! CONGRATULATIONS!!! You are awesome, and I'm so happy for you! Looking forward to reading it, already got my copy :)

  16. Ahhhhhhh congrats!!!!! That is so amazing!!! I have had Big Magic on my list for awhile now so I think I am making it a priority after reading your thoughts on it!

  17. I read Life of Pi a long time ago and I remember loving it. The movie is also very beautiful. Congrats on your book!! That is incredible!

  18. First of all, congratulations on the book! That is an amazing accomplishment! One of my dreams is to publish at least one novel before I die, so I feel especially excited for/proud of others when I learn they’ve published something.

    Maybe I need to read Big Magic. I need some motivation and discipline to work on my own writing. If it worked for you, maybe it can work for me! :-)

    As for other books ...

    I think I may have mentioned this to you before, but I have weird feelings about Ian McEwan. His writing is phenomenal, and he has really interesting story ideas. Unfortunately, most of the time all of that gets lost because he’ll ramble on and on about things that are mostly (or completely) irrelevant to the rest of the novel. It’s almost as if he started writing a book and got an idea for a different story while deep in his current work. Instead of making a note of the idea and coming back to it later, he thinks, “I need to use this RIGHT NOW.” It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense or seems completely unnecessary.

    Anyway, when I read Atonement, I loved the beginning, hated the second part, and was very “meh” about the last third. I also didn’t really enjoy the movie, but maybe it was because I’d already read the book and (clearly) didn’t love it.

    Head sounds great, and I love that you edited it! I feel like I need to check this one out. (And your book as well, obviously!)

  19. I really loved Life of Pi, and actually I've read it a few times. It's definitely not your typical story, but I thought it was so interesting! Glad you liked it :)

  20. Congratulations my friend! So very excited for you... and other projects. Purchased! Can't wait to get home and start reading! I plan to start Big Magic this weekend.

  21. Oh my goodness, congratulations on your book!!!!!! That's so exciting!!!!



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